Feeling pressured by Adobe's subscription model? Not using enough features to justify paying for Adobe Lightroom? It might be time to check out ten top alternatives to Adobe Lightroom Classic.
If you haven't surveyed the world image tools, you might be surprised by how many options you have. In this article, we'll explore ten of the top alternatives to Adobe Lightroom classic. More importantly, you'll learn which one might be right for you.
10 Top Alternatives to Adobe Lightroom Classic
Before we dive into our options, it helps to think about how you work with images. For example, do you spend more time organizing and sorting, or correcting the look and feel of an image?
Here are a few factors you should consider when you choose your next tool:
- Other tools you use and love. If you're committed to specific apps, like Photoshop, make sure that your new tool plays nicely with other apps. For example, Photo Mechanic is a tool that links with any other app you wish to use.
- Subscription or perpetual license. Adobe's insistence on renting Lightroom via a Creative Cloud subscription pushes many users away. If you want to own your software (or explore free options that don't require monthly payments) choose a tool that fits the bill.
- Your main tasks. Lightroom is a do-it-all tool. For many users, there are far more features than you need or want. Many of our alternatives focus on a few features. Therefore, make sure to choose a tool (or multile tools) that fits your needs accordingly.
Without further ado, let's check out ten alternatives to Adobe Lightroom Classic.
Best for: users that want a powerful and free tool that feels like Lightroom.
Darktable's similarity to Lightroom goes far beyond the name of the app - the familiarity of the interface is sure to help ease your learning curve. You'll find the app is arranged similarly to Lightroom, with separate modules that help you command your image library.
Darktable is ideal for both organizing and adjusting your images. Much like Lightroom, it's a non-destructive image editor, so your changes are stored in a database and not applied directly to the image files. That gives you the freedom to continually modify images with no loss in quality.
Darktable is one of our most compelling alternatives because it's open source software. It's available for free on Windows, macOS and Linux.
2. Apple Photos
Best for: macOS and iOS users who want to store their image collections in the cloud.
If your go-to camera is on the back of your iPhone, then Apple Photos may be the perfect choice for you. It's the default app for viewing and adjusting your images on mobile, and features a more-than-capable counterpart app on macOS.
Many mobile shooters use Apple Photos as a hub to connect their images to Apple's iCloud service. It's common to use other apps like VSCO or Pixelmator to adjust images, then save them back to the device library tied into Photos. In short: Photos is flexible enough to work with other apps.
Photos is also free, provided that you have the requisite device to tap into Apple's ecosystem. RAW image support is robust, so Photos can certainly handle your DSLR or mirrorless files as well. Photos might lack some pro-level controls, but the convenience is difficult to match.
3. Capture One
Best for: Photographers focused on the highest-quality RAW processing engine.
Capture One is a leading alternative to Lightroom Classic. You'll see it in many studio setups thanks to its best-in-class tethering controls. Many photographers even prefer the RAW processing engine for some camera brands like Fuji or Sony.
You won't find many features missing from Capture One. It gives you the same flexibility to catalog and manage an image library in both Catalogs and Sessions to divide and conquer large shoots. Even powerful features like HDR, photo merge, and tethered shooting are included in one package.
It's worth noting that Capture One comes in both "Pro" and "Express" flavors. Check out Capture One's official page for the comparison of each version. Also: you can choose between a subscription to Capture One and a perpetual license.
Best for: High volume photographers that need a tool to navigate even the largest shoot.
If you have a need for speed, then look no further than Photo Mechanic. This macOS and Windows tool is all about helping you import, catalog, and command your shoots efficiently. It has the fastest RAW image rendering, so previews are instant and responsive.
Photo Mechanic is best as part of a "stack" of apps you use to work with your images. It doesn't include features to correct or adjust an image's appearance, so think of it as a launchpad to other apps. However, the speed and power of the image library features make it a top choice.
Photo Mechanic is offered only in a perpetual license model (buy a license and use it indefinitely.)
Best for: Users who need RAW processing for free on any platform.
RawTherapee is another open source application to process your RAW images to completion. You can download and use it on Windows, macOS and Linux at no cost.
RawTherapee is also a non-destructive editor, so your original image files remain unaltered. RawTherapee doesn't offer features to control or organize your library. That makes it an ideal pairing with a tool like Photo Mechanic, for example. Or, when you're away from your app of choice, RawTherapee can bridge the gap perfectly with quick and powerful processing.
6. DxO PhotoLab
Best for: Users who want powerful raw processing power in a perpetually licensed package.
DxO PhotoLab is another tool that's worth checking out as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom Classic. It's another option that touts its secret sauce for processing RAW image files for the best visual results.
One of my favorite features in PhotoLab is the "U Point" adjustment tool for precise control over specific regions in an image. It's similar to the power you see in Lightroom's Adjustment Brush, but the interface is even more intuitive.
Available for both Windows and macOS, DxO PhotoLab is another app that is offered with a perpetual license.
Best for: Managing a large image library across a working team.
Daminion is a tool that focuses on digital asset management, the practice of using tools to organize and control a library of files. Daminion isn't a tool to modify the look and feel of an image; instead, it's focused on helping teams work within the library. That includes metadata-focused features like keywording, tagging, and more.
There are a number of cloud-based tools that serve this same purpose, but Daminion is differentiated as an "on-premise" tool. That means that the image files will live and operate on hardware that you own. (As a note, Daminion also offers a cloud version.) For organizations where privacy and control is a must, Daminion is an excellent choice.
Again, it's important to think about how a tool like Daminion could fit into your workflow. The first step in a Daminion friendly workflow would be to use tools like RawTherapee or Capture One to process images. Then, drop them off on a Daminion server for team access.
Best for: Speedy RAW image processing.
Each of these Adobe Lightroom alternatives positions itself in a different way. While many features are the same, every company attempts to differentiate with specific features or approaches. In the case of Corel, their Aftershot Pro tool focuses on the speed of its RAW processing power.
In my brief testing, I can confirm that the app feels snappy and responsive. RAW image files can be somewhat beastly due to their large file size and proprietary formats, but Aftershot is up to the task. While the app features only basic library management tools, the RAW processing power makes it worth checking out.
Best for: A complete drop-in replacement for Adobe Lightroom Classic.
What if you're looking for a Lightroom replacement that doesn't require a sacrifice in terms of features or tools? ON1 Photo Raw fits the bill with a really powerful and deep app for managing and editing your photos.
ON1 includes all of the essentials you've come to expect from Lightroom alternatives. You'll find non-destructive editing and support for most RAW formats. But, ON1 stands out from other alternatives because it follows the Lightroom model of an all-in-one tool with every feature you might need.
This app also strikes the best of both worlds, with perpetual license and subscription options that give you cloud storage and more. ON1 also offers mobile apps that work hand-in-hand with the desktop app, setting it apart from most other Lightroom Classic alternatives.
10. Exposure X7
Best for: creative RAW image adjustments and one-click special effects.
Lightroom Classic alternatives come in all shapes and sizes, but this one will feel familiar with many of the same features packed inside a convenient app for Windows or macOS. This app also plugs into Lightroom Classic in case you want to try it out before making the leap.
One of the features that sets Exposure X7 apart is the ease of applying photo looks and special effects. While most apps contain similar processing power, this tool makes it easier to tap into those features with built-in presets.
The Best Source for Adobe Lightroom Extras
Decided to stick with Adobe Lightroom Classic? We've got you covered with extras that are sure to improve your experience. If you feel overwhelmed in the Develop module, it helps to have Adobe Lightroom presets to style your images.
Sure, you can find free Adobe Lightroom presets across the web. The advantage of Elements is that every preset is reviewed and quality-controlled. You'll find more high quality presets in less time, thanks to our carefully curated Elements preset collection.
Check Out a Lightroom Alternative Today
Don't forget these options if you want to try something new. While Lightroom Classic is still a top choice for pros, many of these apps have everything you need. Try out one that matches your needs, and you might just rediscover the joy of post-processing!