Are you frustrated looking for a good alternative to Lightroom?
I get it. With all the options out there, finding the right software to use can be overwhelming.
Lightroom is often the go-to choice for most photographers.
But that doesn’t mean it is the best choice for you.
Compared to other alternatives, Lightroom can be expensive, complicated, and not powerful enough.
If that sounds like you, then keep reading.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best Lightroom alternatives available in the market in detail.
Best Smart Editing Alternative: Luminar 4
If you are new to photo-editing and are looking for a powerful tool that will help you automate some of the process then Luminar 4 is the best choice. Luminar 4 offers AI integrated tools that make photo-editing easier and more automated than any other software.
Two of luminars most popular AI editing features are the sky augmentation as well as sky enhancement for landscape and travel photographers. It also offers portrait enhancement, which makes it easy to edit eyes, teeth eyebrows, chin, as well as other features of the face in a photo. This is perfect for portrait photographers or for self-portraits when traveling.
Luminar offers most of the basic editing features such as saturation, contrast, highlights, shadows, dodge and burn. It also offers several powerful local editing tools such as noise, sharpen, split toning, and color enhancer. Most of these are offered by Lightroom as well with the exception that Luminar offers AI options which will do the editing for you based on your image.
The AI feature is great for people that are just learning how to edit photos or photographers who don’t want to spend a lot of time editing. Another great feature that Luminar offers is Layers, it allows you to apply edits in layers similar to Lightroom. Using the AI capability and layers together allows you to produce striking image in a matter of seconds. Edits that may have taken twice as long with Lightroom can take a matter of seconds using Luminar.
One unique feature of Luminar is that you can use it as stand-alone software or as a plugin on Adobe products such as Lightroom and Photoshop as well as Apple Photos. This means that if you are comfortable using Apple Photos or Photoshop you can get the power of Luminar using the plugin.
Luminar’s user interface is also extremely user friendly and easy to navigate. Even with little experience using editing software, after about 5 minutes it is easy to remember and understand where everything is located. The screen is not cluttered and tabs are marked with straightforward symbols. Using new software can be intimidating especially one that touts AI capabilities but Luminar makes it very easy to use.
One of my favorite things with Luminar is that it is a one-time payment of $89, and you get to use it forever. The costs include unlimited updates as well. One downside is that Luminar does have an upsell, which includes amazing plants and sunset backgrounds to use with their integrated background tool.
Lightroom, on the other hand, is either paid monthly or yearly and is a subscription service. It will cost $10 per month or $120 per year for access to Lightroom and Photoshop. In one year of using Lightroom, you will spend more money than a lifetime of using Luminar.
Best Free Lightroom Alternative: RawTherapee
If you are looking to avoid spending any money but still want software that has the same power and feels as Lightroom, then RawTherapee is your best bet.
RawTherapee offers nearly all the same editing tools that Lightroom has.
Unfortunately, Lightroom presets don’t work in RawTherapee. Though, they do have their own system for saving editing profiles, which works just like Lightroom.
I like the user interface and set up more than Lightroom. I think it is easy to navigate and manage your workflow. If you have used Lightroom, it can take to get used to, but if you have never used editing software before, I think the organization and user interface is easy to navigate.
Lightroom and RawTherapee are nearly identical in terms of editing power. There is one area that I feel RawTherapee performs better: color correction. In my opinion, the color correction features and sliders offered by RawTherapee are superiors and offer deeper color adjustments.
Similar to Lightroom, RawTherapee offers a photo management tool that makes it easy to navigate and rate your images. One downside is that RAWTherapee does have some limitations. It does not work well with extensive photo albums, specifically those greater than 10,000. This may not be an issue for most, but for professional photographers or photographers with large photo albums, this may be an issue.
One major drawback for RawTherapee is that there are not many resources or tutorials to learn how to use the tool. There are countless tutorials and documentation for Lightroom, but the same is not true for RawTherapee.
This can make it a bit harder to learn and get comfortable with RawTherapee but it is definetly achievable. For some, spending more time learning is far better than paying a monthly fee on a software. If this is the case for you than RawTherapee is a great option.
Runner-Up Best Lightroom Alternative: Darktable
Darktable is another excellent option if you are looking for a free Lightroom alternative.
The user interface and photo management tool is very similar to Lightroom. The general flow and set-up of Darktable is not as intuitive as Lightroom. When editing, I find myself jumping around the window to find what I need.
Similar to Lightroom, Darktable can edit nearly every camera RAW files. It also offers non-destructive editing. This means you can quickly revert to your original image with ease. This is extremely important and crucial that a free alternative has this feature.
One noticeable feature that Lightroom and other free alternatives do not have is batch editing. Darktable allows you to apply batch editing to your photos. Although only simple and global edits can be applied in batch editing, this is the feature that most other editing software does not offer.
Overall, it has the same basic editing features as Lightroom. Though, I find the colors, highlights, and shadows to be a bit off when editing in Darktable. Colors for me tend to look a bit muted and dull compared to Lightroom. Overall, you can achieve the same level of editing, but in my experience, it required more enhancements in Darktable.
Free-Simple Software (Apple Users): Apple Photos
If you own a Mac computer and you are looking for free and simple editing software, then Apple Photos is a great choice.
It includes sliders that allow you to adjust exposure, color, black and white distribution, saturation, hue, luminance, range, and white balance. It also includes a few more advanced options, such as curves, levels, sharpen, and noise reduction.
Photos is also a good alternative to Lightroom’s photos organization tool. Similar to Lightroom, you can group your galleries into albums, rate them, and photo properties as well. In addition, since Apple products can be linked using the cloud it is easy to have access to your photos on all your devices. This is a feature that other editing software does not offer and can be a great advantage if your a Mac user only looking to make basic editing adjustments.
Best All-In-One Photo Editor: On1 RAW
For most photographers, Lightroom is not the only tool they use to edit their photos. Rather it is a simple management and adjustment tool they use before switching to Photoshop to perform their heavy-duty editing.
If you are looking for a Lightroom alternative that can perform both of these actions, then On1 Photo RAW is a great option.
On1 combines the photo management features of Lightroom with more of the single image editing tools of Photoshop into one software. When using their photo management tool, the one striking difference is that you do not need to import any files. All files on your storage are automatically accessed by On1. This can be a blessing and a curse for some, just depends on how you organize your photos. For beginners, not having to import your photos is a nice step to avoid and be able to jump right into edits.
Similar to Lightroom, you can rate your images. However, when you do this, On1 saves an additional XMP file with no editing information but only metadata information such as ratings and tags.
On1 also boasts the ability to edit images using layers that most photographers switch to photoshop for. The same goes for many masks, and filters that Lightroom does not have but On1 does. Overall, the editing power of On1 and Lightroom are very similar, but On1 has the edge due to the several more advanced editing features that it has.
There are a few features of On1 that are lacking and need improvement. The first is the backup and database system that On1 uses. When using On1, backing up your photos is not very intuitive. In fact, since the files are saved on On1 files that can only be opened in On1, it can be a bit frustrating.
On1 also lacks dual monitor editing, which is a crucial aspect many photographers workflow. If you perform most of your editing on the go or using a single computer, then this may not be an issue.
Another disadvantage of using On1 is that their photo management tool is not as powerful as Lightroom. Lightroom has many AI features that help you sort and categorize your image based on the person or location in the photo. On1 does not have these capabilities, which means that starting your workflow can take a bit longer due to the additional time needed to organize your photos.
In terms of price, On1 is a single perpetual license of $80, which grants you access to some other additional add-ons as well. I always prefer a perpetual license over a subscription, and within nine months of using Lightroom, you would have spent more than a lifetime on On1.
Runner-Up Best All-In-One Alternative: AfterShot Pro
If you are looking for a great alternative that can manage your photos as well as perform all your necessary edits, Aftershot Pro is a great option.
Aftershot Pro is an easy to use and inexpensive alternative compared to Lightroom. It only costs $80 for a perpetual license, which is a bargain compared to Lightroom. Also, there are always sales and discounts offered by Corel. When I purchased Aftershot Pro, there was a deal going on, which lowered the price to $50.
After using Aftershot, there are a few key advantages. The first is that in my opinion, it is faster and easier to use for beginners that Lightroom. I also experienced fewer crashes and glitches throughout my process.
Another benefit is that imports are much faster. It is important to note that Aftershot only imports the information on your photo, and you will still need to import your photo to a storage drive after. This is an advantage and disadvantage depending on your workflow, but overall faster imports are an added bonus.
Aftershot also offers some editing features that Lightroom does not provide, such as layers. Overall, the editing power of Lightroom and Aftershot are very similar, although Aftershot takes a small advantage due to the few more powerful editing tools that it offers.
I will say that Aftershot’s, the photo management tool is inferior to Lightrooms. Lightrooms management system is one of the best in my opinion and hard for any software to mimick its capabilities while being able to edit as well.
There are a few other things that I like about Aftershot. The first is the user interface and wide-screen editing design. Also, it keeps all the tools in one location and avoids the top layout system, which is a nice change.
I also found that there is sufficient support and learning tutorials online to help me. Unlike other Lightroom alternatives, learning Aftershot pro should be a breeze with all the online resources available.