As Adobe Lightroom continues to dominate the market of photo editing software, many beginners and advanced photographers are seeking alternative options to meet their editing needs. Whether it’s due to the rising costs of Adobe’s subscription plans or simply a desire for a change, there are several amazing alternatives available in 2024. In this article, we will explore the top 11 Adobe Lightroom alternatives that offer a range of features and capabilities to enhance your photography workflow.
Criteria for Selection of Lightroom Alternative:
When selecting the top 8 Adobe Lightroom alternatives, we considered several factors. These criteria include ease of use, image editing capabilities, organization and cataloging tools, RAW file support, availability across different platforms, affordability, and overall user satisfaction. Based on these criteria, we have curated a list of alternatives that can meet the diverse requirements of photographers at various levels of expertise.
1. Capture One: Our Top Pick
Capture One is widely regarded as one of the best alternatives to Adobe Lightroom. Known for its powerful RAW file processing capabilities and extensive editing tools, Capture One offers exceptional image quality and precise color control. With its customizable and user-friendly interface and robust organization features, Capture One appeals to professional photographers looking for a robust editing solution.
|Windows, MacOS, and iPad
|Purchase or Subscription
|Both available – License covers three computers
|Both are available – License covers three computers
|Collaborative work and busy professionals with high workloads.
Advantages of Capture One:
- Exceptional RAW Editing: Capture One is renowned for its exceptional RAW file editing capabilities, offering precise control over exposure, color, and details. It’s a preferred choice for professional photographers who demand the highest image quality.
- Color Grading Tools: Capture One is known for its powerful color grading tools, allowing users to fine-tune colors with precision. This makes it an ideal choice for photographers who work extensively with color correction and grading.
- Tethered Shooting: Capture One offer robust tethered shooting capabilities, enabling photographers to shoot directly into the software, review images in real time, and make adjustments on the fly. This is essential for studio and commercial photography.
- Customizable Workspaces: Capture One allows users to create custom workspaces tailored to their workflow, making it adaptable to a wide range of photography styles and preferences.
Disadvantages of Capture One:
- Cost: Capture One is relatively expensive, with a one-time purchase or subscription pricing model, which may not be budget-friendly for some users.
- Hardware Requirements: To fully utilize Capture One’s capabilities, users may need a powerful computer with sufficient resources, which can be a limitation for those with older or less capable hardware.
- Smaller Ecosystem: Capture One has a smaller user community compared to Adobe Lightroom,
- which means fewer online resources and tutorials for troubleshooting and learning.
- Limited Mobile Support: While Capture One is available on iPad, it lacks the mobile ecosystem and flexibility of Lightroom’s mobile apps.
2. Raw Therapee: Free Lightroom Alternative
RawTherapee is an open-source RAW photo editor that offers powerful editing capabilities and a wide range of supported file formats. With its non-destructive editing workflow, advanced tools, cross-platform compatibility, and cost-free availability make it a good choice among Lightroom alternatives.
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Free (no purchase or subscription required)
|Photographers and enthusiasts seeking free, powerful, and precise raw image editing.
Advantages of RawTherapee:
- Cost: One of the most significant advantages of RawTherapee is that it is completely free and open-source. This makes it an excellent choice for photographers on a budget or those who prefer not to invest in paid software.
- Non-Destructive Editing: Like Lightroom, RawTherapee offers non-destructive editing, allowing users to make changes to their raw photos without altering the original data. This is essential for maintaining the highest image quality.
- Advanced Editing Tools: RawTherapee offers a wide range of advanced editing tools, including various tone mapping, noise reduction, and sharpening options. It provides extensive control over the processing of raw files.
Disadvantages of RawTherapee:
- Learning Curve: RawTherapee has a steeper learning curve compared to Lightroom, especially for beginners. Its extensive feature set and customization options may overwhelm some users.
- Less User-Friendly Interface: While RawTherapee’s interface has improved over the years, it may still be considered less user-friendly and intuitive than Lightroom’s interface, which is designed to cater to a broader audience.
- Limited Library Management: Unlike Lightroom, which offers robust library management features for organizing and cataloging photos, RawTherapee primarily focuses on raw image processing and lacks comprehensive library management capabilities.
3. Darktable: Popular Lightroom Alternative
Darktable is an open source photography workflow software that provides a range of advanced editing and organization features. With its non-destructive editing approach and comprehensive RAW file support, Darktable is a popular choice among Linux users.
|Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions
|Purchase or Subscription
|Free and open-source; no cost to use
|Comprehensive non-destructive editing tools, modular workflow, advanced masking, and blending, presets and styles, tethered shooting (for certain camera models)
|Photographers on a budget, and those who prefer open-source software
Advantages of Darktable:
- Open-Source and Free: Darktable is an open-source software, which means it’s free to download and use. This is a significant advantage for users who want powerful photo editing capabilities without a subscription fee.
- Comprehensive Editing Tools: Darktable offers a wide range of editing tools, including exposure adjustments, color correction, noise reduction, lens correction, and more. These tools provide extensive control over your images.
- Presets and Styles: Darktable offers presets and styles that can help streamline your editing process and achieve consistent looks across your photos.
Disadvantages of Darktable:
- Performance: Darktable’s performance can be an issue, especially when working with large image libraries or applying resource-intensive edits. Users with older hardware may experience slower processing times.
- Limited Export Options: Darktable’s export options are not as versatile as Lightroom’s, particularly when it comes to exporting to different file formats and resolutions.
- No Mobile Version: Darktable is primarily a desktop application, while Lightroom offers a mobile version for editing photos on smartphones and tablets. This can be a limitation for users who require mobile editing capabilities.
4. Snapseed: Lightroom Alternative for Android
Snapseed is a popular mobile editing app available for Android devices. Developed by Google, it offers a comprehensive set of editing tools and filters to enhance your photos on the go. With its user-friendly interface and intuitive gesture-based controls, Snapseed is a go-to option for Android users looking for a reliable and feature-rich editing app. There is a lot of stuff on the internet about the Lightroom vs Snapseed debate.
|Android, iOS, and Windows (via Bluestacks)
|Free (no purchase or subscription required)
|Mobile photographers looking for a free photo editing app.
Advantages of Snapseed:
- User-Friendly Interface: Snapseed is known for its intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it accessible even to those who are new to photo editing.
- Cost-Free Editing: It’s completely free to download and use Snapseed, which is a significant advantage for budget-conscious users.
Disadvantages of Snapseed:
- Mobile-Only: Snapseed is a mobile-only app and doesn’t have a desktop version. This can be limiting for users who prefer to edit on a larger screen or need more powerful editing capabilities.
- RAW File Compatibility: While Snapseed supports RAW file editing, it may not offer the same level of control and compatibility as dedicated desktop software like Lightroom.
- Lack of Advanced Layering: Snapseed does not provide advanced layering and masking features, which are essential for complex editing tasks and compositing.
- Not Suitable for Professionals: Snapseed may not meet the requirements of professional photographers and advanced hobbyists who need a comprehensive and feature-rich editing solution like Lightroom.
5. Luminar: Most Popular AI-powered alternative
Luminar has gained popularity for its AI-powered editing tools that simplify complex editing tasks. Whether you want to enhance landscapes or retouch portraits, Luminar’s intelligent presets and sliders make the process quick and easy. With its one-time purchase model, Luminar offers an affordable alternative for photographers looking for good editing software.
Advantages of Luminar:
- AI-Powered Editing: Luminar is known for its AI-powered editing tools, which can quickly enhance photos with automatic adjustments, making it user-friendly for beginners.
- Sky Replacement: Luminar offers an impressive sky replacement feature, allowing users to easily replace or enhance skies in their photos.
- Non-Destructive Editing: Similar to Lightroom, Luminar supports non-destructive editing, ensuring that the original image remains unaltered.
- Ease of Use: Luminar features a user-friendly interface with intuitive controls, making it accessible to those new to photo editing.
- Flexible Licensing: Luminar offers flexible pricing options, including one-time purchases, monthly, and annual subscriptions, catering to a variety of user preferences and budgets.
Disadvantages of Luminar:
- Limited Advanced Editing: Luminar’s AI-powered tools may not provide the same level of control and precision as Lightroom, which could be a drawback for experienced photographers.
- Less Robust Organizational Tools: Luminar’s organizational features may not be as comprehensive as Lightroom’s, which could be a drawback for users who require advanced cataloging and management.
6. Affinity Photo: All-in-one alternative
Affinity Photo is a powerful editing software that rivals Adobe Photoshop in terms of functionality. It offers a wide range of professional-grade editing tools, including advanced retouching, layer support, and RAW editing capabilities. Affinity Photo’s one-time purchase model and availability on both macOS and Windows make it an attractive option for photographers seeking a robust alternative to Lightroom.
Advantages of Affinity Photo:
- Professional-Level Editing: Affinity Photo offers professional-grade editing capabilities, making it a strong alternative to Adobe Photoshop for advanced users.
- RAW Editing: Affinity Photo supports RAW file editing, providing photographers with control over unprocessed camera files.
- Multi-Platform Compatibility: Available for both Windows and MacOS, Affinity Photo offers versatility for users on different operating systems.
Disadvantages of Affinity Photo:
- Learning Curve: Affinity Photo’s advanced features can be complex, requiring a learning curve, which may be less beginner-friendly compared to Lightroom.
- One-Time Purchase: While more affordable than Adobe software, Affinity Photo is not free and requires a one-time purchase, which may deter users from seeking free alternatives.
- No Mobile Version: Affinity Photo is primarily a desktop application and does not offer a mobile version, limiting portability for on-the-go editing.
7. Polarr: Best Online Alternative
Polarr is a browser-based photo editing tool that offers a simplified yet effective editing experience. The main feature of Polarr is that it is available online.
|Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android
|Purchase or Subscription
|Free with optional Pro subscription
|Free Trial Available
|Yes – free version available
8. Apple Photos: Best iOS Lightroom Alternative
For macOS users, Apple Photos is a built-in photo management and editing software that provides a basic yet functional set of editing tools. While it may not offer the same level of advanced features as other alternatives, Apple Photos is a convenient choice for beginners or those who prefer a simple and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem.
Advantages of Apple Photos:
- User-Friendly: Apple Photos is known for its user-friendly interface, making it accessible to users of all levels, including beginners.
- iCloud Photo Library: With iCloud Photo Library, users can easily sync their photos across Apple devices, ensuring their photo library is up to date on all their devices.
- Basic Editing Tools: Apple Photos offers a range of basic editing tools for quick adjustments, making it suitable for casual users.
- Limited Advanced Editing: While Apple Photos is great for basic edits, it lacks the advanced editing capabilities and precision tools found in professional-level software like Lightroom.
- Platform Lock-In: Apple Photos primarily caters to users within the Apple ecosystem, which can limit its usefulness for those who use different platforms or prefer cross-platform compatibility.
Disadvantages of Apple Photos:
Personally, my favorite is still Adobe Lightroom. However, If you are looking for a free Lightroom alternative, you should go with RawTherapee or Darktable. If you need basic editing on your Mobile, you can go with Snapseed or Apple Photos. If you need an online Lightroom alternative, you can with Polarr. And, if you are looking for a more advanced Lightroom alternative, you can go with Capture One.
Is Darktable better than Lightroom?
Darktable is completely free and the most popular Lightroom alternative. It is better than Lightroom if you consider a subscription. but, Lightroom is far better when it comes to photo organization.
What is the best alternative to Adobe Lightroom?
Capture One is the best alternative to Lightroom but it is also more expensive than Lightroom.
What is the best free alternative to Lightroom?
RawTherapee and Darktable are the best free alternatives to Adobe Lightroom.