Top 5 photo editing software programs

Apr 11 2012
by Simon
Buy from
Adobe Photoshop CS5
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Aperture 3
Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate

While there is a wide array of photo editing software available, from web-based programs to free downloads, from basic programs that come bundled with new computers to professional programs that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, the best photo editing program will be the one that suits your particular needs. Some are skewed towards graphic designers. Others are intended for basic photo editing. Several ones suit the needs of even the most demanding photographers.

Since many programs feature a unique user interface, people tend to become accustomed, and therefore partial, to one particular program. This can not only lead to some heated arguments among those who use the different programs but also makes it impossible to list positively any single program as the "best". Fortunately, even the most expensive programs usually have trial versions or can be downloaded for a trial period, and experts recommend that you try several programs before committing your hard-earned dollars.

An individual's personal budget is bound to play a role in any purchase, but it's possible to find a solid photo editing program in just about any price range. Many users, reviewers, and experts list Adobe's Photoshop as the best program, and it's one of the most expensive, as well. At the other end of the spectrum is the open source software GIMP, a graphics program that while free, is almost as powerful as Photoshop. Here are seemingly the top five photo editing software programs for every price range.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop: extremely powerful tools

Many photographers and graphic designers view Photoshop as the software setting the standard for photo editing software. Photoshop has extremely powerful tools that allow users minute control over photographs. Although Adobe has worked to simplify Photoshop over the years, it still takes time and training to master all of the program's features. The extended version offers additional tools for editing video and 3-D images. While many may balk at the program's expense, for those who want to manipulate photographs with no limitations, it's hard to beat Photoshop for power and versatility.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom: developed with professional photographers specifically in mind

Adobe developed the Lightroom version of Photoshop with professional photographers specifically in mind. The program processes RAW photo files quickly and completes most editing tasks just as fast. Its image management system is built for speed, as well. The latest version features tools that offer more granular control over RAW images. Lightroom's RAW image rendering is one of the main reasons that so many professional photographers love this program. Lightroom has smart features like keywords for time stamps and cross-references that make the workflow more intuitive and seamless.

Apple Aperture

Apple Aperture: managing massive photo libraries

Mac users praise Apple's professional photography application Aperture, the software that has significantly improved since it was first launched. Aperture is capable of managing massive photo libraries and allows users to display their photography easily, as well. The interface has been streamlined, allowing users customization options. Users praise its vibrancy, clone, and repair tools. Aperture can export photos to both the iPhone and iPad.

Corel PaintShop Photo Pro

Corel PaintShop Photo Pro: move easily between managing, adjusting and editing modes

Some users find PaintShop Photo Pro's interface easier to use than the Adobe or Apple products. It's set up to allow users to move easily between managing, adjusting, and editing modes. The program has many of the features that Corel's graphic program PaintShop Pro has, with creative filters and drawing and painting tools geared towards photo editing. The program lets you merge photos and alter perspectives. Those accustomed to PaintShop Pro will find the program intuitive and simple to use, at a fraction of Photoshop's cost.


GIMP: a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop

GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is touted as a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Supporters say that GIMP creates the algorithms that Photoshop makes work, and they have a host of evidence to prove it. GIMP has many of the same kinds of tools as Photoshop, although the program doesn't operate as fast as the Adobe software. It typically takes longer to learn the program, as well. For a free program, however, GIMP is loaded with features, including pen tablet support, vector rasterizing, loads of filters, and lots of tools. It can manage RAW image conversion and cope with very large images. It's not the fastest or most intuitive software in town, but it's free.

Final word

If you're having issues deciding, spend a day working on the same set of photos in each of these applications and see which one suits your workflow and gives you the best product at the end. GIMP is honestly one of the greatest pieces of software to come out of the open source community. Photoshop is arguably the most powerful image editor available. Lightroom is just Photoshop tailored to photographers. Aperture is awesome for people with Apples and managing libraries. Finally, Corel has been doing it for longer than anybody else. They are all incredible pieces of software and no one can argue that.

Guest writer: Simon

Simon is the blogger for social photography site, where photographers can connect and share photos, as well as compete in photo contests and competitions.

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