The Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners in 2020 (Free/Paid)

July 29

21 min. to read

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Good photographers are in high demand. But a good photo editor seems to be even more in demand. If you take a look at before/after photos, you’ll see that almost of a photo’s success depends on the right editing.

Good photographers are in high demand. But a good photo editor seems to be even more in demand. If you take a look at before/after photos, you’ll see that almost of a photo’s success depends on the right editing. Anyone can buy a camera and take some shots, but only a few can transform a usual photo into a masterpiece.

How can you determine whether you have what it takes to be a photographer and an editor? If you’ve heard you have nice Instagram or Facebook pictures or been asked to take a photo and then edit it for someone, you can take some photographer courses. If you see certain progress, don’t stop and take a step forward - learn about graphic design tools and editors programs.

Luckily, you don’t have to look for them on your own, just start developing your photo editing skills with the best photo editing software for beginners we introduce below. No doubt you already know about some of them, though others may come as a surprise. Enjoy, and try out all of these editors to pick your favorite!

The list of the best photo editing software for beginners: 

1. Luminar (7 day free trial)

The fastest way to make your photos stand out.

The creators of Luminar have learned from the mistakes of their competitors and created an editor that embodies convenience and flexibility.

Effects and filters can be adjusted with sliders. Luminar’s “human-aware” technology is a real specialty. It identifies people and objects in photos, then selects the most appropriate adjustments.

Artificial Intelligence is Luminar’s best friend, allowing the software to make improvements in one click. 

Moreover, Luminar has instant Looks that can be applied to any photo. Looks are tailor-made and selected by leading designers and photographers especially for Luminar.

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2. Adobe Lightroom (Free 7-day trial)

Access, edit, and share your photos from any browser.

Adobe Lightroom is the king of the editing world. In my personal experience, I can say that it’s obligatory for all photographers to know this tool. Why? Let’s find out.

First of all, Lightroom is all about intuition. Experiments and genuine art are made in Lightroom. Just upload a photo and you can play with it for hours and more, as there’s so much to apply in this amazing editor. However, don’t worry. Once you’ve mastered Lightroom, you can make your own presets and apply them in your next photosets.

The only drawback of Lightroom is that it’s a bit expensive. So try out the test version and then decide if you want to pay for this feature-rich program.

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3. Aurora HDR (7 day free trial)

The world’s most advanced HDR photo editor.

You might have come across this program on other lists of best photo editors for beginners. 

What is Aurora HDR about? First of all, it’s based on the latest Artificial Intelligence technologies. It thoroughly processes every photo you upload. After processing, the AI presents you with its own unique vision of how your photo should look.

Exclusive functions such as LUT mapping, details enhancer, HDR denoise, color toning, dodge & burn, layers, masking, and batch processing are a must-have for any photographer. With Aurora HDR, you have the opportunity to learn and use every one of them.

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4. Photolemur (free version with watermark)

Automatic improvement. 

First and foremost, Photolemur creators made accent on automation. For example, the all-new face finish feature removes wrinkles and pimples, makes skin tones smooth and clear, enlarges eyes, and whitens teeth. Magic!

Another peculiarity of this editor is that it analyzes all important details in a photo and offers its own variant of editing. For example, the program can make the colors juicier and the sky deeper and bluer.

Drag-and-drop technology allows you to upload as many photos as you wish without any hitches. Simple and easy!

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5. Snappa (Free Starter Pack)

Create online graphics in a snap.

“Snap” is what you think of when you hear Snappa. Apart from being fast and furious, the platform is also super flexible. It makes perfect images for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Additionally, it creates cool ads, blog posters, flyers, emails, and other infographics.

If you’re lazy or like to use ready-made images, Snappa has a whole stock of them for you. What’s more, it contains essential presets that you can either apply directly or use as a guide.

Make your photos one-of-a-kind and add some quotes with beautiful fonts, effects, and filters. Don’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality.

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6. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate (Free Trial available)

Ultimate creative freedom.

If you’re wondering where to find an editor that supports RAW files and fixes all details without damaging the whole image, the answer is ACDSee.

Its GPU-powered system and updated adjustment layers help you meet your creative goals and live up to the expectations of your clients. 

A color palette enhancer, non-destructive specific areas targeting, fast facial recognition, black and white modes, and excellent contrast and exposure tools will certainly do the job.

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7. Adobe Photoshop (Free 7-day trial)

Reimagine reality.

Well, well, well. Who do we have here? It’s our old friend Photoshop! Yep, this cowboy can do crazy stuff.

Although Photoshop and Lightroom are both good for editing, Photoshop focuses more on creating. Lightroom is all about enhancing photos, adding effects, resizing, and cropping, whereas Photoshop supports 3D designs, illustrations, and graphics.

Flyers, cards, posters, banners, website photos, logos, and icons – you can create all of them in your faithful Photoshop.

You can trust this graphic design tool because it’s a well-tested and approved program used by millions of designers and photographers. Experience, worldwide recognition, and long years of service demonstrate its potential to the fullest.

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8. AirMagic (Free version with watermark)

Powered by AI and advanced algorithms.

As you can see from the name, this editing platform specializes in aerial photography, namely drone images.

We all know how difficult it is to take great bird’s-eye view photographs, especially if you’re a newbie in the photography world. AirMagic strives for pure automation, enhancing your shots and applying lens corrections.

AirMagic works on its own and in cooperation with other plugins and programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Apple Photos. 

Go crazy: be creative with AirMagic and use all of its unique styles, interesting effects, and precise filters to get the most beautiful photos.

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9. Corel PaintShop Pro (Free Trial Available)

Get the power, versatility, and intuitive tools you need here.

This editor and graphics maker has a conservative and clear design that’s reminiscent of Paint in the 2000s. 

Hundreds of designers and photographers use Corel PaintShop Pro for massive and impressive projects. No matter how many photos you have, it will make them all stand out.

Minimalistic design and simplicity are important for photo editing software for beginners. Here, we have them both.

Test out PaintShop Pro for yourself and share your feelings with your colleagues!

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10. Capture One (30-day free trial)

Introducing new Latitude Styles.

This curious editor supports every file format from all major camera brands. Thus, Capture One guarantees instant recognition of RAW files and quick automatic enhancements to your uploads.

The platform is the project of Phase One A/S, which means it’s made for and used by professional photographers. Advanced software and high-resolution camera modules are what allows Capture One to make your life easier.

The official website offers style kits inspired by all the beautiful places in the world. Create a Hawaiian look or London-like rainy weather in your photos. Everything is possible with Capture One.

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11. DxO PhotoLab (Free 30-day trial)

Designed by and for photographers.

The beauty of this advanced platform lies in the fact that it’s created by photographers. DxO PhotoLab not only allows you to convert RAW files but is easy to use. 

One of DxO’s exclusive features is U Point Adjustment Technology. What’s it all about? When you’re editing a set of photos taken in similar conditions and with similar lighting, this feature applies all the enhancements and effects you’ve already added to one of the photos to other areas that have the same problem.

DxO also has the optical correction module that compensate for optical flaws in your camera lenses. It’s a pioneer in this sphere; all of its competitors take these modules as an example. 

Moreover, DxO says goodbye to failed night photos thanks to prime denoising technology that allows the camera to capture clearer and more detailed images.

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12. GIMP (Free)

Free and open.

GIMP lets you make as many adjustments as you like, and you can even change its source code. You can also use third-party plugins to create an editing platform unlike anything on the market.

High-quality photo manipulation and tools for creating original artwork are the two main things offered by GIMP. You can create artistic images with perfect lighting, exposure, and contrast through a variety of unique graphic design elements, components, and effects. And it's completely free, which makes it one of the best photo editing software for beginners who cannot afford to spend much on a new hobby. 


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13. PicMonkey (Free 7-day trial)

It’s all about productivity boost.

PicMonkey does its best to help you edit the most photos in the least time. You can do that through collaborating with your team or friends in real time. 

You can also add elements such as fonts, logos, presets, and brand colors. Go crazy!

Images can be exported as PDF, JPG, and PNG, which are the formats most users need. Besides, edits are automatically saved to the cloud!

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14. Pixlr Editor (Free Basic Plan)

The photo editor for every idea, one, and thing.

Pixlr Editor is a time and lifesaver. With its help, you can edit one or a whole set of photos effortlessly and in no time.

The design of the editor is smart and logical, so you’re unlikely to have any problems or difficulties with finding the right effect. 

Pixlr allows users to get the most out of their pictures. The Pixlr team understands that many people are far from the design world and need a photo editor that easily transforms unremarkable shots into logos, cards, posters, flyers, and quotes. This technologically advanced boy certainly lives up to those expectations. 

Use Pixlr and forget about sophisticated software once and for all.

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15. Serif Affinity Photo (Free Trial available)

Picture the future.

Affinity Products, along with Affinity Designer, are armed with professional creative software. The design of the official website doesn’t remind me of any other graphic design tool. 

Along with a great design, Affinity offers RAW editing, 360-degree image editing, panorama stitching, HDR merge, PSD editing, and more. Retouching is a strong side of Affinity Photo because it has a full set of necessary functions such as dodge, burn, clone, patch, and blemish tools.

The reviews say that the program works without malfunctions. It has also been rewarded with the “Apple app of the year” title which means that it operates with the latest powerful technologies.

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16. PortraitPro (Free Trial available)

Fast, easy portrait editing software.

Now let’s cover an important tool for portrait editing, PortraitPro. This software knows all about faces, skin tones, make-up, and other essential details every photographer should consider.

The rules of PortraitPro usage are simple:

  • Upload a portrait.
  • See what PortraitPro can do on its own to enhance it.
  • If you want to edit it on your own, skip the automatic mode.
  • Smooth the skin and remove blemishes.
  • Go to the Makeup tools section and work with the eyes, eyebrows, lips, nose, and neck.
  • Add some shadows and highlight the cheekbones, under the eyebrows, the bridge of the nose, and above the upper lip.
  • You’re ready to sell your photo. Congratulations!

The retouching module of PortraitPro has helped it win numerous awards for the best software in the field. Developers along with software engineers have made the platform so multi-functional that it can detect your age and gender. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Go for PortraitPro if you love making and selling portraits. Believe me, this is the best tool for face editing on the market right now.

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17. Canva (30 days to try) 

Design anything. Publish anywhere.

Judging from Canva’s logo, you may think that it offers you the ultimate freedom to perform all of your creative tasks. And you would be right.

Thousands of ready-made templates, millions of images and stock photographs, different filters for every taste, and free icons are what Canva offers.

This top-notch editor will help you design effective branding like a professional. Create your own logos, banners, cards, flyers, and other materials quickly and effectively.

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18. On1 Photo RAW (30-day trial)

The photo editor you’ve been searching for.

Unlike other editors of this type, On1 provides users with useful tips and valuable guides through the jungle of graphic design. More than enough video tutorials, articles, and illustrated instructions are ready to help you.

This spotless software is a direct competitor to and decent rival of all the Adobe products. On1’s unique features are dual mode, edit history, applied settings, enhanced granularity, selective synchronization, mask tools, layers, and quick mask tools.

For those who always get lost in photos and albums, On1 Photo RAW has created a master keyword list that’s always happy to help you find certain photos by entering the word that was used in the title or on the photo itself.

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19. Inkscape (Free)

Draw freely.

This is a pure graphic design tool for creating new objects and items from scratch. Just open the program and use your imagination.

Inkscape could be compared to Paint and Paint.NET. But to my mind, it’s still a bit different. For example, Inkscape is known to work smoothly, especially for printing. The problem of many similar platforms is that they don’t convert images to the right size for printers. Consequently, the print quality is poor. With this editor, you’ll never have this problem.

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20. Fotor (Free Basic Plan)

A revolutionary photo editor and design maker.

Fotor is the answer if you’re looking for a simple photo editing software for beginners. 

Millions of users and processed photos guarantee its good performance. 

Fotor’s specialty is collages. The app has hundreds of them, and you can make your own if you have some cool ideas in mind.

Go artistic with Fotor.

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That’s it. We hope you found something useful. Try out these editors for your creative work. Good luck!

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