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Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiastic amateur, you need a photo editor to perfect your pictures. Discover the best photo editors for PC that you can use in 2021.
There are many good photo editors for PC, but the key is finding the best one for you. Consider your editing skills and needs, system requirements, and price. It’s important to look for editors suitable for your version of Windows, especially if you have an older one. Also, check if the vendor offers technical support for your particular system version.
Most photo editors require the newest versions of Windows, a lot of working memory (RAM), and a fast processor. An editor with many features might be interesting, but if your system is slow, you’ll end up spending a lot of time and energy for nothing. As a general rule, it’s better not to be on the cutting edge. Install a trial version of any software before buying it and make sure it works well on your computer. Here are the best photo editors for PC you can try right now.
Luminar 4 is a professional photo editor for Windows and Mac. It also runs as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Luminar 4 requires a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, 8 GB (or more) of RAM, and 10 GB of hard disk space.
Luminar 4 supports RAW files and provides professional tools for image editing such as layers and masks for non-destructive and selective adjustments, content-aware automatic adjustments, filters for controlling each aspect of an image, and predefined Looks for fast styling. It also includes digital asset management and batch processing functionality. Although Luminar 4 doesn’t provide drawing or graphic design tools, its AI-based features for retouching portraits, enhancing the sky, and adjusting contrast attract professionals and the general public.
You’ll learn to use Luminar very fast, as this photo editor for PC has a neat interface and a smooth workflow. Luminar 4 allows you to set up your workspace with just the panels you need and automatically saves any changes you make. It costs $89.
Pros: Advanced tools for photo editing, content-aware adjustments, a complete editing solution at an affordable price
Cons: A bit slow if you only have 8 GB of RAM
Adobe Lightroom is a cloud-based photo editor you can use on your Mac, PC, and iOS and Android mobile devices while storing your photos in the cloud so they’re synchronized and easy to access.
Lightroom is designed for photography and built to be fast and efficient, providing digital asset management, sharing functionality, and many presets. Moreover, you can find lots of Lightroom tutorials and workshops created by professional photographers.
In terms of photo editing features, Lightroom provides selective adjustments, geometry tools, complex color adjustments, image retouching tools, shift focus, and plenty of special effects. It’s useful both for beginners and professionals, as its features range from basic adjustments to complex color controls, HDR editing, and batch processing. Subscriptions start at $9.99/month.
Pros: Adobe Lightroom has excellent image organizing functionality, and you can find many training materials. It also has a large community around it.
Cons: It’s expensive, runs only on some versions of Windows 10, and requires additional software for importing RAW files.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is probably the best free photo editor for PC you can find. Initially developed for Linux, today GIMP is the best cross-platform open-source photo editor on the market. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. For PC, it requires a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, only 256 MB of RAM, and an Intel Pentium IV or faster processor.
GIMP is designed to be a serious competitor to Adobe Photoshop. As a result, it provides almost the same functionalities and a similar interface. If you’re used to Photoshop, you’ll master GIMP in no time.
You can use GIMP for both graphic design and photo editing since it offers tools and filters for drawing and advanced selections, image retouching, and special effects. It’s perfect for creating artwork, manipulating images, and retouching photos. Like Photoshop, GIMP doesn’t provide RAW support or digital asset management.
Pros: Free photo editor with graphic design and photo editing tools
Cons: No advanced tools for professional photographers
Available only for Windows 10, Microsoft Photos is a free photo editor for PC provided by Microsoft. It aims to be what Apple Photos is for Mac, namely a basic photo editor with easy-to-use filters and sharing capabilities.
Microsoft Photos allows you to view and search for pictures, create videos from photos, adjust colors and brightness, fix red eye and remove blemishes, crop and rotate pictures, and apply filters.
Pros: Free photo editor for PC that provides basic photo editing tools and quick filters
Cons: Available only for Windows 10, no advanced editing tools
Designed for the general public, Photolemur is a smart photo editor for PC that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide content-aware adjustments. It requires a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, 4 GB of RAM, and 4 GB of hard disk space.
Photolemur works especially well on portraits and landscapes. It uses AI technology to enhance portraits by removing blemishes and imperfections, whitening teeth, and smoothing skin. It customizes adjustments based on image content. As a result, Photolemur provides natural-looking images and is suitable for both beginners and professionals.
Although it’s smart and easy to use, Photolemur lacks advanced controls for image retouching and digital asset management. It allows you to edit multiple images at once, apply predefined styles, and control the intensity of filters, but that’s about all the professional functionality it has. You can use Photolemur for free with a watermark or buy a license for $35.
Pros: Quick and smart image retouching tools
Cons: Limited control over the editing process, no layers
Paint.NET is another free photo editor for PC that has minimum system requirements. It runs on Windows 7 and newer and needs only 1 GB of RAM.
Paint.NET works with layers and provides selective and non-destructive adjustments. It includes features for drawing and painting, advanced selection tools, filters, and special effects. You can use Paint.NET to adjust contrast, color, and brightness, convert color images to black and white, add or remove noise, and sharpen images.
The interface is simple, Windows-style, and very easy to learn. Paint.NET helps you with quick and basic adjustments. Although it’s not an editor for professional photographers, Paint.NET is free and good to have.
Pros: Advanced selection tools for local adjustments, layers
Cons: No advanced editing tools, presets, or styles
If you’re looking for an HDR photo editor for PC, Aurora HDR is the answer. Not only does it run as a standalone program and a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom, it also supports batch processing and most RAW formats. To run Aurora HDR you need a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, at least 8 GB of RAM, and at least 10 GB of hard disk space.
Aurora HDR provides AI-based functionalities that deliver high-quality images without artifacts, halos, or chromatic aberrations. Among Aurora’s features are bracket merging, LUT mapping, support for layers and masks, noise removal, detail enhancement, advanced color adjustments, and smart tools for improving clarity and contrast.
Although Aurora HDR is dedicated to HDR photography, you can use it with any image. It comes with more than 80 built-in presets, called Looks, which change the style of an image in seconds. And it allows you to expand the dynamic range using even a single image. Aurora HDR costs $99.
Pros: Advanced tools for HDR editing, RAW support, AI-based features
Cons: Dedicated HDR software, no digital asset management
Photo Pos Pro is a free photo editor for PC with minimum system requirements. It only needs 2 GB of RAM and 300 MB of hard disk space and runs even on Windows XP. While not all of its features are free, its basic image editing and graphic design tools are.
Among the top features of Photo Pos Pro are support for most RAW files, layers and masks, built-in filters and effects, and tools for replacing the sky, removing objects, and retouching images. It also comes with many brushes, textures, frames, and templates for creating artwork. Plus, you can find more in the extension packs. Photo Pos Pro allows you to write scripts and improve the software yourself.
Pros: Free, RAW support, graphic design tools
Cons: No advanced editing tools or presets
RawTherapee might be the best free photo editor for PC in terms of RAW editing. It’s open-source and cross-platform, and you can improve it by writing your own code. RawTherapee runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux and requires only 512 MB of RAM, 5 GB of hard disk space, and a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows XP or newer.
Dedicated to RAW editing, RawTherapee provides a state-of-the-art processing engine and delivers high-quality images. Its attention to detail and color is impressive. RawTherapee supports most RAW formats, film negatives and monochrome cameras, and DCP and ICC color profiles. It works with metadata and allows you to rate and tag images. It even has batch processing and digital asset management.
Among the best features of RawTherapee are lens corrections, advanced sharpening and denoising tools, refined color adjustments, histograms, and professional demosaicing and chromatic aberration correction. It also allows you to preview the results at each step of the editing process, compare before/after versions, adjust individual color channels, and apply focus and sharpening contrast masks.
Pros: Free, advanced RAW editing
Cons: Not for beginners, difficult to learn, no presets
If you want to benefit from all of InPixio’s editing tools, you need to buy InPixio Photo Suite. It includes tools for photo editing, digital asset management, and graphic design. InPixio Photo Suite only requires 1 GB of RAM, 100 MB of hard disk space, and Windows XP or newer.
With InPixio Photo Suite, you can enhance and restore old pictures by adjusting sharpness, clarity, brightness, and contrast, improve portraits, remove objects, and change the size and orientation of images. You can also enlarge photos for printing, create collages, and add frames and text. InPixio Photo Studio costs $99.
If you want a simpler photo editor, InPixio also offers a free photo editor for PC. The free editor allows you to apply effects and filters, crop and resize images, and add text and frames.
Pros: Basic editing solution for beginners and the general public, minimal system requirements
Cons: No advanced editing tools or layers
If you want a quick and free photo editing solution, try Photopea. This free photo editor for PC runs in a browser and supports popular proprietary formats from Photoshop, CorelDRAW, GIMP, and Sketch. Photopea requires 8 GB of RAM and an internet connection to load. After loading, it runs on your computer and you don’t need the internet anymore.
Photopea works with layers and masks and provides non-destructive editing. The interface is similar to Photoshop’s, and you can easily get used to it. You’ll also find selection tools, brushes, and filters similar to those in Photoshop. Photopea provides basic image adjustments such as brightness, contrast, exposure, levels and curves, and black and white conversions. It also gives you access to layers and adjustment history.
While Photopea doesn’t provide advanced editing tools, camera profiles, or digital asset management, you can use it for quick photo fixes on the go or to edit a previous project.
Pros: Free, online, support for popular file formats, Photoshop-like interface
Cons: No advanced editing tools, RAW support, or digital asset management
DxO PhotoLab is a photo editor for PC designed for photographers. Its principal concerns are color accuracy, RAW processing, and high image quality. To run DxO PhotoLab, you need Windows 8.1 or newer, at least 4 GB of RAM ( 8 GB recommended), and at least 4 GB of hard disk space.
With DxO PhotoLab you can fine-tune every aspect of an image, starting with color management and ending with local optimizations. It matches the rendering of over 60 cameras to allow you to achieve the same image you see in your camera and provides exquisite denoising algorithms for high-ISO images. Other features of DxO PhotoLab are Moiré removal, ICC profiles, smart lighting, 40 presets for quick styling, digital asset management, batch processing, and fullscreen viewing.
For more presets and dedicated editing tools, you can use DxO PhotoLab together with plugins from the NiK Collection. DxO PhotoLab costs $129.
Pros: Professional color accuracy, full control over the editing process
Cons: For professional use only, few built-in presets
Also designed for professional photographers, Capture One Pro is a complete photo editing solution. It requires a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer, 8 GB of RAM, 10 GB of hard disk space, and a $20 monthly subscription.
Like any professional photo editor, Capture One Pro works with layers and masks, provides non-destructive editing, and performs local adjustments. It also supports most RAW file formats, tethered shooting, and PSD files. In terms of image editing, Capture One Pro has everything: curves and levels, tools for improving clarity, structure, contrast, exposure, and saturation, custom-made color profiles, skin tone editing, and black and white conversions. Plus, it provides advanced tools for lens corrections, noise removal, processing images for large prints, and straightening vertical and horizontal lines.
Capture One Pro comes with digital asset management, supports annotations on images, and allows you to customize the workspace. It might be one of the best photo editors for PC, so give it a try with the 30-day free trial.
Pros: Professional editing tools, custom-made color profiles, printing support
Cons: Monthly subscription, high system requirements
Aiming to be the best photo editor for creative photography, Exposure X5 requires a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or newer and costs $119. It’s a RAW editor that provides non-destructive editing, works with layers and innovative 3D masking, and comes with more than 500 presets.
Exposure X5 definitely deserves your consideration. It has an impressive list of features including digital asset management with printing tools, advanced editing tools for white balance, color, exposure, and contrast adjustments, creative focus tools for bokeh and vignettes, textures and effects for creating artwork, and support for LUTs.
Its presets cover a lot of styles, from analog photography to cinema looks. Plus, you can create your own presets — even presets that affect a specific area of the image — and compare them in the presets panel.
Pros: Extensive set of presets, RAW support, camera profiles and lens corrections
Cons: Expensive, complex
Renowned for its digital asset management products, ACDSee also develops a complete photo editing solution for PC. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2021 aims to be the only editor you need. It includes RAW support for more than 500 cameras, HDR editing, face detection and facial recognition for improving portraits, and, of course, impressive digital asset management.
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2021 requires a 64-bit copy of Windows 7 or higher, 2 GB of RAM (6 GB recommended), and 2 GB of hard disk space. It costs $224.98.
This editor provides advanced layers and masks, focus stacking, geometric transformations and customizable rules to perfect the composition, LUTs, and creative effects. It also allows you to add text and textures.
Pros: RAW support, very good digital asset management
Cons: Expensive, no presets
Now you have an extensive list of photo editors for PC to check out. While it may be time-consuming to install all the trial versions and test out these tools for yourself, it’s the only way to be sure you end up with the right editor. Work with the same image in all editors and compare the results. Consider image quality, functionality, workflow, time, and processing speed. Many photo editors require a powerful processor and a lot of memory. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process!
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