The Best Photo Editing Software for the Mac

January 01

7 min. to read

Whether you are a professional or amateur photographer, it's critical to have photo editing software

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One of the most common positive things you'll hear about Mac computers is their suitability for photo editing and manipulation. While the preference is pretty much equally divided these days, many photographers have historically chosen the Mac display hardware over the most common Windows displays for quite some time. When you really consider the difference, though, the most important elements in editing photos are the software and your skill in using it. Here's a quick rundown of the top choices in photo editing software for the Mac and how to use them.

The Photos Application

This choice is listed here because it's the default photo editor that comes with the MacOS. On the plus side, it's handy for organizing and cataloging your photos and gives you easy access to iCloud libraries, so it's easy to use on multiple iOS devices. Unfortunately, if you want to do anything other than very basic edits, you won't find this app very useful.

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Photos lets you rotate, crop, straighten and resize your photographs and has a basic set of adjustments. It also has a simple Levels adjustment, some sharpness controls and some filters you can apply. You can write text or draw over the top of a picture, too. Photos doesn't let you work in layers or use masks. Working with RAW images requires tweaking some settings on your computer and can't be done on an iPad or iPhone.

In a nutshell, if you're only interested in performing basic edits to your JPEG files for posting to social media, etc. then Photos is probably all you need and this online user manual will help you learn to use it. If you want a powerful image editor that lets you take your photos to a professional level, this isn't the app you're looking for.

Adobe Lightroom® and Photoshop®

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Here's the most well-known and commonly used photo editing and manipulation software on the planet. Adobe raised the bar with these two applications many years ago and they've become the standard among professional photographers over the course of those years. Although the two are separate applications, they can now be purchased through a Creative Cloud® subscription as a package and they work better in combination. By adding the Adobe Camera RAW plugin, you'll also have RAW file support.

Lightroom provides cataloging and library creation and you can incorporate cloud storage easily. It also has an impressive list of editing functions and comes with hundreds of adjustable presets and the ability to create your own. You can also easily map your photos using GPS data, create and store watermarks, and more.

Photoshop is the more widely-known application and has become the buzzword for image manipulation. The level of sophistication it brought to digital photo editing was unprecedented when it was originally released.

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Both of these applications allow the use of layers and groups and a wide array of masking options along with an incredible number of tools and options for those tools. In fact, one of the disadvantages to using them is the huge learning curve. The other is cost. Standalone versions are no longer available, but a subscription to both applications is available for $10 per month. That sounds cheap, until you consider that it's $120.00 per year and you never get to stop paying for it. That's a pretty sweet deal – for Adobe.


Skylum recently introduced an application that gives photographers sophisticated editing tools along with an intuitive interface and native RAW file support. It's powerful, easy to use and even adapts to the way you use it. It supports layering, masks and hundreds of presets. It currently has over 300 tools available with full options and more are being developed as you read this. Best of all, the total cost is $69.00 and you can even try it for free.

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Amateur or professional, portrait, product or nature photographer, Luminar is the first Mac photo editor that gives you total control of your images without requiring you to enroll in college to learn to use it. Whether you need to enhance a landscape photo or professionally retouch a portrait, the simple interface makes it easy from the very first time you run the software.

As you learn, you'll have access to more advanced controls for even more options. You'll customize your workspace to match your workflow, so your digital darkroom suits your style.

The icing on the cake is Luminar's own extensive selection of easy-to-follow video tutorials. From learning the program to quick tips, to focused tutorials on specific techniques, you're never on your own with this application. Take a look at the huge selection of video guides available here. Then download your free trial and find out why we think it's the best photo editing software around for your Mac.