Adobe Lightroom is considered by some to be the standard in photo editing. But what about the best Lightroom alternative? There are plenty of options that are completely free that work just as good if not better than Lightroom.
Today we’re going to look at the best Lightroom alternative. There are quite a few options to choose from, including free and paid. You can still get excellent image management, image processing, and all the other benefits of Lightroom without using the actual app. From importing and editing to organizing and enhancing all your photographs, check out all these great Lightroom alternatives.
1. Skylum Luminar
Skylum Luminar is a popular RAW photo editor available for a one-time payment with absolutely no subscription. The tools are powered using AI, it comes with a full money-back guarantee, and it has excellent digital asset management capabilities. The AI is even able to analyze a photo and automatically figure out the best edits you need to make.
Skylum Luminar is also great for beginners who have never used an image editing program. It focuses heavily on presets and simple edits, allowing you to quickly become familiar with the new software. But if you’re not a beginner and want something with a bit more finesse, Skylum Luminar is great for you too. There are advanced editing tools that give you complete control.
Skylum Luminar is available as a standalone app or as a plugin for other apps, including Photoshop and Lightroom.
RawTherapee is 100% free. It’s an open-source RAW image processing program available for the three major operating systems: Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s kind of a hybrid between Photoshop and Lightroom in terms of interface and tools. It doesn’t have a significant level of image management as the other application. It’s more of a lightweight version with an easier learning curve.
Still, RawTherapee is the ideal Lightroom alternative for RAW files. It has great editing tools, it’s awesome for adjusting exposure, it has a great color correction, and the interface is familiar enough that it won’t be confusing.
3. On1 Photo Raw
On1 Photo Raw combines photo editing with digital management, blending the popular features of Lightroom and Photoshop into one easy program. It offers a 30-day trial absolutely free with a 90-day money-back guarantee. When purchasing, there is only a one-time fee and it’s quite affordable.
This program is best for people who like to use Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and managing photographs but who want something a little different. On1 Photo Raw combines a Raw processor, layered editor, image organizer, and effects editing into one simplistic interface. There is a fairly steep learning curve, but once you master it, the application is quite easy to use.
The library system is browser-based, meaning there is never any need to import images. It also has an extensive search feature. You can easily locate images based on keyword and metadata, or even date and time. Even better is that you can create custom camera profiles.
There are some great effects, such as adding weather like rain or snow to an image. The AI technology is growing as we speak inside the application, with current AI available almost on par with some of the more expensive photo editors.
Layer functionality works perfectly. Blend modes are great for merging layers. Portrait editing is at the very top of the game, with portrait mode able to automatically find faces and create separate adjustment panels for each. You can even adjust skin and eyes separately on each person in the photograph.
4. Exposure X6
Exposure X6 comes from Exposure Software. This is one of the best Lightroom alternatives. It is packed full of features and works as a fully functioning RAW image editing software. You get all the photo manipulation tools that advanced photographers love while still being simplistic for beginners. It can also work as a plugin for Lightroom. But if you use Exposure X6 without Lightroom, you get to save on monthly fees.
One of the more unique features you get with Exposure X6 is the ability to import photos from the internal storage or external drivers of your computer and drop them into the program. Files are never copied or moved from where they were originally. They’re simply accessed from the program. This is extremely convenient.
You can even migrate files already existing in a Lightroom catalog. When you do, you still get all the keywords and metadata included with the original files.
This program is great for filtering, it’s good for collaborating image editing using cloud-based services, and it comes with a range of presets that will make any editor very pleased. Exposure X6 even has a special 3D color masking tool that creates masks based on things like hue and saturation.
5. Capture One Pro 21
Capture One Pro is a Lightroom alternative that must be considered by any serious photographer. But be warned, this is not the greatest software for a beginner. It has an extremely steep learning curve and is designed for collaborative workflow. But as a professional who needs something even more advanced than Lightroom, this is arguably the best tool to use.
There are several different versions of this program, with paid versions and free versions. If you’re skeptical, check out the 30-day free trial of the paid version before making the purchase.
Capture One Pro even comes with specific versions of software depending on which camera you’re using, specifically for Sony and Fujifilm. This means color management is going to be more efficient than usual. Color profiles are tailored for every camera, making viewing your pictures in the program a more satisfying experience.
In some ways, this program is far superior to Lightroom. It gives you more ways to manipulate color, which is excellent for making the best color balance changes to things like shadow and highlights. There’s also a channel dedicated strictly to skin tones.
6. DxO PhotoLab 4
DxO PhotoLab 4 is a Lightroom alternative preferred by serious photographers because of its advanced RAW processing engine. The elite version of the app has some pretty phenomenal tools, saw as the denoising RAW tool, the anti-moire tool, the presets editor, and much more. There are constant updates, the app is always being upgraded, and new cameras and lenses are supported as they come out.
Editing is fast and smooth, the artificial intelligence is the best in the business, and the dynamic interface mixed with the simplistic workflow makes editing easy and fun. The editing history tool is also handy for going back and looking at individual moments during your editing process.
There are honestly too many amazing features to list. You can do a lot of the same things inside DxO PhotoLab that you can do in Lightroom when it comes to image management – but for editing RAW photos, many people say DxO PhotoLab is even better.
Darktable is a free Lightroom alternative. There is no subscription and there is no paywall after editing a few images. The app has the most features of any free editing software. It has RAW processing for over 400 cameras. It also has all the image adjustments a beginner needs and a vast library of options for image management.
The user interface is quite similar to Lightroom. If you’ve already used Lightroom in the past, changing can be a bit confusing. It may take a while to fully understand the app since it has many of the same features as Lightroom, only located in different places, which can be confusing.
Luckily, there are lots of tutorials available on how to use Darktable to the full extent of its power. It’s obviously not as technologically savvy as the paid apps, but it’s still a great tool for absolutely no money.
LightZone is another free Lightroom alternative available on all major systems. It has some conceptual differences that make it a bit of an oddball in the editing software game. For example, its Zone Mapping feature allows selective adjustments using a new layer-based system. This might be new for a lot of people coming from Lightroom. Based on heaps of reviews, people either love it or hate it.
One of the main features of LightZone that is indisputably better than many other editors is its black-and-white photo processing. It uses tonal adjustments to make some of the most vividly incredible black and white images ever. This is a huge creative bonus for LightZone.
There are different blending modes available with LightZone, it has a strong RAW file converter, its user interface is pleasing, and the photo adjustment tools work surprisingly well for a free program. The people who will appreciate LightZone the most are those who like using layers to edit.
The only downside is that LightZone has fewer features than some of the other free programs. It really depends on what you’re using the editor for. If you’re into black and white photography, if you like their unique tools, and if you prefer their UI, LightZone could be the best Lightroom alternative for you.
The best Lightroom alternative really depends on what you’re doing with your photo editing. There are dozens and dozens of Lightroom alternatives that we didn’t talk about today, both free and paid. Everyone wants their editing software to be the best, which means every software comes with its own proprietary quirk. You just have to find which experience satisfies you the most and which program leaves you with the most spectacular photos.
As with everything, the more you pay, normally the more useful features you get. But there are some free photo editing tools that are ideal for beginners, such as LightZone and Darktable.