Not so long ago, a list of the best photo editing software for computers would have been extremely short. In fact, it would likely have contained one single recommendation: Adobe Photoshop. This isn’t to say that Photoshop was the only photo editing software available, but up until a few years ago, it was the only serious option out there.
That’s not the case anymore.
Funnily enough, it was likely smartphones that changed this. With the arrival of the iPhone, everyone suddenly became interested in photography. Hordes of new developers sprang up to meet the booming demand for fast photo editing apps. And once they’d put in the effort to develop new photo processing software for use on smartphones and tablets, it was only logical that many of these companies would eventually also extend their products across to other platforms.
Today the photography landscape is densely populated by a variety of applications offering varying degrees of photo editing power and competence. Some do little more than process images with Instagram-style filters or allow the user to add photobooth-style “stickers” to photos before posting online. Others offer more sophisticated tools aimed towards serious amateur and semi-professional photographers.
More interestingly still, from our point of view, there are now also a few programs that might be considered potential rivals to Photoshop itself, yet costing a fraction of its price.
Still, Photoshop has long been considered the sole serious contender in this area. But has Adobe’s original held onto its throne over time, or has Photoshop now been superseded by one of its upstart competitors? Read on to find out.
How to Choose the Best Photo Editing Software
First, we need to consider how we’ll evaluate the different photo editing options. What makes one photo editing software good and another bad? What do we mean by “the best photo editing software”?
As ever, there’s going to be a degree of subjective opinion involved here, depending on each user’s precise needs. There are several more objective criteria that everyone will want to consider when deciding which photo editing software to go for.
UI Design and Ease of Use
It doesn’t matter how powerful or effective an app might be; if it’s a pain to work with, it probably won’t see much use. Ugly design and a confusing interface are both legitimate reasons to strike a photo editing app off your shortlist. This doesn’t mean we should reject complicated software designed for tackling complicated tasks, but simply that we’ll want to avoid any software that makes these tasks even more complicated than they need be.
Currently available photo editing software ranges in cost from several hundred dollars to completely free, with most products falling somewhere between these two extremes. How much you’re willing to pay will likely depend on just how much use you think you’ll make of the software, and how complex and demanding your editing needs are when you do use it.
Basic image processing apps can be downloaded free of charge, but many in this category are unlikely to satisfy anyone but the most casual of photographers.
Range of Tools and Adjustments
We can effectively divide photo editing software into two main camps: true image editors, and those that are merely image processors. The former type allows for a wide range of editing tasks, often at the level of individual pixels. The latter usually does little more than throw a simple filter over the image to change color, density, and contrast.
A simple image processor will not allow you to make advanced edits, but if all you need is something to bump up contrast and saturation to make your images “pop” on Pinterest, anything more sophisticated would be overkill.
There’s a vast amount of variation in the features offered by the different photo editing platforms. Before making a decision, be sure to have a clear idea of the kinds of tasks you need to perform, and which tools will be required to perform them.
If you’re moving across from another platform or will need to pass images back and forth with other people (designers, printers, etc.), you’ll need to be quite certain that the software you choose is capable of reading and saving a sufficiently wide range of file formats. Also, if you shoot your images as RAW files, you’ll want to pick a photo editing app that can process these natively.
Beyond the above points, and depending on your personal needs as a photographer, you may also want to consider the following:
For anyone serious about their photography and photo editing, the ability to non-destructively edit an image will be high on their list of priorities. If you’ve spent a long time working on a photo using editing software, you don’t want to notice an error you made hours ago suddenly, and then have to hit the undo command repeatedly until you return the photo to where it was almost at the start of the session.
The best way of making adjustments to a photo is not directly on the photo itself, but by using independent layers placed over the background image. Called Adjustment Layers in Photoshop, these act almost like sheets of transparent acetate containing no pixel information but instead filters and effects. These can be stacked on top of the photo in any order you wish, thus altering its appearance, but with the added advantage that they can be easily edited or removed later if necessary.
Did you add too much red to the highlights? If you made the edit on an Adjustment Layer, then you can just go back and tone the adjustment down. Or even turn it off altogether.
Got the colors looking just right? Copy the Adjustment Layer across to all the other photos you shot in the same location.
What’s more, by use of masking, the effects created by an Adjustment Layer can be applied selectively to just the specific areas of the image you choose.
There are plenty of perfectly good, mid-range apps that do not offer an Adjustment Layer type of feature. Many of these are still worth considering for use as a quick and easy photo editor – say for images to upload to social media. But for more demanding photo editing work, a non-destructive workflow is essential.
Armed with the above information, here’s our list of the five best photo editing software programs around.
5 of the Best Photo Editing Software Applications
1. Adobe Photoshop
+ Powerful and offers an extremely wide range of tools
+ Adjustment layers
+ Masking and blending
+ Actions for speedy batch editing
+ Ability to edit an image at the level of its pixels
+ Can also be used for graphic design and other non-photography tasks
– High Adobe CC subscription fees
– Complicated to learn
WHO IS IT FOR?
Professional photographers and dedicated hobbyists who want full control over their images and who are willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to achieve this.
Anyone attempting to design an entirely new photo editing software from scratch today would be in a highly unenviable position. Photoshop has been so influential, and for so long, that it’s almost impossible to even conceive of a way of approaching photo editing that doesn’t take its lead from Adobe.
That is a way of saying that pretty much every single alternative photo editing app on the market today is effectively just a Photoshop clone. One or two of the best may also have added some slight innovations of their own to the mix, but the majority are still playing catch up from several leagues behind.
As the standard by which all other photo editing software is measured, there’s little point in us merely listing Photoshop’s features here: if any photo editing software can do it, then Photoshop can. It’s for this reason that professional photographers have long considered Photoshop (and to a lesser extent its sister app Lightroom) to be the only serious contender in this category.
In over 20 years in the business, I have yet to meet a single pro or semi-pro photographer or retoucher who uses anything other than Adobe products. Of course there could be several reasons for this, but one of them is simply that the tools are up to the job.
All things considered then, we might more profitably ask the question: why wouldn’t you use Photoshop?
There are two principal reasons why a photographer might choose to avoid Adobe’s industry-standard offering. One is simply that, as a compelling and sophisticated piece of software, to the uninitiated, it can seem correspondingly complicated to use.
For professional photographers who might combine multiple images in one, or switch out the head from one shot and combine it with the body from another, it’s evident that a certain degree of investment in time and energy is required to achieve such complicated and advanced effects. Here a steep learning curve is to be expected but will be justified by the end results.
But what if you just want to correct color casts, lighten up the shadows, or remove a couple of blemishes from the subject’s face? Isn’t Photoshop overkill?
Quite possibly. In which case you might want to consider Adobe Lightroom or one of the other applications we look at here.
The other main reason why you might want to give Photoshop a miss is, unsurprisingly, that it’s relatively expensive. And again, if you don’t need all the advanced features that Photoshop offers, then why spend all that money when there are much cheaper options available?
Both of these are valid reasons not to go with Photoshop. Additionally, some disgruntled photographers will no doubt have been put off by Adobe moving to a subscription model some years back, with users now paying an annual fee to access the Creative Cloud platform via the Internet, rather than purchasing the software outright.
For those who make only very occasional use of Photoshop, effectively renting the software in this manner may not make economic sense. Before 2013, when Photoshop was still sold as a stand-alone desktop program, even an infrequent user could likely have justified the initial investment in CS6 just so long as they continued to work with Photoshop for many years to come, no matter how occasionally.
But paid out over a lifetime, Creative Cloud works out to be a much more expensive proposition than the perpetual license system previously employed by Adobe. Unfortunately, though, CC is now the only way to access Photoshop.
Of course, Adobe would defend this by arguing that subscribers to CC always have access to the latest release of Photoshop, with all its new features and innovations. But this leads us to another critical issue: as far as photographers are concerned, there just haven’t been all that many important photo editing innovations in recent years.
With regards to technological advancements, by the time that the Creative Cloud was announced, photo editing had pretty much reached a plateau. Indeed, cynics among us may wonder if these two facts aren’t perhaps related: can’t sell new releases on the basis of innovation anymore? Tie users to a subscription service instead.
Yes, new releases of Photoshop come with many new features. They tend not to be ones that will make an enormous amount of difference to the creative potential of the average photographer. Art directors, graphic designers, illustrators, collage-artists? Yes. Just not photographers.
Effects such as Face Aware Liquify are all very clever and impressive, but as far as I’m concerned the last genuinely useful Photoshop innovation for photo editing was simply when Adobe increased the program’s ability to feather gradients from 300 to 1,000 pixels. It wasn’t flash and it wasn’t sexy, it was just a useful upgrade that improved the quality of my images.
I realize that anyone who uses their photographs more as the starting point for highly manipulated and fantastical creations may not agree with this opinion, however. And certainly, the added features in the latest release of Photoshop can make photo editing much easier and less time consuming than before.
But in reality, there are very few tasks that couldn’t have been achieved to an equal degree of accomplishment ten years ago. The latest iteration of Photoshop CC mainly does the same things, only better. Sure, it might previously have taken you much longer, but a copy of CS3 would still get you there.
However, all of the above comments need to be put into clear perspective: Photoshop always was, and indeed still is, the most popular pro photo editing software on the market. Sure, part of this is just habit: with photography professionals accustomed to working with Photoshop and seeing little reason to look elsewhere (in any case, the last time they did look, they probably didn’t see a whole lot else on the horizon).
Nonetheless, if there existed a genuine alternative to Photoshop out there, offering significant advantages over Adobe’s expensive offering, you would assume that plenty of users at all levels would have jumped ship by now.
While I’d guess that Adobe’s market has been somewhat dented by some of the new photo editing software released in the last five years, I doubt that the loss is significant enough to make Adobe sweat, even with the sales of all the main competitors combined. Indeed, while the gap in features and usability has undoubtedly narrowed of late, Photoshop remains the most powerful and versatile photo editing software available.
Photoshop does everything you need to do, and a whole lot more to boot. As a result, it retains our top spot as the overall best photo editing software available. However, whether it’s the best photo editing software for you is another matter entirely. Read on to check out the alternatives.
2. Affinity Photo
+ Compatible with Photoshop’s PSD file format
+ Unlimited undos
+ RAW import/processing
+ Blend modes
+ Adjustment Layers for non-destructive editing
+ Impressive “Inpainting” and clone brushes for seamless removal of imperfections
+ Cheap one-time purchase price
+ Desktop and iPad versions available
– As complicated to learn as Photoshop
– Fewer other users or resources available online than with Photoshop
WHO IS IT FOR?
Anyone who wants everything that Photoshop has to offer, but doesn’t want to pay anywhere near as much money for the privilege of using it.
If I were considering fully switching from Adobe Photoshop to any other photo editing software right now, that software would undoubtedly be Affinity Photo. Sadly, the main reason for this is not because Affinity offers any radical photo editing innovations.
Instead, it’s purely because, out of all the alternative photo editing apps on the market, Affinity is the one that most closely resembles Photoshop. Not just superficially with regards to the UI, but actually in terms of features, usability, and results.
Indeed, few photographers will find themselves wanting for anything here. For a start, there are Adjustment Layers, yay!
And we’re not just talking about a feature that somewhat resembles Adobe’s Adjustment Layer concept, but rather a feature that behaves identically, and is actually called an Adjustment Layer. Affinity’s Adjustment Layers can even be found on the menu bar in the same location that Adjustment Layers are located in Photoshop. In short, if you have used Photoshop before, it will likely take you all of two minutes to roughly familiarize yourself with Affinity Photo.
Yes, there are some slight differences when compared with Photoshop. But essentially Affinity will allow you to achieve almost anything that can be done in Photoshop. But for a small one-off payment rather than a monthly contract with the devil.
That being the case, why would anyone go for Photoshop over Affinity today?
Well, there are a couple of legitimate reasons. For a start, although there should be no issues over file compatibility between Affinity and Photoshop users (Affinity can open PSD files, for example), the fact remains that Photoshop is still the industry standard. As we’ve already mentioned, the two programs are so similar that it’s highly unlikely there’ll be much of a learning curve for anyone switching between them.
But there still may be some hiccups caused by the subtle differences.
Just imagine that you run a small design studio and have to retrain every intern who comes through the door in the nuances of Affinity, rather than just leaving them to get on with their work right away in Photoshop. It might only take a short amount of time. But it’s still time.
And what happens if you get stuck with something yourself? With so many Photoshop users the world over, you can always find advice online regarding Adobe’s products. Can’t remember how to achieve a specific effect or find a hidden Photoshop function? No problem, there’ll be scores of YouTube videos explaining exactly how.
Sure, Affinity’s developer, Serif, provides a very comprehensive range of tutorial videos via Vimeo, but there isn’t the same number of users out there to call on for help. At least not yet anyway.
There’s also the matter of longevity to consider. Affinity is cheap, and unlike Photoshop it’s yours to keep upon purchase. Provided that Affinity still meets your needs, you can continue using the software for as long as the technology permits. But will there always be updates and support?
Adobe probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so there’s little risk involved in sticking with Photoshop. Although Serif has been around almost as long as Adobe, since the 1980s, the company doesn’t have quite the same internationally-known profile as Photoshop’s developers. Will Serif still be with us in 5 years? If enough people make the switch to Affinity, then the answer is almost certainly yes. But if things don’t quite take off as planned?
Perhaps I’m overly cautious. Affinity Photo is certainly compelling, and after a few weeks of use I’ve pretty much forgotten that it isn’t just a new release of Photoshop.
If you want a cheaper alternative to Adobe CC, this is definitely the right choice. Indeed, if more people haven’t switched over from Photoshop, I’m guessing it’s mainly because they are not aware that Affinity Photo exists.
3. Polarr Photo Editor
+ RAW processing
+ Brush, radial, color and other masks (with paid version only)
+ Online, mobile, and desktop versions
+ Easy to use
+ Powerful free version
+ Adjustments can be saved and applied to other images
– No adjustment layers
– Opening several files at once will quickly eat up memory
WHO IS IT FOR?
Experienced amateurs who know what they want, but don’t want to waste time or money getting it.
As with most of the alternatives to Photoshop currently available, Polarr mostly feels like a slightly fumbling and hobbled impersonator of Adobe’s original. So although the look and controls will all be highly familiar to Photoshop users, this can end up feeling like so many empty promises.
Despite the clear superficial resemblance to Photoshop, the actual functions and results don’t quite measure up to expectations. The result is a little like driving something that externally resembles a Ferrari, but boasts nothing more than a 50cc engine under the hood.
If you can pretend that Photoshop doesn’t exist just for a second, and adjust your expectations accordingly, Polarr is actually a fantastic little app. Although it may not yet be a heavyweight player in the image editor category, it is indeed much more than merely an image processor.
For advanced photographers, Polarr doesn’t yet represent a true alternative to Photoshop. To get the most out of the app, it would help if you are a somewhat experienced photographer. Sure, Polarr is very simple and straightforward to navigate. But in using Polarr, it would also be very easy for less experienced photographers to quickly ruin their images with all manner of unnecessary and ill-advised filters and adjustments.
To some extent this would be the case with any photo editing app. With Polarr the possibilities for quickly and drastically altering the colors of an image are so accessible that it takes a certain degree of restraint not to turn every photo into insta-tastic retro-filtered kitsch.
Indeed, Polarr comes with a fairly wide choice of filters emulating various types of analog film or cinematic looks. As with most filters of this kind, the effects tend to be somewhat over the top. Although these filters are presumably a serious attempt to recreate the look of actual vintage film stocks, one can only assume that the developers have chosen to emulate the more extreme errors and artifacts of the films in question rather than a more average and neutral look.
Certainly, the ‘90s film emulation looks nothing like the high-quality results I remember from professional photography of that decade. Instead they resemble the effects of under-development in expired chemicals at the hands of a disreputable backstreet mini-lab.
Thankfully, the user can choose to what degree any filter alters a given image. I would encourage those looking for the best results to skip the filter section entirely and instead make edits to color manually utilizing Polarr’s highly usable Adjustments section. Here users will find a series of controls for tweaking color temperature, tint, vibrancy, saturation, exposure, contrast, etc. that will be entirely familiar to anyone who has processed a RAW file using Adobe’s Camera RAW or similar software.
Further down the Adjustments panel, you’ll also find tools for making edits to hue, saturation and luminosity: either across the entire image or just to specific colors. There’s a Toning tool for adding color shifts only to the highlights or shadow areas. And – the joy of joys – there is also a Curves tool! Just don’t expect to find it quite as nuanced or effective as Photoshop’s version.
While the heavy-handed vignetting of a photo is often an indicator of an ineffectual amateur, when done subtly, the darkening down of the edges or corners of an image will help to create greater impact by drawing the viewer’s eye towards the subject. Almost every photo will benefit from a degree of this, and any photo editing software that doesn’t allow some scope for making such an adjustment isn’t really up to the job.
The paid version of Polarr includes various masking tools that make it easy to create fairly sophisticated vignetting effects. Unfortunately, these masks are lacking in the free app. Nonetheless, there’s a Vignette tool that will allow you to get quite acceptable results in the majority of cases by adjusting the size, roundness, and feathering of the vignette.
My only wish here is that it was also possible to rotate the orientation of the vignette freely on its axis so that it might better fit the contents and composition of the photo – rather than imposing the same circular or horizontal oval vignette indiscriminately on all images, as is currently the case.
The Adjustments area also provides a Distort section for correcting lens and perspective distortion. For most lens distortion, this tool will likely get the job done well enough, and it may also do even for some very slight perspective distortion. But be aware that the more you need to correct perspective, the more Polarr zooms in, cropping out a significant portion of the image in the process.
This means that once “corrected,” a photo with even slightly converging parallels would end up a fraction of its original size, and perhaps missing a lot of essential content. And yet it still may not be entirely squared up at the end of this process anyway. However, while this function is of minimal use, in those cases where you need to fix some very slight distortion, it’s probably better than nothing.
All in all, the controls in the Adjustments section are simple to use and the results are fairly pleasing, at least when applied subtly. Additionally, on the opposite side of the screen, Polarr also offers several other editing tools, allowing users to crop, rotate and even retouch spots and blemishes. This latter feature is quite basic and somewhat automated.
Consequently, the results don’t always stand up to scrutiny, particularly when there is insufficient source material available to apply to the area in need of retouching. Still, for removing simple small-sized blemishes, the effect is usually quite adequate.
After several weeks of use, the only major usability flaw I’ve come across with Polarr is that it appears to consume a lot of memory, and this on an almost brand new 2018 MacBook Pro with 16MB of RAM. Simultaneously opening two dozen 20 MB RAW files in Photoshop would be unlikely to cause the program much trouble. In the unlikely event that this did make Photoshop overload, problems with performance would probably be confined to Photoshop itself.
Instead, after opening 20+ images in Polarr, I was suddenly faced with a system message telling me that my computer had run out of available memory. Shutting down Polarr immediately fixed this issue, and the problem hasn’t occurred since. And nor have I subsequently risked leaving so many files open in Polarr at any one time, so Polarr seems the most likely culprit.
Other than this, I’ve encountered no bugs or annoyances with Polarr whatsoever, and the app is extremely quick and simple to use. However, while Affinity Photo (above) successfully emulates Photoshop not only in layout and look but also in terms of actual results, images that have been processed in Polarr do not display the same dynamic range or chromatic richness as those worked on using either Photoshop or Affinity.
Additionally, many of Polarr’s editing tools are somewhat restricted in their reach and the scope of edits you can make is diminished when compared with either Photoshop or Affinity. Indeed, by comparison, Polarr is a mere toy.
You would certainly not want to use Polarr to edit a huge file for an exhibition, nor to retouch work for a commercial client. Such tasks require complete control over an image to achieve total perfection and warrant much better image quality than Polarr appears capable of providing. But in instances such as web or social media use, where “pretty good” is likely good enough, Polarr can be a handy and effective tool.
To sum up then, if you know what you’re trying to achieve with your photo editing, Polarr will get you pretty close, and with a minimum of fuss. No, it doesn’t offer the same degree of power and control as the absolute best photo editing software can, but what it lacks in these areas it makes up for in ease of use.
Personally though, as soon as we move from merely looking on Polarr as a great free app – a league in which it excels – and start to talk about spending hard-earned cash, this is where my enthusiasm suddenly wanes. To be sure, even the paid version of Polarr is cheap. But then so is Affinity, and there’s no competition between the two.
Choose Polarr for a great free and easy to use photo editing app. But if you need greater editing precision and power, then save your money for one of the more serious options occupying either position 1 or 2 on our list.
4. Adobe Lightroom
+ RAW processing
+ Easy to use
+ Convenient photo-management
– Only basic editing tools
– Lacks Photoshop’s layer-management capabilities
– High Adobe CC subscription fees
WHO IS IT FOR?
Professionals and serious enthusiasts looking for a fluid and efficient way of editing single and multiple images, but who don’t need to undertake complicated retouching or comping tasks.
Lightroom is very much designed for users coming from the more journalistic side of photography, or similar areas such as weddings or events. Imagine a photographer “in the field” needing to quickly edit multiple similar images before wiring them back to the news desk. What’s called for here is a fast and efficient photo editing workflow, not only allowing for adjustments to be made to color and density, but also for the easy addition of metadata.
Photojournalistic ethics only really allow for the most basic adjustments of tone, contrast, etc.. In fact, any more serious image manipulation is very much frowned upon (see the perennial scandals over the World Press Photo awards for example, with contestants frequently disqualified for using Photoshop’s Clone tool). Reflecting this, Lightroom is much less suited to more complex levels of editing.
While users can make manual adjustments in Lightroom, clearly busy working photographers would also find it beneficial to be able to set up preset edits for batch processing of multiple images at speed, and this is where Lightroom comes into its own when compared with many other programs. Although Photoshop can achieve something similar by means of Actions, and even free Polarr allows the user to save Adjustments and apply them to another image, Lightroom excels at batch processing due to its convenient layout and features.
In contrast, Lightroom is less suited to more complex editing and retouching on the level of individual pixels. To be sure, some editing features are available in Lightroom, but there’s not the array of precision tools offered by Photoshop or Affinity.
This makes Lightroom perhaps not the first choice for those coming from a more fine-art photography background or wishing to combine photos with other elements such as graphics or text. Similarly, Lightroom is not ideal for any photographer who simply wants to have complete control over every aspect of their images: in this case, Photoshop presents the better option.
As it happens though, if you think that either Lightroom or Photoshop might be for you, you’re not required to choose between the two, as both programs come bundled together as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography package.
As with all Adobe products, Lightroom is of course extremely well designed and a pleasure to use. However, if you only need an app to quickly color-grade, crop, and retouch a few images now and then, a free option such as Polarr will make much greater economic sense.
+ RAW processing
+ Standard image adjustments
+ Curves adjustments
+ Luminosity masks
+ Healing brush
+ Clone tool
+ Customizable UI
– No Adjustment Layers (yet)
– Sometimes processing is slow
WHO IS IT FOR?
Anyone looking for a powerful photo editor on zero budget – and willing to put up with the slightly clunky limitations of free open-source software.
GIMP is an open-source photo editor that has been around in one form or another since the 1990s. If you had tried the somewhat crude and unwieldy program back then, we will forgive you if you long ago excluded it from consideration. But GIMP has come a long way since those early days.
As innovation in photo editing software has somewhat slowed in recent years, GIMP has had plenty of time to catch up.
And catch up it has: GIMP is now a serious player in the photo editing game. Sadly though, it’s still just one step away from being a 2nd place alternative to Photoshop itself. Although an equivalent to Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers function is scheduled as a priority for the forthcoming GIMP 3.2 release, the gimp.org roadmap for this version of the software states that work hasn’t even begun on implementing this feature yet.
GIMP will allow you to achieve most things that you can accomplish in Photoshop, but often still requires employing a lot of difficult workarounds to do so. Free is a great price, but given that there are other quite serious contenders for the title of best photo editing software that cost only a little more than free, GIMP will have to be content to take 5th place.
Once non-destructive editing by means of Adjustment Layers becomes a reality with GIMP though, even cheaply priced Photoshop impersonators such as Affinity will need to watch their backs.
Although our list of the best photo editing software is arranged in order, all five of these apps occupies a slightly different niche.
- GIMP is the only advanced photo editing option out there that is completely free of charge.
- Objectively, Lightroom is not inferior to Polarr, but instead sits in an odd interim position between full-powered photo editing software such as Photoshop and Affinity, and the numerous more automated (and invariably free) programs available for quick batch editing.
- Polarr cannot compete with software such as Photoshop, Lightroom, or Affinity in terms of image quality or user control. But as a quick-fix solution for social media images, it’s unparalleled.
- Affinity Photo comes very close to delivering the same experience as Photoshop, and for much less money. But some doubt remains over its compatibility and longevity.
- Photoshop is the original and still the best, but only by a slim margin. As the photography and design industry’s standard photo editing software, Photoshop still retains a clear advantage.
In terms of economics, Adobe’s products are looking a lot less appealing than they once did. And when it comes to usability and results, Affinity Photo genuinely presents a viable alternative to Photoshop – something that was almost unthinkable even just a few years ago. However, while there may not be all that much room for innovation left in the photo manipulation field now anyway, you can be sure that advancements would slow even more were Adobe to go out of business tomorrow (not that this seems very likely).
This brings us to the matter of ethics. While Affinity is very good at what it does, the reality is that it owes almost its entire existence to research and development carried out by Adobe over several decades. Affinity’s developers have been around for almost as long, but only got into the image processing game a few years ago.
This means that if you want to guarantee further innovation, your money should probably go to Adobe: even if Photoshop one day loses its ranking as the best photo editing software on the market, whatever replaces it couldn’t have come into existence without Adobe’s hard work and investment.