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Best photo editing app 2021: From beginners to pros

Bring your photos to life with the vivid imagery provided by these apps.

A great photo editing app offers a way to improve upon what you have already captured, from live to stationary objects. Bring a culinary delight to life, capture your child's first graduation, or document the ins and outs of high-end real estate. With our picks for the best photo editing apps, you can perfect your photos and create vivid imagery with exclusive enhancements to handle a variety of imagery. 

Our picks for the best photo editing apps are suitable for both budding beginners and the more established professional photographers. Whatever you may photograph, our picks can handle it with endless features and competitive pricing that makes enlisting a little help a no-brainer. 

ACDSee Ultimate

Best tools for Windows users

acdsee-ultimate.png

Compatibility

| Android | iOS | PC |


At a glance

ACDSee Ultimate is a popular photo editing app that is compatible with multiple camera models. Media management has been taken to new levels with 2022's latest version. Uploading photos are easy with
Mobile Sync, which transfers media from your iPhone to your Windows PC. Also new is ACDSee's new People Mode, which uses machine learning to combine face detection and recognition. The convenient AI assistant helps with the merge and deletion of faces with helpful suggestions for labeling, creating an instant catalog of all of your subjects. Another database-driven tool is Media Mode, an easy way to create and access media folders with the ability to sort and filter your files. For editing, features like Channel Selection, Channel Filtering, and Selection Basket all make for easy work with even easier access.

In addition to parametric photo manipulation, the Layered Editor includes upgraded HDR and Focus Stacking. There is the ability to fine-tune and perfect color with ACDSee's Color Wheel and Luminance Range inside Pixel Targeting. This offers a separate setting for each brush or gradient for highly customized, vibrant color. There is also noise reduction, so you are not distracted by the sound of your controls.


Pros:

  • Multiple image editing tools
  • Face recognition and geo-tagging
  • Integration with cloud storage

Cons:

  • Requires purchase
  • Busy interface
  • Not compatible with  Android

Price

Several membership plans are available, depending on your needs:

Home Plan

  • ACDSee products: 4
  • Number of users: 5
  • Cloud storage included: 50GB
  • Monthly price: $8.90
  • Annual price:$89.00

Home Pack 2022

  • ACDSee products: 4
  • Number of users: 3
  • Cloud storage included: Unl
  • Monthly price: N/A
  • Annual price:$189.00

Lifetime License

  • ACDSee products: All
  • Number of users: -
  • Cloud storage included: -
  • Monthly price: -
  • Annual price:$149.99

A 30-day money-back guarantee is included if you are dissatisfied with your purchase.


Adobe Lightroom Classic

Best for color correction

adobe-lightroom-classic.png
Adobe

Compatibility

| PC | Mac | 


At a glance

From Adobe comes Lightroom Classic, a photo editing app that is specifically optimized for desktop use with built-in desktop management for your photos. There are specific workflow settings that allow you to transition from Library to the Develop Module to Editing Mode based on what you are trying to accomplish. When editing, users are sure to appreciate the added adjustment tools that allow for adjustments to the color, luminance, and depth of your photos. You can also focus on specific areas of your photo with tools like Select Subject and Select Sky, which include AI-powered masks to perfect imaging. There are also new premium presets that Adobe sourced from professional photographers for a variety of industries, like food, travel, and architecture. If you use HDR photography, the HDR panoramic tool allows you to combine multiple HDR photos into a single panorama.

When you are finished with Editing mode, Adobe offers its Metadata panel for more efficient batch metadata editing when you have several images to add. Because Lightroom Classic is connected to your desktop, storage is a simple matter with files organized into files and folders on your PC. 


Pros:

  • Fantastic organization skills
  • Allows corrections for camera and lens
  • Face detection and tagging capabilities

Cons:

  • Subscription-based
  • Lacking layer editing
  • Some users complain of lagging

Pricing

There are several membership plans that offer discounts for students. Plans come with a free 7-day trial.

Lightroom:

  • Storage: 1TB
  • Monthly price: $9.99
  • Includes: Lightroom, Lightroom Classic

Photography:

  • Storage: 20GB
  • Monthly price: $9.99
  • Includes: Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop for desktop/iPad, 20GB of cloud storage

Photography:

  • Storage: 1TB
  • Monthly price: $19.99
  • Includes: Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop on desktop and iPad, 1TB of cloud storage

Full Adobe App Package:

  • Storage: Unlimited*
  • Monthly price: $52.99
  • Includes: Get 20+ creative apps including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat Pro

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Best for new users

adobe-photoshop-elements.png
Adobe

Compatibility

| PC | Mac |


At a glance

Also from Adobe is Photoshop Elements, new and ready for 2022. This program utilizes Adobe Sensei AI technology for facial recognition and is paired with multiple automated editing options. There is the ability to use special effects on just a portion of the photo, like the many animated impacts that come included. You can watch your photo spring to life with animated MP4s and GIFs with both 2D and 3D camera motion. Five Smart Looks are ready-made filters if you prefer not to create your own. 

Photoshop Elements provides 60 Guided Edits for beginners, a series of basic corrections that you can use for minor tweaks and more advanced edits. If you are new to editing or encounter an issue, Adobe offers step-by-step support to help you create your best work of art. Photoshop Elements has a prints and gifts service built-in for easy sharing when you are ready to share your creations. 


Pros:

  • Advanced image-manipulation tools
  • Excellent tagging tools
  • Added support resources

Cons:

  • Offers more basic Adobe tools
  • Missing lens profile corrections
  • Limited customization

Price

You have the option of purchasing Photoshop Elements as a standalone product or as a bundle with Premiere Elements 2022.

Photoshop Elements 2022:

  • Annual price: $99.99

Photoshop Elements 2022 & Premiere Elements 2022 Bundle:

  • Annual price: £149.99

Special pricing is available for students, teachers, and businesses.


Canva

Best for social media

canva.png
Canva

Compatibility

|Desktop | Android | iOS |


At a glance

Canva is especially useful for social media, offering easy posting for a variety of ready-made formats that are designed to match your preferred platform. Canva will automatically format your designs and share them to sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, whether you are creating a post or simply sharing a story. There are thousands of templates to get you started, or you can work with a blank slate to design however you like. Either way, Canva has a ton of additional features available, like text animation, captioning, and drag-and-drop speech bubbles. Multiple design types include prints, videos, teams, apps, graphs, and charts with an easy built-in PDF and photo editor. If you are working with a team, real-time collaboration is a feature that is especially useful for remote employees. 

For businesses and more advanced projects, there is Canva Pro to provide team access with exclusive company branding. It can also be ideal for students who are creating presentations with the exclusive Canva Presentations tool. Live sessions use a canva.live address, requiring attendees to input a six-digit code in order to receive instant access to your presentations. 


Pros:

  • Business-friendly tools
  • Free plan available
  • Mobile-friendly app

Cons:

  • Must upgrade for premium images 
  • Multiple users require paid plans
  • Limited templates with the free plan

Price

A free plan is available, plus two paid plans.

Free:

  • Monthly price: $0
  • Annual price: $0
  • Number of users: 1
  • Additional features: 250,000+ free templates, 100+ design types, 5GB cloud storage, Free photos and graphics 

Pro:

  • Monthly price: $12.99
  • Annual price: $119.99
  • Number of users: 5
  • Additional features: Free plan, plus -- 610,000+ templates, custom branding, 100GB cloud storage, premium photos and graphics, social media scheduling for up to 8 platform

Enterprise

  • Monthly price: Custom
  • Annual price: Custom
  • Number of users: Custom
  • Additional features: Free and Pro plans, plus -- Expanded Brand kit, team upload controls, built-in workflows, user permissions, unlimited storage, SSO, 24/7 Enterprise-level support

Gimp

Best free software

gimp.png
Gimp

Compatibility

| Desktop | 


At a glance

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a bit different from programs like Canva and Adobe, allowing for enhanced, high-quality photo manipulation. GIMP considers itself a more sophisticated photo editor that is appropriate for more experienced users, like graphic designers, photographers, and scientists.  This is an open-source image editor that allows for the change and distribution of its source code. Designed to work with both digital and printed media, GIMP allows for high-fidelity color reproduction. Additionally, users can enjoy the program for image composition, retouching, and authoring. With several options available for customization, GIMP serves as a framework for special programming algorithms, working with multiple languages to include C, C++, Perl, Python, and Scheme. As a cross-platform editor, it offers wide compatibility with several third-party plug-ins and a variety of systems, including Windows, macOS, and GNU/Linux. It is also recommended for workflows with other software like Scribus, Inkscape, and SwatchBooker

There is no cost to use this program, making it especially attractive to users on a budget.  


Pros:

  • Free plan
  • Recommended for new users
  • Tool to create GIFs

Cons:

  • Reviewers report selection tool needs fine-tuning
  • Limited features
  • No customer support

Price

Free


Luminar

Best for Mac users

luminar.png
Luminar

Compatibility

| Desktop |


At a glance

Luminar utilizes modern technologies through AI tools. Notable features include the AI Augmented Sky, which allows you to add new objects to your existing photos. If it is overcast, the Sunrays tool helps add sunshine to your photo. The Landscape Enhancer and Foliage Enhancer help backgrounds spring to life, a feature especially attractive to real estate and landscape photographers. Other convenient tools include the Dehaze filter to provide greater depth and the Golden Hour filter that mimics that late afternoon sun. There are also several design modes to fit a wide array of needs, such as Travel, Landscape, Portrait, and other areas of photography.

Unlike GIMP, Luminar is an excellent choice for beginners, offering a user-friendly format. It does require an upfront purchase, but there is no subscription required. With your purchase, Luminar also includes 24/7 support and free maintenance updates. However, be sure to make room on your computer because Luminar does take up a lot of storage space on your PC. 


Pros:

  • Lifetime license with all plans
  • AI technology
  • Exclusive editing features

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of space
  • Lengthy editing process
  • No free plan

Price

Luminar is available in a variety of plans, based on your needs. Plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Master:

  • License for 1 computer: $79
  • License for 2 computers: $99
  • Features: Luminar

Expert:

  • License for 1 computer: $148
  • License for 2 computers: $168
  • Features: Luminar, Aurora HDR

Guru:

  • License for 1 computer: $207
  • License for 2 computers: $227
  • Features: Luminar, Aurora HDR, Luminar X Membership

ON1 Photo RAW

Best filters

on1-photo-raw.png
On1

Compatibility 

| Desktop | Mobile| iOS |


At a glance

ON1 Photo RAW is a well-known name for photo editing, and its 2022 version includes many of today's latest features. Its new Version 2022 includes all of the highlights of former versions, plus several new features to simplify and improve your photo editing. Loyal users will recognize familiar features like Browse, Effects, Portrait, HDR, and Resize. These are joined by new additions like Sky Swap AI to eliminate those moody skies, a neat Time-Lapse Creator feature, and NoNoise AI integration. ON1 Photo RAW uses a Photoshop Plugin Host with a simplified export and backup process for easy cataloging. Advanced Raw Processing has additional imaging effects like Dynamic Contrast, Textures, black and white, Split Tone, and Glow. Users can also create layered photos with tools like HDR, Pano, and Focus Stacking. However, some users may be disappointed to see the absence of facial recognition and geotagging, which are common in many photo editing apps. 

Still, it remains a user-friendly interface that is simple for even new users to navigate. 


Pros

  • SkySwap and NoNoise AI technology 
  • Cloud sync
  • Choice of payment options

Cons:

  • No face recognition or geo-tagging
  • Subscription required to sync
  • It may be too advanced for beginners

Price

On1 allows the option of either a subscription-based or one-time purchase.

ON1 Photo RAW Subscription

  • Plan type: Subscription
  • Monthly price: 1TB: $7.99| 20TB: $89.99
  • Annual price: 1TB: $15.99 | 20TB: $179.99
  • Cost upfront: N/A

Photo RAW 2022 Upgrade:

  • Plan type: One-time purchase
  • Monthly price: N/A
  • Annual price: N/A
  • Cost upfront: $79.99

Photo RAW 2022 Full:

  • Plan type: One-time purchase
  • Monthly price: N/A
  • Annual price: N/A
  • Cost upfront: $99.99

How did we choose these products?

To find the best photo editing apps in 2021, we consider several critical factors:

  • Price: While some programs are free, others may require pricey upfront investments or recurring monthly subscriptions.

  • Features: Many photo editing apps now incorporate modern features, like AI technology and machine learning. 

  • Compatibility: The type of camera and operating system you use can impact whether an app will work for you. Each program offers different compatibility for both your camera and editing device.

  • Required experience: Some programs may feature advanced tools that may be intimidating to newer users, while other programs focus on a more beginner-friendly format for greater flexibility. 

We also consider thousands of real consumer reviews to best judge user experience for both new and established photographers. 


Do I need photo editing software?

Photo editing software is typically used by more serious photographers and hobbyists who are looking to perfect their media. Some programs also offer other convenient features that can be attractive to groups and businesses, like Canva's team-sharing capabilities.

How much does a photo editing app cost?

While some photo editing apps are free, others may require an upfront purchase or monthly subscription. The cost of a photo editing app can range from a few dollars each month to over $100 upfront.   

Do I need to be an expert to use a photo editing app?

Many photo editing apps are designed to provide simple editing tools that are approachable to novice users. Several programs also offer professional support or extra tutorials and guides to help you with your projects.    

Are there alternatives worth considering?

With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to find a just right program for you. These are some of the picks that almost made our list for 2021's best photo editing apps:

We can help you perfect your photography studio with our best picks for 2021, like the best camera phone, best photo printer, and best photography drone.