Software Reviews

The Best Photo Editing Software for 2023

Whether you’re a professional photographer, aspiring creative, or casual snapper, having a robust photo editor in your toolkit is essential. With high-quality photo editing software, you can transform lackluster images into visual masterpieces. From correcting flaws and adjusting colors to applying stunning effects and creating composites, the right program makes all the difference.

As we move into 2023, the photo editing software landscape continues advancing rapidly. Exciting new features like better AI tools, improved workflows, and enhanced compatibility with the latest cameras and formats are being introduced regularly. With so many options to evaluate, settling on the best solution for your needs can feel overwhelming.

To help simplify your buying decision, I’ve compiled this definitive guide to the top photo editing software products available this year. I’ll compare all the leading contenders across key criteria and reveal the standout picks across various categories and budgets. Whether you’re a seasoned creative pro or just enhancing snapshots for fun, you’re sure to find the perfect software solution after reading this review.

The Overall Best Photo Editing Software

For most users seeking a full-featured, professional-grade photo editing program that can handle anything you throw at it, Adobe Photoshop remains the gold standard. As the industry leader for over 30 years, Photoshop delivers unparalleled image manipulation capabilities, along with sophisticated workflows and integration with other Adobe Creative Cloud apps.

While the learning curve can feel steep to novices, Photoshop offers ample tutorials and resources to get up to speed. And Adobe continues advancing the software at an astonishing pace, packing in machine learning upgrades like one-click subject selection, automated corrections, and intelligent photo restoration. Complex compositing, detailed retouching, flawless photo corrections, and endless creative options are all achievable with Photoshop.

Despite the high price tag, especially for casual users only needing a fraction of its tools, Photoshop provides incredible value for professionals. The combination of precision editing tools, nondestructive editing, customizable workspaces, timesaving automation, and seamless asset management makes Photoshop extremely efficient once mastered. For commercial photographers, graphic designers, web creators, and other creatives handling high-volume image production, Photoshop’s capabilities are impossible to beat.

Best for Beginners: Adobe Photoshop Elements

While the full Photoshop application offers far more horsepower than most amateurs require, Adobe wisely distilled core editing functionality into the more accessible Photoshop Elements. Streamlined tools, guided edits, slideshow creation, and intelligent organizational features make Photoshop Elements perfect for newbies.

The step-by-step editing guides include automatic fixes for common image quality problems like blurring, graininess, collage and greeting card creation, and more. Elements can still handle layers, masks, and other more advanced adjustments as your skills progress. Yet, the simplified interface and focus on everyday photo tasks allows even complete beginners to enjoy success. One particularly handy option lets you access both simplified and expanded workspaces tailored to your experience level.

And at a fraction of the regular Photoshop pricing, Photoshop Elements delivers outstanding value. For under $100, you can edit to your heart’s content without worrying about wasted subscription fees. The affordable one-time payment makes Elements a fantastic stepping stone before committing to pricier software.

Best for Enthusiasts: Adobe Lightroom Classic

For photography enthusiasts not requiring Photoshop’s full suite of manipulation tools, Adobe Lightroom Classic shines as the photo management and editing software of choice. Though the newer Lightroom CC model favors cloud storage and mobile usage, Lightroom Classic preserves the original framework beloved by seasoned photographers.

Robust file organization is Lightroom’s forte, making importing, sorting, culling, ranking, tagging, and locating photos a breeze regardless of your library size. Integration with Adobe Sensei AI assists by identifying subjects, detecting duplicates, adding smart tags and captions, and more automatically. The customizable interface also lets you adapt module layouts and workflows to best suit each project.

When it comes time for image adjustments, Lightroom provides exceptional raw processing power. Sophisticated color grading and tone controls, advanced noise reduction, lens corrections, HDR merging, panorama stitching, and high-quality print output allow you to perfect every capture. And upgrading to the Creative Cloud plan unlocks additional features like panorama stitching, HDR merging multi-image editing, and access to cloud storage.

If Photoshop feels like overkill for your needs, Lightroom grants serious photographers everything required for professional-grade output without the steep learning curve. Streamlined editing aligned with essential correction tools makes processing high volumes of images a joy.

Best Budget Software: GIMP

Artists hoping to dabble in photo editing without spending big bucks should look no further than GIMP. As a full-featured open-source editing program, GIMP offers an unbelievable amount of creative capability at no cost. That’s right – for the cool price of zero dollars, you can access sophisticated tools rivaling paid products listed here.

Naturally, the interface and certain advanced features don’t compare to premium commercial options. However, all core photo editing necessities like layer editing, color and tonal adjustments, transformations, masking, filters, effects, and more perform admirably. The interface supports extensive customization too, letting you mimic Photoshop’s workspace if desired.

Supported by community development, GIMP receives frequent updates and add-ons bringing new options. External plugins even enable additional tools as needed, like content-aware resizing. Thanks to the open-source model, users have total control to modify the software as they please or troubleshoot problems.

For casual users not dependent on photography income or pressed for productivity, skipping costly subscriptions in favor of GIMP is brilliant. Why pay more for software exceeding your needs? Novices can discover editing essentials using a legitimate program instead of toy mobile apps. And the zero-cost aspect means absolutely nothing’s lost for trying.

Best Mobile Editing App: Snapseed

When inspiration strikes on-the-go, Snapseed’s photo editing prowess for Android and iOS devices is unmatched. Like Darkroom and Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed originated from desktop software roots before brilliant adaptation to mobile interfaces. The photo-centric tools, gesture controls, selective filters, and fast processing set an impressive benchmark showcasing how elegant mobile editing can be.

Unlike quick filters from Instagram and Facebook that degrade image quality, Snapseed performs non-destructive edits on original files. Their proprietary U-Point selective adjustment tech also lets you control how and where filter effects get applied. Whether finessing exposure, defining structure, boosting color vibrancy, or enhancing drama through black and white conversion, Snapseed makes brilliant tweaks easy even on tiny screens.

Universal app support across Android and iOS extends flexibility so you can edit on whichever device you prefer. And integrating with creative cloud services like Google Photos enables accessing your entire image collection. As a one-stop solution for nearly any mobile adjustment need, Snapseed is a must-have for smartphone shooters.

Most Unique: Corel Painter

Venturing beyond conventional photo editing into creative digital art? Corel Painter rules as the industry’s most realistic digital painting software. Breaking free of technical constraints imposed within traditional editors, Painter’s Natural Media brushes and tools simulate actual art techniques and mediums with mind-blowing accuracy.

Build textures blending multiple surfaces by layering thick oils over watercolor washes the way canvas would absorb real paints. Sculpt perfect 3D impasto detail for enhanced realism using impasto brushes. Design production-ready graphic artwork using stabilized technical pens and markers. Mimic airbrush spray patterns as the droplets naturally diffuse. The ultra-realistic tools liberate artists to focus purely on creative expression.

Additional utilities like image cloning, transformations, effects, and color adjustments retain core editing necessities too. But the sheer joy of losing yourself experimenting with natural media makes Corel Painter the choice for artists valuing realistic style over strict photo correction. Sitting at the intersection of editing software and creativity engines like Rebelle or Procreate, Painter injects life, texture, and emotion into digital art unlike anything else.

If traditional photo editing bores you, Painter provides a welcome escape into fine art with no real-world mess to clean. It does require drawing skill and artistic vision to leverage its full potential though. For photographers hoping to stand out from formulaic filters seen everywhere, Painter’s originality can’t be overstated.

Summing Up the Best Photo Editors

While plenty of options exist beyond those highlighted, the products above represent the cream of the crop. Each Excel’s in different areas, so reflect on your skill level, workflow needs, budget, and creative ambitions before deciding. Maximizing your images’ visual impact starts with the proper editing tools, so choose wisely.

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