Apple no longer produces its own pro-level photo software, having abandoned the outstanding Aperture program years ago (it still maintains its professional video editing software Final Cut Pro in state-of-the-art condition, however). That said, the Apple Photos app that comes with Macs is both easy to use and powerful. But you can get even more features and editing prowess by picking up other photo editing apps from imaging powerhouses Adobe, Capture One, and CyberLink, among others.
Adobe Lightroom Classic is the longtime software choice of working professional photographers. In addition to top-notch importing and organizing tools, Lightroom Classic gives photographers the best tools for correcting and enhancing photos in a raw file process. It includes things missing from the non-Classic version of Lightroom (see below) that pros need, such as printing, soft-proofing, tethered shooting, and plug-in support. You don't, however, get some of the features amateurs and hobbyists might like, such as basic video tools and lots of learning content.
Lightroom Classic is primarily for professional photographers. In fact, it's the industry standard. When professionals and articles directed at them talk about Lightroom, they invariable mean Lightroom Classic. It's also only for those willing to pay a recurring subscription fee.
Photoshop is the photo editing software that started it all. It's become the most powerful image-editing software, bar none. Photoshop is often where Adobe puts its latest state-of-the-art features first, such as the new AI-powered Neural filters. It includes the complex layering, masking, text and shape tools, gradients, and filters that professionals need.
Photoshop Elements includes much of the capability of its big sibling, Photoshop, but it wraps that functionality in a friendlier interface that emphasizes hand-holding. Its Guided Edits ease the process of creating stunning effects with your photos. You still get layers, filters, and a smart Organizer utility to keep track of your photo collection.
Adobe describes the audience for Elements as \"memory keepers,\" those members of the family who want to create appealing photographic keepsakes from family occasions. Elements also offers anyone a good way into the processes behind the pro-level effects designers get with Photoshop proper. It's also good if you don't want to keep paying a subscription, as it's available for a reasonable one-time purchase price.
Yes, Apple Photos is included free with every Mac, and it's an excellent photo editing application. It includes strong organization and photo adjustment features and is particularly suited to those who take pictures with iPhones. But the app also lets you view and edit raw camera files from popular SLR models, making for more powerful editing possibilities.
Anyone with a Mac already has Apple Photos preinstalled and couldn't remove it even if they wanted to. But consumers and hobbyists will be pleased with its impressive functionality. Professionals and photo enthusiasts will want more capable software, however. That said, it's free, and who doesn't like free stuff
DxO pioneered several technologies that went on to be used by other software products. Lens-profile-based corrections, geometry fixes, and deep time-consuming noise reduction have all shown up later in competitors. In fact, its DeepPrime XD noise reduction is now faster and can make unusable photos usable; PhotoLab is worth getting for that alone. It's also excellent at removing chromatic aberration and automatically fixing the lighting with its SmartLighting tool. The included U Point technology offers unmatched control over local adjustments, too.
Lightroom combines some of the most powerful photo editing and organizing tools in one of the most usable and appealing interfaces. It simplifies the more pro-oriented Lightroom Classic, and keeps all your photos and edits in the cloud for anywhere access. The learning and community features are hard to match, thanks to Lightroom's Discover feature.
Lightroom appeals to serious amateur photography enthusiasts. It's also for professionals who don't need printing, plug-in support, or tethered shooting capabilities. Those who recoil at its $9.99-per-month subscription fee will want to look elsewhere at software like Adobe's own Photoshop Elements or CyberLink's PhotoDirector, both available as affordable one-time purchases.
Its quick performance and deep set of organization tools and effects makes PhotoDirector good for amateur photo enthusiasts, but there's also enough there for pros who don't want to spring for Adobe's subscription pricing.
Capture One is often referred to as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom. It is super-powerful professional photo workflow software, and it does the best job of interpreting a camera's raw image data into a sharp, accurate photo. It includes an abundance of adjustments and local edit tools, as well as layers and advanced color grading. A unique speed edit feature lets you get to frequently needed tools with a key press. It still trails Lightroom when it comes to workflow abilities, however.
Capture One is squarely aimed at pro photographers. Its interface could be intimidating to those not willing to put in the time to learn it. The program is priced like a professional application, too, available as both a subscription (costing more than Lightroom's) and a one-time purchase.
Skylum Luminar is a well-designed photo app with some unique innovative tools, such as AI-based power-line removal and a tool that relights different parts of a photo based on distance. It also aces at fixing drab skies in your shots, as its name suggests. The interface is clear and simple, but it's short on photo organization and workflow compared with Lightroom (either version).
Anyone who wants to have a lot of fun enhancing their photos should check out the easy-to-use Luminar, whether pro or amateur. It can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. The program is a good value for a reasonable one-time price.
When choosing a Mac photo editing app, look for a clean, well-designed interface with lots of help and tutorials. Beyond that, there are different types of apps that specialize in different parts of the photo editing process. The app or apps your choose will depend on what you need to do.
Non-workflow software, by contrast, gives you all its tools all the time, but doesn't help you import and organize your photo collection. Photoshop is an example of non-workflow photo-editing software.
But Lightroom Classic is also strong at photo correction (lighting, color, detail, and geometry) and even manipulation, with more of Photoshop-style tools arriving in it with each update. Finally, it does at least three things the newer Lightroom (non-Classic) can't do: It lets you perform tethered-shooting, in which you connect your camera to the software to see images on the computer as they're shot; it allows you to install third-party plug-ins for added editing and exporting functions; and it offers deep printing options.
For non-workflow photo editing software, Adobe Photoshop is the undisputed best application, with an unmatched and ever-increasing set of state-of-the-art image editing tools. It excels at layer editing, which lets the user overlay many levels of images and effects. It also is the best at letting you select areas and subjects within your image to choose where an effect applies. You get plentiful drawing and typography tools in this beast of an application, too, and its recent Neural Filters take advantage of AI image analysis for some mind-blowing effects.
Our top pick for best free photo editing software for Mac is Apple Photos. It's free in the sense that it comes included with the purchase of any Mac computer. Aside from Apple Photos, there are other free tools for editing your photos on a Mac.
Google Photos, for one, excels at organization and backs up your photos online, with up to 15GB worth for free. It syncs photos from both Androids and iPhones, offers a decent set of online editing tools, and even uses AI to suggest edits and creations.
Another excellent option is Polarr, which has mobile and desktop versions, though it does offer in-app purchases. Picktorial(Opens in a new window) is another popular choice in the Mac App Store, and it handles raw camera files (see Editing Raw Camera Files on a Mac, below). Of course, the open-source Photoshop wannabe GIMP(Opens in a new window) raises its ugly interface in every discussion of free photo software, and if you don't mind navigating its Byzantine, outdated UI, it could suit your needs, as the powerful toolset is there.
If you need to print, look for a program with soft proofing, which shows whether all the colors in your image can be printed. Applications like Apple Photos, Google Photos, and Lightroom include excellent book layout options and let you order custom photo books directly.
If you're a beginner to digital photography, you also want to make sure you have some good photography hardware. Phones have better and better cameras these days, but they still can't beat a dedicated camera. For help choosing one, read our roundups of the best digital cameras and the best camera phones.
Once you have your hardware, make sure to read up on our quick photography tips for beginners and beyond-basic photography tips. After that, you'll be ready to shoot great pictures that you can make even better with the software included here.
Vimeo Create, a free editing software you can connect directly to your Shopify store, automatically turns your existing product images and text into polished ecommerce videos. No video experience needed.
Now that you know your options in finding the best free video editing software, you can start testing them out. While each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, hopefully, you now have a better idea of which option is best for your level of video production.