cheap editing program

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    Martha Lapp

    Hi everyone,
    I am looking for a cheap editing program. I would love to get Light Room sometime, but right now, I don’t think it would be worth it.. I do photography more as a hobby at the moment… I noticed a few forums from about 5 years ago about Darktable and Rawtherapee… Are those good options, or what do you photographers use and recommend?

    Ernest Lloyd

    Well there is nothing quite like Lightroom for sorting and editing…. but I’ve heard that On1 is a pretty good equivalent.
    Check out this forum topic about On1. (Lightroom Alternative going for a sweet deal…)
    But… I don’t have experience with this program, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
    If you are looking for something that is the equivalent of Photoshop, I would definitely recommend Affinity.
    Here is another forum topic. Anyone still on the fence about Affinity?
    I personally used Affinity for a while before I upgraded to Adobe products.
    But if you are looking for a completely free editing software, there is, of course, Gimp.
    Definitely check out this Lenspiration video if you have access to it. Choosing a Photo Editing Program .
    It compares Adobe Lightroom Classic, Skylum Luminar 3, and On1 2020.
    It would help if you asked yourself what you are going to use it for. Like, are you going to be sorting photos and making quick edits on photos, or are you going to be focus stacking, removing a subject from it’s background, or adding text etc.

    Darktable and Rawtherapee

    I don’t know about either of these. Maybe someone will reply to your question who uses it.

    Frazer Family

    From the position of someone who has used both Darktable and Lightroom for years, I can say that I have always been completely happy with Darktable, as a JPG and RAW editor. In fact, (sorry @jamesstaddon!) I much prefer darktable, which is free.

    But if you are looking for a completely free editing software, there is, of course, Gimp.

    True, @ernestf-lloyd. But as @buddingphotographer mentioned in this forum, gimp is not a raw editor. It is very useful, and I’ve used it a great deal, but it’s designed for doing tricks like photo-stacking, complicated tweaks and selections, masks, etc.

    There’s always RawTherapee, which is free too, but I have little to no experience with it.
    I hope you find something that suits you!

    Logan Lamar

    I’ve done a lot of research on this, tried a number of free trial programs, and I think I may have found where I’m going to settle down for a long while.
    I’ve been very very pleased with On1. I think it’s quite close to Lightroom in terms of features both in editing and in browsing, but it’s a much better deal in my opinion and you’ll get a huge bang for your buck.

    If you’re going for free, DarkTable and Raw Therapee are both options, though I haven’t used them very extensively. They are both open source, and in my experience, open source programs can be quite a bit clunkier and more confusing than a paid-for program, though they can be just as powerful.

    I’ve also tried Corel Aftershot Pro and Luminar 3 as Lightroom alternatives (actually purchased Luminar before ON1), and I still think ON1 tops them all. I’ve had another hobby photographer friend who used the previous versions of Lightroom for years just switch to ON1 as well. It’s just a good program, and I don’t think you’ll be dissatisfied. (Oh! and btw, it’s 50% off right now too!)


    James Staddon

    If you want something free, I would probably try Rawtherepee! I think I remember Darktable being kinda hard to navigate. But with no experience with either, I’d trust @frazer-family’s recommendations!

    For a one-time-payment program:

    Luminar is the best straight forward, easy-to-use program that I know of. It is incredibly powerful and has tons of features to grow into, but is great for those who don’t want to spend tons of time editing….for starters.

    If you’re geeky though, really enjoy in-depth photo editing and are a control freak or perfectionist when it comes organizing photos and making sure you know everything that’s going on behind the scenes, then On1 is going to be the program for you.

    That’s my opinion, at least, after having done some research on the programs a few months ago. 🙂

    Logan Lamar

    @martha-lapp, @jamesstaddon
    Having used both extensively, Luminar I don’t think is quite fully developed yet if you’re looking for a serious editor. I really hoped the new “libraries” feature would help with image browsing… and I bought the program expecting something solid… unfortunately, it was really, really slow. On my computer, I had to wait about two seconds for each image to see if it was in focus. Maybe it’s better now, but I didn’t want to spend the money on the upgrade. I ended up shooting RAW+JPEG to go through my pictures, looking at the JPEGS in a different browser and making notes on which ones I wanted to edit. There were also a few bugs.
    That said, the editor in Luminar is very good, and there are a ton of really cool artificial intelligence sliders that make editing a breeze. Just browsing was a big pain, and fairly unusable.

    Having used ON1 for nearly a year now, I can say I won’t be switching any time soon. The browsing is fabulous, organization is on par with Lightroom from what I’ve seen in tutorials, and the editor is great as well. There are some AI sliders, but it’s not quite as easy as Luminar.

    All that said, my hands-down recommendation between the two programs is ON1. It’s just a more fully-developed program with a more practical features a lot less bugs and annoyances. I’ve actually stopped shooting JPEGs as RAWs are easy enough for me to work with now and I can check for focus near instantly.

    Good luck!


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