Photo editing?

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    Lydia Bennett

    What is a free, good quality, editing program or software for a amateur/beginner photographer like myself? I currently just have Windows Live Photo Gallery which has basic editing functions. I honestly don’t know if this is sufficient for where I am at this point in my “photography journey” or if I should use something else.

    Ezra Morley
    Lewis Family

    If you’re planning to stay connected to Lenspiration, keep in mind that James uses Lightroom, which is a subset of Photoshop, the industry standard for years (although there are now others with similar capabilities). You may find that very helpful when asking questions on Lenspiration or watching the periodic photo critique Webinars that James hosts. On the other hand, it’s pricey in that both are only sold through a monthly subscription which will run you $120 a year or more. If you are an Apple user as I am, nothing beats Affinity. Apple named it their software app of the year in 2015. It is every bit as capable as Lightroom with many features that will even match or exceed Photoshop. It’s a one-time $50 cost. Regardless, do your homework, carefully compare features and find what suits you best. Once you get used to it, you’ll find it hard to switch to something else.

    Lydia Bennett

    Thank you both for the feedback!

    , I began to look over those forums, and I believe they will be helpful! After you download RAWTherapee or Gimp, do you need internet connection for them to work?

    , I am definitely “all in” with Lenspiration! I had seen/heard James refer to Lightroom, so I knew he uses it… for me at this point in my life, I just don’t have the time to invest in photography that I’d like, so I don’t feel justified in using an editing software that I need to pay for, especially monthly. 🙁 Perhaps in the future! And I don’t have an Apple, so I guess Affinity is out!

    Ezra Morley

    @bennett-family, both RawTherapee and GIMP work just fine without an internet connection once they are downloaded and installed. You don’t have to pay monthly for Lightroom, you can pay $150 up-front and keep it for the rest of your life if you want to. 🙂 Keep in mind that eventually it will get old, and newer cameras won’t be supported over time. That being said, I purchased Lightroom 5 a couple of years ago, and never regretted it. It still works fine for me, and I will continue to use it till it doesn’t work for me any more!

    One more thing. Affinity has Windows versions of their software as well! I own and use both Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo on Windows, and they work very well; I use them all the time. I have never used it as a photo editor per-se (I use LR for all editing) but it still comes in handy for removing backgrounds, cloning, and other stuff that people usually use Photoshop for. (I used to use GIMP for all of that stuff, till I got Affinity Photo.)

    Lydia Bennett

    @buddingphotographer, thanks for that info! That’s helpful to know about Lightroom and Affinity.

    I’m also guessing that internet connection is not needed for Lightroom or Affinity once they are downloaded and installed?

    I started looking over forum conversations on these programs, and there seems to be a TON of information out there… I’m just having a hard time sorting through it all and figuring out what would work for me; this is all very new to me. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll figure that out as I research these more.

    Benjamin Holmes

    I’m an Affinity user on Windows so I can safely say it doesn’t need the internet once the software has been fully downloaded. (You’ll definitely want to open it the first time on the internet just to make sure everything has been downloaded.)

    I don’t have a lot of experience with free Windows software, but I would definitely say it is worth the effort now to spend a little money now, at least the $50 one time purchase for Affinity Photo, versus going with free software like Gimp.

    In the long run, having a fully featured and user friendly editor that is capable of RAW development, advanced selections, nondestructive layer-based editing, as well as advanced color correction will be worth it. You may not need the advanced features in this stage of your journey, but at least with Affinity software, you aren’t having to spend a lot of money for advanced features you aren’t using, and when you do want to use/learn them, they’ll be there.

    James Staddon

    You do not need to be online for Lightroom either, even the Creative Cloud version.

    You will need to be online to download it initially, update it when updates are available or sync photos online (if you ever want to do that), but not otherwise.

    Lydia Bennett

    Thanks, James for that info!

    , you make a good point about thinking more long-term. Thanks!

    So I don’t know how hard this will be to answer, but do you have suggestions for figuring out what program to get? There’s obviously a lot of info on different programs out there, but as I was beginning to read up on them, much of the info was rather technical sounding and since this is all new to me, I don’t know a lot of the terms and I felt rather lost. :/ So, if it’s not too much trouble, could someone lay out pros and cons of various programs (specifically Lightroom, Affinity, RawTherapee, Gimp) in layman’s terminology for me? 🙂

    Benjamin Holmes

    @bennett-family Before we get into pros and cons, I would ask two questions:

      Can you afford Lightroom? You were originally looking for free software, so is a one time $150 purchase even really on the table at the moment? If not, you don’t have to worry about that option. If it is in your budget, … why are we talking about GIMP again? 😉

      What are you planning on doing with the software? Software is built for different things and while you can often make it do things it wasn’t built for, it just makes sense to use software for the purpose that it was built for!

      These things thoughts (budget and what you actually are going to be doing) should be your guiding factors in choosing your software.

    Quick disclaimer, I have never used Lightroom or GIMP personally (Affinity all the way!), so what I’m going off of is what others have told me, what I have seen in tutorials, and what I have read (online reviews and such).


      Pros: Advanced color editing; advanced RAW editing; industry standard; built in file and organization system; wealth of resources, tutorials, and books, so it will be much easier to find wholesome, “Lenspiration approved” content; non-destructive layer based editing; works with Adobe Photoshop well.

      Cons: Fairly expensive monthly charge or a one-time payment with no updates; limited text and photo manipulation capabilities

      Affinity Photo

      Pros: Inexpensive to purchase a lifetime license with updates; Advanced photo and text manipulation; superior selections and masks; works well even on less expensive computers; solid color and RAW editing; Blend modes; non-destructive layer based editing; workflow and keyboard shortcuts similar to Adobe photoshop;

      Cons: will be harder to find tutorials, resources, and books; might be slower for large batch edits (does have batch capabilities, but I’ve never tested them out or compared it to Lightroom.); limited support for photoshop plugins.


      Pros: Free; photo manipulation capabilities, sometimes; many plugins to extend functionality;

      Cons: no built in capability to edit (or open) RAW photos (photos must be converted with a plugin to open in GIMP); hard to find resources and books, but you should find tutorials; steep learning curve for beginners; DESTRUCTIVE EDITING (no support for adjustment layers. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until it is, trust me.).

    Again, keep in mind the only software in this list I personally use at the moment is Affinity Photo, but I’ve seen enough of Lightroom and the Adobe apps to fully respect what they are and what they do and enough of GIMP to… as much as I appreciate free and open source software… not like it, frankly. I moved from a destructive photo editor a while ago (Pixelmator, available on iOS and Mac) to the non-destructive layer based editing of Affinity Photo and the difference is night and day.

    As far as my recommendation goes, unless you are planning on getting Adobe’s $9.99 a month photography bundle, I wouldn’t recommend getting Lightroom unless you plan on sticking with Adobe software. For my money, I would HIGHLY recommend Affinity Photo. Yes, I’m biased, but for the beginner photographer strapped for cash without the need for advanced batch processing* or file management, it is better to have great color manipulation and fantastic photo manipulation available than fantastic color manipulation and limited photo manipulation. And, at $50, you really can’t go wrong!

    It will always be subjective, but things break down to this for me.
    Avoid GIMP unless you don’t want to spend any money at all.
    Go with Affinity if you hate subscription charges, don’t like Adobe for some reason (hint, subscription charges), don’t have a ton of money, or want to do more than just color correction in one program
    Go with Adobe if you can afford it, want to be able to follow lots of YouTube tutorials, find Lenspiration Approved books and courses, or plan on using other Adobe apps such as Photoshop.

    *Affinity does have batch processing, as well as superior support for 360 degree photos and panoramas, but I have yet to test it out, so I can’t speak on it yet.

    Benjamin Holmes

    It is a bit late, so please forgive me if none of that made any sense whatsoever! 🙂

    Ezra Morley


    Pros: Advanced color editing; advanced RAW editing; industry standard; built in file and organization system; wealth of resources, tutorials, and books, so it will be much easier to find wholesome, “Lenspiration approved” content; non-destructive layer based editing; works with Adobe Photoshop well.

    Just a quick clarification… Adobe Lightroom does not support “layer-based editing” in the same sense that Affinity or GIMP or Photoshop does. LR does have non-destructive editing, but it does not have a “layers” panel that lets you edit individual layers. Most of Lightroom’s controls are global, (meaning that they affect the whole photo) but it also has some local editing tools, (like spot removal and adjustment brushes.) If you are looking for “layer-based” editing software, then LR is not what you want.

    Benjamin Holmes

    Thanks for clearing that up Ezra! Again, not a Lightroom user myself, so take these pros and cons with a bit of salt!

    Lydia Bennett

    @bensharpeningcharacter Based on what you’re saying, Affinity is sounding like a pretty good deal. I haven’t decided on anything yet, but your comments have been really helpful; thanks so much for taking the time to lay things out simply!

    David Frazer

    I have used RAWTherapee, Darktable, Gimp (all free) and have also used the free trial versions of Affinity, Photoshop and Lightroom.

    In my opinion these programs can be divided into two distinct categories:

    1) sorting and basic editing (including non-destructive global adjustments for RAW and jpg images, as well as some local adjustment brushes):
    – Lightroom (120 USD per year, with Photoshop)
    – RAWTherapee (free)
    – Darktable (free)

    2) Detailed adjustments and multi-layer editing, but less good for organising photos and somewhat heavier:
    – Photoshop (120 USD per year, with Lightroom)
    – Affinity (50 USD one time)
    – Gimp (free, no RAW file support by default)

    Most of your photo editing will probably be done with a Lightroom-style programme, but the more advanced editing from the Photoshop-style program and the layer editing they allow for is great when you want to do more, such as adding text or merging multiple photos. I recommend having one of each.

    If you have the time to do so, (and have enough space on your computer), I would say get the free trial of Affinity and the full (free) versions of RAWTherapee, Darktable and Gimp, install them all and see what you like best. Then un-install the ones you like using the least. If you can afford the 120$ per year, Photoshop and Lightroom may be the way to go, although I personally have built my business around Darktable. I like the workflow and editing options it provides and it works better on my Mac than either RAWTherapee or Lightroom and definitely is lighter and faster than Lightroom. When I need a Photoshop equivalent I use Gimp, although Affinity would probably work better for some applications. I have tried Lightroom and Photoshop a couple of times, and each time I decide that for me, it is simply not worth paying 120$ every year for the rest of my life, even as a professional.

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