The Top Free & Paid Photo Editing Software

Written by
October 4, 2023

Even the best photographs need some editing before they are ready for sale in your online galleries or as standalone pieces. Correcting color, exposure, contrast, and saturation is as much a part of a photographer’s job as setting up and capturing photos in the first place.

Thankfully, in our digital age, several software products and tools are specifically designed to simplify and speed up post-processing. Some options are even free. This blog will discuss the capabilities and specifications you should consider when evaluating photo editing software and some of the most popular choices.

Considerations for Choosing Photo Editing Software

Experienced photographers know that post-processing is part of where the magic happens. Transforming raw images into keepsake masterpieces is an art form.

Volume photographers need photo-editing software to streamline this process on a large scale. Photographers editing individual photos also benefit from freeing up their time to focus on their next session and other aspects of their business.

Every software has varying tools, capabilities, and performance. When selecting the perfect platform for your studio, you must evaluate these things to make the right choice.

Custom Presets

If you find yourself repeatedly adjusting the same settings during post-processing, you will love the capability to create custom presets that repeat the process for you and provide your pictures with a consistent look. Some software will even allow you to import downloaded settings from another creator to adjust to your desired feel. You will be amazed at how much time custom presets can save you. Ensure the software you choose supports this feature in a user-friendly way.

Storage and Performance

Photo editing can be rough on your computer. It takes a lot of resources to post-process a full day of images from a school, sports league, dance studio, or other volume picture day. Before choosing software, you must know your current system can handle its storage requirements. You should also understand how the platform treats your images. Does it save the raw image when outputting an edited file? Can it handle the high volume of files you will be processing without slowing your computer to a crawl? You must answer these questions to ensure a seamless editing experience, especially if working with large image batches. 

Paid vs. Free

In the past, you would virtually always have to utilize a paid product to access all the tools and features needed to perform effective bulk processing of photographs. Today, many options exist, from subscriptions to software like Lightroom or pay-per-image processing like PhotoDay’s color correction and extraction features. Weigh your needs against your budget to determine what bulk editing process best fits your studio.

PC vs. Mac

The “best” operating system debate is always hot. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and comfort. Most photo editing software has one version that will work with either a system or a platform-specific option. If the platform matters for the software you choose, ensure you know the specific version of the operating system you are running to ensure you get the software that will perform best with your computer.

Learning Curve

As a photographer, you will use your editing software often, so choose one that is intuitive and easy to use. Independent product reviews provide great insight into the user-friendliness of the program. The intent of your software is to speed up and simplify the process, not frustrate you. Seamless navigation between tools and functions is a must. Check the company’s website for documentation, videos, and tutorials to help you quickly get up to speed with your software.

Remember, we live in the information age. Due diligence is critical when selecting an editing software you will use daily. Read reviews, participate in online forums, consult your professional network, and attend webinars if they are available. Choosing the right platform from the start and mastering it is more beneficial to your studio than learning and moving on from multiple systems in your quest to find the perfect tool.

Top Options For Editing Individual Images

Some powerful options are available when trying to get one image just right. Most have similar capabilities, but some are easier to use and more budget-friendly than others. Here is an overview of some of the more popular choices.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop has become synonymous with editing photographs in many ways. The software has been a pioneer in the industry for decades. The application is constantly evolving, so it is no surprise that it remains the photographer’s top choice.

  • Pros: Photoshop’s advanced editing capabilities are unsurpassed. The software provides numerous tools and creative possibilities that can be manually adjusted or preset for time-saving automated output. Due to Photoshop’s popularity, multiple resources are available to help photographers realize the full capability of the software.
  • Cons: Despite these resources, the number of tools available creates a steep learning curve. The software can be so complex that it becomes overkill for basic edits. Many users also find it resource-intensive, so it slows their workflow. Finally, Adobe’s subscription model can make Photoshop pricey, especially if you don’t use it often.

Affinity Photo 2

This robust photo editing software is gaining popularity among hobbyists and professional photographers. Affinity Photo 2 is relatively new compared to Photoshop, but many have found it a more than suitable alternative.

  • Pros: Photo 2 offers extensive editing tools to accomplish most post-processing needs. It supports most file types, including RAW camera files, and offers non-destructive editing that prevents permanent alteration of the original image. Users appreciate the responsiveness of the publisher and the regular updates that Affinity provides. Photographers who use the software also celebrate the one-time licensing fee instead of a monthly subscription charge. 
  • Cons: Though less complex than Photoshop, Photo 2 users may experience the same challenges mastering the software. It can also be resource-intensive—since Photo 2 has a smaller user base and less extensive history, tutorials, and other online resources are less common.


This new, exciting tool harnesses the power of AI to speed your digital editing. Users marvel at how effortlessly and accurately Evoto retouches skin tones, whether processing individual or batch images.

  • Pros: Though cloud-based, the application runs on your PC or Mac, so it is blazing fast compared to other products. The product already has most of the expected features, but the manufacturer continues adding more tools and updating the software regularly.
  • Cons:  Since processing is cloud-based, you must be connected to the internet to use the software. Also, usage is credit-based (as opposed to a subscription or one-time license), so you must pay per picture when using Evoto.

Skylab Technology

Skylab is a digital editing tool that leverages AI to streamline your editing process. Boasting “human quality” at “machine speed,” Skylab has garnered attention for its ability to efficiently retouch skin, extract backgrounds, whiten teeth, color correct, crop, and remove glass glare and braces when processing single images and large batches.

  • Pros: You can use Skylab locally on your PC or Mac or through a web browser. Their range of services fits many volume photographers’ needs and allows you to create “profiles” that act as customizable templates to suit your preferences. 
  • Cons: Rather than a subscription model, Skylab employs a credit-based pricing model, where users pay per picture processed, so be sure to factor this into your editing budget.


This software utilizes AI to speed post-processing as well. AfterShoot primarily focuses on culling your images and finding the best ones in the batch for processing. The AI filter can weed out pictures based on improper exposure or poor focus and can even determine which photo in a group has the best smile.

  • Pros:  Having your system weed through your pictures can save a ton of time. AfterShoot is Mac or PC-compatible and integrates with Adobe Lightroom if you need to do further editing. The software developer has recently added features, too.
  • Cons: The software’s capability is complex, but so is the learning curve for both the user and the AI. Machine learning based on your preferences will be required before achieving the expected results. The main complaint of current users is that the software weeds out images that are intentionally soft-focused or photos where no smile is intentional, like a “game face” sports pose.

Luninar Neo

Devoted users call Luminar Neo the future of photo editing software. Skylum, the application’s developer, has tapped into the power of AI to introduce innovative tools that simplify many post-processing tasks for users.

  • Pros: Luminar Neo offers efficient editing tools and creative filters and effects bundled into a user-friendly interface that makes the software accessible to all skill levels. The AI tools are particularly great for image smoothing and background enhancement. Users looking for quick post-processing and artistic effects without too much complexity will significantly enjoy the product.
  • Cons: Luminar Neo is a relatively new product, and some advanced users have uncovered bugs that the developer is continually patching with updates. Though simple to use out of the box, photographers should expect to devote some time to mastering the advanced features of the software’s AI tools. The lack of online resources may magnify this problem as the application grows its community. Subscription pricing could also be a concern for some users.

If you have post-processing needs for individual images, any of these software options are worth learning more about. If you’re unsure, consult your colleagues and see what they recommend. Their specific experiences could save you time and money trying a platform that doesn’t work for your studio.

Top Bulk Photo Editing Software

Given the demand, it is not surprising that there are many bulk editing software options. All offer similar outcomes but vary in process, usability, and performance. Let’s look at four of the most popular and discuss their pros and cons.

Adobe Lightroom

For advanced tools, settings, and presets, Adobe Lightroom is the biggest name in the bulk editing software space. Adobe has an extensive history on the artistic side of photography, so it is no wonder the software giant has developed such a popular tool.

  • Pros: Lightroom’s full slate of editing tools, like exposure adjustments, color correction, and retouching that can be set and saved as presets, make it a top choice. Users also enjoy an organizational interface that allows tagging and other features that will help you easily store and archive images. Finally, Lightroom’s seamless Photoshop integration is appreciated if more complex edits are required.
  • Cons: Lightroom’s extensive toolset might feel overwhelming for new users to master. Additionally, the application’s monthly subscription cost of $10 (if licensed separately from the Adobe Creative Cloud) can be prohibitive.


Since 2003, the makers of PhotoWorks have been providing software and tools to enhance images of amateur and professional photographers. 2 million users worldwide enjoy this powerful and simple photo editor.

  • Pros: The platform's intuitive, user-friendly interface is users’ favorite feature of PhotoWorks. It is an excellent choice for quick and straightforward editing. The simplicity extends to the AI-laden built-in presets that enable one-click enhancements to batch photos. Finally, in a world of monthly subscriptions, PhotoWorks' pricing stands out. Photographers can purchase the Pro version for an annual licensing fee of $39.20 or pay $79.80 for Ultimate, which contains additional features and a Lifetime license.
  • Cons: PhotoWorks is excellent for quick edits and simplifies everyday tasks like light correction and retouching volume photographers often need. However, more experienced photographers may find the software needing more advanced editing features. 


BatchPhoto has been a popular post-processing software for nearly two decades. Long-time and new users enjoy the platform's simplicity, efficiency, and effectiveness in processing up to thousands of photos at a time. Photographers can use the integrated presets or create their own to generate finished images with uniformity in size, orientation, and appearance.

  • Pros: As a software explicitly designed for post-processing high volumes of images, BatchPhoto offers a wide array of editing functions beyond the basics, like watermarking. It also allows your studio to create workflows and automate repetitive tasks to save you a ton of time. The lifetime licensing cost of $59.95 is another positive mark for the application.
  • Cons: BatchPhoto handles basic edits and tasks that photographers need but doesn’t offer the advanced editing capabilities of other software. Additionally, some users who use the platform find the interface less modern and intuitive. The company just released an updated version that attempts to address these issues, so it will be interesting to see if opinions change soon.


PhotoDay is unique to the other platforms on this list because, besides offering exceptional customer-facing editing services and batch post-processing services, it also includes job management, online galleries, e-commerce storefronts, and effective sales and marketing tools tailored specifically for volume photographers.

  • Pros: PhotoDay’s powerful suite of tools operates online, freeing up resources on your computer and eliminating the need for downloading software. The integrated workflow enables volume photography studios to edit and sell on one dedicated platform.
  • Cons: PhotoDay utilizes the latest technology and powerful AI tools to deliver users accurate and beautiful post-processed images. Since these processes are automated, your control is limited compared to other software. PhotoDay users are pleased with the time saved by not having to fine-tune each photo. 

These are just a handful of the many options available! Other photographers in your professional network may have a specific recommendation that suits your needs perfectly. Take advantage of free trials to test the software and investigate its capability. The software you are most comfortable using will be the one that saves you the most time.

Editing is a significant part of every photography session. Making the perfect adjustments to get the images just right demonstrates your studio’s expertise and skill. Don’t let these tasks' redundancy and time-consuming nature take you away from scheduling and photographing more sessions. Instead, let today’s innovative tools automate and streamline post-processing for you. You’ll feel like you’ve hired two new employees.

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