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Best Lightroom alternatives of 2020

Best Lightroom alternatives
(Image credit: McLittle Stock / Shutterstock)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Adobe has long been renowned for its image apps, and its Lightroom software is immensely popular due to its combination of image management and image processing. You can import, edit, and organize your photos without needing to switch between programs.

Best Adobe Lightroom alternatives

But Lightroom isn’t for everyone.

For some, the workflow doesn’t suit the way they like to work. For long-term Lightroom users, Adobe’s decision to switch to monthly subscriptions rather than a one-time payment has left them feeling dissatisfied and looking for alternatives. Those who are new to photography especially don’t want to be tied down to paying nearly $120 a year. 

Fortunately, in this article, we take a look at five of the best Lightroom alternatives that you may want to consider.

  • Want your company or services to be considered for this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to desire.athow@futurenet.com with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.

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Skylum Luminar has AI-powered filters. (Image credit: Skylum)

1. Skylum Luminar

The popular RAW photo editor

No subscription, one-time payment
AI-powered tools
Layers like Photoshop
30-day money-back guarantee
No free trial
Image organization doesn’t include adding keywords
Masking tools not as efficient as Lightroom

Skylum Luminar has been popular as a RAW photo editor for years, but in 2018, it added digital asset management capabilities. Since then, other image enhancement filters powered by artificial intelligence (AI) have been added, which have taken the app to a whole new level. For example, Accent AI will analyze a photo to automatically calculate the best edits to make.

These sorts of tools are great for newcomers to image editing programs. There is also quite a large focus on presets and one-click edits, which will help you become familiar with the software. Those with more experience aren’t left out, however, as advanced editing tools are available for those who like finer-grained control.

Skylum Luminar costs $67 and is available as both a standalone app and a plugin for other apps like Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photos for macOS.

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RawTherapee is a free RAW image-processing app. (Image credit: RawTherapee)

2. RawTherapee

Open-source RAW image-processing

Free
Easy to learn
Familiar interface
Limited feature set
No image collections to organize photos
Tools not as powerful as Adobe counterparts
Lacks tutorials

RawTherapee is a free, open-source RAW image-processing app available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. In terms of interface and toolset, it’s something of a hybrid between Photoshop and Lightroom, though it doesn’t have the same level of image management and organization capabilities. But because it’s more of a lightweight version of the other apps, it doesn’t have the same steep learning curve.

What RawTherapee does share with Lightroom, though, is that it is non-destructive when working with RAW files and will always keep them intact. It also has many of the editing tools that you’ll find in Lightroom, like adjusting exposure, sharpening and curves, and color correction.

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On1 Photo RAW

On1 Photo RAW combines features from Lightroom and Photoshop. (Image credit: On1)

3. On1 Photo RAW

Photo editing with digital asset management

Combination of Lightroom and Photoshop features
Free trial
Perpetual license
Long money-back guarantee
Not as fast as Lightroom
Catalog backup not as easy as Lightroom

People who like to use both Lightroom and Photoshop to manage and edit their photos should consider On1 Photo RAW, which has many of the digital asset management features of Lightroom and the image-editing capabilities of Photoshop.

ON1 originally started out developing image-editing plugins, many of which are now integrated with Photo RAW. It also features layers and focus stacking, like Photoshop. 

When using Photo RAW, there’s no need to import images, as the program will automatically recognize images on your computer’s hard drive. 

ON1 Photo RAW costs $99, but it does come with a 30-day free trial and a 90-day money-back guarantee.

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Capture One Pro is aimed at professional and studio photographers. (Image credit: Capture One)

4. Capture One Pro

Aimed at professional and studio photographers

Advanced features for studio users
Extended customization
Choice of a monthly subscription or outright purchase
Steeper learning curve
More expensive than Lightroom
No HDR or panorama merging

Capture One Pro a photo editing program developed by Phase One, makers of high-end medium-format cameras. As such, it is aimed at professional and studio photographers and has several advanced tools. 

Capture One Pro is similar to Lightroom in its feature set but includes some of the functionality found in Photoshop, like being able to use layers. When organizing images, users can group them by sessions, not just catalogs, and you can even add annotations directly onto photos.

Because Phase One’s history has been with high-end cameras, the software has benefitted from having a similar emphasis on high-end rendering quality. The platform used to be quite expensive because of that focus, but the price has come down to be similar to that of Lightroom. 

You can either pay for a subscription or purchase the software outright. Subscribers get free updates, and outright purchasers can get updates at special prices. The all-inclusive version costs $20/month or $299 to purchase outright, or you can get licenses that support just one brand of camera—Sony, Fujifilm, or Nikon—for $9.99/month or $129 outright.

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DxO PhotoLab will convert RAW images and automatically correct optical flaws. (Image credit: DxO )

5. DxO PhotoLab

Automatically corrects optical flaws

Automatic photo adjustments
Advanced de-noising technology
Extended features provided by Nik Collection tools
Not as many organization features as Lightroom
Lacks Photoshop features
No HDR or panorama merging

DxO PhotoLab is from DxO, a French company that produces photo-editing software and runs a benchmark service to assess lenses and mobile and digital cameras. 

The software, which is available for Mac and PC, will convert RAW images and automatically correct optical flaws, extend dynamic range, and remove digital noise. These features are in the Nik Collection suite of tools, which used to be a Google product.

PhotoLab has always had image-editing capabilities, but it also recently had photo libraries added for managing images, which brings it in line with what Lightroom offers. Similar to other apps, DxO PhotoLab will organize images found on your hard drive, rather than requiring you to import them into the program. 

The software can be purchased for $129, and there is a 30-day free trial.