Personally I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with Adobe at times, yet still primarily use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop for my image enhancements. That being said I often get the question, "What software can I use other than Adobe". Although Adobe products are often considered "industry standard" in the creative world there are other choices out there. Below I'll talk about the "why" someone would explore other options and then give several software alternative options.

REASONS WHY Photographers might choose alternative software to Adobe products:

1. Cost: Adobe products, especially the Creative Cloud subscription, can be expensive for some budgets. Alternative software often offers similar features at a lower price point or even for free.

2. Feature set: Different software packages may excel in specific areas or offer unique features not found in Adobe products. For example, some alternative software might specialize in certain types of artistic applications or offer advanced niche features.

3. Performance: Depending on the hardware and specific tasks, alternative software may run more efficiently or be better optimized for certain functions such as tethering, leading to faster processing times.

4. Philosophical reasons: Some photographers prefer to support smaller companies or open-source initiatives rather than large corporations like Adobe. They may prioritize software that aligns with their values.

5. Learning curve: Some photographers find alternative software easier to learn or more intuitive to use compared to Adobe products, especially if they're new to photo editing. Of course this is subjective and I personally feel Adobe has come a long way in improving their user interface (UI).

6. Compatibility: In some cases, photographers might find that alternative software better integrates with their existing hardware or other software tools they use in their workflow.

Ultimately, the choice of software depends on individual preferences, budget constraints, workflow requirements, and the specific needs of the photographer. Below are Adobe alternatives to consider.

Back of Alex Kent's head looking over his shoulder while works on images of the southwest in Adobe Lightroom Classic

That's me working away to organize my images. Photo by: Madelyn Amacher

1. Affinity Photo 2

  - Cost: One-time purchase, usually around $69.99

  - Description: Affinity Photo is a powerful raster graphics editor developed by Serif. It offers professional-grade photo editing capabilities similar to Adobe Photoshop, including advanced retouching, RAW editing, non-destructive editing features, and multiple layer capabilities. Well respected and liked amongst users who've jumped the Adobe "ship". I've used Affinity myself and it works well IMO.

2. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

  - Cost: Free and open-source

  - Description: GIMP is a popular free and open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It offers a wide range of tools for photo retouching, image composition, and graphic design. While its interface may not be as polished as Photoshop's, it's a powerful option for those on a budget. This one has been around a looooong time as in 1996! I haven't used it myself in well over a decade, but from what I've read it's still being used. I've also read some people prefer "Darktable" (more below) for RAW processing and then jump to GIMP for retouching and graphic design.

3. Corel PaintShop Pro

  - Cost: Usually around $99.99 for a perpetual license

  - Description: PaintShop Pro is a comprehensive photo editing software developed by Corel. It provides a wide range of editing tools, including advanced features like layers, masks, and HDR editing. It's a good alternative for users looking for a balance between affordability and functionality. Again this is one I haven't used in well over a decade, but it's well respected in the industry especially amongst digital artists outside of the photography world.

4. Pixlr

  - Cost: Free basics with optional paid premium features

  - Description: Pixlr is a web-based photo editor that offers both a free version with basic editing tools and a premium version with advanced features such as layers, filters, and additional effects. It's an accessible option for quick edits and basic enhancements. I've never used Pixlr myself, but it seems to get a lot of buzz on the internet as far as popularity. The "premium versions" are subscription based and are between $ .99 - $9.91 per month

5. Capture One Pro

  - Cost: Subscription-based, starting around $14.92 per month or has the option to buy the current versions for $299

  - Description: Capture One is a professional-grade photo editing software primarily focused on RAW image processing and tethered shooting. It offers advanced tools for color correction, exposure adjustments, and image enhancement, making it a popular choice among professional photographers. I've seen more pros and serious photographers leave Adobe for Capture One more than any other software. I've used it some and the tools seem great. I personally didn't care for the UI (User Interface) as much as Adobe, but I also only used it for a few weeks.

6. Luminar AI or Luminar Neo

  - Cost: One-time purchase, usually around $99 for Luminar AI and Neo is subscription based around $8.25-11.95 per month depending on the plan.

  - Description: Luminar is a photo editing software developed by Skylum. It leverages artificial intelligence to automate complex editing tasks and offers a variety of creative tools and presets for quick enhancements. It's known for its user-friendly interface and innovative features. I've never personally used this one, but if you're into the more artistic side of image processing Luminar offers a wide range of features for creating digital art.

7. Darktable

  - Cost: Free and open-source

  - Description: Darktable is a free and open-source photo workflow software and raw developer. It offers professional-grade photo editing and organization tools, with features like non-destructive editing, color management, and support for various RAW file formats. I have not personally used this one, however it does get positive reviews on the internet especially for it's handling of RAW files.

8. Topaz Labs

- Cost: Around $199 for the license with occasional upgrade costs

  - Description: Topaz creates multiple stand alone and plug-in based apps that are use powerful ai tools to enhance images. I've used Topaz in conjunction with Adobe for many years and have achieved incredible results with noise removal, sharpening, and upscaling.

9. Photoscape X

  - Cost: Free with optional in-app purchases

  - Description: Photoscape X is a versatile photo editing software available for free on Windows and macOS. It offers a wide range of tools for photo enhancement, including filters, effects, and batch editing capabilities. It's suitable for both beginners and advanced users looking for a user-friendly editing experience. Again, I've never used this one personally but it appears to be relatively popular.

There are also many apps for phones and tablets that can enhance your images, but I'll save that for another day.

If you use any of these alternatives or even ones I did not list, I'd love to hear about your experience and opinion.

NOTE: ChatGPT did "help" me write this list, however I did double check and edit for accuracy as well as added my personal experience.