By Gary Gray
Some time back, I wrote an article on the photo editing software alternatives to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Adobe have been in the news recently for floating a price increase on their Creative Cloud service and for removing older versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.
Last summer I received an offer from Adobe to have a free one year subscription to the Creative Cloud Photographers subscription, which allowed me to run the most current versions of LR and Photoshop, but it expires in short order. Coupled with the realization that Adobe appears to be giving serious consideration to doubling the cost of that plan once it expires, I’ve reverted back to LR 6 (desktop) and CS6 (desktop.)
Adobe has indicated that users running older versions of their software may be exposing themselves to lawsuits from third party vendors who supplied technology to their previous versions. I don’t know how all this will play out, but it looks to me as though Adobe is trying to pressure their customer base into updating everything to the subscription model at a higher price. I don’t know how someone is going to sue me for running an older copy of Lightroom that I legally registered and I’m pretty much at the point where I’m considering abandoning Adobe as a photo editing solution all together.
This all of course asks questions.
What’s involved with switching from Lightroom/Photoshop to an alternative photo editing software solution?
I came to the realization that to find out what was involved, the easiest way would be to actually make the switch and see what I came up with.
Here’s what I found.
I started off with listing the main photo editor functions in LR and Photoshop that I use 99% of the time.
Editing requirements (your mileage may vary) that I have.
- Normal color/hue/brightness/white level, tone curves, etc. Since my normal first pass editor is Adobe Lightroom, I’ll need as much functionality as exists there in another program. I could stand to lose some of the special edit sliders such as Texture, Clarity and DeHaze were disposable.
- Lens correction profiles are nice to have, but even on LR 6 I have missing profiles, but Lightroom Classic Creative Cloud (most recent version) is current with my equipment and fairly robust. Not a must have though.
- Other editing tools such as spot removal, red eye, Graduated filter, Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush, I use all the time so I have to have the ability to perform those functions or something very close to it.
- Available import file formats, export file formats, printing options, all are important to me.
- Cataloging and file management options. Lightroom is very strong with this so I need to pay particular attention to what the alternative editors offer.
- Speed and complexity of the software. Lightroom is fairly fast and quite easy to use once you understand every control. It’s also very intuitive when trying to first grasp.
- Metadata/Exif editing. I have a lot of stock photos and don’t plan on stopping, so I better be able to caption and keyword my images and anything else that needs to be changed in Exif. Sort of a requirement for anything at a professional money-making level.
- Destructive editing, meaning cloning sections of the image, cut & paste, other similar functions. I don’t heavily edit my images but from time to time it does happen and I use Photoshop for that type of work. I want to have as much of that stuff as possible.
Having figured out what functionality I need to have, I began the process of looking at the most popular alternative software. I wrote a article on the alternative photo editing solutions but I never really explained them in the same context I’m presenting in this article. I already have DXO Photo Lab Elite, which I use on my laptop, so I find it familiar but what about Corel Paint Shop Pro and ON1 Raw 2019. Nothing else I’ve seen or tested in the past floats my boat so I didn’t go any further.
What I found was ON1 Raw 2019 won’t even run on my system due to the age of my video card. Well, I’m not going to spend $300 on a new video card, so that’s where the comparison stopped with that software. Not an option for me right now.
Corel AfterShot Pro3 is more or less a Lightroom clone. I found it usable but slightly unstable. It periodically crashes. With a similar look and feel to LR, it lacks some capability that exists in LR. Corel Paint Shop Pro 2019 is a bit of a Photo Shop clone and does have most of the editing tools I think I’ll need. What I didn’t like about it was the clunky feel to the interface. Nowhere near as fast as Photoshop.
DXO PhotoLap Elite v2 is almost void of useful metadata editing functions.
Both Corel products were weak on editing exif and metadata for stock photographs. Adobe Lightroom is exceptional for the photographer who works with a lot of metadata entry. With the exception of Adobe Bridge for Photoshop, nothing else comes close to the capability of Lightroom.
Here’s what I’ve learned with my efforts.
You will have to take a good look at your workflow in Adobe vs what it will be with alternative software.
I discovered that my workflow in Lightroom and catalog organization wasn’t really designed to migrate easily to another program.
As a matter of fact, I’d highly recommend you arrange your catalogs on hard drive to be subject specific and by year or something identifiable. The cataloging functions in Lightroom, though very robust, can lead you into some seriously slow workflow when switching to other software. I’d say make your on disk hard drive file organization very generic and easily maintained with the use of any photo editing software catalog features. They just won’t play well together otherwise if you ever have to make the switch down the road.
Every other photo editing software package I played with came up short in one regard or another.
For example, Corel’s After Shot Pro 3 and Paint Shop Pro, will provide you with a good basic photo editing solution, if you need to be able to keyword and edit meta data along with creating catalogs of your images or want a speedy editor, you’ll find it lacking.
In some ways DXO PhotoLab 2 has some editing features that are in my opinion the best on the market, the overall package again falls short. Again the Exif and Metadata editing is where it needs work, so for someone working with a lot of stock photography, this isn’t going to be an ideal solution.
ON1 was a disappointment. It loaded but would not run on my system. Which is kinda weird, and most likely due to the requirement for a high end video card in your computer. But honestly, one shouldn’t need a high end 3D graphics card to suitably edit digital photographs, as there’s really no 3D stuff to contend with. I don’t understand the lack of compatibility.
For those who do want to dump Adobe products, my recommendation would be DXO PhotoLab 2 with a separate Exif/Metadata editor and file manager such as Photo Mechanic 6. The thing is; however, is when you add the cost of Photo Mechanic and DXO PhotoLab 2 combined, you’ll be paying about as much as you would for Lightroom and Photoshop CC, only without the subscription service. You may stretch the expense out a little longer as well as the update cycle for both offerings is probably longer than once a year.
My conclusion is that Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC is without a doubt the best overall software for photo editing. From the beginner to the seasoned pro, you won’t find a better overall solution to your photo editing needs. It’s really a matter of what you are willing to pay to have the best.
If all you are looking for is a good general purpose photo editor and don’t need to maintain a high volume workflow, I’d suggest DXO PhotoLab Pro 2.
Corel After Shot Pro 3 and Paint Shop Pro 2019 may be good enough for you too, though it isn’t without limitations, such as a bit of limitations on file formats and speed. The editing functions in Paint Shop Pro are the closest you’ll get to Photoshop and the price may be right.