Best Lightroom Alternatives – 2020 Ultimate Guide

Adobe Lightroom has long been the holy grail of all kinds of digital editing. Ever since their switch to a monthly subscription-based software, however, a lot of people have been on the hunt for a great Lightroom alternative to edit their photos. To help you out a bit we have curated some of the best alternatives to Adobe Lightroom that are just as well-equipped, if not better, to cater to your editing needs.

Comparison Chart of the Best Lightroom Alternatives

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Skylum Luminar 4

  • Fast and easier photo mood editing
  • You get perfect portraits that match your preferences
  • Features Sunrays tools that make your pictures more realistic
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RawTherapee

  • Advanced color editing helps you to develop high quality images
  • Use of dual de-mosaicing algorithms is outstanding
  • Works well on macOS, Linux, and Microsoft Windows
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Darktable

  • Best for the Money
  • Performs non-destructively all through the pipeline
  • Helps you understand challenge, real world problems and workflows
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Capture One

  • Offers various intuitive interfaces and editing tools for better results
  • Features all color handling for major camera brands
  • High responsive processing engine is one of the key features
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DxO PhotoLab

  • Uniform slider helps standardize color variations
  • Local contrast optimizing helps brighten the image
  • Uses raw file optimization that processes images at high speed
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What is a Lightroom Alternative?

As the name suggests, a Lightroom alternative is an alternate photo editing software that you can use to replace Lightroom. Over the years, a number of such software alternatives have been released that provide nearly the same level of control as Lightroom.

Like Lightroom, these Lightroom alternatives also allow photographers to edit and enhance their photos with ease. In terms of the general functionality and features, most of these alternatives are more or less similar to Lightroom with a few minor differences. Each of these software options come with their own unique strengths and learning curves. However, once you get the hang of it, it’ll be like you never even made a change.

Can You Really Find a Quality Lightroom Alternative That’s Affordable?

Adobe Lightroom has time and again proven to be a perfect fit for photographers of all kinds. With its vast range of tools and features, Lightroom has been preferred by all.

Given this, the monthly subscription for Lightroom may seem like a fair trade-off for the excellent quality of the product. There are some who would argue, however, that you could achieve the same results with another, more cost-effective software that will save you thousands of dollars.

Price and quality don’t always go together and the affordability of a product isn’t indicative of its shortcomings. So, if Adobe Lightroom isn’t a product that fits into your budget, don’t despair. The beauty of technology is that there is always another option. If you are on the lookout for a change, the market is full of extremely affordable, high-quality software that could suit your needs perfectly.

What to Look For When Buying a Lightroom Alternative

Cost

When it comes to Lightroom alternative, there are a ton of options to choose from including free, budget as well as premium programs. What you decide on will depend entirely on your need as a photographer and your budget.

Editing Features

A software with all the right bells and whistles can sometimes fall short when it comes to basic editing functionality. When buying an editing software, make sure that it has all of the features that you need - from the minor tweaks to the more in-depth and layered editing. Look through all of the features and make the most of the free trials when offered to really get an understanding of how the software works.

Regular Updates

A lot of the best Lightroom alternatives offer periodical updates to fix bugs and make improvements to their software. This may not hold true for some of the cheaper software alternatives, however. So, based on how much importance you give to good customer service and regular upgrades, this may be one of the features you should look into.

RAW Processing Capability

A lot of great programs are sometimes unable to import and process RAW files. So, if this is a feature that you require to meet your editing needs, be sure to check the software’s RAW processing capability before making the purchase.

Digital Asset Management

Digital Asset Management is essentially the ability of software to organize and store data systematically. So, if you prefer a software option that can automatically sort through and catalog your images or add tags and keywords to them, then look for one that has complete digital asset management features. This is a really handy feature to have when you’re dealing with a few thousand photos on a regular basis.

Quick Take - Best Lightroom Alternatives

Before we dive into our review, here are the best Lightroom alternatives:

  1. Skylum Luminar 4
  2. RawTherapee
  3. Darktable

Review of the Best Lightroom Alternatives

For those of you looking for a Lightroom alternative, there are a lot of great options available out there. The more the choice, however, the more the confusion. To make this decision a little easier, here are some of the best Lightroom alternatives that money can buy.

Best Overall:
Skylum Luminar 4

PROS

  • Photoshop-like layered editing
  • Compatible with third-party presets
  • Works as a stand-alone application or as a plugin
  • Features over 70 presets known as Luminar Looks
  • Super easy to use and has 24/7 technical and sales support

CONS

  • Might be a little expensive, however, often offers great discounts 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Skylum Luminar 4 has quickly emerged as one of the best Lightroom alternatives today. Beginning with RAW processing and its immense range of filters and editing tools, Luminar has since added numerous impressive image enhancement features as well as digital asset management, making it a forerunner in digital editing.

Luminar does a fantastic job of importing and organizing images and also includes a number of culling tools like stars, colored labels, and flags to the delight of the perfectionist planner within you. It also allows you to explore and sort through the images in your folders without the hassle of importing them.

The real hero of Luminar is its AI-powered tools such as the AI Sky Enhancer, AI Structure tools, and so on. You can use the AI Augmented Sky tool to add new objects into your images or fix your portraits in seconds with the AI Portrait Enhancer. Another cool feature is the artificial sun rays that you can add to your images to get that natural glow.

From the brilliant AI tools to the one-click presets called Looks, Luminar 4 offers a wide variety of gorgeous editing options. Luminar is incredibly easy to use, has a highly intuitive interface and some pretty unique features making it an absolutely amazing Lightroom alternative, perfect for both amateur enthusiasts and professional photographers alike.

Runner-up:
RawTherapee

PROS

  • Great for beginners and enthusiasts
  • Features a wide range of RAW editing capabilities
  • Non-destructive and keeps original RAW files intact
  • Has a site called Rawpedia detailing all of the function of the program
  • Powerful batch processing tools that allow you to edit entire folders of photos at a go

CONS

  • Lacks digital asset management
  • Not intuitive and the interface is a little rough around the edges

Why it Stands Out to Us

RawTherapee is an excellent standalone RAW processor and a great photo editor with a ton of functionality. It is specifically designed to develop RAW files and caters to a wide array of digital cameras and lenses. As free and open-source software, it is completely community-driven and allows for a lot of detailed image editing.

It is a powerful software that uses multithreaded algorithms to make the most of modern processors. The luminance and denoise features, for instance, use some of these advanced algorithms to enhance and edit images without compromising on the quality.

The organizational aspect is a little tedious as RawTherapee does not have provisions to automatically import and sort images for you. Though the software does not offer the same organizational capabilities as Lightroom, however, it does have some nuanced features like the demosaicing algorithms to make up for it.

When it comes to RawTherapee, the learning curve is a bit steep but is definitely worth the effort.

Best for the Money:
DarkTable

PROS

  • Edits images non-destructively
  • Offers detailed asset management
  • Excellent importing and exporting features
  • A completely free and open-source platform
  • Created by photographers, for photographers and has a dedicated community that works to improve the software

CONS

  • Can be a little buggy at times
  • Relatively weak noise reduction processing

Why it Stands Out to Us

DarkTable is a rather intriguing open-source program that shares a striking likeness to the Lightroom layout. For the most part, it recreates the core functionality of Lightroom and provides some great organizational features (including tagging and star rating for easy sorting).

What’s great about this program is that it is a non-destructive editing tool and its RAW processing provides support to over 400 cameras. It also features some innovative tools like curves adjustment, split toning, and so on. DarkTable makes it extremely easy to import and export your images, which means that you post your finished masterpieces straight to social media from Darktable. You can also use this program to set up certain automation to speed up your editing process.

DarkTable does take a bit of time to get used to as the sheer number of tools and features could leave the most experienced editors confused. But the time spent watching tutorials will pay off with some incredible results if you do stick with it.

PROS

  • Great for professional photographers
  • Has a 30-day free trial and free tutorial videos
  • Processes high-quality RAW files with sharp detail
  • Has enhanced studio-focused features like tethering
  • Supports layers workflow and allows for 16 layers to be applied

CONS

  • Quite expensive despite the one-time payment model

Why it Stands Out to Us

Since its inception, Capture One has been evolving rapidly and is a top contender in the field of photo editing. The interface is clean and rather visually pleasing. It has an impressive RAW photo rendering and also offers a variety of incredible tools and advanced features for tethered shooting, color manipulation, and so on.

Capture One includes presets, masks, extensive sharpening tools, and everything you could possibly need to edit your photos to perfection. It has a customizable interface, incredibly smart management tools as well as a cataloging system for organizational purposes.

The learning curve is quite steep for beginners, however, and might be intimidating instead of encouraging. Perfectly suited to high-end studio photography, Capture One is a powerful editing tool for all the pros out there.

PROS

  • Customizable interface
  • Has over 40 one-click presets
  • 30-day free trial with all features unlocked
  • Easy management and organization with the new PhotoLibrary
  • New HSL tool to manage color and create more natural-looking images

CONS

  • The interface may seem a bit cluttered

Why it Stands Out to Us

DxO PhotoLab is the preferred choice as a Lightroom alternative on account of its ease of use, numerous editing features available, and its powerful RAW conversion system that few other software options offer.

The company, with the latest version, has introduced some cool new features like the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) Tool and DxO ColorWheel that allows you to fine-tune color values, select color ranges for eight separate channels and so much more. With DxO ClearView, you can brighten the horizons in your images by removing any haze or smog or use the U Point Technology for precise local adjustments.

DxO is particularly popular for its lens correction algorithms. Coupled with the huge range of features and a free trial, it's hard not to love DxO PhotoLab.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Lightroom Alternative 

Adobe Lightroom is an incredible tool for photo editors across the spectrum. It isn’t, however, the only option around. The monthly subscription has made it a less affordable option and if the workflow just isn’t for you, whatever the reason, there are a ton of alternatives available to choose from.

Our top picks among these have some incredible features on par with what Lightroom has to offer and, in some cases, even better than Lightroom. In addition to this, these options are also far more cost-effective and, in some cases, completely free of charge. Even the relatively expensive options make for a more affordable one-time investment than the monthly subscription that Lightroom offers. 

In making a switch to another editing software, as with any device that you are accustomed to, there is always a little bit of leap that you will need to make in terms of learning how the new software works. Most of these alternatives, however, are fairly simple to use and also have a repository of online resources available that make the learning curve much smoother.

So, if a Lightroom alternative is what you are looking for, take the leap. It’ll be worth the time.

Conclusion 

The top five Lightroom alternatives listed, each have their own unique features and strengths that make them the best of best. At the end of the day, however, keep in mind that the choice you make should be based solely on your need as a photographer. While a seasoned pro may flourish with complex tools and features, a newbie photographer may get intimidated in the face of these technicalities. So, choose wisely and make the most of these wonderful Lightroom alternatives.

People Also Ask

Making the switch from Lightroom to an alternate program can be a difficult task. Making the final decision is even harder. To make your research a little easier, we have answered some frequently asked questions regarding Lightroom alternatives.

Is Luminar Better Than Lightroom?

Luminar and Lightroom are both excellent software with their own pros and cons. Luminar, for instance, has some incredible AI technology that sets it apart from other photo editing software. It is also much newer and fresher than Lightroom that has been around for quite a while. Lightroom, on the other hand, is a much stronger platform in terms of organization than Luminar.

The bottom line is that the choice between the two is based on the user's need, budget, and personal preference. Both are powerful software and cater to different kinds of photographers.

Is it Better to Buy Lightroom or Subscribe?

As per the pricing policy, you can either purchase Lightroom as a standalone or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan. Both plans start at US$9.99/month. This means that in order to buy Lightroom you will spend a minimum of $9.99 a month, or a maximum of $119.88 annually. The choice will depend on the need, usage, and budget.

What is the Difference Between Photoshop and Lightroom?

Adobe Photoshop is, in essence, a digital darkroom. It can be used to make in-depth adjustments and alterations to your images. On the other hand, Adobe Lightroom is more like a virtual photography studio. You can use it to import, organize, edit, and export your photographs.

Is Lightroom Good For Beginners?

Lightroom has an extremely simple and well-structured interface that is both easy to use and intuitive. From trained professionals to beginners with absolutely no experience, a Lightroom is a great software all kinds of photographers.

Can You Cancel Lightroom at Any Time?

A Lightroom subscription can be canceled at any time either via your Adobe Account or by contacting Customer Support. A subscription canceled within 14 days of the order will be fully refunded. After the 2-week period, the payment is non-refundable and the service will continue until the end of the month’s billing period.

Is Affinity Photo a Replacement For Lightroom?

Affinity Photo is a replacement for Lightroom and a great option for those looking for an alternative. The software features a range of tools from basic to advanced and is a good fit for both beginners as well as professionals.