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13 Best Adobe Lightroom Alternatives in 2021 [FREE & Paid]


Discover the best Lightroom alternatives and finally use a photo editor with better raw processing, cheaper pricing, and more powerful features.

lightroom alternatives

Anytime you hear photo editing, what comes to your mind?

It’s probably Photoshop and Lightroom.

And you are not even wrong.

These softwares have so much established themselves in the market that when anyone mentions photo editing applications, most people only think of those softwares. 

But are they really the BEST or ONLY photo editing softwares

Can you find alternatives that are more affordable and yet give you as many features as you want in a photo editing software? 

Better still, can you find photo editing softwares which you don’t have to pay for? 

I know you must have thought, “wow, that would be great if they really exist!.” 

Yes, there are many Lightroom alternatives and they give you access to as many editing features as you can find in Lightroom.

And they will all be discussed in this review. 

So keep reading, and you will see 13 free and paid Lightroom alternatives that you can start using today.

Let’s keep moving.

Why Look For an Alternative to Adobe Lightroom?

1. Subscription-Only Pricing

One thing you mostly consider whether you recognize it or not before buying any software, say video editing softwares or photo editing softwares, is the price. 

You look at the price, and consider if it has a flexible and affordable price or pricing plans.

What if the software does not meet up with these requirements? 

Then, you move on to the next available alternative. 

Well, you might have to do this with Adobe Lightroom as well

Why? Some few years back, if you wanted to use Adobe Lightroom, you could easily purchase a perpetual license which allows you to use the software for as long as you want. 

There was no need for monthly or annual payments. 

Once you bought the Adobe Lightroom license, it was yours and yours forever. 

However, things changed when Adobe Lightroom started offering the subscription-based pricing model which means you would have to pay a monthly fee of $9.99 or annual fee of $119.88 to use the software.

So, you don’t own the software forever unlike most of its alternatives which offer a once-and-for-all pricing. 

Apart from that, you can even find Adobe Lightroom alternatives which are completely free so you don’t have to pay a dime. 

All you need to do is to install and start enjoying the many features they offer which are largely similar to what Adobe Lightroom also serves its customers. 

2. Slow Processing Speed

Furthermore, a considerable number of users have complained about the slow running speed of Adobe Lightroom on their devices such that it sometimes takes long periods to load, especially when it contains a large volume of photos.

This can be frustrating to a user. 

So, you would be right to consider a Lightroom alternative that has a faster processing speed.

If you’re ready, let’s check out some powerful, unique, affordable and cost-effective Lightroom alternatives that are available in the market today, both free and paid.

Best Paid Lightroom Alternatives

1. Skylum Luminar AI

Best Lightroom Alternative that Makes Editing Much Easier and Advanced With Artificial Intelligence

Skylum is the Best Lightroom Alternative that Makes Editing Much Easier and Advanced

Main Features 

  • AI Sky Replacement Tool: Easily change the mood of your photo by replacing the sky, I.e choose the particular sky color that you want from different sky colors. 
  • AI Skin and Portrait Enhancer: Customize your portraits and skin with different styles and features such as saturation and face light to give them the best appearance.
  • AI Augmented Sky Tool: Make your picture look exactly how you want by placing new objects in the sky. 
  • Sunrays: Would you like to see a source of sunlight in your pictures? Do this easily and you can still tweak the sunbeams and place them where you want in your pictures.
  • AI Structure Slider : With no special efforts from your part, potential areas in your pictures are enhanced and made richer with this feature. 

Pricing 

Skylum Luminar AI Pricing Plan

If you would like to use Skylum Luminar AI, all you need to do is to purchase a license.

This means you don’t have to go on any subscription whether yearly or monthly. 

Below are the available plans for the 2-computers license for Luminar AI.

  • Master at $99
  • Expert at $168
  • Guru at $227

Skylum Luminar AI also offers a 30-day money back guarantee and a 40% off discount presently. So, order fast.

2. Exposure X6

Best Lightroom Alternative for Advanced RAW Editing 

Exposure X6 is the Best Lightroom Alternative for Advanced RAW Editing

Main Features 

  • Creative Adjustments: Advanced color editor, spot heal tool, 3D color masking, linear and radial gradients tools, creative focus tools, non destructive layers, overlays, infrared tools, grain tools.
  • Photo Editing: White Balance Adjustment, automatic adjustments, noise reduction, color editing tools, transform tools, complete edit history, color editing, look up table support, histogram, black and white editing, tone curve editing, sharpening. 
  • Presets: Over 500 presets available, selective presets, audition presets. 
  • Complete Photo Manager: User-supplied camera profiles, file and folder operations, smart collections, lightroom migration tool, printing, keywords, virtual copies, complete lens correction solution, side-by-side image comparison view, transform orientation, defringe tool, review and edit photo metadata, search and filter photos, PSD support. 
  • User Interface: Customizable user interface, modern user interface, high-resolution display support, auto updater, edit photos side-by-side, 3 available user interface languages which are English, French and German. 

Pricing

Exposure X6 Pricing Plan

On the pricing side, buying Exposure X6 costs $129 while upgrading costs $89

The exposure X6 bundle costs $149 and upgrading costs $99. 

If you buy exposure X6, you would be given exposure X7 freely the moment it’s released
Exposure X6 offers a fast technical support, 30-day money back guarantee and a 30-day free trial plan.

3. On1 Photo RAW

Best Lightroom Alternative for Portrait Editing 

On1 Photo Raw is the Best Lightroom Alternative for Portrait Editing

Main Features 

  • Photo Editing: Adjust your color and tone, match shot looks and styles, recover under/over exposed areas, pop photos with dynamic contrast and select from 100s of supported lenses. 
  • HDR Photos: Build natural and peculiar photos, automatically align photos and remove ghosting, use the tone mapping and merging exposure brackets to mix other HDR photos. 
  • Panoramas: Mend different photos into a single panorama/matrix photo, align photos and blend them together easily. 
  • Professional Tools: Available tools which allow you to create beautiful and inspiring photos are Al mask, luminosity masks, and auto-align layers.
  • Smart Organizer: Create albums, rate and label, detail view, ultra-fast culling and focus overlay are some features you get here.
  • Printing: Add watermarks and sharpen photos, print individual photos into package prints or print multiple photos to create packages. 
  • Syncing: Sync your photos across all the devices that you use.

Pricing 

On1 Photo Raw Pricing Plan

On1 Photo RAW offers flexible pricing modes which allows you to either buy a lifetime license or go on a subscription with some benefits. 

The On1 Photo RAW costs $99.99 for new customers while upgrading costs $79.99 for the lifetime license mode

Depending on the storage capacity that you want, monthly or yearly subscriptions are also available. 
On1 Photo RAW also offers a free 14-day trial plan.

4. Capture One Pro

Best Lightroom Alternative for Image Masking

Capture One Pro is the Best Lightroom Alternative for Image Masking

Main Features 

  • Color Control: Basic color editor, advanced color editor, color balance tool, skin tone editing, black and white tool, true-to-life colors. 
  • Details and Lens Profiles: Noise reduction, output proofing, nikon profiles, moiré, simulated film grain, lens correction, keystone, sharpening. 
  • Image Editing: Curves and levels, high dynamic range, curves and levels, styles and presets, clarity and structure, exposure, contrast and saturation.
  • Layers and Masks: Luminosity masking, clone brush, radial masks, heal brush, feather mask and redefine mask, grey scale mask, linear gradient. 
  • Workflow and Performance: Customizable workplace, keyboard shortcuts, copy adjustments, tokens, tethered capture, annotations, before/after tool, graphics acceleration. 
  • Organization: Lightroom importer, catalogs and sessions, sorting and culling tools, filters and smart albums, keywords and keyword lists, export recipes, PSD round-trip support. 
  • Additional Features: Speed edit, magic brush, dehaze, import viewer, HEIC support, style brushes, prostandard profiles. 

Pricing

Capture One Pro Pricing Plan

Capture One Pro pricing plans vary according to different usages which includes single-user, multiuser and enterprise.

You can likewise upgrade your Capture One Pro account. 

Additionally, the Capture One Pro multi-user starts from $359 while Capture One Enterprise begins from $229.

Capture One Pro offers a 30-day free trial and free learning videos.

5. DxO PhotoLab 4

Best Lightroom Alternative for RAW Processing and Automatic Lens Corrections

DxO PhotoLab 4 is the Best Lightroom Alternative for RAW Processing and Automatic Lens Corrections

Main Features

  • DxO Clearview Plus: Simply eraze haze from your landscape images to brighten your photographs’ horizon, restore their natural luminosity and hone your image quality.
  • U POINTTM: This selection assistance technology allows you to apply sharp local adjustments and automatic corrections easily. 
  • DxO ColorWheel: Choose color ranges from about eight different channels or use the color selector to select a color sample directly from your photograph. 
  • DxO Smart Lighting: Intelligent analysis of your images is carried out by this feature to enable information recovery and its spot weighted corrections tool also makes your portraits more beautiful.
  • DxO PhotoLibrary: Organize your images more efficiently by adding and displaying simple and complex keywords, and use the dynamic search system to get instant access to your photograph. 
  • Presets: Explore about 40 scaled presets from different categories such as portrait, black and white single-image HDR, and landscape. 
  • Optical corrections: You don’t have to worry anymore about optical flaws like vignetting, low or no sharpness, chromatic aberrations and distortion since they are corrected automatically.

Pricing

DxO PhotoLab 4 Pricing Plan

DxO PhotoLab 4 pricing starts from $129 and the upgrade pricing also begins from $69. A free 30-day trial plan that gives you access to all DxO PhotoLab 4 features is also available.

6. Corel AfterShot Pro

Your Best Go-To If You Need a 4x Faster Lightroom Alternative

Corel AfterShot Pro is the Best 4x Faster Lightroom Alternative

Main Features 

  • Watermarking: Take full control of your photos whether individually or in batches by applying watermarks, branding with your logo or contact information, adding text or graphics, and adjusting the size, position, rotation, and transparency. 
  • Image Preset Library: Browse, preview and download free and paid presets to automate your repetitive processing workflows without stress. 
  • Highlight Recovery: Access your RAW files data to enhance your image quality and recover substantial detail and tone from your overexposed photos.
  • Lens Corrections: Correct multiple types of distortion caused by various lenses fast with the lens correction feature which builds on many aftershot-supported lenses. 
  • Multi-Version Editing: Without altering your original file, easily adjust different versions of your master photo. 
  • Customizable Workspace: Customize the AfterShot Pro Workspace to best fit your needs; hide or display the thumbnail, preview, browse and tools panel.
  • Powerful Batch Processing: Use the powerful batch processing controls and presets to edit and perfect a single or very large volume of photos.

Pricing

Corel AfterShot Pro Pricing Plan

AfterShot Pro 3 costs $63.99 and it gives you access to new features like watermarking, blemish remover tools, and image preset library. A free trial plan and a 30-day money back guarantee are available.

Best FREE Lightroom Alternatives

1. Dark Table

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for RAW Development and Better Photography Workflow Management 

Drak Table is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for Better Photography Workflow Management

Main Features 

  • Basic image operations: Exposure controls, shadows and highlights, base curve, crop and rotate, white balance, highlight reconstruction, invert.
  • Color Image Operations: Channel mixer, color correction, color contrast, color balance, color look up table, monochrome, color zones, input/output/display color profile management, vibrance. 
  • Tone Image Operations: Local contrast, zone system, fill light, tone curve, two different tone mapping modules. 
  • Correction Modules: Equalizer, sharpen, dithering, perspective correction, haze removal, spot removal, denoise, raw denoise, chromatic aberrations, hot pixels, defringe, profiled denoise. 
  • Multilingual: Dark Table offers about 21 translations including French, German, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish and Danish.

Pricing 

Dark Table is completely free

All you need to get started is to install it on your system and access the online user manual online to gain enough guidance and comprehensive information.

2. RawTherapee

Best FREE and Cross-Platform Lightroom Alternative for RAW Image Processing

RawTherapee is the Best Free and Cross Platform Lightroom Alternative for RAW Image Processing

Main Features

  • Tone Mapping: Underline or suppress detail, lift the dark areas of your photo without having to worry about the appearance of halos.
  • Detail Window: View many areas of interest at a 100% zoom as you work on the suitably-zoomed picture. 
  • Clipped Shadows and Highlight Indicators: Visualize too dark or too bright areas of the image without stress and note that the highlighted images are shaded according to the volume by which they transgress the thresholds.
  • Preview Modes: Apart from the normal preview which lets you tweak your photos, support for other preview modes like red, blue, and green channels, luminosity is also available. 
  • Focus Mask: How do you highlight areas of the image in focus? You can do this with the focus mask and note that its accuracy is increased on images with low noise, higher zoom levels and a shallow depth of field. 
  • RawTherapee Automation: Easily automates RawTherapee with the dedicated command line support in which you use scripts or calls from other programs.
  • Multilingual: This software is available in more than 15 languages 

Pricing

RawTherapee software is open source and it is free

You can download the source code, modify and optimize it as you wish.

3. LightZone

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for Selective Editing and Photo Retouching

LightZone is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for Selective Editing and Photo Retouching

Main Features 

  • Non-Destructive Editing: Some of the available tools you can use to perform this unique function are sharpen, color and white balances, black and white, red eyes, spot, clone, noise reduction, and gaussian blur.
  • Style Fillers: Available range of style fillers include skin glow, polarizer, and alien infrared. 
  • Metadata Display: Lightzone can read the raw files for a wide range of cameras to display the metadata such as exposure and flash. 
  • Raw Tone Curve: Through a well laid out number of processes, you can easily store the raw tone curve in your templates directory.
  • Editing Modes: Crop, rotation, and region are some present editing modes.
  • Printing: You can print straight from your RAW files without doing any intervening conversion to another file type. 

Pricing 

LightZone is also open source, free and you can download some recent versions of the software. 

Register for the forums access to ask and get help from LightZone anytime the need arises.

4. IrfanView

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for Viewing and Converting Images on Windows

IrfanView is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for Viewing and Converting Images on Windows

Main Features

  • Batch Conversion: Easily perform batch conversion and take advantage of the advanced image processing of all files. 
  • Watermark: Personalize your images with overlay text and image. 
  • Paint Options: Draw lines, circles arrows, and straighten your images. 
  • Available Support: There is support for unicode, Adobe photoshop filters, embedded color profiles in JPG/TIF files, and batch scan.
  • Registry Changes: Registry changes can only be performed with user action or permission.
  • Other Features: Additional features include IPTC editing, screen capturing, command-line options, fast directory view, file search, multiple undo steps, Icons extraction and multipage TIFF editing.

Pricing 

If you want to use IrfanView for non-commercial purposes such as private and educational use, then you don’t have to pay any money

However, for commercial uses, you have to carry out a paid registration.

5. Chasys Draw IES

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for Multimedia Editing

Chasys Draw IES is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for Multimedia Editing

Main Features

  • Applications Suite: Chasys Draw IES contains multiple image editing applications like layer-based editor with adjustment layers, multi-threaded image file converter, image viewer, icon editing support, and super-resolution through image stacking.
  • File Browser: A file browser is also integrated in the Chasys Draw IES application. 
  • Plug-ins: There are plugins for animated cursors, animated GIF, AVI video, JPEG-2000 and WebP. 
  • Palettes: The available palettes include pantone equivalent palettes for PMS 100 to 814-2x and smart-dither to custom palette. 
  • Available Support: UAC aware with full windows 10 support, tablet/pen/stylus support with pressure control, photoshop filter plug-ins, anti-aliasing and supersampling support in tools and paths, support for OpenRaster interchange file format. 
  • Multilingual: Multiple language support with user-editable language files is also available.
  • Version Update: The Chasys Draw IES is regularly updated and a new version becomes available every 2 to 4 months. 

Pricing 

Chasys Draw IES is a free software so you can use it for free as long as you have computers running Microsoft Windows operating system.

6. Capture One Express

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for RAW Image Conversion and Auto-Adjustments Provided You Have a Fujifilm or Sony Camera

Capture One Express is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for RAW Image Conversion

Main Features

  • Automatic Adjustments: Colors, shadows, brightness and other elements are automatically adjusted. 
  • Editing and Styles: Apart from the automatic adjustments, you can still make your desired edits with easy tools and employ instant looks with styles. 
  • Photos Export: Easily export your photos and explore the available tools to create better images. 
  • Free Tutorials: There are available tutorials for landscape editing, wildlife editing and street editing.

Pricing 

Unlike Capture One Pro which requires you to make some payments, capture One Express is a totally free version

Still, it has a considerable number of basic features that you might need in a Lightroom alternative. 

If you, however, need additional features, you can upgrade anytime to the paid version which is Capture One Pro.

7. Apple Photos

Best FREE Lightroom Alternative for Editing RAW Images

Apple Photos is the Best Free Lightroom Alternative for Editing RAW Images

Main Features

  • Auto Enhance: Smoothly regulate the intensity of auto enhance and view adjustments such as exposure, brightness or contrast when you dial up or down. 
  • Tools: You can use tools like rotate, crop and auto enhance on your videos. 
  • RAW Image Editing: Import and edit RAW images from separate cameras. 
  • Photos Tab: Without having to comb through a difficult interface, easily find and visualize your favorite photos and video, smartly arranged in a photo grid according to years, months, days and all photos. 
  • Intelligent Curation and Suggestions: The photos tab utilizes on-device machine learning to hide look-alike photos and remove screenshots and receipt, intelligent suggestions are also provided on photos that you can enrich by applying effects.
  • For You Tab: Here, you can find all your shared album activity, favorable memories, and best moments. 

Pricing 

Apple Photos is free to use.

You can use all the features you want without worrying about paying a subscription fee or buying a perpetual license.

How to Choose the Best Lightroom Alternative?

Now, how do you choose the best Lightroom alternative? 

Should you go for a paid Lightroom alternative or should you choose from the free ones? 

Are there factors you should consider before selecting a Lightroom alternative? 

Don’t worry, you have come to the section where you will be guided on how to choose the best Lightroom alternative

So, let’s look at some of the factors you should consider before choosing any Lightroom alternative. 

1. Installation and Usage

Coming first on the list of factors that you need to consider before choosing a Lightroom alternative is the installation process and usage experience. 

Why is this important? 

It is important because if you choose a Lightroom alternative that has a complicated interface and poor user-experience, you might go through unnecessary stress when using it.

In fact, even if you are a professional photographer and you know your way around photo editing softwares, it’s still better if you go for a Lightroom alternative that you are familiar with, both to set up and to use. 

And if you are a beginner, consider choosing a Lightroom alternative with simple and self-explanatory features.

Most Lightroom alternatives provide different useful training and guides. 

Moreso, if you would like to use a free and open source photo editing software, ensure that you are familiar with the installation process. 

So put simply, don’t choose a Lightroom alternative that is difficult to set up and use.

2. Available Features and Your Editing Needs

Another important factor you should consider before choosing a Lightroom alternative is the available features. 

What are the exact features you would love to see in a photo editing software? 

Is it batch conversion, color editing, tone mapping, presets or lens corrections? 

On a general level, you might notice that most of the Lightroom alternatives reviewed above have almost similar features but if you take a deeper look, you would find out that they differ in some additional features

And most times, they have different use cases for which they are best suited. 

But what determines the features that you should look for in a Lightroom Alternative? 

The answer is simple: your editing needs

Do you only want to give your images that awesome and beautiful look that will wow viewers? 

Or will you rather like to go deeper by adding layer masks and watermarks? 

What you want for your images determines the features that you need and ultimately, the photo editing software that you will choose. 

3. Budget Plan

Do you already have a Lightroom alternative in mind, that has a good user interface and provides optimum user experience? 

Are you certain of the features you want in a Lightroom alternative? 

If your answer was ‘yes!’ to the above questions, then the next factor you have got to consider is your budget plan.

How much do you plan to spend on a photo editing software

I would advise you to choose an alternative to Lightroom that you can afford without running out of your budget. 

Depending on what you want, you can either go on a subscription plan or buy a perpetual license which allows you to use the software for an unlimited period.

Although, note that the number of features available in many photo editing software largely affect the costs for the softwares. 

So if you want more features than normal, you might have to pay more.

4. Customer Support and Trial Plan

If you choose a photo editing software with simple user interface, good features, and affordable but has very poor customer support, then you might face lots of avoidable and unnecessary stress later. 

This reason is because selecting a Lightroom alternative with handy customer support allows you to quickly get solutions to issues you face when using the particular photo editing software. 

For example, let’s say a feature does not work properly or you need help on your subscription or purchase process, then you can easily contact the customer support team and avoid being stuck. 

Even a substantial number of free Lightroom alternatives have forums and communities where users discuss and provide solutions to problems faced by other users. 

Additionally, ensure you firstly try out the trial plan of any Lightroom alternative that you want to use, if it’s available.

Doing so will allow you to know the available features and to see if it is best for your needs.

FAQs

What is the Best Alternative to Lightroom for Photo Editing?

Selecting the best alternative to Lightroom depends substantially on the exact type of photo editing software that you want.

Is it one that is perfect for RAW image processing, lens corrections, portrait editing, or advanced editing?

Better still, do you want a less cheaper alternative or would you rather go for one that won’t require you to pay any fees? 

So it really depends so much on what you need when it comes to choosing the best alternative to Lightroom.

However, photo editing softwares like On1 Photo RAW, Skylum LuminarAI, RawTherapee, DxO Photo Lab and LightZone are Lightroom alternatives that provide as many features that you can find in Lightroom and are relatively also cheaper.

Is There a Cheaper Alternative to Lightroom?

Of course, there are many cheaper alternatives to Lightroom such as Exposure X6, Skylum Luminar AI, Corel AfterShot Pro and RawTherapee.

Moreso,  they provide as many editing features as you can find in Lightroom.

So you don’t have to worry anymore about paying the costly pricing that Lightroom charges.

Which Lightroom Alternative Should I Pick?

A major way to know the best Lightroom alternative that you can choose is to consider the features that you want.

You also need to consider the level of your experience when it comes to using photo editing softwares. 

For example, if you are a beginner, you should go for a simple-to-use Lightroom alternative software that provides basic editing features which you can easily use without requiring any advanced experience. 

And before you go with an open source and free Lightroom alternative, ensure that you are familiar with the software features and how to install it on your computer

So, here are some major use cases of different Lightroom alternatives that we have today. 

So go ahead, choose a Lightroom alternative that you can afford and which still provides you with the features that you need for better, quality and beautiful images that you have always wanted.

Written by
Anastasia Belyh
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