10 Best Free and Paid Lightroom Alternatives

By | December 30, 2021

Adobe Lightroom is the default photo management and editing application for many photographers. But where you could once buy a program and use it for as long as you wanted, it’s now only available via subscription. Which is a model that doesn’t work for everyone.

What are the best Lightroom alternatives? Can you get the best features of Adobe Lightroom for free, or at least for one, one time? Here are your best choices.

The Best Lightroom Alternatives of the Year

Adobe Lightroom is not for everyone. So, if you are looking for other options, here are the best Lightroom alternatives of the year.

Capture One Pro

The Capture One Pro is the closest thing to a direct replacement for Lightroom, though its $299 starting price makes it a tool for professionals and only very serious hobbyists.

The feature set is impressive. You can migrate your catalog from Lightroom. There is support for RAW files from over 400 cameras. The editing tools are comprehensive, and presented in a very visually appealing way. And there’s plenty of pro-level functionality, including support for tethered, live view shooting.

Capture One Pro tends to be overkill for many users. But there are trials available, so you can easily test them yourself.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More Information: PhaseOne ($299, free trial available)

DarkTable

At the other end of the spectrum for Capture One, there is DarkTable. It’s free and open source, but still replicates the core functionality of Lightroom.

DarkTable offers detailed asset management and decent editing options. RAW processing support for more than 400 cameras is highly respected by its users. It also includes tools that have been removed from Lightroom CC, including toning and curve adjustments.

Available for: Mac, Linux, Windows

Adobe Bridge

Long before Lightroom, Bridge + Photoshop was the setting of choice for many photographers. Adobe Bridge is the asset management part of that combination.

It’s still available, it’s still a good Lightroom alternative, and it’s one of the best free Adobe apps you can use. You’ll need an Adobe account to download it, but a basic, unpaid account is fine.

Bridge takes care of all your catalog needs. You can organize your images into folders and collections, add star ratings, apply keywords, view metadata, and so on.

Adobe Camera Raw is not included in the free version, so you will need to add your own RAW processor if you shoot RAW. You’ll also need to add your own editing app GIMP is a great free Photoshop alternative, or check out Affinity Photo as an affordable paid option.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More Information: Adobe (Free)

DxO PhotoLab

Previously called OpticsPro, PhotoLab is a pro-level image editing app that competes with Capture One and costs the same as Lightroom 6. The feature set is also comparable, with full asset management included, so you can import and organize your images. This is not present in older versions of the software.

The editing features of Lightroom are all there, and it’s easy to use and very responsive. The noise reduction capability in particular is highly rated. In addition there are some basic local adjustment tools, and RAW support extends to up to 400 cameras. It all adds up to a quality tool and is a viable alternative to Lightroom for most users.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More Information: DxO ($99–$149, free trial available)

RawTherapee

RawTherapee is primarily a standalone RAW processor with wide camera support. It’s an alternative to Adobe Camera Raw like Lightroom, but with some basic digital asset management features, still worth considering.

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RawTherapee will not import your images and sort them into folders for you you need to do it another way. But once they’re there you can apply colors and ratings to help track your best shots.

RAW capabilities have a solid reputation among enthusiasts. This is especially true for users of Fuji cameras, which produce extremely challenging RAW files. There is a certain learning curve to the app, but it does reward the time you put in.

Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux

Skylum Luminar 3

Luminar is one of the most affordable Lightroom alternatives, but that doesn’t make it light on features. It includes AI tools that recognize the content of your images, and allow you to make selective adjustments much easier. You can change the exposure of the sky, for example, without touching the people in the foreground.

There are multiple filters, powerful sharpening options, ways to reduce noise in your photos, and most of the retouching tools you’d expect from Lightroom. Gallery lets you import, organize and manage a large library of photos as well. This is a great app and well worth a look.

Available for: Windows, Mac

ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo RAW is a newcomer to the market. It combines the best of Lightroom – cataloging and organization tools plus fast RAW processing – with some concepts from Photoshop, including layer support. This allows you to combine images together in a way that you can’t do in other Lightroom alternatives.

It’s fast, and has the power to make local adjustments and work with effects and filters. But it suffers a bit from a cluttered interface that hides important tools while also causing you to rethink your workflow.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More Information: ON1 ($119, free trial available)

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional is a Windows program that definitely keeps Lightroom in its sights. Priced at $99.99, it has all the main features of an Adobe app, plus a few extras of its own.

You get a comprehensive catalog and organizing tools, and a comprehensive RAW editing mode with support for over 500 cameras. But you also get things like the Liquify tool which allows you to retouch photos by moving groups of pixels without changing them. You usually have to turn to Photoshop for that.

Available for: Windows

More Information: ACDSee ($99, free trial available)

Apple Photo

Finally, what about Apple and the Google Photos app? Chances are you already use both on your phone. Can they give you the best Lightroom features for free?

Apple Photos is great for photo management, and it works great with your third-party editor of choice. The addition of tools like tone curves and definition sliders has made it easier to get the kind of results you expect from Lightroom. RAW support is built into macOS, so the app works with a large number of cameras.

Photos includes cloud storage for all your pictures. to learn how to get the most out of it.

Available for: Mac

Google Photo

Google Photos is completely cloud-based, and runs in a browser on your desktop. That might make it a total non-starter for you. But the processing ability is very good. It benefits from technology brought in from apps like Snapseed, as well as from Google’s machine learning algorithms. It also has some limited support for RAW files.

Google is great for organizing your photos. You don’t have to worry about adding keywords, as they automatically identify things in your shot and produce them with a simple search. However, it is not good for managing large shoots.

Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS

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