7 Best Photo Editing Software Consumer Reports 2019 – Top Rated

To find the best photo editing software, we pitted the best programs tech-giant Adobe has to offer (Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photo Elements) against three highly commended competitors to find out which one was user-friendly enough for beginners and powerful enough for professionals.

Top 7 Photo Editing Software

SaleBestseller No. 1
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2019 [PC/Mac DISC]
41 Reviews
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2019 [PC/Mac DISC]
  • Auto-generated photo and video slideshows and collages are created just for you and...
  • See what's new since your last version, discover fun things to try, and get inspiring...
Bestseller No. 2
Photo Studio
826 Reviews
Photo Studio
  • More than 200 unique filters, amazing special effects, a big collection of...
  • Collage editor allows to combine several photos into amazingly looking photo collages with...
Bestseller No. 3
FotoWorks XL 2019 Version - Photo Editing Software for Windows 10, 7 and 8 - Very easy to use
126 Reviews
FotoWorks XL 2019 Version - Photo Editing Software for Windows 10, 7 and 8 - Very easy to use
  • Fotoworks XL is an all encompassing photo editing program which includes all the features...
  • Photo editing software for Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP -...
SaleBestseller No. 4
Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 Ultimate - Photo Editing and Graphic Design Suite for PC [Amazon Exclusive]
92 Reviews
Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 Ultimate - Photo Editing and Graphic Design Suite for PC [Amazon Exclusive]
  • Expand your creative options with an exclusive bundle of particle brush, animation,...
  • Powerful and non-destructive layers and masks take your photo composites to the next level
Bestseller No. 5
Aurora HDR 2019 - HDR Image Enhancing Program | Amplify Your Images with State-of-the-Art High Dynamic Range Photography Software by Skylum Software | For Mac or PC
6 Reviews
Aurora HDR 2019 - HDR Image Enhancing Program | Amplify Your Images with State-of-the-Art High Dynamic Range Photography Software by Skylum Software | For Mac or PC
  • Aurora HDR 19's Quantum HDR Engine automatically analyzes millions of pixels and...
  • HDR Smart Structure gives you the precise amount of details and structure in an image...
Bestseller No. 6
Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 - Photo Editing and Graphic Design Suite for PC
26 Reviews
Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 - Photo Editing and Graphic Design Suite for PC
  • Powerful photo editing and graphic design software with outstanding results
  • Powerful and non-destructive layers and masks take your photo composites to the next level
SaleBestseller No. 7
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2019 & Premiere Elements 2019 [PC/Mac Disc]
7 Reviews
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2019 & Premiere Elements 2019 [PC/Mac Disc]
  • Auto-generated photo and video slideshows and collages are created just for you and...
  • Easily make movies in the redesigned quick edit mode which offers a simplified scene line

How We Chose the Best Photo Editing Software Programs

Highly rated programs

If you’re hunting for the best photo editing software, you’re likely familiar with Adobe Photoshop, and its outsized reputation is deserved: Parent company Adobe Systems has been a software pioneer since the early ’80s, and it’s been continuously improving Photoshop since its first release in 1989.

The company now offers multiple options, from a single-purchase Adobe Elements 2018 to a Lightroom subscription to a monthly Photography Plan, which combines Lightroom and Photoshop. If you’ve never used Photoshop before, it’s tricky to figure out which version is best: What’s the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop? Between Photoshop and Adobe Elements? We set out to compare each option.

Easy navigation

All our programs let you make hundreds of photo adjustments, but this abundance of options can make even the best photo editing software difficult to navigate. With this in mind, we looked for programs that made it easy to find the right tools on the first try.

Each contender met the same baseline standards, allowing us to collapse editing modules we didn’t need so that histograms and color charts didn’t take up unnecessary screen (and brain) space. We also appreciated that all have guided search features. If you search an action keyword, like “layer,” each program directs you to where you can find the function on your own: Over time, you’ll learn where the layer button is, no search function needed.

Customizable interface

From here, we dug into how much we could customize each interface. We wanted to be able to rearrange lists of tools to our liking, as well as move individual modules around the screen, letting us keep track of whichever toolset was necessary for any given project: If we were background painting, we would want a brush, color wheel, and texture modules open and close-at-hand. If we wanted to work on minute lighting changes, we could close up our coloring modules and arrange the Brightness and Contrast, Shadows and Highlights, and Exposure modules to our liking.

Learning tools

The best photo editing software should also have resources that guide users through unfamiliar functions. Even if you’re a Photoshop whiz, Adobe constantly adds new tools and expands old ones, and beginners are often interested in branching out and expanding their mastery. We looked for tools like videos, tutorials, and online forums that would help make that transition easier for beginners and experts alike.

Technical performance

We couldn’t test and compare the performance of every single tool offered by every single program (we’d be looking at hundreds of different functions). In order to compare technical performance, we focused on a tool that all beginners are likely to use at some point: the healing brush, which allows you to retouch or repair photos. In this tool, you select a “good” portion of the photo to copy and then select the “flawed” section that you want to cover over. In our case, we gauged the efficacy of the healing brush by removing snowy footprints from a backyard photo of our favorite corgi, Wally.

Organization

We also gave extra points to programs with organizational capabilities: arranging, sorting and organizing our photos. This usually entailed folder management, a ranking system for photos (so you can pick out which hummingbird picture is the best one), and informational tagging via keywords, geographic location, and face recognition. Of our test picks, only Serif Affinity lacked some kind of photo organizer.

How to Find the Right Photo Editing Software for You

Decide what tools you need

Different types of image editing require different tools. No matter what you’ll be doing, you’ll want to know which ones you need for your most common projects — these functions might not be immediately necessary, but they’ll let you tackle tasks a little more complex than wiping away corgi footprints.

  • Layers let you combine separate images or edit specific areas of a photograph. These are helpful if you’re trying to remove a photo-bomber from your wedding ceremony on the beach or swapping out the snowy background of your cute dog photo to send him floating through space instead.
  • Applying a mask layer is another technique to isolate areas of a photo for specific editing. If you’d like to make changes to the background of your photograph without affecting the subject, or if you’d like to create a cut-out of a tiny dog from one photograph to layer him into a desert landscape in another, you’ll probably use a mask.
  • Finally, preset filters let you adjust your photos with a single click. These could either take the form of a typical Instagram filter (you click “Black and White” or “Landscape” and it automatically alters your photo) or auto-adjustments on a tool-by-tool case.

Knowing what types of editing you’ll be using the software for will help you narrow down which tools are essential and which are just nice to have.

Test drive several options

All of our top picks offer a free trial, and we recommend taking full advantage of them. You probably know what you’re going to be using the software for, and now’s a good time to see how each of them perform on the type of image editing you need. Pay attention to the number of tools and effects provided, how easy they are to use, and the organization features of each program.

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