8 Best Photo Editing Apps for Mac (Free and Paid)
iPhones have redefined photography by putting a very capable camera inside everyone’s pocket. Digital photography has also received a big impetus because of the increasing social media interaction as more and more people are sharing their photos on this platforms. And while photos taken directly form an iPhone or a DSLR camera for that matter is good enough in itself for being shared on social media platforms, if you want more creative control over how your photos look, it’s worth taking a look at some photo editing apps which can grant you that control and there’s no place better than your Mac to get those apps.
I understand that extensive photo editing is not for everyone as most of the people don’t want to spend hours editing their photos. That’s why a Mac is so powerful for photo editing as people get the option to choose between intensive photo editing apps and fairly easy ones. There are also both paid and free options out there so no matter what your budget is, you can get the best photo editing app that meets your requirements.
Personally, I have used quite a few photo editing apps in the past and there are two main ones which I switch between depending on my needs. However, since not all of you will have the same workflow as me, I have tested and collected a list of 8 best photo editing apps for mac, both free and paid to help you on your photo editing journey:
Best Photo Editing Software for Mac
As I mentioned, different people have different requirements when it comes to photo editing and not one app is the best for everyone. That’s why, to make things easier for my readers, I have divided the 8 photo editors into different sections. The sections are not totally exclusive because as these photo editing software come with a huge set of overlapping features. That being said, the sections will help you get a clear idea of what you are looking for:
Best Pro Photo Editors for Mac
1. Affinity Photo
The first photo editing app on our list is something that I am using for the last two years and it is one of the two photo editing apps that rely upon. The app features professional tools and supports almost all the know file formats including JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF,PDF, PSD, and RAW photos. It comes with all the basic photo editing tools that you can expect from a pro photo editing app such as red eye removal, cropping, selection, painting and drawing tools, color correction tools, masks, filters, layers, and more. It also features an uncluttered UI with clearly marked tools which are both easy to find and use. Affinity Photo also brings support for extensive keyboard shortcuts which makes the photo editing more enjoyable and fast once you put some time into learning the software.
While there is a bit of learning curve, which is understandable, the developers offer tons of written and video tutorials which is more than enough to get anyone started. I am also fond of its non-destructive photo editing approach which keeps the original photo intact until you manually override it with your edited photo. There’s also support for extensive history and users can easily undo/redo changes up to 8000 steps which is way more than anyone will ever need. Finally, it also offers an Apple Photos plugin allowing you to do minor adjustments right inside the Photos app. The only missing feature here is the Digital Asset Management or DAM which means you can use it as a photo repository, something Adobe Lightroom users will surely miss. If that’s not a concern for you, I can recommend this app without any hesitation.
2. Luminar 2018
The second photo editor on this list is an app that I discovered just a few months back and have fallen in love with. Luminar 2018 is a full-fledged pro photo editing tool for Mac which is also the easiest to use. Since I switch from Affinity Photo to Luminar, I have more than halved the time I used to spend on photo editing without any drop in quality. That is a deal that I am going to take any day. The before and after photo that you can see in the Affinity Photo section took me around 5 minutes to edit, while the picture you are seeing below took me just one click. It is because Luminar 2018 comes with a set of more than 60 filters, some of which even use artificial intelligence, to enhance your photos with just a click.
Now, before you start comparing Luminar to glorified Instagram filters, let me tell you that the filters are there just as the primary step. The filters basically use a set of presets which are configured for those filters. You always have access to all the photo editing tools such as masks, layers, gradients, color correction, and more, and you can use them to make manual changes to your photo just as you do with any other pro photo editing app. The inclusion of filters allows you to get quite near to your end result with just one click. From there, you can make the minute adjustments to get your perfect photo. One of my favorite features of Luminar 2019 is its before and after slider which allows me to instantly visualize the changes that I have made and compare the edited image to the original image.
Also, while there’s no support for DAM now, it will be released as a free upgrade to everyone in a few months which will give it another edge over its competitors. I quite like Luminar 2018 and in my opinion, there is one thing that can totally describe what this software is and how I feel about it. Just like Affinity Photo and other pro photo editing apps mentioned in this section, Luminar 2018 is a beast when it comes to photo editing. However, it’s a beast that can be easily tamed and used to perfection without it creating any problem for us. Whether you are a professional photo editor who needs to save time or an amateur who wants to learn professional photo editing, Luminar is a great photo editing tool for either.
3. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
No photo editing app list can be complete with mentioning Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC as it is one of the most powerful photo editing app that you can get on your Mac. Apart from the obvious photo editing features, the biggest benefit of using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC is that it comes with a fully functional Digital Asset Management or DAM which allows users to not only manage their entire photo catalogue but also upload it to cloud so they can access it from anywhere. That is one of the biggest strength of Adobe Lightroom and if that is something you want, currently, there’s no better app out there. At least, not until Luminar releases its own DAM system.
Coming back to the photo editing tools, the Adobe Lightroom CC is packed with them. It might not be as easy as Luminar but it doesn’t lag behind when it comes to power. If you are ready to spend some time in it, Adobe Lightroom CC should fulfill all your photo editing requirements. You get access to all the usual tools including blend, blur, layers, color correction, color matching, and more. My biggest problem with Adobe Lightroom CC is its subscription-based pricing system which makes this only viable for people who are using this to earn money. If you are just using the app for yourself, both Affinity Photo and Luminar will serve you better as far as return of investment is concerned.
4. Pixelmator Pro
Pixelmator Pro is yet another pro photo editing tool for Mac which you should take a look at. The app not only brings an extensive collection of tools for editing and retouching photos but it also allows you to paint, create graphics design, and much more. However, since we are focusing only on photo editing software for Mac here, we will keep our interested limited to those features only. I have used Pixelmator Pro for about a month and I found that it has everything that you might need from a photo editing software. In fact, the new 1.21 update of Pixelmator Pro also brings a ton of other features that you won’t find on most of the photo editing tools on this list.
For example, Pixelmator Pro comes with a new ML-Enhance mode which uses artificial intelligence trained on a catalog of 20 million professional photos, to automatically fine-tune 37 individual color adjustments. Just like Luminar, this feature gives you a great starting point for making fine-tuned adjustment to your photos. That said, the ML-Enhance, only has one pre-set and I like Luminar’s approach far more better. Overall, I quite enjoyed using Pixelmator Pro and if you don’t like any of the above-mentioned software, you should give a chance to Pixelmator Pro.
Best Free and Open Source Photo Editing Apps for Mac
GIMP is like Adobe Photoshop but for people who like open-source software. GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program is packed with features and allows you to make pro-level editing of your photos. Since it is an open-source app, it is completely free of charge. That said, GIMP also comes with the problems that most open-source app suffer from which is to say that it’s UI looks old and is not at all user friendly. In fact, GIMP is one of the hardest image editing apps you will find on this list. You will need to spend quite a bit of time in learning its ins and outs and only then will you be able to take full advantage of its potential.
At least, I found GIMP to be too hard for my taste. I remember one time I mistakenly made a change to its workspace and it took me almost 15-20 minutes to get it back to the version I was familiar with. That being said, thousands and thousands of Mac owners are using GIMP everyday for their photo editing needs, so, I might be an anomaly here. Once you put in enough time to learn GIMP, you will find that it has all the features that you need now and might need in the future.
2. Fotor Photo Editor
If you are looking for a free yet accessible photo editing software, take a look at the Fotor Photo Editor. It might not be as powerful as GIMP but it is fairly easy to learn which makes this a great image editing app for beginners. The app supports importing and exporting of a wide range of image formats including TIFF, JPEG, and PNG, and even RAW files. When it comes to features, Fotor brings enough tools that you won’t find it dragging you down unless you are a pro user.
One of my favorite tool of Fotor is batch processing which allows me to apply preset conditions to images in batches thereby saving me a lot of time. Other features of Fotor include effects, borders, the ability to create collages, tilt-shift, and more. To explain simply, Fotor is basically an easier and watered-down version of Lightroom, Luminar, or other pro image editing apps for Mac on this list.
Best AI-Powered Photo Editing Apps for Mac
I thought long and hard about whether I should include this app on this list or not as the app technically doesn’t allow you to edit photos. Still, I know that there are certain users our there who don’t want to spend time on editing photos but also want their photos to look decent. Well, if you are one of those people then this is the app for you. To use, Photolemur, all you need to do is drag and drop pictures on it. You can do it in batches or one by one. Once you drop images on it, it will apply AI to identify scenes, colors, and faces and enhance them automatically.
Remember, you will not have any control over the retouching what-so-ever. However, in my testing, the app produced respectable images in 90% of the cases, hence, it made the list. The one place it fails 100% of the times is when you already have high-contrast images with popping colors. Apart from that, it works fairly well. I will say it again, it’s not a photo editing app which you should use if you want total control. However, If you really don’t want to spend even a minute on learning to edit and editing your photos, this is your best option.
Best HDR Photo Editors for Mac
If you like to work with HDR or High Dynamic Range photography, AuroraHDR is the best app you can get. If you are not familiar with HDR photography, it combines multiple images (low exposure, medium exposure, and high exposure) to create an image with better dynamic range. What that means is that your photos will have better ratio of light to dark. Your iPhone already does this if you have this setting turned on while you are taking pictures. However, In a more traditional sense, a photographer takes three photos in different exposures and combines them in an HDR photo editing app to get the best results.
For that work, AuroraHDR is the best tool out there. AurorHDR is made by the same developers who make Luminar and hence I found that both apps had more or less same user interface with a focus on different photo editing styles. Remember, if you don’t work with HDR photos manually, you really don’t need to get this app. That being said, I used it with same photos that I use on other photo editing apps and the results were quite impressive. This app is definitely not for everyone, but some of you might enjoy using this.
Bonus: Best Raw Photo Editing Apps for Mac
If you read the review thoroughly till now, which I hope that you did, you will know that all the pro photo editing apps that I mentioned above, including Lightroom, Luminar, Affinity Photo, and Pixelmator Pro support RAW files so it wasn’t really necessary to create this section. Especially because if you are a professional who works only with RAW photos, you must be already using quite pricey RAW photo editor. Still, I was so impressed with this app that I didn’t, not want to include this on my list, especially when it’s completely free to use.
In fact, the description on its website articulate things about this app far better than I could so I will just post it here, “darktable is an open source photography workflow application and raw developer. A virtual light-table and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable light-table, and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.” If this is something you need, you should click on the link to download it right now.
Best Image Editing Apps for Mac: Final Thoughts
While all these photo editing apps are good, you will find that some of them suite you better than the others. For me, Luminar and Affinity Photo work the best and hence I am still sticking to those two. But you should choose the one that fits your editing style and needs. If you find this article informative, comment below to tell us which photo editing app you found to be the best for you.
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