While the stock Photos app on Mac packs a few photo editing tools, it is not meant to replace a robust and professional photo editing app. If you want your photos to look good, you need to start looking at third-party photo editors that offer more features and control. I understand that extensive photo editing is not for everyone as most of the people don’t want to spend hours editing their photos. But that’s the beauty of having options. You can choose as intensive or automatic photo editing app as you want. You can even get photo editing apps for Mac that can enhance your photos with a click. 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 in 2021
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.
- Affinity Photo
- Luminar 4
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
- Pixelmator Pro
- Fotor Photo Editor
- Aurora HDR
- Bonus: Photoscape X
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 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.
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 a Digital Asset Management or DAM which means you can not 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.
Get Affinity Photo: Free trial, $49.99
2. Luminar 4
Luminar 4 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 4 comes with a set of more than 60 filters, some of which even use artificial intelligence, to enhance your photos with just a click.
The filters use a set of pre-configured presets that change depending on the subject of the picture. In my experience Luminar 4 works best for portraits and scenic shots. Luminar 4 also lets you adjust the presets if you don’t like the results. You have access to all the photo editing tools such as masks, layers, gradients, color correction, and more. You can use them to make manual changes to your photo just as you do with any other pro photo editing app. The 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 4 is its before and after slider. I can instantly visualize the changes that I have made and compare the edited image to the original image.
Luminar 4 also has a built-in DAM. You can organize, rate, browse, and sort photos just like you can do on Adobe Lightroom. Like Affinity Photo and other pro photo editing apps mentioned in this section, Luminar 4 is a beast when it comes to photo editing. However, it’s a beast that can be easily tamed and used to perfection without 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 4 is a great photo editing tool for either use-cases.
Get Luminar 4: $89.99
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.
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. You get access to all the usual tools including blend, blur, layers, color correction, color matching, and more.
I love its easy-to-use sliders that give users complete control over the light and color properties of their photos. It also lets you shift focus and sharpen your photos to highlight your subject or reduce distraction in the image. 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.
Get Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: $9.9/month
4. Pixelmator Pro
Pixelmator Pro is another pro photo editing tool for Mac which you should try. 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, add effects, and do so 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 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 2.0 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, it now supports Apple M1 Macs, multi GPUs (looking at you Mac Pro), and RAW editing workflows with the new Pro Display XDR.
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 adjustments to your photos.
That said, the ML-Enhance, only has one pre-set and I like Luminar’s approach far better. I do like the new ML De-noise feature which removes noise and image compression artifacts from photos. Not many photo editing apps for Mac can boast of this feature. 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.
Get Pixelmator Pro: Free trial, $39.99
Best Free Open Source Photo Editing Apps for Mac
GIMP is Adobe Photoshop 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.
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.
Get Gimp: Free
6. 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. It 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. While the app is free, recently it has also released a Fotor Pro version which brings more features and costs $39.99/year. You can compare the free and paid version of Fotor by clicking on this link.
Get Fotor: Free
Best One-Click Photo Editing App for Mac
7. Photolemur 3
I thought long and hard whether I should include this app on the list or not as the app technically doesn’t allow you to edit photos. Still, I know that there are users 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.
Get Photolemur 3: $35
Best HDR Photo Editors for Mac
8. Aurora HDR
If you work with HDR or High Dynamic Range photography, Aurora HDR is the best app you can get. For those who are not familiar, HDR combines multiple images (low exposure, medium exposure, and high exposure) to create an image with a better dynamic range. What it means is that your photos will have a better ratio of light and 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, Aurora HDR is the best tool out there. Aurora HDR is made by the same developers who make Luminar and hence I found that both apps had more or less the 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.
Get AuroraHDR 2019: $99
Best Free Raw Photo Editing Apps for Mac
If you read the article thoroughly, 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.
Get darktable: Free
Best Online Photo Editor for Mac (Free Photoshop Alternative)
Photopea is an excellent photo editor for Mac if you don’t want to use a native app. Photopea is a web app that brings almost all the features that Adobe Photoshop has for free. Standout features include content-aware fill, filters support, layers support, a huge selection for brushes, and more.
The app also supports all popular image formats along with app-specific formats, including PSD, XD, Sketch, XCF, RAW, and more. If you have used Adobe Photoshop in the past but want to move on due to its high-cost, this is the perfect solution for you. It even supports most keyboard shortcuts that Photoshop uses.
It also has dozens of PSD templates that you can use to create thumbnails for videos, profile avatars, cards, and more. The only major drawback of this app is that the UI looks a bit dated. But for a free online photo editor, this rocks. If you are looking for a free Photoshop alternative, I urge you to give this app a try. If you find the app interesting, you can get started by visiting its learn page.
Bonus: Photoscape X
Photoscape X is another excellent free app for editing photos on the Mac. While the app does have a pro version that costs money, the free version is more than enough for most users. Apart from the usual tools like resize, crop, rotate, merge, and more, you also get access to pro tools such as color adjustments, filters, de-noising, batch editing, and more.
The interface of the app is functional. So, while it won’t win any design awards, you will find it easier to use. You get the main panels at the top. Here, you can choose between collage, edit, view, GIF, and more. I like that panels are separated depending on tasks. This helps in keeping the side panel, which hosts all your editing tools, clean.
The app supports most of the popular image formats, including RAW. I did find that the app took a bit more time to process large files, but overall, my experience was good enough to include this on the list.
Get Photoscape X: Free, in-app purchases
Best Image Editing Apps for Mac: Final Thoughts
While all these photo editing apps are good, you will find that some of them suit 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.