Photo editing used to be a professional undertaking that required some background experience or knowledge in the art. However, thanks to numerous photo editing software programs that come with presets nowadays, just about anyone can edit photos with the simple click of a button. With so many options in the market, though, it can be difficult to narrow down which exactly is the best one that suits your individual needs. Additionally, some tools require you to pay first in exchange for the service, which is unfavorable to those on a budget.
Here’s the best free photo editing software that should get your photo edited in a jiffy.
What Are the Criteria for a Good Photo Editing Software?
When looking for a good photo editing software, you naturally want to compare it against a set of criteria. The bare minimum functions you should have in a photo editing software is the ability to crop, rotate, color correction, and resize photos. It should also allow you to adjust various photo settings, such as brightness and contrast. Aside from that, the software you choose should support multiple file formats, allow you to organize photos, and let you export them, too. With just these tools alone, you can already edit photos to an extent.
However, if you want a more advanced photo editing software, you need to look for advanced features as well. These include layering, filters, and effects. These are not minimum requirements, but they add a certain edge to a photo editing software over other options.
When it comes to photo editing software, most people immediately think of Adobe Photoshop as the benchmark or industry standard. And while Photoshop is definitely a great photo editing software, it is not the only one out there. In fact, there are many Photoshop alternatives you can use and will give you just as impressive a result. With all the tools you have, you’ll first need to know how to use it. Here’s a guide on how to edit photos.
1. Adobe Lightroom
- – Built-in file management system in gallery and collection
– Fast and easy to sync photos to your gadgets
– Extensive editing features even for the free version
– Comprise of cloning and healing ability that’s often only available on premium software
– Comes with presets for fast edit
- – Not the best option for photo collage
– Limited graphic designs and stickers
Although the PC version of Adobe Lightroom is not free, the mobile app definitely is. With the Lightroom app, you can edit, view, and organize your photos with relative ease. It has all the basic functions, plus a wide selection of editing tools. Using this app, you can adjust things like temperature, tint, vibrance, and saturation. There are even one-tap presets you can use to edit your photos in an instant.
Adobe Lightroom is available for download on Android and iOS devices. If you want to make use of the 1 TB cloud storage, though, you will need a paid subscription, which starts at $9.99 per month.
2. Apple Photos
- – Sleek and intuitive interface
– Easy and fast to sync images to your devices
– Comes with free presets and filters
– Free with no strings attached
- – Only available on Mac
– Basic image editing tool
Apple fans will be glad to know that the free photo editor that comes with their device has some formidable capabilities. With Apple Photos, iOS users can adjust standard settings, such as cropping, color, retouching, and exposure, to name a few. You can also share your images, edited or not, across all your Apple devices. Thanks to Apple Photos, this feature makes it easy to do so. Apart from that, this free photo editing software that comes with most Apple devices also has image cataloging and searching functions.
In terms of presets and filters, Apple Photos offers a few. While the selection is not as wide as other free photo editing software, the app can still get the job done with ease. Local adjustments are also nonexistent, so if you are looking for software that lets you do that, this is not the app for you. On the plus side, though, Apple Photos is completely free and comes with no strings attached.
3. Capture One Pro
- – A high-end photo editing tool
– Enhanced DNG support
– Able to edit with add on layers
- – Lacked of organisation tools
– Focus more on processing raw images only
If you want something similar to Adobe Lightroom in terms of functionality, Capture One Pro is the closest you will get. This free photo editing software provides you with a range of features. There are manual enhancement tools and cataloging tools to take advantage of. You can also use seamless raw processing. Apart from that, there are plenty of preset effects that let you edit your photos with a single tap. If you want to make adjustments yourself, Capture One Pro also offers local adjustments with layers and masks.
Capture One Pro is not free to use forever. You can start with a 30-day free trial, but the software will cost you $20 a month after that. Alternatively, you can also choose to pay for a full year at a discounted price of $180. Capture One Pro also offers you a chance to pay one time to buy the latest version of its software for $299.
- – Excellent UI whereby you can redo and undo uninterruptedly
– Allows customization
– Able to support a good amount of image formats
- – Comes with basic image enhancement for a free version
– May experience crashes while editing from time-to-time
Another Lightroom dupe, Darktable is an open-source online photo editor that works in the same league as professional software without being expensive. In fact, due to its open-source nature, Darktable is totally free of charge. There are no paywalls or subscriptions, allowing you full access to its functions without worrying about the cost. That does not mean, however, that its features are not worth checking out.
Darktable works similarly to Adobe Lightroom, both in function and layout. You can use it to import images into a library before using its non-destructive editing tools to alter your images. It supports both JPEG and RAW files, too. Darktable also has plenty of presets and filters to choose from, for days when you do not feel like manually adjusting the settings.
5. DxO PhotoLab
- – Clean and sleek interface
– Support noise reduction and color correcting
– Professional-grade tools
- – Slow processor
– Might crash when image is heavily edited
If you know the powerful functionalities of DxO Optics Pro, then you will be happy to know about DxO PhotoLab. From the same makers, PhotoLab provides you with the ability to make local adjustments to your photos. You can also make use of its perspective corrections, raw tools, and preset effects, though not all features come free. In terms of cataloging, PhotoLab lacks in that area. However, it does give you a basic folder browsing.
You can take advantage of DxO PhotoLab and its full features for free if you get the 30-day trial. After that, though, you will need to pay for the photo editing software. The Essential Edition costs $129, and the Elite Edition costs $199.
6. Exposure X5
- – Support layering photo edits
– Auto-adjust photo exposure, contrast, highlights
– Easy import and export feature
- – Limited editing tools for the free version
– Lack of organization tools
Feeling particularly nostalgic? Give Exposure X5 a try. This free photo editing software can give your photos that classic analog look and feel, though that does not mean its tools are in any way primitive. On the contrary, its photo enhancement tools are quite modern and advanced. It has an extensive library of film presets and effects, both modern and antique. These effects give you different vibes, such as cross-processing, fading, grain, light leaks, vignetting, and even borders.
Of course, Exposure X5 also has other features to its name. It allows you to make adjustments using the various tools on offer. Apart from that, this photo editor provides you with a quick folder-browsing system so that you can easily organize your images using filters and keywords.
While Exposure X5 comes with a 30-day free trial for those who want to test the waters first, the software is not completely free of charge. After the trial ends, you will need to purchase the software if you want to continue using it. The price starts at $119.
- – Beginner-friendly and easy to use
– Does not take up much memory
– Premium grade photo editing features
- – Photo library needs improvement
– Does not come with any ready-to-design templates
Have you ever wanted to download a free photo editing software but found that your device could not support it? The folks over at Fotor recognize this problem and came up with a simple solution. Fotor is an online photo editor that takes computer and laptop specifications out of the equation. Since it is completely web-based, you do not need to worry about storage space and memory. However, this is not the only benefit of Fotor.
Fotor provides you with a plethora of presets and effects to use, getting rid of the hassle of manual adjustments. Of course, if you want to do manual adjustments, Fotor gives you that capability, too. On the downside, though, if you want to stick with the free version, the maximum image resolution you can work with is 4000 pixels. Additionally, if you want to use Frame effects, there is an obvious watermark as well. You can remove the watermarks and receive access to other features for $39.99 a year.
- – Support multiple file format
– Professional grade illustrations, design tools
– Allows customizations
– Works well even with external plugins
- – Only support online use
– Need time to get used to the program
Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP is a free photo editing software that boasts highly technical and powerful tools. It is not for the faint of heart or for those who know nothing about image editing. In fact, it has been widely touted as a great Photoshop alternative due to its tools and features. It offers the same editing tools, layering, brushes, text, and more. There are also presets and filters you can use in an instant, though there is no cataloging tool.
GIMP is an open-source photo editing software, which means it comes absolutely free of charge. If you have expert-level image editing skills but have no budget for Photoshop, GIMP is the closest you can get. Due to its advanced tools, though, it may not work well for beginners. However, you can always try your hand at it since it is free. You have nothing to lose.
9. Luminar 4
- – Good for quick fixes and user-friendly
– Built-in AI image analysis
– Auto-detect and image improvement function
– Great tool for image aesthetic enhancement
- – Slow processor
– Image management is not as great
Most people just want to apply preset effects to give their photos an instant facelift. If you identify with these people, then Luminar 4 is a great choice for you. With this free photo editing software, you can choose from a collection of presets, which are categorized neatly in one library. While there are existing presets you can use, you can also make your own using the many filters available at your service.
Luminar 4 also supports raw files, though the conversions are understandably subpar compared to other professional tools. However, Luminar 4 still manages to deliver a whole lot of functionalities, including some great editing tools, adjustments, layering, and compositing.
If you want to get your hands on this photo editor, there are no subscriptions involved. You can buy the whole software outright for $89 (or $29.70 in three installments). Alternatively, you can purchase Luminar 4 as a bundle with collections of preset effects. If you just want to try it out, Luminar 4 offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, effectively working as a 30-day free trial. Just make sure to cancel and ask for a full refund before the 30 days expire.
10. Microsoft Windows 10 Photos
- – User-friendly interface
– Decent amount of image correcting tools
– Good image organization management
– Great for editing various image files
- – Lack of filters
– Does not come with a comparison view
If Apple users have Apple Photos, then Windows 10 users get Microsoft Windows 10 Photos. This photo editing application comes totally free with the Windows 10 operating system. With this tool, you can organize your photos neatly and edit them with relative ease. There are preset effects and filters you can use to add extra oomph to your images. You even have the option of drawing on your photos if you feel like it. Microsoft Windows 10 Photos, despite its name, also works for video editing.
This free photo editing software is only good for minor edits. That means you have no way of adjusting advanced settings. So, if you are looking for something a little more technical, you will need to turn to some other software on this list. For its basic functionalities and lack of a price tag, though, Microsoft Windows 10 Photos is a good deal.
11. ON1 Photo RAW
- – Support layering editing
– Comprise of face-tuning feature
– Wide variety of preset filters
- – Might encounter lag from time-to-time
– No geo-tagging
ON1 Photo RAW started out as a plug-in but is now a full-fledged photo editing software. Of course, you can still use it as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom, if you so ever choose. With ON1, you can select from a wide collection of preset effects to apply edits with a single click. There are also manual adjustment filters so you can create your own looks. As a standalone program, you also get cataloging features. More recently, the software has added AI-powered image masking and cutouts to sweeten the deal.
ON1 Photo RAW comes with a 30-day free trial if you want to see how it works first before committing to a purchase. It also works great if you just need to use a photo editor for a short period of time. As a standalone program, ON1 costs $100.
- – Great image editing, management, and organization tool
– Ideal for photo collage and selfies
– Comes with extensive image filters and stickers
– Built-in overlay functions
- – Not suitable for intensive photo editing
– Lack of image color correction function
Picmonkey is an online photo editor you can use either on a computer/laptop or a mobile device. With this program, you can exercise your graphic design and photo editing skills. You can also use a wide set of design templates if you are in a rush. It allows you to make basic adjustments as well before sharing images onto your social media account.
While the Picmonkey app on mobile is free to use, the PC version is not. The basic subscription plan costs $7.99 a month, but it also has a Pro version ($12.99 a month) and a Team version ($33.99 a month). If you are unsure about paying for this service, you can start with a seven-day free trial first.
13. Pixlr X
- – Versatile and easy to use
– Built-in auto-detect for quick fixes
– Extensive features and tools including premium-grade lasso tools, layers, and eraser
– Safe and reliable
- – Not the best for image collage
– Need to save the image file constantly
Pixlr X is a powerful and free Photoshop alternative for the image editor in you. It works both on a web browser or as an app on your Android or iOS device. While Pixlr previously relied on Flash for editing, Pixlr X is a new and improved version that throws Flash out the window.
Although many will find the tools on Pixlr X as basic, this free photo editing software will work for many straight out of the gate. Simply upload the photo of your choice, start editing, and download the final version to save it to your device. It also comes with preset filters and effects as well as basic adjustment tools. If you just want a simple and quick solution to your image editing needs, Pixlr X is a great place to start. You do not even need to create an account to use it.
You can use Pixlr X for free on your computer or laptop through their website. The mobile apps also come free of charge, though you will need to pay to get rid of the intrusive ads.
- – Decent amount of editing tools and functions
– Able crop and heal images
– Does not come with advertisements or pop-ups
– Professional grade presets and essential tools even for professionals
- – Require some time to get a hang of the software
– Software UI/UX is not the best
If you want a free editing app on your iOS or Android device, Snapseed is a great option. In fact, it is widely known for being a powerful mobile photography and editing tool. Apart from capturing images with it, you can edit your photos with no trouble as well. It has an extensive selection of preset effects and filters, which you can apply with just one tap if you are feeling lazy. On the other hand, if you want to exert more creative control, Snapseed lets you do that, too.
Snapseed caters to beginners and experts alike. The best part is, this photo editing app comes with no strings attached. You can download and use it for free without worrying about extra charges.
- – Have the most extensive presets and filters
– Super easy to use
– A good set of editing tools including cropping and color correcting
– Organized galleries and image management
- – Not the best for RAW image processing
– Great for quick image touch up rather than heavy editing
VSCO is a photo editing app that has been around for a while now. With the surge of social media, many influencers have opted for VSCO as their photo editing tool of choice. When it comes to Instagram photos, VSCO reigns supreme.
With this photo editing software, you can easily edit your photos with one-tap presets. Whether you are going for a retro vibe or a boho-chic look, VSCO certainly has a preset that suits your needs. And, if it does not, you can always create one yourself by adjusting various settings. You can even purchase presets and share your own on the app as well.
VSCO is a great tool to hone your editing skills. With this app, you can try out presets and reverse engineer them to see which settings were adjusted to achieve those results. From there, you can learn and make your own presets. But, if you are just looking for an easy way to beautify your Instagram pics, this is the app for you.
VSCO is free to download on Android and iOS. The free version comes with limitations, though. To unlock full features, you need to pay $19.99 a year, but you can try it out first with their 7-day free trial.
Easiest to Use Photo Editing Software
All of these options are relatively easy to use, especially since they all offer built-in presets and effects you can use with just one tap. Some of these photo editing software, though, demand a basic grasp of image editing terms and functions. So, if you are an amateur editor looking for something easy and simple, try the following from the list above:
- Apple Photos
- Microsoft Windows 10 Photos
- Pixlr X
These photo editing software programs are a good jumping-off point for newbies in the industry. From there, you can build your skills and work your way up to more complex tools. Before you know it, you will be editing photos like a pro.
The Decision Is Yours
Photo editing software comes in all shapes and sizes. And, with the advancement of technology and competitive pricing, you can have your pick of the litter. In the end, the best photo editing software is something that only you can decide. You must evaluate your needs and then choose the one that best addresses those needs. Out of your options, though, these are the top 15 free photo editing software that comes with presets. So, take your pick.