Adobe has established its name over the years as the global standard in photography. And I am sure that if you are a photographer, you must have used Adobe Lightroom at some point, or maybe it is on your wishlist. But is it possible that Adobe Lightroom is the absolute best, and there are no other options in the market that can match up?
Well, that’s not true at all. Adobe Lightroom is undoubtedly one of the best tools in the market that helps you process and manage your photos. But let’s be honest; not everyone wants to pay for a subscription to use the tool. The platform does offer premium features, but also at a premium price.
Being in the photography industry for several years now, I love testing and trying out new tools to upgrade the photos I click and take up a notch. A lot of fellow photographers have asked me about Adobe Lightroom alternatives, and I have also seen this question on multiple forums. So that is precisely what I will talk about in this article.
You do not need to think that Adobe lightroom is the only option and that your photos won’t turn out as good if you do not use that particular tool. Because, yes, there are other alternatives that can perform equally good, if not better.
And you know another bonus point? The recommendations are going to mention in this article are all free, and you do not need to pay anything to use them. So if you want to know the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives, keep on waiting till the end.
Why is Adobe Lightroom so popular?
Adobe Lightroom is one of the best photo editing and organization software, which can be used on both mobile and desktop. An exciting feature that separates this software from the other photo editing software under Adobe is that when you edit any image, the original file stays as it is, and a separate edited copy is created.
The software can also process JPEG and RAW images easily and also store all the photos in the library without any issues. It also allows you to edit photos in a variety of ways.
Adobe Lightroom is so popular among professional photographers because it is easy and convenient to edit, view, import, organize, and even share a vast number of images.
However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows, and there are a few issues in Adobe Lightroom as well, due to which people are looking for alternatives.
Why should you try Adobe Lightroom alternatives?
Well, even though Adobe Lightroom is pretty impressive, I observed a few issues, due to which I started looking for alternatives. During the research process, I also came across the experiences of multiple users. And I was clear that I was not the only one who was facing this issue.
The first problem is the price. Adobe Lightroom is not cheap. And once I found the alternatives which work just as well and are free, I did not see any point in using the software again.
Secondly, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to using Adobe Lightroom. If you are a beginner in the world of editing photos, it will take you significant practice to get the hang of the tool and its features.
And even though Adobe Lightroom can manage and organize photos quite well, I feel the photo editing tools are not as advanced as I would like them to be, considering the price I have to pay. It has limited editing options, and you will find better alternatives that can do almost the same work for free.
I think I have given enough build-up about helping you find the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives. So let’s move on to the section we all have been waiting for the most.
Best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives
Mentioned below are my favorite recommendations for the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives. It was a treat trying this out because they have some incredible features and perform amazingly well. And the thing I love the most about these is that all of them are free of cost.
So let’s get right into it.
I cannot even count the number of times I have heard and read excellent reviews for this particular tool. And after using it, I just have one thing to say- it deserves all the hype it gets. Darktable is a free, open-source, and cross-platform that is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X/MacPorts, Solaris 11/GNOME, and even Linux. When they said cross-platform, they meant it quite seriously.
You might feel that most free photo editing tools are not polished enough and do not contain impressive features. But your point of view will change once you use Darktable. I love that it is constantly being worked on and updated by professionals. So even if there are any bugs and glitches, it gets fixed within a short time.
I was also impressed by the wide variety of formats that are supported on this platform, including JPEG, RAW, RAF, HDR, and many more. Even if you edit any RAW photo, it still keeps the original one, and you can always go back to it quickly.
The reading process is quite fast, thanks to GPU-accelerated image processing. It also supports over 21 languages, and even if you think that you may have a hard time figuring out the soft platform as a newbie, there is nothing to worry about. Give get access to user forums, posts containing instructions, and even video tutorials on how to use it.
When I first found out that Darktable is open-source, I thought the UI would be chaotic. But it is far from the truth. The options to export data are varied, and you can even export the photos straight to Facebook or Flickr or even mail them directly to someone.
The management tools are fantastic and help you tag and sort your images systematically. If you have been working with Adobe Lightroom for a considerable time, like me, you may feel that the ability to recover highlights and shadows in Darktable could have been better. But honestly, the difference is not that significant.
Overall, I think it is one of the best and the most developed free Adobe Lightroom alternative you can get. And I will 100% recommend you to try it out.
- It is free to use.
- It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- It supports a wide range of image formats.
- It supports RAW processing for more than 400 cameras.
- You can search content by star rating, color labels, tags, etc.
- The tool supports multiple languages.
- You get access to tons of video tutorials, instructional posts, and support forums.
I have another open-source platform for you to try out here. RawTherapee is another incredible free tool that is compatible with Windows, Mac, and LINUX devices. As you might have already guessed from the name, it is a tool specializing in processing RAW images.
It has got all the features you might need in a RAW editor. From advanced color controls to lens corrections, it has the required editing features. You get an incredible number of settings to experiment with the processing, and it is actually fun.
Another thing I observed while using RawTherapee is that it has a similar user interface to Adobe Lightroom. And if you have used Photoshop for Lightroom before, it will be straightforward for you to get the hang of this tool quickly. Even if I consider only beginners, the user interface is still friendly.
However, RawTherapee is not very quick or responsive, and I did not find many instruction videos about how to use the platform. Another aspect where I feel the tool is lacking is the organizational features and printing capabilities. So this is important to know before you start using the tool.
RawTherapee supports over 25 languages, and the count is still increasing. I feel that this tool is best suited for photographers who are well aware of the technicalities involved while editing images. But that does not mean the others will have a bad experience. The only problem is that the learning curve is steep, and the process might put you off.
But it is still one of the best free Adobe lightroom alternatives you will come across, and it’s definitely worth trying.
- It is a fantastic RAW image processor.
- It is an open-source platform.
- The user interface is super beginner-friendly.
- The tool is supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- It features advanced color-correcting tools and lens corrections.
- It supports over 25 languages.
- There is a lack of management features and printing options.
If you are looking for an image editor and organizing the photos is not a major priority, then Snapseed is one of the best options to go for. It is free to use, but it works only on a smartphone, not a PC. There is no desktop version of this software.
I will not say it is an extraordinary editing tool, but it offers all the basic features like tuning images, rotating and cropping, spot repair, selective, etc. Every time I use this mobile app, I find it very convenient and easy to use. All you need to do is use simple swiping movements to experiment with a wide variety of effects.
If you do not want to increase or decrease the level manually, there is also an auto mode that can adjust color and contrast automatically. Another feature highlight is whenever you are editing any photos, the app preserves those changes, and you can go back to any of the previous edits. Plus, the original picture remains as it is without getting affected.
The user interface of Snapseed is pretty simple, and the editing tools and filters are quite basic but decent. It performs pretty well for a free application. And last but not least, once you are done editing the photos, you can upload them directly on different social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.
Overall, if you are looking for something simple and basic but efficient at the same time, Snapseed is an excellent option to try out.
- It is a free application for smartphones.
- Snapseed is compatible with both Android and IOS devices.
- The user interface is straightforward.
- There are more than 29 editing tools.
- The face pose/head pose tool can tilt a face upwards, downwards, and even sidewards in a single-face photo.
- It has an inbuilt sharing feature.
Another fantastic Adobe Lightroom alternative, digiKam, is a free and open-source tool and is primarily known for its professional photo management capabilities. I was surprised by just how much you can achieve with this tool, from editing, managing, exporting, importing, to even sharing.
I wanted to check whether the told can process RAW images. Yes, it can, but that is not the highlight of digiKam. The best part about using this platform is the filtering and catalog-based organization. It was straightforward to search and manage photos, and the platform allows tagging, keywords, and geotagging too.
And I noticed that even if there is a large number of images, the tool did not cause any issues, and finding and sorting them was still quite manageable.
Now, talking about editing photos, there is a wide range of editing tools. You can perform all essential functions, like cropping, changing colors, sharpening images, and much more. But that’s not all. Plugins like digiKam plugins or DPlugins offer additional functionality that allows batch processing photos, adding additional editing tools, etc.
And if you are worried about compatibility on different systems, you don’t have to. I used it on my Windows laptop. But it works equally well for Mac OS and Linux. It is compatible with other operating systems as well, like QT, BSD, and KDE. And even though it is a free platform, you have the option to donate some amount to the developers as a supporter.
Overall, it is a solid alternative and can not only edit pictures but also help in organization and management to a considerable extent.
- It is a free and open-source tool.
- It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- It offers a wide array of editing, managing, importing, exporting, and sharing tools.
- The tool supports tagging, labeling, metadata, rating, etc.
- It can handle over 100,000 images.
- You get access to additional tools via plugins.
5. Apple Photos
This one is especially for Apple users and works on any Apple device, including the iPhone, iPad, and Mac laptops. You don’t have to download and install any software or app to use Apple photos. It is the default image application that comes pre-installed on all Apple devices.
Even though this editing tool is free, it is not open source. But it does get regular updates and is one of the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives that has advanced editing tools. And it was not just the editing part; I can genuinely appreciate the management part too. It stores your images in catalogs, and searching for them is very easy.
Another advantage is that if you have multiple Apple devices, you can store them in the Apple cloud and access them from anywhere and at any time. Apple Photos is a brilliant RAW image processor, and you can easily import them from your cameras.
I was expecting the tool to be somewhat complicated, but I was proven wrong. The interface is very beginner-friendly and straightforward. You can perform all basic editing options like rotating in cropping with ease, and the advanced tools help to perform different functions like adjusting the white balance, exposure, marks, blemishes, etc.
The tool lets you preview your Live Photos, a feature not possible via Adobe Lightroom. Moreover, if you edit any image, the original will not be affected, and you can revert the changes too.
The major disadvantage of this tool is that you can only use it on Apple devices. If you use Windows or Android, you won’t be able to access it.
- It can only be used on Apple devices.
- It can process RAW images quickly.
- The user interface is very straightforward.
- The tool has all the basic editing features you need.
- Image management is very systematic.
- You can preview your Life Photos.
- You can store your photos in the Apple cloud and access them whenever you want.
Well, I know this is pretty basic, but there have been many times when I turned to Google photos to edit my images quickly before uploading. And I do not have any major complaints about it either. It is a perfect choice for beginners who are just starting their journey in the field of photo editing and management.
I appreciate the auto-backup feature because I do not have to back up the images manually from my gallery. If you use the browser version, you can still manually do it from other devices. Initially, you get 15 GB of free storage. And once you have used up all of it, you can purchase more according to your requirement.
Do not expect any advanced editing features from Google Photos. But when it comes to basic photo editing, it does a pretty good job. The one-click feature is convenient, and the Cinematic Moments feature is pretty interesting, where the application animates two similar photos.
The photo management functionality of the tool is also quite basic and uses artificial intelligence to search by face detection, place, etc. You will not find professional management functionalities like keyword tagging, but I was not disappointed while using it.
- It is a free tool.
- It is an excellent tool for beginners and amateur photographers.
- It can back up the images automatically from your phone.
- You get 15 GB of free storage.
- It uses AI search tools, face detection, searching by place, etc.
- It does not offer advanced editing features.
We have come to the end of the list of recommendations for the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives. There is just a slight thing I would like to mention here. I used a tool called Lightzone a year back, and it was a fantastic photo editing tool. However, it lacked advanced management features.
Nonetheless, I would have been happy to include it on the list as a beginner-friendly free alternative, but the tool has gone offline at the start of 2022. And I am not sure whether it is a temporary or permanent outage. Hence, I did not add it to this list.
Adobe Lightroom is definitely an excellent tool for editing, managing, and organizing images. But it does have a few drawbacks. For those who want to try something different or do not want to pay the subscription fees for using it, this list of recommendations for the best free Adobe Lightroom alternatives is just perfect for you.
All of the options on the list are amazing, and you can choose any according to your requirements. However, if I had to pick my favorite, it would be Darktable. When I first came to know that it is an open-source platform, I thought it would be a little chaotic. But it is one of the most well-built and polished tools I have used.
Apart from its compatibility with a range of operating systems, it delivers excellent features for editing images and for organizing them systematically. Plus, you can even refer to a range of video tutorials and instructional posts if you need any support.
I hope this article has been helpful for you in picking out the best free Adobe Lightroom alternative for you.