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Once upon a time, if you asked anyone which was the best photo editing software, they'd always say Photoshop. Get the best tech deals, reviews, product advice, competitions, unmissable tech news and more! There’s plenty of choice too, with simple, affordable options such as Pixelmator vying for attention alongside more advanced and expensive editing programs from big names such as Corel, Cyberlink and Adobe. As we mentioned on the previous slide, Apple has announced that iPhoto will be replaced by Photos for Mac in early 2015, bringing with it a number of features. Photo-Organising: The great strength of iPhoto is the way that it helps you to quickly organize your photo library.
Photo-Editing: The editing features in iPhoto are fairly limited, primarily focusing on basic tools for adjusting exposure, contrast and colour balance.
Apple is also set to discontinue Aperture, its software solution for professional photographers. However, Aperture provides much more powerful tools for searching through your photo library.
Photo-Editing: Aperture provides an extensive set of adjustment tools for improving the appearance of your photos, ranging from simple red-eye removal to more sophisticated options such as chromatic aberration, noise-reduction and edge-sharpening. Photo-Organising: Lightroom is quite a bit more complicated than iPhoto, and will probably seem rather intimidating to most amateur photographers. Photo-Organising: Photoshop Elements is purely a photo-editing program, but if you buy it directly from Adobe you get it with a second program called Organizer. A stand-out feature in Photoshop Elements is the Photo Merge tool that allows you to combine elements from multiple photos, and this has also been enhanced in the latest version. Filters And Effects: This is another area where Photoshop Elements leaves iPhoto trailing in its wake.
Photo-Editing: Lyn started out as a simple photo browser, but the current version now includes basic adjustment tools similar to those found in iPhoto.
We also like the way that AfterShot displays a vertical strip of previews alongside a larger view of the currently selected photo.
It doesn’t organize photos into events like iPhoto, but you can quickly create your own albums in order to group sets of photos together. Again, the long, scrolling list of tools displayed in the Adjustment palette may appear daunting to less experienced photographers. Pixa is a versatile organizer that works with screenshots and other types of graphics files, as well as just photos. You can add your own tags (keywords) to help with searches, but Pixa also helps out by analysing photos as you import them and adding tags relating to the size of each image and the dominant colours within the image.
As well as importing most photo file formats Pixa can also import graphics files such as screenshots and vector graphics files from programs like Adobe Illustrator, so it will be a handy tool for designers who work with lots of different graphics and photo formats.
Photo-Editing: There are no editing tools in Pixa, but it does include some useful export options that allow you to convert images into different sizes and file formats, and even templates for creating graphics such as iOS icons. Its main tool palette includes a good selection of basic tools, such as marquee selections, eraser, paint-brush, red-eye removal, and a fill tool. Photo-Organising: One thing that annoys many people about iPhoto is that it prefers to store copies of your photos in its own mysterious library file. OK, so Photoshop is still the most powerful program there is at what it does, but what we want to do as photographers has changed. You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details without your permission. The new app that will take its place is Photos for Mac, but although Apple has given some public demos of the new Photos app we’re still not entirely sure what features will be added or lost along the way (and past experience proves that Apple is often perversely fond of removing popular features from our favourite apps). Here we round up some free or low-cost editing apps that allow you to organise and alter your photo collection.
For some iPhoto users, especially keen photographers and those with big libraries the news caused concern.
There are a few old standards, such as sepia and black-and-white effects, but if you want to get creative with your photos you should really look elsewhere. Where previously Aperture might have been considered a good upgrade from iPhoto, professional Mac users may have to look elsewhere for an alternative. You can search using multiple criteria, such as location, date, and file type, and you can even search for specific adjustments that have been applied to a photo. A key difference between iPhoto and Aperture is that Aperture lets you use brushes to selectively apply these adjustments to specific areas of an image rather than simply applying them to the entire image. There are several variations on the basic sepia and black-and-white effect, and a handy set of tools for adjusting white balance. The tools panel that runs down the right-hand side of the screen has a histogram right at the top, followed by basic controls for adjusting white-balance, exposure and contrast. There’s a set of automatic Smart Fix tools to help beginners get started, and a special Guided Edit mode that can give you step-by-step help with tasks such as restoring old photos or using photographic techniques such as the hazy Orton Effect.
The new PhotoMerge Compose tool guides you through the process of selecting and copying elements from one image to another, and can even hide parts of an image to make it look as though one person or object is standing behind another. The program’s Filter Gallery has its own editing mode, where you can explore dozens of artistic effects, as well as having fun by stretching and distorting your photos in various ways. It can also display the contents of your existing iPhoto library, so there’s no need to start reorganising everything if you decide to switch to Lyn (or just try out the demo version).
However, you can create links to favourite folders for instant access, and Lyn also provides multiple viewing options when browsing your photos.


There’s a histogram that allows you to highlight specific colours within an image, and simple slider controls for adjusting exposure, brightness and colour settings. This makes it easy to quickly scroll through your photo library and view full-size versions of your photos at the same time.
A simple set of slider controls allows you to adjust lighting, shadows, highlights and colour, and we like the side-by-side option that displays Before and After versions of your photos while you’re working. The first set allows you to make colour adjustments, switching to sepia or monotone, or enhancing lackluster colours in a photo.
When you first import your photos the program allows you to leave them in their original location on your Mac’s hard disk or to create new copies of the photos that you can work on while leaving the originals untouched. It even adds a special tool to the main menu bar on your Mac that allows you to capture screenshots and web pages to import into Pixa.
However, it does have a Photo Browser that allows you to view photos that are stored in iPhoto and open them in Pixelmator for editing. There’s a text tool with precise formatting and spacing controls, as well as the ability to freely rotate and resize text by hand.
There’s a standard set of filters for colour adjustments and creating sepia or black-and-white photos, along with a variety of blur and sharpen effects. That takes up extra space on your hard disk, and also makes it hard to find photos outside of iPhoto itself.
Extreme care was taken to enhance all aspects of her comfort and style, while maintaining her pedigree as a true performance yacht. Photoshop is not much good if you need creative inspiration – it can create any effect you ask of it, but you have to know what you want.
As yet we know little about what to expect from Photos for Mac, everything we know so far is included in this article: What to expect from Photos for Mac. Its Faces option allows it to scan photos and detect people’s faces so that you can quickly locate and label pictures of a specific person. And if your photo library gets really big you can sub-divide it into a series of smaller libraries and then quickly switch between them as required. We also like Aperture’s instant preview option, which shows how each effect will look on your photos. You could create a collection for photos from a football match, which in turn could be part of a collection set that includes multiple sports events.
Work your way down the list and you’ll find more advanced features such as split-toning and lens corrections. You can save these effects as presets for future use – which is handy for more experienced photographers, but not for casual snappers.
That will allow you to keep on using iPhoto to organize your photos, and switch into Photoshop Elements for more serious editing work. The recently-released Photoshop Elements 13 puts a particular emphasis on ease of use, enhancing the standard Crop and Selection tools to speed up routine tasks. Photoshop Elements 13 doesn’t add any new photo effects, but its preview options have been improved so that you can see five versions of your photo that use different filter settings. But once that’s done you can quickly sort your photos by name, date, focal length, shutter speed and other settings. There are some handy filtering tools as well, such as a slider control that allows you to scan through a particular date range, from 2 days to 18 years. There are also some simple tools for removing blemishes, such as dust and scratches, or red-eye, and a text tool for adding captions. The second set is a little more advanced, reproducing photo techniques such as the Orton or Lo-Mo effects.
There are also more powerful tools, such as the ability to create panoramic photos, and Photo Compose, which works like the Photo Merge option in Photoshop Elements and allows you to select and combine elements from different photos. Text is placed on its own layer within the image, and the Layers palette allows you to create additional layers and masks in order to create composite images. Many people prefer to do things their own way, and to organize their photos in a series of folders instead. You can import additional folders as you go along, or create new albums within Unbound itself and just allow it to create new folders for each album automatically.
If you need creative inspiration, there are better places to look.It's not much good at organising your photos, either. However, neither iPhoto nor Aperture can really compete with the range of filters and effects found in dedicated photo-editors such as Photoshop Elements. There’s also a powerful search filter that lets you search for keywords, dates, and even specific types of cameras and lenses.
Lightroom also borrows some powerful tools from Photoshop, such as the Advanced Healing Brush, which can remove unwanted elements from an image. It also adds new Guided Edits that provide help with complex tasks such as placing moving video clips inside titles and text, or creating hybrid images that combine colour and black-and-white effects. There’s also a Metadata Browser that allows you to locate metadata within your image files, such as date and time, flash settings, and even the make of camera used. The program also includes a basic set of vector drawing tools, including freehand and Bezier pens, gradient fills, and even a slice tool for preparing graphics for web pages.
Unbound is aimed at those people, as it simply works with whatever folder structure you already have set up. Its Inspector panel displays additional editable metadata, including keywords for searching, and GPS data with a maps option.


However, Unbound can play simple slideshows and can also use GPS location data to display photos on a map. There’s also an iOS version of Unbound, which works in conjunction with Dropbox and allows you to sync photos across all your Macs and iOS devices. But the price has dropped, the dust has settled and the world has carried on turning on its axis. For layers, masks, selections, retouching and complex, multi-step imaging processes, it's impossible to beat, and it manages to present these tools in a remarkably clean, fast and efficient interface.
On the downside, it doesn't offer a library of single-click creative effects or any way of organising a large and growing photo collection. Photoshop is like a giant box of spanners – it has all the tools you could possibly want, but it's not going to show you how to fix your car. Read: Photoshop CC reviewThat's why Lightroom is an indispensable part of the Adobe double-act.
Lightroom combines an image cataloguing database with Adobe Camera Raw's 'non-destructive' editing tools in a slicker interface. It means that you can make non-permanent adjustments to an image which you can change later – and your original photos are never modified.
These tools can't do everything – for selections, layers, masks and many more complex effects you'll need Photoshop. Best-known as a developer of budget Windows creative applications like PhotoPlus, Serif has branched out into professional Mac software with its new 'Affinity' range. A few of the terms and processes are different, but if you can use Photoshop it won't take you long to get used to this. Like Lightroom, it can import your images into a centralised, searchable database and then apply non-destructive adjustments and preset effects. Your original images are never directly modified, and the changes are only made permanent when you export processed JPEG or TIFF versions.
But there's more to this program than the bare specs suggest, because Capture One Pro's raw conversions are quite superb, often extracting visibly sharper detail, with less noise, than Adobe Camera Raw. The editing workflow is powerful but logical and its layer-based localised adjustment tools are excellent.
It's a lot more novice-friendly, but you do miss out on a lot of Photoshop's more advanced features. Elements' big draw used to be the massive price differential, but you can now get a year's subscription to Photoshop CC and Lightroom for not much more than the price of an Elements licence.
Elements' main strength is its ability to cater for all kinds of user, but the novice-orientated interface can grate, the editor lacks proper curves adjustments and the version of Adobe Camera Raw that's included is a bare-bones, cut-down version of the real thing. Version 14 adds a de-haze tool, shake reduction, new guided edits and sundry other enhancements, but it's a routine annual refresh rather than a new program. This company makes properly powerful software that combines single-click presets that anyone can use with powerful back-end adjustments for enthusiasts and experts. You get a collection of programs that can work as standalone tools or as plug-ins for Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture (if anyone is still using it).
Focus is good for bokeh and tilt-shift effects, while FX Photo Studio's in-your-face photo effects reveal unexpected subtlety and depth. The complete set of tools in ON1 Photo 10 combines quick and easy edits based on a powerful range of preset enhancement, corrections, effects and filters, to good portrait retouching facilities and versatile export options. Its main strength is in its incredible array of effects, which combine a barrage of presets with fine-tuning possibilities.
The layers system adds to the overall prowess of the package, going beyond what's available in Lightroom, although Photoshop still has a significant lead in the elegance, sophistication and sheer power of its manual editing facilities. However, even with version X8's speed enhancements, some tools can be frustratingly sluggish, and then there's price to consider. Back when Photoshop cost a hefty one-off payment, PaintShop Pro could indeed be had for a fraction of the price.
The Adjustment module is equivalent to Lightroom's Develop module, and even offers more or less the same tools, right down to its graduated and radial filter effects. But PhotoDirector takes a step further in its Edit panel, offering a whole host of effects not available in Lightroom – though these are mainly aimed at amateur users, including a whole section on 'Beautifier' and 'Reshaping' tools. Optics Pro started out as a tool for correcting the distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting that almost all lenses exhibit, using lab-developed correction profiles. It's been extended to include sophisticated raw conversion tools for getting the maximum definition, dynamic range and colour information from your pictures.
But since then, development has stalled and apart from the rather good Analog Efex Pro retro effects generator, there's been nothing new. Color Efex Pro is still an amazing repository of inspirational effects, Silver Efex Pro is arguably still the best mono plug-in there has ever been and HDR Efex Pro is a versatile and straightforward HDR tool.
Dfine's noise reduction tools and Sharpener Pro are perhaps past their best and Viveza's scope is modest, but this is still an extremely compelling plug-in suite for both PC and Mac owners.



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