What do you do with all the photos you took with you DSLR or mirrorless camera? Rather than letting them languish on an SD card, good photo editing software will let you touch up your pictures so that they're looking their best when you share them with family and friends, or for when you want to print out your photos.
Regardless of what you want to do with your photographs, there’s a slew of photo-editing programs and apps from which to choose. To help you select the best software, we tested six popular photo-editing programs, all either free or under $100: Apple Photos, Corel PaintShop Pro, GIMP, Google Photos, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Serif Affinity Photo.
Adobe PhotoShop Elements 2020 is our top pick for its robust yet accessible editing tools. Available for PCs and Macs, it also has a gentle learning curve for novices, as well as tons of features to make the most of your photos.
However, Windows users will get even more out of Corel PaintShop Pro 2020, which has more tools and is in some ways even more accessible.
While it doesn’t offer much in the way of editing tools, Google Photos is the best at aggregating and organizing all of your photos, no matter which device they’re on. And, it’s free.
For pros or more advanced users, we recommend Affinity Photo. While it will be harder for novices to pick up, it has a great range of powerful tools.
Best Photo Editor Overall
While there aren't a huge number of changes from last year's version, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 is our pick for best consumer photo-editing program for its ease of use, fun creativity and underlying power. As before, three interfaces (Guided Edits, Quick Edits, and Expert Mode) make this program accessible for users of all experience levels.
A new subject selection tool makes it easier to create cutouts of individuals and pets, and a Smooth Skin tool is great at getting rid of wrinkles. And, of course, PS Elements 2020 works on both Macs and PCS.
Best for Editing Novices
In many ways, Corel PaintShop Pro 2020 is superior to Photoshop Elements, as it's a powerful program, yet is easy for novices to grasp, and has some additional tools, such as 360-degree photo editing. It's also touch-screen compatible and has a new streamlined workspace. However, Photoshop Elements is available for both macOS and Windows PCs, while PaintShop Pro is a Windows-only program.
Best Budget Pro Photo Editor
Affinity Photo offers powerful tools, resolution-independent editing, RAW processing within the interface and most of the other features that professional photographers want and need — all for only $49.99. While its learning curve is steeper than most, you’ll be rewarded with a robust set of features, including Photoshop-like exposure controls, paintbrushes, layers and more.
Best for Sharing Photos
Google Photos is better than any other tool for organizing and consolidating all your photo libraries, no matter where they are. However, in terms of photo editing, it offers only the barest minimum, helping you quickly prepare pictures for easy sharing. In fact, it’s best used in tandem with another app that offers greater editing features, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Best Free Editor for Mac Users
Though it doesn’t have editing tools that are as robust as those for paid programs, Apple Photos is a free, fun and very easy-to-use app for accessing, organizing and sharing your photos and videos. And, Apple Photos makes it easy to sync your library across multiple Apple devices.
Best Open-Source Photo Editor
This free, open-source photo editor is beloved by many for its ability to help you get under the hood and customize the program. It also has a powerful set of editing tools, but it offers almost nothing in the way of guidance, which makes it more difficult to learn than other photo-editing software.
How we tested
We considered the following criteria when evaluating these programs:
- Organizing, syncing and accessing your photo library
- Photo editing versatility and depth
- Ease of use
- Sharing options
- Device and file format support
- Creative freedom
Each of the programs we tested didn't try to be the end-all, be-all for everyone. Therefore, we gave the various criteria different weights in our final ratings, depending on what the program's objective was and the kind of photographer to whom it would appeal.
Best photo printing services
Once you've edited your photos, you'll want to show them off to your friends and family. We've tested a number of photo printing services; here are our the best for photo books, photo cards, and photo calendars.