Need An Alternative To Lightroom? Survey Reveals Popular Options
Diving into the shifting landscape of photo editing software, Adobe Lightroom faces growing competition from more affordable and less complicated alternatives.
A recent survey from Shotkit shows that only 58% of photographers use Lightroom, while the remaining 42% use an alternative.
To be honest, I was surprised by these results.
I expected Lightroom to be much more popular than "just above half." This survey included professional photographers and amateurs, so it's more than just skills and pricing causing people to search for another option.
Thankfully, the survey also let us know which apps photographers preferred over Lightroom. The number of Lightroom alternatives has never been higher, so seeing some variety in the results is good.
Let's see why photographers edit their pics elsewhere and which apps rival the most prominent photo editor.
Header Image Credit: Dunna w/ Lightroom Preset Pack
Dunna Did It Lightroom Preset Pack 01
Looking for a punchy preset to enhance your pics? The Dunna Did It Lightroom preset Pack 01 will give you that extra pop with 12 Presets to choose fromBuy for $15.00
Why Lightroom is Still the Most Popular App
Even though nearly half of the photographers use a Lightroom replacement, it's still the most popular photo editing app.
Lightroom has all of the features that photographers need to transform their RAW images into stunning photographs. This extensive list includes an essential suite of tools, including color correction, exposure, and perspective, but Lightroom is so much more than just its editing tools.
The app allows you to process a colossal batch of photographs quickly. If you've ever had to edit a couple of hundred event photos, you'll be thankful you had Lightroom's bulk editing features.
Lightroom also offers some great photo-organizing tools as an editor and a photo catalog manager.
We could talk all day about why the most popular photo editing app is excellent, but what are some of the features that are causing photographers to look elsewhere?
Editing with Sam Elkins: How to Develop a Consistent Look and Feel
In this lesson, Sam breaks down the process of how to edit to get a consistent look and feel throughout your entire body of work.Buy for $74.25
Here's Why Photographers Choose Other Apps
The survey shows that Photographers are curious about Lightroom alternatives. Lightroom has been the premiere photo editing app for years, but it does have some deal-breaker flaws.
The biggest problem with Lightroom is just how expensive the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription can be.
There's no option for a one-time Lightroom purchase anymore, so photographers are paying between $19.99 and $54.99 monthly to use this program. Other options have cheaper monthly costs, past purchases, or are free to download and use.
The world of photo editing has also changed a lot in recent years.
Editing digital photography makes assertive use of image manipulation. I can't count how often I've had to remove an unwanted photobomber, use content-aware fill, or use layers on simple portraits.
We're also seeing more apps relying heavily on AI software, and Lightroom is notably lagging behind this trend.
Lightroom boosted its AI utilities in 2022 with some upgrades to selection and masking. Still, some Lightroom alternatives have effectively cropped and masked Lightroom from the competition regarding AI-backed editing.
Photographers have let go of Lightroom because of the program's steep learning curve. That knowledge gap was why I started editing photos with Photoshop and GIMP before I took the time to learn Lightroom. So, I sympathize with anyone who's been intimidated by LR.
The Most Popular Alternatives to Lightroom
Lightroom is one of many photo editing apps around. Whether you're looking for something that uses more AI technology or has a lower price tag, other options are better for your needs as a photographer.
Here are the most popular other options for Lightroom.
It's no surprise that Photoshop was the most popular alternative, with 22% of photographers picking this as their alternative to Lightroom.
Photoshop is a powerful image manipulation program that can handle many tasks, making Lightroom popular. It's also a destructive image editing program that uses layers, giving it some unique advantages over Lightroom.
Photoshop might be complicated photo catalogs or batch edits, but if you don't need those features, it's easy to see why this app became the best alternative to Lightroom.
These results show how vital image manipulation has become for your average photographer.
Luminar comes in at the number two spot with 17% of the vote.
Luminar has embraced using AI-backed technology in editing. It's got one-touch tools for removing and changing the sky, deleting the background, and removing unwanted objects from your images.
That same AI technology makes Luminar incredibly powerful in color correction, cleaning up distortion, and sharpening an image. This app also has one of the lowest learning curves making it about as close to plug-and-play as photo editing can get.
Luminar Neo can be purchased outright, making it a popular Lightroom replacement for those who prefer to avoid another subscription.
Capture One is the number three alternative to Lightroom which captured 12% of photographers surveyed.
Capture One also holds the unique distinction of being the number one app that current users of Lightroom said they would switch to if they ever gave up their favorite Adobe app.
It's easy to see why Capture One is so tempting. This app has impressive tethered shooting performance, which can speed up your workflow if you're a studio photographer.
Capture One also has some impressive color-correcting capabilities that rival what you can do with Lightroom on their own. When you add all this with Capture One's dedication to a fast and efficient workflow, you have a killer photo editing app for anyone working in a studio.
Adobe Camera Raw
In a surprise twist, Adobe Camera Raw comes in 4th place, with around 10% of users preferring this app over others.
Adobe Camera Raw is a Photoshop component that allows you to edit RAW photographs in Photoshop. You can no longer download the free-standing version of Adobe Camera Raw, but it comes bundled with some Creative Cloud subscriptions.
How many Adobe Camera Raw fans are holdovers from the heyday of this application? Still, its friendly and efficient interface, combined with its practical tools, make it a simple and easy-to-approach RAW photo editor.
In a two-way tie for 5th place, Topaz Labs comes in with 8% of the surveyed photographers saying they prefer this application.
Topaz Labs is the best application for sharpening and enhancing your photographs. You can take a pixelated and busted-up image from the 90s and upscale it to something more than acceptable by today's standards.
Topaz Labs only offers a few other features outside its image enhancement abilities, but these are strong enough to stand independently.
The other half of our two-way tie for fifth is another 8% in support of Affinity Photo.
Affinity Photo is a one-stop shop for anyone into visual art. This app allows you to do everything from sketching on your iPad to editing RAW photographs.
Affinity Photo has a one-time purchase price. Even for the most robust edition of this software, the one-time purchase is still way under the yearly cost of the most affordable Creative Cloud subscription.
If you want to try out Affinity Photo, there's also a budget-friendly iPad version of this program that you can pick up for less than one month on Adobe Creative Cloud.
ONI Photo Raw
ONI Photo Raw comes in sixth place, with 5% of photographers choosing this app over Lightroom.
If you want to avoid using Lightroom because of its steep learning curve, ONI Photo Raw is the application you've been looking for.
ONI is a point-and-click photo editor. All you need to do is click on an element you want to edit, select your edit from the pop-up menu, and then adjust a few sliders to get the effect you're looking for, and you're done.
These minimal features notably limit your editing control, but it can only get easier than ONI Photo Raw.
Tied for 7th with 4% of the vote is SnapSeed.
One of the most significant changes to photography in the last 10 years has been the surge in the popularity of mobile photography. Unsurprisingly, an IOS and Android app has become one of Lightroom's notable rivals.
SnapSeed works on IOS, Android, and iPad. This application features all the essential editing tools you would look for in an app that combines the best of Lightroom and Photoshop.
DxO Photo Lab
The other seventh-place choice, also with 4% of the vote, was DxO Photo Lab.
DxO Photo Lab is an exciting application. This image editor focuses on correcting geometry, removing lens distortion, and clearing noise.
It needs a lot of workflow tools that make other apps more popular, but I can see how this editor developed such a strong following.
Kelsealoha Above Water
A lightroom preset pack made for outdoor, adventure photographers. Capture brighter, warmer, more vibrant outdoor landscapes.Buy for $44.99
IOS Photos comes in with 3% of the vote as the 8th most popular photo editor.
I'm surprised that this application wasn't higher up on the list. With the popularity of smartphone photography, the built-in photo editing tools on iPhone likely get a lot more useful than we're giving them credit for.
The tools on iOS Photos are relatively basic. Still, they're robust enough to handle color correction, adjusting exposure, and some basic edits that you'll need to make quick smartphone photography ready for social media.
ACDSee Photo Studio
9th place is a three-way tie, with all applications at 2% of the vote.
ACDSee Photo Studio is an application that blends the editing tools from Lightroom; the layer features Photoshop and a mix of a sound photo management system, including face recognition and geo-tagging.
The biggest downside to ACDSee Photo Studio is that the user interface can get unwieldy, especially when trying to hunt down less-used tools.
I was shocked that Darktable was so far down on the list at just 2%.
Darktable is an entirely free program that is open-source. This means you'll never have to pay to use this software. Even though it's free, Darktable has almost all the same tools as Lightroom. The interface is also fully customizable, meaning you can stick with simple tools or add things as complicated as human night vision simulation.
The learning curve with Darktable can be steep, but there's plenty of community support from fans of open-source software to help you get started with this alternative to Lightroom.
Google Photos was another alternative that 2% of people chose over Lightroom.
The image editing features on Google Photos are very rudimentary, but this app has some impressive photo catalog management features.
The popularity of Google and Android devices is likely a driving factor for users considering this as an app instead of Lightroom.
Expose rounds out our list with 1% of photographers choosing this app over Lightroom.
Expose bills itself as the photo editor for artists. This application has hundreds of presets that offer everything from color correction to emulating vintage film stocks.
It also offers a blend of features, including layer masking and image editing tools. This application has some unique features, and I was astonished to find a special effect setting for the Scheimpflug Principle for anyone who wants to emulate large-format photography!
Capture One Global Styles - Classic Looks for Portraits & Streets
Travel inspired presets for Portrait, Street and Landscape photography. Vibrant colors and textures.Buy for $29.99
What App Are You Editing With?
Lightroom might still be the most popular, but this Shotkit survey shows that nearly half of the photographers have started to explore other image editing applications.
Whether you're looking for an alternative for mobile photography, are interested in exploring AI editing, or want to support open-source software, there's a RAW photo editing tool.
Let's help extend the reach of this survey. Let us know in the comments which programs you use to edit your photographs and if you're considering switching from Lightroom to one of these alternatives.
5 Best Photo Editing Apps for iPhone and Android
Updated on May 9, 2023
Elevate your mobile photography with top photo editing apps for iPhone and Android — crafted for swift, hassle-free edits and timeless masterpieces.
LUTs vs. Presets | Create a Consistent Look & Edit Images Like a Pro
Updated on Feb 21, 2023
What is a LUT? Why use a preset? Here are the main differences, similarities, and top editing tricks for your photos and videos.
6 EASY Tricks To Edit Your Photos To Look Like Film
Updated on May 18, 2023
Simple tips and tricks to make your digital images look like film using Lightroom CC, whether it's a natural tone or a funky 70 aesthetic.