Photo Editing Software Review
Why Buy Photo Editing Software?
The top performers in our review are Corel Paintshop Pro X8, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Paintshop Elements 13, the Silver Award winner; and Serif PhotoPlus X8, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Photo editing software comes in handy for several applications. It's not just relegated to the photography industry. Whether you are a graphic designer making a living designing logos and websites or a hobbyist photographer who likes to dabble in digital editing, there is software available to meet your needs.
With digital cameras becoming more affordable, whether part of a smartphone or the latest DSLR, photography is quickly growing in popularity. In the age of social media and "selfies," it has never been easier to share your life moments and creative art with the world.
Depending on the picture editing software you choose, you have a myriad of features at hand. Each one can help you create renderings and digital art, touch up photos, and so much more, enabling you to take your hobby or profession to the next level. Ideal for restoring old family photos, posting pictures to social media and creating original works of art, versatile photo editors offer a virtually limitless array of creative tools and features.
There are many options when it comes to the technical aspects of software and how to use it. Typically, you install photo editing software on your computer, accompanied by an in-depth user guide that introduces you to the many features and options available. Some programs are available as a digital download after purchase and may include the option to buy a physical copy of the disk to have on hand. There are also programs that are entirely cloud based, requiring no installation at all. These types of photo editors are ideal for users who need maximum accessibility and a portable solution they can take on the go and access from any location.
Most photo editing software programs are compatible with PCs running Windows, with some also available for Mac. However, it is important to carefully check the specifications and system requirements of the individual program you choose to ensure it is compatible with your setup. Most programs require or highly recommend anywhere between 128MB to 4GB of available hard-disk space and 100MB to 4GB of RAM for installation and use. If you don't have enough space, or it's too close to your capacity, the program won't run properly, and you won't be able to take advantage of its features.
Depending on your needs, there are software programs designed for beginners through advanced super-users. With the purchase of many programs, the manufacturer offers technical support, including email and phone assistance, FAQs and tutorial videos. While some programs are more intuitive and easier to learn than others, it is important to note the features and capabilities of the program to ensure it can complete the tasks you need it to perform. Many times, there are additional plug-ins available, from either the manufacturer or third parties, which take the software even further in its capability.
Photo editing software typically comes with a one-time use license with purchase, although several programs offer multiple licensing for businesses that require installation on several computers. Other manufacturers offer pay-as-you-go, with a monthly fee for a cloud-based solution. A program hosted entirely online is ideal if usage is minor or you'd rather not make a big upfront investment. Online options are also a good choice when you want access to updates as soon as they become available without having to purchase a newer release.
Photo Editing Software: Key Elements & Features
Each photo editing software program comes with a different set of features. After thoroughly analyzing each aspect of our top ten photo editing software programs, here is a round-up of our key findings. This breakdown helps determine what essential tools and features you need to look for when purchasing a new editing program.
Must-Have Features & What to Look For
Most good photo editing programs have basic features that are essential for graphic design and other photography disciplines. These include basic editing and organization tools and file-sharing abilities. Other added benefits include importing capability from various devices and the ability to read different types of data as well as the capacity to save in a variety of file formats. More advanced users and professionals must look for the tools that they need to utilize in their workflow as this varies considerably based on the creative nature of the project. Reading through photo editing software reviews gives a good breakdown of the features and benefits of a program, who it benefits most and whether it is worth the investment.
Editing Tools: The Basics Are Standard in Most Programs
Most photo editing software programs come with the basic tools necessary for simple photo editing and graphic design. Some of the most popular editing tools included are color management, red-eye removal, resizing, cropping, text, drawing, layers and zoom. These are the necessary tools for beginner-level users looking to do simple editing.
The color-management feature allows you to adjust the overall color and tone of a photograph without needing to have in-depth knowledge of color-correcting techniques. Color-management tools may include filters, brightness, contrast, hue, saturation or curves. These features are beneficial to every level of photographer, from selfie queen to professional portrait artist. The tools apply to either the entire photo as a whole or particular areas of a photographic image. It's a simple way to increase the overall brightness of a picture that was taken in shadow, remove red tones from bad lighting or highlight items in shadow.
A red-eye removal tool comes in handy for editing out the red glow effect that often occurs in photos taken with a flash. Usually with just a few clicks, this tool easily removes red eye from everyone in the picture. It's a built-in feature in most popular photo editor software and is included in all of the programs in our top ten review.
If you want to share your images on social media or send draft files via email to your clients, you may have to make the file size smaller and easier to upload. The larger a file size is, the longer it takes to upload, and some email programs have size limits. This is where a resizing tool comes in handy, allowing you to quickly adjust the overall size of the image and prepare it for sharing or sending digitally.
For beginners needing basic editing tools, Corel PhotoImpact and ACDSee Photo Editor 6 are rated in the middle of the pack, while Cyberlink PhotoDirector Ultra 7 and Photolightning rated among the lowest for their basic editing capabilities.
Advanced Editing Tools: Taking Your Creativity to the Next Level
For those who dabble in photography, having the basic tools is often enough. However, if you're a professional photographer or a digital artist looking to break out into the scene, you'll need more tools in your arsenal. Some of the better photo editing software options offer a broader range of tools, with virtually limitless options to take your creativity exactly where you want to go. More advanced programs geared toward experienced users, professional photographers and graphic artists may include tools such as auto straightening, object removal, touch-up, border designs, batch processing and recordable actions.
When editing skin, touch-up tools, also known as cloning tools, are handy to remove blemishes, wrinkles or other marks you don't want visible in the photo. Some programs have a built-in tool to whiten teeth in an image. These are especially important tools for wedding and portrait photographers, where close up shots are key in the photo gallery, or for anyone who works on images of people who want to look their best in photos.
An auto-straightening feature is handy for landscape photographers as well as everyday photos. This tool automatically rotates an image based on the settings you provide. It turns a slanted horizon into a beautiful landscape photo in just a few simple steps. This especially comes in handy when the camera is off angle when shooting a photo session.
Cropping & Object Removal
For the ability to remove unwanted objects from a photo, such as an unsightly background or a person that jumped into the shot at the last minute, an object removal tool is helpful. This type of tool in the photo editing software helps you quickly remove an object and blend the background to make it appear that there was never anything there. Landscape photographers also find this function helpful to clean up the scenery or remove a bird that flew into the photo. The end result is a pristine, professional-quality shot that's ready for publication whether online or in a magazine.
If you're working with large groups of photos, tools such as batch processing and recordable actions are useful in applying the same edits to multiple photos. Instead of having to do the same actions repeatedly, these types of tools streamline the process, saving you lots of editing time in the long run. Some third-party vendors even offer presets of these tools to save you additional time. This lets you make the appropriate changes using just a click of a button rather than fidgeting to create the settings you need and wasting valuable time.
When choosing your preferred photo editor software, it's important to take into account the type, or types, of editing you do to ensure the tools necessary are in the package you choose. One program on our list, Corel Paintshop Pro, scored a perfect 10 out of 10 for its editing capabilities. Serif PhotoPlus came in a close second.
Organizing: A Key to a More Streamlined Workflow
As a photographer or graphic artist, it's important to stay organized and on top of your files, or you may quickly become overwhelmed. With digital photography, it's easy to take thousands of photos in a very short amount of time. The best photo editing software includes the tools necessary to stay organized. Some of the most popular tools include a built-in organizing system, a file browser, an advanced image search, the ability to create albums and easy access to EXIF data. There are also features, like keyword tagging and facial recognition, for even easier access to your images. If you have a large library of images, organizational tools are invaluable.
Most, if not all, photo editing software programs come integrated with a file browser. This browser allows you to view your files as thumbnails, along with image data, before opening the file for editing. This saves time when you're searching through a large file folder trying to find a specific file as you don't need to open each individual file to find the one you're looking for.
The ability to view EXIF data is another important feature, especially for professional photographers. Wedding photographers find this particularly helpful when putting together an album in chronological order to tell a story of the wedding day. EXIF data includes information such as the time and date you took the photo, the resolution of the image, and the camera settings. Beginner photographers find camera setting information useful when learning what settings create different types of images.
Archiving is also essential to create a backup of your images. Many programs offer the ability to burn your images directly to a CD from the program, making archiving that much easier. You never know when technology might fail, and having a good backup system in place, such as regularly burning your files to a disk, will save you the heartache of losing precious memories and all that hard work you put into editing.
In our review of the top 10 photo editing software programs, Corel PaintShop Pro, Zoner Photo Studio Pro and Photolightning came in with a perfect score of 10 for their organization tools, with Cyberlink PhotoDirector Ultra coming in at a close second.
Sharing Capability: Allows for Publishing Directly to the Web in an Instant
In most cases, you take photographs to share them with the world, and photo editing software offers various methods for sharing your work. In a time when people rely so heavily on computers and the internet, often times we amass a huge library of photos that never make it to print.
Sharing photos through social media is the next best thing. Most software programs offer the ability to post directly to social media, create an online photo gallery and send file attachments via email. The best software programs offer optimization tools as well to ensure your photos look their best when uploaded to the web.
Sharing capabilities come in handy for professional photographers and designers as well. You can quickly save drafts and mock-ups in an optimized file format and send them via email to a client or team member with ease. If sharing is a critical feature in your workflow process, then the best programs for this include Corel PaintShop Pro, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Zoner Photo Studio Pro and ACDSee Photo Editor 6.
Importing: The More Versatile, the Better
Photo editing programs support a variety of file formats for easy access to your photos. Some programs support over 80 different file formats, while others are very limited. These formats may include RAW, PG, TIF, PNG, GIF and PSD files. Most programs also offer convenient tools to import files directly from a DSLR camera, an iPhone or Android phone, or from removable media such as an SD card or CD. File format is always evolving, so the more file formats a program can read, the better.
Our round up showed once again Corel PaintShop Pro with a perfect 10 for importing capabilities, alongside Adobe Photoshop Elements and ACDSee Photo Editor 6. Cyberlink PhotoDirector Ultra scored the lowest of the 10, offering the least amount of importing file formats and capabilities.
Output Capability: Save Your Images Exactly How You Need Them
Once you create a file, or finish editing one, there are various output options you have depending on the program. Some of the most popular supported output file formats include JPG, TIF, PNG, GIF, PDF and animated GIFs. There are also options for image slicing and image optimizing for web, which is especially important if you want to post the images to social media or an online gallery.
Image slicing is an important tool in photo editing software for web designers. This technique divides an image into small pieces, which are later reassembled using HTML tables or CSS. This provides for optimal performance of a web page. When an image is very large, such as a featured image or background on a webpage, it increases load times, potentially turning off site visitors. Reducing the file size via image slicing decreases loading times and helps a webpage work more efficiently.
Another important tool is the ability to optimize a photo for web. This feature resizes and compresses an image for faster loading times and better overall clarity. This tool is ideal for professional photographers who are posting photos to their social media profiles or their online portfolio galleries.
More advanced users and graphic designers appreciate the capability of outputting animated GIFs. This file format consists of layers of images that display in sequence. The more frames the file contains, the bigger the file size is. However, more frames make for a smoother animation. Cartoon animations and advertising banners are popular examples of animated GIFs.
What Is the Best Photo Editor for You?
When determining what is the best photo editing software for you, it's necessary to evaluate the features and, more importantly, what you plan to use the software for. Graphic artists may require a professional program that offers more advanced tools. Whereas if you're just looking to edit family photos and create online galleries to share with friends, an easy photo editing software with a simple interface will suffice.
Photo Editing Software: What We Tested, What We Found
Two key components to look for in photo editing software include how easy the software is to use and how quickly it can perform tasks. To test the effectiveness of each software, we found control images and performed common editing tasks on them, for example, resizing, cropping or adjusting the color of an image. We evaluated how easy it was to perform tasks, how quickly the software applied the edit and how the image quality was affected. We used those figures to comprise a score that reflects how easy the software is to use.
The software workspace plays a role in how quickly we found the editing tools. Ones that were clean and user friendly helped us edit quickly. Aside from each software interface, there was little variation between the performances of each software. Each program’s photo editing tools produced similar results. They all performed each edit quickly and with similar quality.
To determine what photo editing software will work best for you depends on the level of editing you plan on doing. We created an ease-of-use score that takes into account the interface, type of tools and the speed at which the software completes tasks. We awarded software that offers automatic edit options. In addition to an easy-to-use software, you want a program that offers all of the tools you need. Whether you are simply editing personal photos or manipulating images to create art, you can use our comparison chart to view which tools each software has.
We found that our Gold Award Winner, Corel PaintShop Pro, offered a wide range of features that helped us perform both simple edits and more complicated tasks. With a user-friendly interface and a plethora of support options, we were able to transform our photos with ease.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important in Selecting Photo Editing Software?
Now that we have reviewed the basic editing tools and overall capabilities of most photo editing software, there are some other considerations you should take into account when choosing a program that's right for you. If you're new to editing, support services and instructions are important to ensuring you learn the tools at hand and have help available when necessary. Understanding the technical requirements of the program before purchasing a product will spare you added costs of having to upgrade your computer setup or having to purchase a different software package if the one you chose is not compatible.
Support & Documentation: Essential Information When Learning a New Program
Support is essential, especially when you're floundering with a specific feature or task. Many photo editing software companies offer a support forum where users can interact with each other and ask specific questions, often getting multiple responses in a short amount of time. Good tech support is also essential, especially if you're just getting started with a new program. Some popular technical support options include live chat, phone support and email. Many programs also have user manuals, text and video tutorials, and a FAQs section to further assist you when you need support. It's important to ensure the photo editing software program you choose has the support and documentation necessary, according to your skill level and needs.
Most of the photo editor software programs we reviewed received a good score for support and documentation. Corel Paintshop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements were the top scorers, while Photolightning offered the least amount of support in the lineup. Photolightning's manufacturer only offers support via email and provides users with a few FAQs. There are also limited instructions to get you familiar with the tools and features of the program.
Configurations: Determining Compatibility Between Your Computer and the Software
Most picture editing programs require a PC running the Windows operating system. However, some may also offer editions that are Mac compatible. It's important to determine exactly which operating system your computer has before making a purchase, as you don't want to be stuck with a program that doesn't perform optimally, or worse, doesn't perform at all.
The most popular photo editing software programs are compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 (32- and 64-Bit). Some are also compatible with Windows 8 and 10 (32- and 64-Bit). Every program lists the necessary OS and technical requirements for the program to operate as designed. If you're questioning compatibility with your computer, contact the manufacturer for additional information.
Our Gold Award winner, Corel Paintshop Pro, is only compatible with Windows operating systems, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. It requires 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended), 1 GB of hard drive space (2GB recommended), a 1024 x 768 screen resolution, and an Intel or AMD 1.5 Ghz processor or better.
Online Photo Editing vs. Software
When researching photo editing software, it's important to compare traditional software with an online photo editor. Some factors to consider are your current computer setup, accessibility and program updates.
Traditional software installs directly on your computer and requires a minimum set of technical specifications to operate at efficiency. These requirements are in the product description and are available from the manufacturer. Once you purchase a license for a software program, it's typically yours forever; however, updates and new program features may only be available through additional purchases.
If you're looking for a program that is more easily accessible, for example if you need to access it from more than one computer or while traveling, an online photo editing program may work better for you. These online programs may be free or subscription based.
Some cloud-based programs include PicMonkey, iPiccy, Pixlr and Photoshop. These online photo editing programs work within your internet window browser without having to download and install anything to your hard drive. The downside is that you cannot access these programs without internet access, and they may disappear from existence without any warning. However, these programs offer instant access to updates and new features, whereas photo editing software that you install directly on your computer requires periodic updates. Some of these updates could prove to be costly, especially if you're required to purchase the newer edition the company releases.
Free Photo Editing Software
Many companies offer free photo editing software with basic features and tools. These programs are ideal if you're just starting out or for quick edits of photos you post to social media. They may offer features such as creating collages, converting an image to black and white, or adding text. Using free photo editing software helps you understand the basic concepts of photo editing without an upfront cost. It's a good way to test the waters and get started in photo editing.
If you find that you have outgrown free picture editing software, you already have a good grasp of basic editing techniques, such as cropping, color contrast and composition. From there, it is easier to determine which software purchase may be right for you. Some of the best free photo editor programs and apps include Google's Picasa, Serif PhotoPlus Starter Edition and the online alternative Pixlr.
Photo Editing Software: What Programs Work for Whom
We've touched base on the numerous features and benefits that come with many photo editing programs. The type of program that works best for you varies on your individual needs. Some programs are created for growth, designed for beginners through advanced levels, while others are strictly beginner or advanced. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there is a photo editing software program catered to your creative needs.
What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners?
When just starting out with photo editing, a basic photo editor that is easy to use is ideal. Learning the foundational skills in editing prepares you for using more advanced software in the future. Some photo editing programs are solely for a certain skill level, while others accommodate a range of skill levels within one program.
One easy photo editing software program is Serif PhotoPlus X8. It has integrated help features as well as extensive instructions and video tutorials to help you get started. This makes the program easy to use, no matter where your skill level lies. Integrated sharing tools allow for direct upload to social media sites, such as Flickr and Facebook, with just a single click of the mouse. Organizing your files is also easy with this photo editing software program's intelligent photo library, offering a photo tagging and rating system. Another great feature is Google's Map of the World, which shows you exactly where you took your photos.
PhotoPad Photo Editor is also among one of the easiest programs to use in our top ten list. This simple program may have an outdated design, but the toolbox has several basic editing tools you can use to transform your photos. With a typical interface, the program allows for basic features, such as layers, text effects and editing. However, the organizing system lacks several features, making it difficult to locate photos quickly. This is an ideal photo editing software program for a beginner that is looking to complete the most basic photo edits. This program has the lowest overall score in our list, mostly due to an organizing system that lacks features and missing editing tools.
What Are the Best Advanced Photo Editors?
More advanced users and professional photographers need image editing software that offers efficient workflow and delivers professional, high-quality results. Advanced programs have a steeper learning curve yet deliver the best results once you have them mastered.
One of the best professional photo editing software options for more advanced users is Corel PaintShop Pro X8. It offers professional tools and a fast workflow. Although it is only compatible with Windows operating systems, Pro X8 has a user-friendly interface. This advanced photo editor provides excellent organization and sharing tools, including the Find People facial recognition feature, Photo Mapping and direct integrations with photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. The professional photo editor also offers over 50 different formats for saving photos, including JPG, GIF, PICT and PCX. Additionally, Corel PaintShop Pro X8 provides users with a host of customer service and support options, including email, phone, live chat, built-in tutorials and how-to videos as well as FAQs and a community forum to collaborate with other users.
Pre-loaded with over 175 fonts and 67 creative filters, Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 11 is another ideal option for advanced users, specifically in the graphic design realm. This advanced photo editor has a steep learning curve compared to other similar photo editing software programs; however, it is versatile and delivers powerful design and editing capabilities. One dynamic feature of the program is its intuitive background removal tool, which is ideal for removing unsightly background objects or cropping out photo-bombers. Although it requires some patience and practice to master, Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 11 does offer tutorials and videos to assist in learning the program.
Photo Editing Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
The top three performers in our photo editing software review include Corel PaintShop Pro X8, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Serif PhotoPlus. The clear winner, with almost a perfect score, is Corel PaintShop Pro. Delivering professional tools, this easy-to-learn program scored the Gold Award spot.
Ideal for beginners, hobbyists and professionals, Corel PaintShop Pro allows for quick and easy photography edits with high-end results. With a multitude of instructional videos and tutorials to guide you along, users of any skill level quickly learn the toolbars and menus within the program. With a score of 10 out of 10 for editing tools, and perfect 10s across the boards for organizing, sharing, importing and output capabilities, and help and support, Corel is the frontrunner in photo editing software. The product delivers excellent value and is fun to use. Whether you are creating a family photo album, designing a new business logo or professionally editing a portrait session, Corel PaintShop Pro X8 streamlines workflow and delivers the quality results you desire.
Coming in a close second, the Silver Award goes to Adobe Photoshop Elements. This powerful product, designed for users of all skill levels, scored a perfect 10 for editing tools. With three editing modes, including Quick Edit, Guided and Expert, the program adapts to your skill level. With another perfect 10 for its sharing capabilities, Adobe Photoshop Elements has the ability to upload your photos directly to the social media site of your choosing, including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and SmugMug. Overall, this friendly photo editor grows as you do and is an ideal option for beginner photo editors who would like to quickly advance their skill set.
Serif PhotoPlus comes in as our Bronze Award winner. Although it has a steeper learning curve compared to Adobe and Corel, Serif is one of the best photo editing programs. There are plenty of video tutorials and software guides to help get you started. Offering slightly less editing options than our Gold and Silver award winners, Serif offers excellent sharing capability, with one-click uploads to social media pages such as Facebook or Flickr. The most expensive of the three, Serif PhotoPlus is most ideal for the experienced photo editor or a beginner with a lot of patience to learn.
Photo Editing Software: Wrapping It Up
With hundreds of options to choose from, picking a photo editing program can be a difficult decision. There are free programs, web-based programs and software you install on your computer. Some programs are subscription based, while others are one-time install purchases. Whether you are a novice photographer looking to make minor edits to photos or a professional looking to produce high-quality images for your clients, there is a photo editor designed for your skill level and needs.
Considerations to take into account include how much editing you plan to do, the types of tools you need, file formats you might work with and your skill level. You also need to take a look at your computer system and ensure it has the technical specifications to run a photo editing program, as some require a lot of RAM and hard drive space for operation. Or, you may want to consider a cloud-based program that runs on a month-to-month subscription with immediate access to program updates. Once you have considered these important items, take a look at our Photo Editing Software Review for detailed scoring and an excellent comparison of the top 10 programs, including a pricing comparison. If you're looking to learn more about the programs and photo editing in general, check out our articles on photo editing software.
Product 1 Recap: Corel PaintShop Pro X8
The Gold Award Winner, Corel PaintShop Pro X8, puts a host of professional-grade tools at your fingertips with an easy-to-use interface. Delivering high-quality results, whether you are a beginner or a pro, Corel edits quickly and efficiently using 64-bit processing.
Scoring a perfect 10 out of 10 in our overall breakdown and analysis, Corel offers excellent organizational tools, social sharing features, importing and output capabilities. It also provides top of the line support and assistance with its software. With many built-in tutorials, a helpful forum, and customer service support via live chat, email or phone, PaintShop is one of the best all-around photo editing software program for beginners, amateurs and professionals.
One of the only concessions made when choosing Corel PaintShop Pro X8 is its sole compatibility with Windows operating systems. There currently is no option for Mac users. Corel requires higher-quality system specifications compared to others in our lineup as well. For the most basic install, this photo editing software requires Intel or AMD 1.5 GHz, 2GB of RAM, 1GB of hard disk space and a 1024 x 768 screen resolution with a 16-bit color display. For optimal performance, the manufacturer recommends 4GB or more of RAM, as well as at least 2GB of hard disk space.
Sharing your photos is also easy with Corel PaintShop. Social media has a substantial influence on our lives and sharing photos and art has never been easier. X8 offers the capability to share your photos online in a snap. The Find People application within X8 identifies faces in your photos, which makes tagging easy. A Photo Mapping feature applies location information to your photos and creates a map of your photos' location, a helpful option for frequent travelers and travel photo bloggers.
In our opinion overall, Corel PaintShop Pro X8 is the best photo editing software we tested. It delivers good value with a user-friendly program. Its support and tutorials make it ideal for those just starting out in editing while its advanced editing tools and a wide range of features that offer professionals what they need to produce high-quality images and files.
Product 2 Recap: Adobe Photoshop Elements 13
Our Silver Award Winner, Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, came in a close second to Corel. The intuitive design of the program and its various editing modes are ideal for both beginners and veterans alike.
With three editing modes, this photo editing software offers an in-depth range of editing tools and other features. The Quick Edit mode is great for basic editing, such as lighting and color correction. The Guided Mode is ideal for beginners as it's packed with step-by-step tutorials to guide the editor through the process of some of the most common editing techniques. This mode is also useful for more advanced editors that are looking to learn something new. Then, Expert Mode is also available, which places all of the program's editing tools in front of the editor for total control over photo editing.
One of the few cons we came across during our review was with the program's organizing feature. Elements 13 comes with Adobe Revel, a separate organizational software program. Elements does not have its own independent photo organizing tool, which adds an additional step to the organizing process. However, it does streamline the process of importing, sorting and rating your photos.
Adobe Elements scored a perfect 10 in our analysis of social sharing capability. Its ability to upload photos directly to Facebook, Flickr and private web albums is crucial in today's social media-conscious world. Another feature of this picture editing software, which operates through Adobe Revel, is the ability to upload photos to cloud storage, making them accessible from virtually anywhere.
Overall, Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 is an ideal image editing software program suitable for a range of skill levels. However, it is missing some features that professionals rely on, such as the use of actions. The need for Adobe Revel, included with the purchase of Elements, also adds an extra step to the workflow process.
Product 3 Recap: Serif PhotoPlus X8
The Bronze Award Winner of our top 10, Serif PhotoPlus X8, is an easy-to-use photo editing software program. It offers a virtually limitless array of editing tools with tons of video tutorials that make the software user friendly.
As with most image editing software programs, Serif provides integration and direct upload capability to social media sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, with just a single click of the mouse. The editing tools in this program are endless. The versatile PhotoFix tool offers quick, simple editing of exposure, brightness, contrast, color temperature, saturation and tint. Removal of blemishes, enhancements such as teeth whitening and red-eye removal are all simple to achieve. With the Makeover tool, portrait photographers can quickly remove dark under-eye circles and even out the subject's skin tone, while the Deform tool allows for slimming down a person's figure when necessary.
Although there is a learning curve to get an in-depth grasp of the entire program, Serif provides extensive video guides, tutorials and instructions under the how-to tab for learning the popular features of this photo editing software. The convenient "Do this for me" tool assists beginner editors in completing an edit using preset actions, which is an excellent resource for just starting out.
Serif's PhotoStack allows for easy library management. It offers intelligent and easy-to-use photo management tools, including a tagging and rating system. The program also includes the "Map of the World" feature from Google, which adds location information to photos. This is a convenient tool when sharing travel and vacation photos.
Serif PhotoPlus X8 offers tools and features for advanced photo editors as well as those new to photo editing. The program's editing toolbox allows creative users to achieve the high-quality final images they desire, while the integrated social media tools allow for easy upload and sharing.
Product 4 Recap: Zoner Photo Studio Pro 17
Zoner Photo Studio Pro 17 offers a selection of both basic and advanced editing tools that beginners and professionals can use. In addition to its wide assortment of editing capabilities, the software is also compatible with over 95 file formats, making it versatile to use.
With almost 50 different editing tools, including cloning, multi-layer support, brushes, text, transform and more, you can customize your images. The program has most of the tools beginner editors need to successfully edit their photos, as well as the advanced capabilities professionals need. With smart automatic edits, the program adjusts the colors of your photo by the push of a button. It also features LCP Profile Correction to correct distortions caused by lens.
In addition to the basic editing tools, Zoner Photo Studio Pro also features more advanced features. The software has the capability to create panoramas, HDR images and 3D effects. With a cloning tool, you can use it as a touch-up tool and correct flaws in your photos. The program also uses layer masks that you can use to delete unwanted objects in the background.
In addition to the assortment of editing tools, the software has a user-friendly photo organizer that helps you find and edit your photos fast. Whether you tag your photos by name, date, location or rating, you can find them using the program’s organizer. As you browse through photos, the browser expands selected photos to zoom in and preview. The built-in organizer also features batch processing so that you can apply the same edit to multiple photos. This feature saves time.
After editing all your photos, the software has several different options to share your photos. You can export directly to social media sites, such as Facebook, Flickr or Picasa. You also can use the Android app to back up your mobile library or edit photos on-the-go.
Product 5 Recap: Corel PhotoImpact X3
Ideal for photo editors and graphic designers looking for basic editing capabilities, Corel PhotoImpact X3 offers an extensive toolbox combined with the ability to import to almost any image file format.
Corel includes features for simple photo enhancements, such as the ExpressFix Mode, which provide automated enhancements for exposure, color and photo composition. Using the Cloud Pen, you can add realistic looking clouds to landscape photos or you can add other creative filters, effects and text.
For graphic designers, there is an entire array of editing tools to choose. This image editing software features the ability to create 2D and 3D objects. You can use Bucket Fill and Gradient Fill for color designs; twist and bend images with Shear Effect and Creative Transform as well as edit text and add various type effects.
PhotoImpact X3 features project wizards to create over 200 different photo gifts and art, including photo collages, comic strips, greeting cards and calendars. The Slideshow Prep Wizard helps you create a DVD slideshow. You can also design and print DVD labels, case covers and DVD menus for fully customizable photo DVDs to share with family and friends or to archive your photo library.
Using the Photo Explorer's Digital Camera Wizard, managing photos is easy. However, the software's organizational tools are lacking. The wizard helps manage files, including tools to transfer photos, add keywords and tags, and capture still images from video. Additionally, this Corel photo editing software program offers very limited social sharing capability compared to other programs in our review. The manufacturer does offer good help and support as well.
Although Corel PhotoImpact X3 is a basic photo editing software program, it is still packed with a broad range of editing tools and creative features. This program is ideal for photo editors and graphic designers just testing the waters in editing and design.
Product 6 Recap: Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11
Geared toward more advanced photo editors, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 by Magix is an image editing software that offers a versatile suite of editing tools and features. It comes preloaded with fonts and filters for an extensive choice of creative editing options. However, Xara does have a steeper learning curve than some other programs in our top 10 review.
This full-featured photo editing software delivers powerful tools to create professional-grade images and art. Basic editing tools include all the standards, such as crop, resize, red-eye removal and image rotation. For graphic artists, Xara comes with over 60 creative filters and 175 font choices. It also offers the ability to access over 600 Google fonts from within the program for even more creative power. For photographers, the background removal feature makes it easy to remove almost any object from a photo with a little patience and practice.
Compared to other photo editing software programs, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 takes time and patience to figure out where all the tools and features lie within the program. However, once you have mastered the interface, the creative possibilities with Xara are quite extensive.
Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 11 operates on Microsoft Windows operating systems only, including 32-bit and 64-bit. It has minimal system requirements compared to other editing programs, so this is an ideal choice if you are running on a less-powerful computer setup. The program requires 500MB of RAM and 300MB of free hard drive space as well as a minimum of 1024 x 600 screen resolution.
Although it takes patience to learn the ins and outs, Xara's robust library of editing tools, creative filters, font library and support options make it an ideal choice for more advanced photo editors.
Product 7 Recap: ACDSee Photo Editor 6
The user-friendly ACDSee Photo Editor 6 is an excellent option for photo editors just starting out. However, it does offer tools to achieve professional-grade results. This picture editing software program comes loaded with project templates and a basic editing toolbox.
One convenient feature of ACDSee is the ability to edit in a non-destructive environment. This means any edits you apply to your photo happen while keeping the original image file intact. This feature is ideal for beginners who may not yet have a good grasp on editing techniques as they don't need to worry about ruining photo memories during editing experimentation.
ACDSee Photo Editor 6 includes artistic filters and effects to apply to images. The LCE tool, patented by ACDSee, corrects lighting, contrast and exposure on a photo. The LCE tool works manually or with presets loaded into the software. However, there is no capability for correcting lens distortion or creating panoramic photos. If you are a landscape photographer, this is important to consider.
For creatives looking to complete photo projects or even create photo gifts, this photo editing software comes loaded with templates. With a variety of project templates to choose from, you can create graphics for things as various as T-shirts and wine bottles. For archiving and backing up photos, the software includes 2GB of free storage space online. This space is expandable, for a fee, and acts as an online photo gallery you can share with friends and family. It also allows for easy access to your photos from anywhere with an internet connection.
The manufacturer offers good customer service support via phone or email. There is also a user community forum for asking questions and getting tips from other ACDSee users. Overall, ACDSee Photo Editor 6 is an ideal image editing software option for getting your feet wet in photo editing and design as well as completing more advanced edits.
Product 8 Recap: Cyberlink PhotoDirector Ultra 7
PhotoDirector Ultra 7 is a photo editing software that offers a good balance of tools and features for the basic editing needs of photographers. It delivers convenient features for organizing and editing; however, it lacks some fundamental tools.
The design and interface of PhotoDirector are impressive, as the program is easy to navigate and use. With the majority of the tools located within six modules - Library, Adjustment, Edit, Layers, Slideshow and Print - the tools you need are easy to find.
One of the biggest assets in PhotoDirector Ultra 7 is its organizational capabilities. Importing and organizing photos under the Library module is simple and completed either individually or by folder. Tagging and keywords are easy tasks for further time saving and organization. The face-tagging feature allows for tagging people in single photos or in batches. Another great feature of this image editing software program, the People Beautifier, provides the ability to edit portraits extensively. You can make wrinkles disappear, whiten yellowed teeth and brighten eyes in just a few simple steps. Additionally, the content-aware feature is one of the best compared to all the photo editing programs we reviewed. Removing unwanted artifacts from a photo is simple, delivering quality results.
The program has limited capabilities in terms of file formats when importing and exporting images. It supports the popular JPG, PNG, TIFF and RAW files but does not support other popular formats, such as BMP and GIF images. It also does not support Photoshop PSD project files, which can be an issue for professional photographers and graphic artists.
Although this is a powerful photo editing program, it lacks some basic editing capabilities like the ability to work with common image files. PhotoDirector Ultra 7 is ideal for photographers looking to do basic photo editing. However, the program does offer excellent organizational tools for keeping your image library organized and under control.
Product 9 Recap: Photolightning 5.51
Photolightning 5.51 is an ideal photo editing program for editors just getting started. Although it's not a powerful editing program, it does offer the most basic editing tools, which comes in handy when learning the features.
A lot of editing tools in the program work using preset options for quick and easy edits with just the click of the mouse. Beginners get a good grasp of photo editing using this technique. This image editing software allows for adjusting lighting, text addition, color correction, red-eye removal and much more.
One of the better features of the program is its batch processing tool. With this function, you can easily apply the same edits to a group of photos all at once, eliminating the need to edit individual pictures and thus saving time. There is also a good organizational app for sorting and labeling images as well as separating photos based on whether you've edited them yet or not.
Another great feature in Photolightning is the ability to order prints of your images through Snapfish, Walgreens, Shutterfly or other online photo print companies. For printing at home, the program comes with templates for printing on specialty paper. You can also create an instant slideshow from a photo album or attach image files directly to an email.
Photolightning does not support RAW files, which may be an issue for many photographers who prefer to work on RAW images for more precise edits. Support for the program is also lacking. Customer service is only available through email support, although there is additional help found in a few FAQs.
A good photo editing program for beginning editors, Photolightning 5.51 offers an easy-to-use program with basic editing features. Its batch processing is ideal for editing groups of photos all at once; however, the inability to import RAW photos does not allow for professional-grade, detailed photo editing.
The program has tabs that have all of the photo editing tools, making it a clean interface with easy-to-find tools. The software has basic tools to help you crop, rotate, resize and flip pictures. It also has touch-up tools so you can perfect portraits using the red-eye removal tool or blemishes tool. In addition, the program has 15 photo filters you can use to make your photos look like oil paintings, cartoons or old-time photos.
While the software has a limited amount of advanced editing tools, it still features automatic edit options, batch processing and type effects. It also has photo stitching that you can use to combine multiple photos and create a panoramic image.
The organizing program this software uses is limited. You can view thumbnails of images and rotate between pictures as you edit them. The program is compatible with 12 popular image formats, including JPG, GIF and PNG files. You can upload photos from a variety of sources, including DSLR cameras, iPhones and Android phones.
After you edit your photos, you can share the images in multiple ways. You can upload images directly to Facebook and Flickr. You also can email your edited photos to friends and family or archive the images by burning them to a CD or DVD. In addition, you can print them.
While the program is limited by its basic editing tools, it offers strong support. With video tutorials, user guides, FAQs and user forums, you can find the answers to most of your questions. If you need additional help, you can contact technical support by phone or email. NCH Software, PhotoPad’s manufacturer, promptly responds to inquiries.