The top performers in our review are Adobe Photoshop Elements, the Gold Award winner; Pixelmator, the Silver Award winner; and Acorn, 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.
With most electronic devices now featuring cameras, taking photos has never been easier. Whether you are using an iPhone, iPad or digital camera, Mac photo editing software can help you enhance your photos. While Mac includes the Photos app on its devices, external photo editing programs offer more advanced features and capabilities. To learn tips and tricks about photo editing, read our articles about Mac photo editing software.
In addition to our review of photo editors for Macs, we also tested photo editing software that offers similar features but operates on Windows. For programs that primarily focus on managing photos but still offer some editing tools, we have reviewed photo managing software and photo organizing software. If you need a more versatile and advanced software, you can read about the best graphic design software.
Mac photo editing software supplies you with the basic tools to crop, resize, and adjust lighting and colors in your photos, as well as the ability to completely manipulate your images. You can edit photos to be what you originally envisioned when you took them using a wide array of tools, and you can then post them on various social media sites.
Similar to most software, Mac photo editing programs are now offered as services that charge monthly subscription fees. While the services maintain the same features and capabilities as their regular software, you can access them and your photos from smartphones and tablets, making them convenient to use. We focus our reviews on only photo editing software for Macs that range in price from $15 to $100. To learn more about features and capabilities, read our articles on Mac photo editing software.
To test the software, we used control images and performed basic edits, including resizing, cropping, adding filters and adjusting color. We also shared the images to social media sites to see how well each software’s sharing functions performed.
An application’s workspace design played a role in how quickly we were able to find editing tools. Several of the programs had customizable workspaces, allowing us to move the tools to our own preferred spots. Not only did this improve usability, we also spent less time looking for what we needed.
We found that most software had automatic edit options, a cloning tool and touch-up tools. While simple, these tools can greatly reduce how much time you spend editing and help you improve the quality of your photos without much effort. As such, they improve a program’s ease of use.
Most software had automatic edit options, a cloning tool and touch-up tools. While simple, these tools can greatly reduce how much time you spend editing and help you improve the quality of your photos with minimal labor required. As such, they improve a program’s ease of use.
Aside from the interfaces, there was little variation between the performances of each software. We found the programs that only offer basic editing tools limited our designs and the overall quality of the images. Software with more advanced editing tools were harder to learn and use, but they allowed for growth as we became familiar with their capabilities. Finding the Mac photo editor that works best for you depends on the level of editing you plan on doing.
We took our data and compiled an ease of use score, taking into account the interface, types of tools and the speed at which the software completes tasks. For example, software with automatic edit options were rewarded for improving usability.
In addition to software that is easy to use, you want a program that offers all of the tools you need, and the types of photos you want to create determine what those are. For example, if you want to add design elements to your photos, you want a software with vector graphic tools, drawing tools, painting tools and shapes.
We found that our Gold Award Winner, Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, offers a wide variety of tools that help you perform simple and complicated tasks. The software has support options that help you learn how to use the program, and its capabilities grow with you as your skills develop. With a user-friendly interface, we were able to transform our photos with ease.
Basic Tools: Performance
All of the Mac photo editing software we tested offer basic editing tools; however, the performance level of the tools varies from software to software. Standard editing tools include crop, color management and red eye removal. With the exception of Compositor Mac editing software, only the top-rated options include tools for selection, painting, drawing and making shapes.
Available font styles and the ability to work with layers were key differentiators for the top-rated Mac photo editors. Several applications lack these tools, and without them, you are limited in what you can do.
Advanced Editing Tools: Some Were Better Than Others
The advanced editing tools offered by each software varied from one to the next. We looked for programs that had tools for cosmetic enhancement, HDR imaging and color enhancement, which can improve the quality of your photo, whether by removing scratches and blemishes from your subjects or by adding vivid colors. Additionally, batch processing helps you speed up the editing process by performing specified edits on multiple photos at once.
We found that we had more control over the end results when using software with a wide selection of advanced tools in addition to the basics. With layer masks and background removal, we were able to completely change our images by removing people or adding new backgrounds to create the photos we wished we had taken. We also found that by using advanced editing tools, we could create images that were sharper and had more vivid colors than when using basic tools alone.
All of the software featured some advanced editing tools. For example, most of the programs have creative filters you can add to your photos; some offer a dozen while others include hundreds. Only two software options, ACDSee Mac Pro and Snapheal Pro, don’t have filters.
While filters create similar effects regardless of the software, there is a perceivable difference in the image’s quality, whether it is the shade of color, sharpness of the image or projected texture, depending on the program you use. Some allow you to edit and retouch photos without flaw while others reduce the quality of the photo after you touch it.
We found that the availability of HDR imaging, vector graphic tools and the ability to create panoramic photos were the most varied. HDR imaging and panoramic photos require more than one image to create the effect, whether your end result is a vivid skyline or 180-degree view of the ocean. Vector graphic tools allow you to transform your photo by adding designs or elements while maintaining quality. Some of the software offer these tools, but the quality of the image is affected. Our comparison chart presents which software offer these type of editing tools, and our reviews detail how well these editing tools work.
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.
While the number and types of editing tools differentiate basic photo editing software from the more advanced, there are other features to consider. Photo organizers help you quickly find, edit and share your photos. Software that has an organizer built in reduce the number of steps you must take when editing and save time. Also, if you plan on sharing your photos with friends and family, the software’s sharing capabilities are important.
Organization: Sifting through Photos
The best photo editing software for Macs have tools to help you search through thousands of photos and find the ones you are looking for quickly. This could be by allowing you to create tags, ratings and categories.
Photo editing programs that provide a photo organizer directly in the application improve usability. You can search for your photos, create albums and organize them without ever leaving the program. While software like Photoshop Elements have a separate organizing program, we favored those that have organizers built in to the application.
Sharing: How Many Sites Can I Share On?
Most Mac photo editing software allows you to post your photos to sites to both backup your files and share images with friends. Whether it is by printing out, emailing, creating slideshows or posting your images on social media, you want a software that offers a variety of options.
Three Mac photo editing programs stood out from the others in our comparison: Adobe Photoshop Elements, Pixelmator and Acorn. These offer a large selection of basic and advanced editing tools, organizing features and sharing capabilities. Additionally, these top three programs are compatible with many image file types, helping you create versatile images you can use on multiple programs.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is the clear winner of the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award with perfect scores in import and export options, sharing capabilities and support. Suitable for beginners and professionals alike, the software’s clean interface, instructional tutorials and support resources help you quickly develop your editing skills. It has an array of beginning and advanced tools that grow with you as you learn more. Whether you are simply creating a photo album or designing a logo, Adobe Elements 13 delivers quality results.
Pixelmator and Acorn both offer a wide selection of tools to take your editing to the next level. With tools that improve usability, such as automatic edit options and vector graphic tools, these programs have both the features and capabilities to create professional designs. Both of the programs also have robust sharing capabilities and support a variety of files. While Pixelmator and Acorn lag behind our Gold Award winner, they both have the editing tools you need at a much more affordable price.