The 9 Best Lightroom Alternatives (Free and Paid)

lightroom alternatives

Adobe Lightroom is the default photo management and editing app for many photographers. But where you could once buy the program and use it for as long as you wanted, it’s now only available through a subscription. Which is a model that doesn’t work for everyone.

What are the best Lightroom alternatives? Can you get the best features of Adobe Lightroom free of charge, or at least for just a single, one-off price? Here are your best options.

1. Capture One Pro

  • Available for: Windows and macOS

Capture One Pro is the closest thing to a direct replacement for Lightroom. While the starting price of $299 makes it a tool for professionals and very serious hobbyists only, you can sign up for a monthly subscription if you’ll only be an occasional user.

The feature set is impressive. You can migrate your catalogs over from Lightroom. There’s support for RAW files from nearly 600 cameras, and profiles for 700 lenses. The editing tools are comprehensive, and presented in a very visually appealing manner. And there are lots of pro-level functions, including support for tethered shooting, with live view.

Capture One Pro is likely to be overkill for many users. But there is a trial available, so you can easily test it out for yourself.

Download: Capture One Pro ($299, 30-day free trial available)

2. Darktable


  • Available for: Windows, macOS, and Linux

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Capture One, there’s Darktable. It’s free and open-source, but still replicates the core functionality of Lightroom.

Darktable offers detailed asset management along with decent editing options. Its RAW processing support for nearly 700 cameras is well regarded by its users, and it also offers things like white balance presets and noise profiles for many of them. Support from the user base helps to develop this further.

AI features aside, you can do a lot in Darktable that you can do in Lightroom. But we can’t deny that its interface lacks the finesse of its commercial counterparts.

Download: Darktable (Free)

3. Adobe Bridge

adobe bridge

  • Available for: Windows and macOS

Long before Lightroom, Bridge + Photoshop was the setup of choice for many photographers. Adobe Bridge is the asset management part of that combination. It’s still available, it’s still a good Lightroom alternative, and it’s one of the best free Adobe apps you can use. You need an Adobe account to download it, but a basic, non-paid account is fine.

Bridge handles all your cataloging needs. You can organize your images into folders and collections, add star ratings, apply keywords, view metadata, and so on.

Adobe Camera Raw isn’t included in the free version, so you do need to add your own RAW processor if you’re shooting RAW. You also need to add your own editing app—GIMP is a great free Photoshop alternative, or take a look at Affinity Photo as an affordable paid option.

Download: Adobe Bridge (Free)

4. DxO PhotoLab

dxo photolab

  • Available for: Windows and macOS

PhotoLab is a pro-level image editing app that competes with Capture One. It comes in two versions. Essential is the basic (but still fairly pricey) version that offers full asset management, RAW processing for hundreds of cameras, and a full set of editing tools to rival what you’ll get in Lightroom. These include things like powerful color editing, lens corrections, and support for local adjustments.

Elite takes it a step further with lots of extra tools including AI-powered tools for reducing noise and haze, pro features like a soft proofing mode and support for adding watermarks, and lots more. You can also activate it on three computers instead of two.

You can get a 30-day trial of PhotoLab 6, which is well worth testing before you buy.

You can use PhotoLab with Lightroom if you want to, and you can set the program to automatically adjust your photos to make things easier.

Download: DxO PhotoLab ($139 to $219, 30-day free trial available)

5. RawTherapee


  • Available for: Windows, macOS, and Linux

RawTherapee is primarily a standalone RAW processor with wide camera support. It’s as much an alternative to Adobe Camera Raw as Lightroom, but with some basic digital asset management features, it’s still worth considering.

RawTherapee won’t import your images and sort them into folders for you—you need to do that some other way. But once they’re there you can apply colors and ratings to help keep track of your best images.

The RAW capability has a strong reputation among the enthusiast crowd. This is especially true for users of Fuji cameras, which produce notoriously challenging RAW files. There is a certain learning curve to using it, and it can be sluggish in comparison to the other apps on this list, but it rewards the time you put in.

The biggest downside is that the development time between new versions can be rather slow, often going a year or more between updates.

Download: RawTherapee (Free)

6. ON1 Photo RAW


  • Available for: Windows and macOS

ON1 Photo RAW combines the best of Lightroom—cataloging and organization tools plus fast RAW processing—with a few concepts from Photoshop, including layer support. This enables you to composite images together in a way you cannot do in other Lightroom alternatives.

The program fully embraces AI in numerous areas. It can automatically select and mask certain parts of an image so you can apply local adjustments, for example, while the Keyword AI feature takes some of the pain out of adding keywords to your photos by doing it for you.

It’s fast and feature-packed, and supports a host of additional plugins. But it does suffer a little from a cluttered interface that might cause you to rethink your workflow.

Download: ON1 Photo RAW ($99, 14-day free trial available)

7. ACDSee Photo Studio

ACDSee Photo Studio is a Windows program that has clearly got Lightroom in its sights. It has two versions—Professional and Ultimate—and has all the main features of Adobe’s app, plus some extras of its own.

You get comprehensive cataloging and organizing tools, and a thorough RAW editing mode with support for more than 700 cameras. And you also get things like a Liquify tool that enables you to retouch photos by moving groups of pixels without altering them. You’d normally have to switch to Photoshop for that.

Ultimate adds more advanced tools including layer support and AI features for detecting backgrounds and fixing portraits.

More Information: ACDSee Photo Studio ($99 to $149, free trial available)

8. Apple Photos

apple photos

Finally, what about Apple and Google’s Photo apps? The chances are you already use either of them on your phone. Can they give you the best features of Lightroom for free?

Apple Photos is very good for photo management, and it plays nicely with your third-party editor of choice. The addition of tools like a tone curve and definition slider has made it easier to get the kinds of results you’d expect from Lightroom. RAW support is built into macOS, so the app works with a large number of cameras.

If you want to start using it, it’s easy to move your pictures from Google Photos to iCloud to get started.

More Information: Apple Photos (Free)

9. Google Photos

google photos

  • Available for: Windows, macOS, Linux, and Chrome OS

Google Photos is entirely cloud-based and runs in the browser on your desktop. That may make it a total non-starter for you. But the processing capabilities are excellent. It benefits from the technologies carried over from apps like Snapseed, as well as from Google’s machine learning algorithms. It also has some limited support for RAW files.

Google is great for organizing your shots. You don’t need to worry about adding keywords, as it automatically identifies things in your shots and produces them upon a simple search. It isn’t so good for managing big shoots, though, so is better for casual use.

Web: Google Photos (Free)

Take Your Pick of Lightroom Alternatives

Lightroom got to the top for a reason. Whatever quirks it may have, it is the best at what it does. But the competition is catching up. If you don’t want to pay for a Lightroom subscription, you’ve got some fantastic options that you can either pay for outright or get for free.

One of the main considerations when picking your Lightroom alternative is how good the RAW processing is. Not all apps are as good as one another in this regard, and some will produce better results with certain cameras than others.

For this reason, you should definitely download and test the trial versions where they’re available. See how well they fit both your gear and your workflow.

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