10 Free Lightroom Alternatives to Improve Your Editing Without Breaking the Bank

Adobe Lightroom is a photo editing software that offers a simple and effective way to process, touch up and organize your photos. It covers all of the basics and is more than enough for most photographers. It’s also an excellent way of importing, organizing, rating, and sorting large batches of images. However, Lightroom can get pretty pricey if you use it consistently, especially if you’re new to the field. Besides, if you want to cancel your yearly subscription at any point, you’ll still have to pay 50% of the remaining balance if the year is not up.

Regardless of this, good quality photos, just like top-notch editing, are imperative no matter if you’re doing photography professionally or adding retouched stock photos on a website. So, if you are looking to save a few bucks but still get similar features and tools for photo editing, keep reading to find out what you can use to edit for free.

1. Darktable

Darktable landing page

Darktable is an open-source editor that can also be used for the storage and organization of your photos. When organizing images, you can add tags, rate them, organize into folders or mark them by color. Darktable allows you to browse through a zoomable lightable as well as develop raw images and enhance them. It has a smooth interface design that is almost identical to Lightroom’s and is highly focused on the user’s experience. The editor itself has a great processing speed and high-quality output.

With Darktable, you don’t have to worry about the quality of your images being changed in any way because it provides non-destructive editing throughout the whole workflow. It includes 61 different modules you can use for operations, such as tuning the contrast and saturation of your images, cropping and rotating, white balance, exposure, and more. Other operations include tone, color, correction, effects, and quite a few others.

Along with all of these quality features, Darktable also allows you to import a variety of standard, raw, and high dynamic range image formats, as well as translate them to one of the 21 languages it offers.

2. RawTherapee

Raw Therapee landing page

RawTherapee is a free cross-platform raw image processing program. It offers non-destructive editing, meaning you can always go back to the original image. With it, you can develop images of the best quality using tools such as a 32-bit processing engine and modern demosaicing algorithms. Demosaicing algorithms offer the option of compositing pixel-shift raw files and making different corrections.

The editor is completely free and open for anyone to use; it workes on Linux, Mac, and Windows. It’s also translatable into 25 different languages.

3. PhotoScape X

PhotoScape X landing page

PhotoScape X is an all-in-one photo editing software and offers many features to ensure that your photos are edited to perfection. The editor comes with a wide range of extra features to better your images, such as frames, objects, brushes, rotation, and more. It offers more than 1000 filters and effects as well as colors and style adjustments. If you really want to put some extra charm into your creations, PhotoScape X also offers the possibility of adding film effects and light leaks.

In addition, as any well-developed editor should, it gives the option to remove image backgrounds as well as bach edit multiple photos and collages to combine them. You can even use Photoscape to create animated GIFs. Overall, the interface is not complicated at all, and the variety of filters and effects make it simple and quick to use.

4. LightZone

LightZone landing page

LightZone is a professional-level digital darkroom software that can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and, like many others on this list, it includes raw processing and editing. By using this tool, you can build a custom stack of tools that can be rearranged, readjusted, turned off, or removed from the stack. Any of them can be adjusted and modified later. You can even copy the stack to a different batch of photos.

Lightzone is really good for editing black and white photos, as it offers various tools for tonal control. Another great thing about this tool is that it comes with selective editing using vectors, allowing you to edit only a portion of the image in a flexible system.

5. Apple Photos

Apple Photos landing page

Apple Photos is a great option for you if you use a Mac computer. It is automatically installed and can be synced with your other Apple products via iCloud. You can both edit and organize your photos in a precise and simple manner if Apple Photos becomes your tool of choice. After you’re done organizing, you can just browse your photos and sort them by years, months, or the highlights. If you’re not looking for a single picture, in particular, all you have to is switch to grid mode, and you’ll be able to see everything you got, neat and organized.

Moving on to the actual editing part. The editor lets you fine-tune and adjust your photos with a variety of tools and effects. You can modify exposure, brightness, contrast, and more. Pretty much anything you’d want to tinker with on your images is possible from here on out.

The best part about this tool is that it’s multifunctional—anything you can do on photos, you can do on videos as well. Transferring your photos also becomes a one-step process, as you can now import raw images from iPhone and iPad models with an A9 chip or later. Apple Photos doesn’t stop at only that. By using it, you can also create photo books, calendars, and more.

6. Microsoft Photos

Microsoft Photos landing page

Microsoft Photos is a good option for beginners using Windows. It comes installed on any Windows 10 operating system and is both an image library and an editor. You can flag, rate, tag, and organize your images, as well as edit them using a variety of filters. There’s even an instant fix button that improves your photos’ color, brightness, and contrast. If you are not satisfied with the strength of the Enhance tool’s effect, or any other for that matter, you can adjust it with a slider.

If you wish to have a clear overview of your creations, or perhaps add a little something onto them, Microsoft Photos allows you to play a slideshow and draw on any photo of your choosing. In addition, editing is also possible for video; you can join clips, trim them, put titles in, add background music, etc.  In short, it has a simple and touch-friendly interface as well as good photo browsing and searching features.

7. Capture One Express

Capture One Express landing page

Capture One Express is the free version of Capture One, and it offers basic editing tools and a similar workflow as the premium version. It comes with a basic color editor that allows you to click anywhere on the photo and drag to adjust the hue, lightness, and saturation of any color. Express also has a cataloging program used to import raw files into a catalog and organize them by folders or into albums.

Other features include lens corrections, color, exposure, details, and more. Capture One Express is definetely a choice worth considering if you are a Sony or Fujifilm user. Besides, it’s an excellent choice to start out with and upgrade to a pro version further along the line once you’re completely sold on it.

8. Photopea

Photopea editor

Photopea is a free photo editor that is completely online. It supports .PSD, .XD, .sketch and .XCF files. Overall, it’s a good tool for graphic designers and graphic artists. The interface and the features are similar to Photoshop. It comes with layered editing, so you can even do something more complex if you want to. Some core features of Photopea include; layer masks, blend modes, brushes, and selection.

The editor is neat and easy to work with. Plus, you’ll never be faced with a messy workspace, as every tool is neatly placed in drop-down menus where you can pick what you want to adjust, such as tone, color, and contrast. Filters are also an easy add, even in layered editing. And the best part of the whole deal, you don’t have to install Photopea on your computer, just open your browser and start editing.

9. IrfanView

IrfanView landing page

IrfanView is a Windows-only image editor that has a good catalog feature as well. Editing features include standard photo adjustment tools as well as raw image rendering and a solid number of filters and effects. It also does the raw conversion, image creation, and painting.

The editor supports almost any file format, and you can even import music and video files. IrfanView is also pretty fast in batch editing, a great feature encountered less than you’d think in free editors. In addition to all of this, it comes in a 32 or 64-bit version and has multi-language support.

10. Polarr

Polarr landing page

Polarr is an image editing software usable on Mac, Windows, or Linux, with an option to get it in an app form for iOS and Android, so you can do your editing wherever you are. This is a great tool for anyone looking for a quick and easy solution when it comes to photo editing. It has a large number of filters to choose from and features a slider you can use to adjust the strength of each one. Polarr is simply great for basic adjustments and simple filters.

The design is more intuitive and not that overwhelming like some software is. It is user-friendly and a good choice if you are on the go.

Final thoughts

All in all, there are a lot of platforms and software you can use to edit your photos. It is important to find one that supports different image formats and has a good variety of features. These Lightroom alternatives are here to make sure you get what you are looking for. They offer a range of features you can use to adjust your photos as well as some to organize them once you’ve finished.