Four alternatives to Adobe Lightroom 2019

May 22, 2019

Allen Murabayashi

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Four alternatives to Adobe Lightroom 2019

May 22, 2019

Allen Murabayashi

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Adobe recently announced that it would both discontinue downloads of older versions of Creative Cloud apps (which includes Lightroom and Photoshop), and revoke the license for older software. Further, Adobe tweeted that consumers “may face potential claims of infringement by third parties.”

For some photographers, the thought of continuing to use Adobe’s subscription-based products is unpalatable, and fortunately, there are a number of full-featured alternatives that come without the price nor baggage.

Adobe Lightroom (now renamed Lightroom Classic) emerged as Adobe’s desktop-based response to the now defunct Apple Aperture, which was the first mainstream non-destructive, parametric image editor. Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom allowed for quick batch editing and provided a built-in catalog – which makes it highly valuable for high volume shooters or photographers with minimal editing needs.

What you should know about switching

Using new software always entails a learning curve, but all of the alternatives below offer a familiar editing interface to get you up and running quickly. Some of the tools even have Lightroom migration tools to ease a transition.

The RAW processing engines of each software can yield dramatically different results out of the box.

There are some important differences to be aware of:

  • Each manufacturer has their own special sauce for rendering RAW files (even if they’re using open source software as their backbone), which can potentially give you very different results in the appearance of the image – at least in the initial, default render.
  • Camera and lens support varies. Not everyone, including Adobe, will support the newest camera on the day its released
  • If you typically only make global adjustments to your images, any of these tools will suffice.
  • Metadata catalog support is weak compared to Lightroom. None of the tools we evaluated has as much IPTC/Metadata Working Group support as Lightroom.

We did a quick evaluation of some of the popular alternatives using a Mac Pro (Late 2013) with 64GB of RAM. Many of the options are moving towards building more “one click” smart editing options, which is both reflective of the Instagram filter generation, as well as providing good results to time-pressed pros. All of the options provide free trial periods, which is worth taking advantage of to learn the pros and cons.

Skylum Luminar 3

Price $60; Can install on 5 computers
30-day trial
Size: 318MB

Skylum Luminar 3

The last time we looked at Luminar in 2017, it was a relatively new entrant into the parametric editing software realm created Macphun – a company that originally created iPhone apps . In 2018, the company rebranded to Skylum and added key features like a library function that gave it some parity with Lightroom’s catalog. You can traverse your images by folder, and the Library also adopts some Apple Photo-like conventions by providing a photo “stream” organized by date.

Luminar has an “Edit” mode that is akin to Lightroom’s Develop module. But unlike Lightroom, Luminar offers “workspaces,” which hide or reveal certain controls depending on how into the weeds you want to get with editing. The software has pro level controls, but the workspaces allow amateurs (or the time constrained) less choice for less confusion.

Luminar’s “Looks” are equivalent to Lightroom’s Presets, but Luminar provides thumbnail previews rather than relying on a “mouse over” to preview the change.

The software has a number of “AI” enhancements although it’s unclear whether there’s actually any AI happening locally, or whether their algorithm was trained by AI. Like most “auto” enhancement features, Luminar’s AI Image Enhancer seems to boost contrast and vibrance without affecting noise. It’s a solid one-click adjustment.

Many photographers rely on Lightroom’s catalog functionality to organize and find specific images. Although Luminar allows for star ratings and is folder aware, it’s lacking keyword support. You can’t view nor edit (individually or in batch) IPTC keyword or other metadata information. For some photographers, this will be a deal breaker. Fortunately, IPTC support is “In Development” on their feature roadmap.

ON1 Photo RAW 2019.5

Price: $79.99; Can install on 2 computers
30-day trial
Size: 1.63GB

ON1 Photo RAW 2019.5

ON1 Photo RAW 2019 is an impressive piece of software – especially considering the price. And its Achilles heel might be that it’s too fully-featured, making the application sluggish at times for basic image adjustments.

Unlike Lightroom, ON1 doesn’t have to import photos – the application can traverse your filesystem and automatically detect changes. I haven’t used the program enough to determine the benefits of this approach, but it certainly seems more intuitive.

Along with a slate of typical parametric editing controls, ON1 has spent a lot of time developing layer/mask functionality that gives it a lot of power of Photoshop. Additionally, they’ve created some shortcut tools to deal with common photographers (e.g. landscape). The Portrait Tool, for example, simplifies eye and teeth whitening without worry about masking.

The rapid pace of improvements and inclusion of features like panoramic stitching, focus stacking, etc have come at a price with some users complaining that the build is slow or unstable. ON1 can easily replace Lightroom in your application arsenal (there’s even a migration tool), but I wish they prioritized performance above niche features.

Capture One 12

Price: $299 (perpetual) or $20/month; Can install on 3 computers
30-day trial
Size: 640MB

Because many RAW file formats (e.g. NEF, CR2, etc) are proprietary, Adobe reverse engineers the RAW processing using their Camera RAW engine. If you want to get the best looking image, you need to use the manufacturer software. But applications like Nikon Capture NX-D are laughable at best. They might produce a good looking image, but their user interface and speed make them unusable.

The exception might be Phase One – the well-known manufacturer of medium format cameras and digital backs – and their Capture One Pro software. The common refrain amongst regular users is that its RAW processing engine produce much better looking images than Lightroom. The acuity of your vision may or may not corroborate this statement.

One of Capture One’s main differentiations is fantastic tethering support. Like Lightroom, you can set up metadata templates, adjust camera controls, apply styles – but it also has an overlay function which can be pretty handy depending on what you’re shooting. This would allow you to drop in type or another image that you’re trying to duplicate. It’s definitely a niche, but handy tool.

Like ON1, Capture One 12 has powerful layer and masking tools that provide a Photoshop-like experience. The software even has a luminosity range tool that gives the user another powerful selection method.

At $299, Capture One isn’t exactly a cheap alternative to Lightroom – but it’s actually the same price as the formerly shrink-wrapped Version 1 of Lightroom. And it is the most viable alternative of the bunch.

DxO Photolab 2

Price: $129 (Essential edition); $199 (Elite edition)
31-day trial
Size: 449MB

DxO purchased Nik from Google in 2017 and integrated U-Point technology into Photolab. For the uninitiated, U-Point is an auto-masking feature that works at a local level. A user can click a region (or many) in the image and set a rough radius in which any image adjustments will be smartly applied. As masking tools get smarter and smarter, it’s arguable that U-Point (with its circular radius) is reaching the end of its usefulness, but DxO has also expanded its masking options to provide a robust selection of tools.

DxO arguably has the most “branded” tools that might require a little more investigation to understand what they do and how they work. For example, DxO Smart Lighting helps recover image detail in high dynamic range images and is similar to Nikon’s D-Lighting. DxO ClearView Plus is similar to Adobe’s dehaze function, and works by adding local contrast to a scene, but it’s only available in the Elite version.

Like Luminar, Photolab 2 has no IPTC support.

Conclusion

Adobe is ubiquitous and there is a certain amount of convenience in playing in their ecosystem. But other software manufacturers have made significant strides in the past few years, and now offer very viable alternatives to Lightroom. Given the generous trial periods of most software and the number of video-based tutorials on YouTube, now is a great time to explore different options for image processing and cataloging.

About the Author

Allen Murabayashi is a graduate of Yale University, the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter blog, and a co-host of the “I Love Photography” podcast on iTunes. For more of his work, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

DIPY Icon

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

22 responses to “Four alternatives to Adobe Lightroom 2019”

  1. Franco Kailsan Avatar
    Franco Kailsan

    Thanks but MS Paint is good enough for me. <3

  2. Stephan Hughes Avatar
    Stephan Hughes

    I switched to Luminar 3. Still needs some work to make it match Lightroom, but I’m happy with it.

  3. Rob Gipman Avatar
    Rob Gipman

    Corel Aftershot Pro 3 on Linux and W10

  4. Nicholas Kau Avatar
    Nicholas Kau

    10 points if you know what that pool is called.

  5. Heath Petty Avatar
    Heath Petty

    Or, if you know, if you want freedom from restrictive licenses, there is always darktable. http://darktable.org/

  6. Christopher Guillou Avatar
    Christopher Guillou

    Currently switching to Capture One Pro and loving it !

  7. g_discus Avatar
    g_discus

    I use RawTherapee – it’s free

  8. Mark Niebauer Avatar
    Mark Niebauer

    dont forget GIMP. its free!

    1. James Vella Avatar
      James Vella

      Maybe so, but cataloging, syncing images and things like what darktable does (more free linux sodtware) is more in line with what the user is trying to achieve. Gimp is a good free replacement for Photoshop, but its nothing like lightroom.

  9. Lars Oeschey Avatar
    Lars Oeschey

    C1 for people photography, LR for the rest (mainly because of sharing plugins, C1 still lacks there)

  10. Tien Enga Avatar
    Tien Enga

    Luminar – Needs work
    One1 – Needs work
    Exposure 4 – Still need to test
    otherwise right now Lr is hard to beat.

    1. MegaNickels Avatar
      MegaNickels

      Capture one is leagues better than Lightroom. the only thing Lightroom has that capture one doesn’t is panorama merge and HDR merge.

  11. JackDeth Avatar
    JackDeth

    Don’t forget about the open source darktable, which is now also available for Windows and Mac, not just Linux (although it is best on Linux).

  12. Anthony Woodruffe Avatar
    Anthony Woodruffe

    Changed over to CaptureOne last September…. so happy about that decision ?

  13. Sebastian Merca Avatar
    Sebastian Merca

    darktable is by far more advanced way how to do it, specially now that will allow to load multiple luts take that lr

  14. Jlc Imagery Avatar
    Jlc Imagery

    ADOBE

  15. Toby O'Brien Avatar
    Toby O’Brien

    ON1 for me is the better one. I have always liked their stuff. Adobe is going the same way of many greats. Starts well then sinks to the “Ocean[s]” bottom. I hope you’re all old enough to know Ocean Software!

  16. Madelien Waegemans Avatar
    Madelien Waegemans

    I’m loyal to Lightroom, but they’d better not jack up the price!!

  17. Brian Watson Avatar
    Brian Watson

    I really rely on the DAM features (keywording, folders, etc.) in Lightroom. Does anyone else offer functionality that comes close to that?

  18. Phokitall Avatar
    Phokitall

    there’s a reason capture one is the industry standard on all sets…

  19. Bolkey Avatar
    Bolkey

    Just don’t use the newest version of LR

  20. kalidesu Avatar
    kalidesu

    What about Affinity Photo?