4

Welcome to CyberLink Member Zone

PhotoDirector

7 Best Free Alternatives to Lightroom in 2022 [Windows & Mac]

Last Updated on Apr. 29, 2022 – by David Morgan
Add to My Favorites
How to Change a Photo Background

If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably used Adobe Lightroom to manage and process your photo catalog. Lightroom is one of the most popular image processing programs on the market. Tens of thousands of photographers use it to manage their workflow, organize photos from a shoot, and make base-level corrections each day.

Even though Lightroom has risen to the top of the market for popularity, you may be surprised to learn that it isn’t necessarily the best option. Many users complain that Lightroom is too expensive for its capabilities, too complicated for beginners to learn, and too limited in its photo manipulation options.

Thankfully, dozens of excellent alternatives to Lightroom exist that provide similar features and expand upon Lightroom’s limitations - for a fraction of the cost.  

With so many alternatives to Lightroom out there, you may have trouble determining which one is right for your needs. So we’ve reviewed the best Lightroom alternatives on the market to help you make the most informed decision.


Top 3 Free Alternatives to Lightroom Snapshot

PhotoDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Essential has the powerful editing tools you find in Photoshop with the impressive organizational tools of Lightroom in one package. It is the best overall alternative to Lightroom because it is packed with advanced photo editing tools, yet it remains easy to use and learn. More Info >

Pixlr Logo

2. Capture One - Best for Color Adjustments

Capture One is very similar to Lightroom in feature set and quality. But its color adjustment tools make it a viable Lightroom alternative, especially for those who want more control over every color in an image. More Info >

PicsArt Logo

3. DxO PhotoLab - Best for Photo Processing

DxO PhotoLab uses deep learning AI technology to take image correction to another level. The software’s ability to reduce digital noise in RAW images makes this a top-notch alternative to Lightroom. More Info >

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is a photo organization and photo editing software part of the Adobe Creative Cloud family. Unlike Adobe’s other photo editing software, Photoshop, Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning the edited image is saved as a separate file while the original image remains untouched. It is popular amongst professional photographers because you can easily import, organize, view, edit, and share a large number of images.

7 Best Free Alternatives to Lightroom in 2022 [Windows & Mac]

1. PhotoDirector Essential - Best Overall

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 10 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 10 / 10

Key Features:

  1. AI sky replacement
  2. Unique video-to-photo tools
  3. Auto-lens correction
  4. Photo animation

We recommend PhotoDirector Essential as the best overall alternative to Lightroom. While Lightroom takes many users weeks or months to master, PhotoDirector Essential uses simple, straightforward tools and sorting features that new users can learn in no time. And that’s not to say PhotoDirector is only for beginners. It is packed with all of the editing tools, features, and presets you would ever need to produce professional, publication-ready photos.  

PhotoDirector will keep your photos organized, assist your workflow, and provide a secure place to store your catalog. You can tag, rate, and add keywords to your entire photo dump in one simple step, allowing you to arrange an extensive catalog quickly. This program also utilizes automatic facial recognition to streamline the sorting process. PhotoDirector is a superb Lightroom alternative because of its advanced features like AI-powered tools, object removal, pro-level color adjustment tools, and an extensive library of filters and effects. With PhotoDirector, you can split, combine, and color layers with glitch effects or use de-blur, de-haze, and de-fringe to sharpen images. There’s even a royalty-free stock library with over 4 million beautiful photos and graphics from Shutterstock and Getty Images. 

Whether you typically perform simple color corrections to your photos or prefer to zoom in and perfect every pixel, PhotoDirector has you covered. Think of PhotoDirector as the perfect blend of Lightroom and Photoshop without the clunky, hard-to-learn interfaces Adobe programs utilize, making it the perfect alternative to Lightroom. Download PhotoDirector Essential today to organize and edit your photo collection like a professional.

Pros
  • Easy-to-use
  • User-friendly, intuitive interface
  • Packed with pro-level features
Cons
  • Requires a lot of hard drive space

2. Capture One - Best for Color Adjustments

Capture One Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 9 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 9 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Customizable interface
  2. RAW image converter
  3. Object removal
  4. Apply up to 16 layers

Capture One is the best Lightroom alternative for Color Adjustments. Based on our review, Capture One has incredible color accuracy and image quality, with true-to-life color processing for over 500 camera profiles. Capture One’s advanced color editor is on par with Lightroom. It offers eight color ranges instead of the standard six and lets you isolate and edit specific colors in your photo. There’s also a Skin Tone Editor to accurately depict skin tone without complex retouching.  

One of this program’s major perks is that you can easily import your photo catalog from Lightroom to Capture One if you currently use Lightroom. It also has organizational tools like keyword management and sorting by star rating or color tagging. In addition, you can sort your photos into Sessions folders for current jobs and Catalogs for older projects.  

If you’re looking for a feature-to-feature alternative to Lightroom, Capture One is about as close as you can get. The two programs are very similar - so similar in fact that it might not be worth the change. If you’re looking for a Lightroom alternative that expands on its features, Capture One probably isn’t the best choice. It also has a similar learning curve and expensive price tag but does offer a free download for 30 days. 

Pros
  • Fast import and rendering speed
  • High-quality output
Cons
  • Complex interface
  • Steep learning curve

3. DxO PhotoLab - Best for Photo Processing

DxO PhotoLab

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 8 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Automatic lens correction
  2. Spot removal tools
  3. Smart lighting adjustment options
  4. ClearView plus dehaze tool

We found DxO PhotoLab to be another solid alternative to Lightroom because of its superb RAW Photo Processing features. PhotoLab uses DxO DeepPRIME - a deep learning AI technology - to demosaic and denoise images for top-notch quality. Experts can shoot at a higher sensitivity level, while amateurs can make up for the lack of professional camera equipment. It can even be used to fix old photos that until now were unusable. 

As far as image management goes, this Lightroom alternative offers metadata and keyword management in the photo library and an Advanced History feature that keeps track of each edit made to your images. However, it is missing geotracking and facial recognition tools. DxO PhotoLab includes a limited selection of additional editing features, including 40 presets and base-level adjustment tools

DxO PhotoLab is less user-friendly than other similar programs. It organizes your images into a linear list, making it challenging to find a specific photo at a glance or compare images across a photoshoot. And while its denoise and auto repair tools are the best around, it lacks all other photo editing tools, which is why this program is not the top alternative to Lightroom on our list. 

Pros
  • Excellent auto-correction
  • Fast image processing
Cons
  • Not user-friendly
  • Lacking a variety of features

4. Affinity Photo - Best for Layer Editing

Affinity Photo Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 6 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Noise reduction
  2. RAW editing
  3. 360-degree image editing
  4. Panorama stitching

Affinity Photo has unlimited layers, so your creativity knows no bounds. This is the best alternative to Lightroom for layer effects and layer editing with mask and clipping layers and live blend modes. Affinity Photo has non-destructive live filters that can be applied to a single layer or the whole stack. Erase away, mask, or reorder filters after they are applied. 

The digital painting options are robust with Affinity - choose from the large library of brushes or create your own. You can also use the magic wand, marquee, or lasso tools to make ultra-precise selections down to a single strand of hair. Other features include skin retouch, blemish removal, and ultra-smooth pan and zoom functions.  

This program focuses slightly more on photo editing than management, so you may be disappointed if you’re looking for a Lightroom alternative that excels in organizational tools. Affinity Photo focuses on quality over quantity of tools, so while its tools perform better than Lightroom, it offers fewer of them.  

Pros
  • Low learning curve
  • Unlimited layers
Cons
  • Lacking photo organization
  • No design templates included

5. ON1 Photo RAW - Best for Presets & Filters

ON1 Photo RAW Interface

Image from Digital Camera World.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 7 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

  1. AI noise reduction
  2. Sky replacement
  3. Liquify tool
  4. Time-lapse creator

ON1 Photo RAW is our choice as the best alternative to Lightroom for presets and filters. The program comes with hundreds of popular one-click presets, filters, LUTs, textures, and borders that can be combined, blended, and customized. Presets and filters are easy to find and apply using responsive sliders. You can also selectively apply your effects to a specific area of your image, then brush in or out to your liking. 

This Lightroom alternative is also a powerful export and image converter with great organizational tools. Search by star ratings, likes, color labels, keywords, or metadata. Choose to see your images as either photos, folders, or thumbnails. Then skim through them with multiple options - Grid View, Detail View, Filmstrip View, or Compare View.  

ON1 Photo RAW offers many professional tools, but the learning curve is steep. The company doesn’t offer any tutorials, and you have to pay for teachable videos. The interface is also busy and confusing. 

Pros
  • Compatible with Photoshop plug-ins
  • Great level of control
Cons
  • Runs slow
  • Steep learning curve

6. Exposure X7 - Best for Special Effects

Exposure X7 Interface

Image from DPReview.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 6 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Polygonal masking tool
  2. Portrait retouch
  3. Nondestructive layers
  4. Over 500 customizable presets

We found Exposure X7 to be the best Lightroom alternative for special effects because many Lightroom and Photoshop users use the software as a plug-in to get special effects that Adobe products lack. Exposure X7 has effects like film grain, bokeh, light effects, overlays, vignettes, and more. Flexible masking and layering help you blend effects in every way possible. You can also selectively apply effects using radial, planar, or half-planar gradients and adjust the opacity. 

With Exposure X7, there’s no need to import photos; find them on your desktop and edit where they are. Instead, create smart collections from a file list and populate them by specific criteria. The program also has tons of printing options, such as printing multiple images per page, output sharpening for specific paper types, presets for print settings, etc. 

Exposure X7 works better as a plug-in for Lightroom than a complete alternative to Lightroom. It has features and effects that Lightroom lacks, but many of its features are patchy. This includes features that any photo editor would deem necessary, like lens correction, noise reduction, and mask selection tools. 

Pros
  • User-friendly interface
  • Lots of printing options
Cons
  • Takes a long time to start
  • Quality of some features is not up to par with Lightroom

7. Darktable - Best Open-Source Lightroom Alternative

Darktable Interface

Image from Darktable.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Overall Rating: 6 / 10

Photo Management Tools: 7 / 10

Key Features:

  1. Retouching
  2. Geotagging support
  3. Haze removal
  4. Non-destructive editing

Based on our testing, Darktable is the best open-source Lightroom alternative based on our research. 

Like other open-source editors, Darkroom is constantly updated by users and professionals, and bugs are located and fixed in record time. The program supports 21 languages and offers many learning tools like user forums, video tutorials, and instructional posts. Darkroom is one of the only open-source photography editors to offer tethered shooting support and RAW processing for over 400 cameras. And while a lot of open-source software have a chaotic UI, Darktable’s interface is almost identical to Lightroom. Best of all, it is 100% free for life.  

Darktable has some photo management tools so you can organize, sort, and tag your images. Add metadata and search content by tags, star rating, color labels, etc. Other features include professional color tools, hot pixel fixes, denoise, masking, and blending. Some of these features offer finer control than their Lightroom counterparts, making Darktable a viable alternative to Lightroom.  

If you are a professional photographer who regularly deals with thousands of images, Darktable will not work for you as an alternative to Lightroom. You can’t create image collections, and the software doesn’t support anything over 10,000 photos.

Pros
  • Updated regularly
  • Good quality RAW processing
Cons
  • Needs better organizational tools
  • Lacking many advanced features

Best Free Alternative to Lightroom Comparison Chart

Software PhotoDirector Essential Capture One DxO PhotoLab Affinity Photo ON1 Photo RAW Exposure X7 Darktable
OS Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac, Linux
Beginner-friendly Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes
Photo Management Catalogs; facial recognition, rate, and add keywords and tags in batches, GPS photo logs, My Favorites tabs Sort by star rating, keyword, or color tagging; Create Sessions or Catalogs Metadata and keyword management Minimal Lots of viewing options, search by keyword, star rating, likes, color or metadata No catalogs, but smart collections populated by given citeria Organize and tag based on given criteria; geotagging
Facial Retouching Tools Blemish removal, skin smoothener, face shaper, body shaper, skin color correction, teeth whitener, eye-bag removal Skin-tone editor Auto repair Skin retouch/smoothener and blemish removal AI automatic retouching and manual retouch for each face, whiten teeth, red-eye removal, face shaper Remove red eye, whiten teeth, soften skin, enhance iris, spot heal tool Basic correction tools
Tethered Shooting Yes Yes No No No No Yes
Free Download
Free Download
Secure Download
Download Download Download Download Download Download

PhotoDirector Essential vs

OS

Windows, Mac

-

Beginner-friendly

Yes

-

Photo Management

Catalogs; facial recognition, rate, and add keywords and tags in batches, GPS photo logs, My Favorites tabs

-

Facial Retouching Tools

Blemish removal, skin smoothener, face shaper, body shaper, skin color correction, teeth whitener, eye-bag removal

-

Tethered Shooting

Yes

-


How to Manage and Edit a Photo With PhotoDirector

Here is a step-by-step guide for using PhotoDirector, the #1 alternative to Lightroom, to crop, rotate, add filters, and adjust the colors of an image. 

Download below and follow along with these simple steps: 

How to Crop a Photo 

  1. Open PhotoDirector and click the + next to Project.
  2. Click Import Photos.
  3. Click the photo you want to crop and choose Open.
  4. Click Adjustment from the menu along the top. 
  5. Choose Crop and Straighten, the first icon under Regional Adjustment Tools.
  6. PhotoDirector - Adjustments
  7. Crop the image using one of two ways:
    • Choose a predefined ratio from the Aspect Ratio drop-down. For example, if you plan to post to Instagram, there is 1:1 for the feed and 9:16 for Stories.
    • Use the crop box in the preview window to adjust the size of your crop. If you want to unlock the aspect ratio to freeform crop, just deselect the Lock Icon.
    PhotoDirector - Crop
  8. Once you have your crop just right, click Done.

How to Rotate a Photo

  1. Follow the steps above to import a photo into the PhotoDirector Library
  2. Click on the Rotate icon under the Photo Preview box. 
  3. PhotoDirector - Rotate
  4. Keep clicking Rotate until you are happy with your image.
  5. PhotoDirector - Rotate

How to Add Filters to a Photo

  1. Import the photo you would like to edit and hit the Adjustment tab. 
  2. Click Presets. 
  3. Click Default Presets and choose a category to see the filter options. 
  4. PhotoDirector - Presets
  5. Once you’ve settled on a filter, you can adjust the strength of the filter with the Slider Bar below the thumbnail of the image. 
  6. PhotoDirector - Filter

How to Adjust Colors in a Photo

  1. Import your photo into PhotoDirector, then click Adjustments
  2. Click Manual.
  3. Under Global Adjustment Tools you will find tons of color tools. 
  4. PhotoDirector - Adjust Filter
  5. Experiment with the different color tools. When you are happy with your image, hit Create at the bottom of the screen to save your color changes as a preset to use in the future. 
  6. PhotoDirector - Filter

For a detailed look at using the best alternative to Lightroom to edit your photos, go to 5 Best Image Cropping Software, and Transforming the Colors of Your Image.

Download the Best Lightroom Alternative for Free

Lightroom is no longer the only high-quality management program for photographers. Dozens of excellent Lightroom alternatives exist on the web, and finding the right one for you ultimately comes down to personal preference. Our favorite Adobe Lightroom alternative is PhotoDirector Essential for its innovation, ease of use, range of features, and intuitive processing tools. 

Many Lightroom customers like the program’s organizational features, but they’d rather not have to switch to Photoshop to make more advanced photo manipulations and enhancements. PhotoDirector is a Lightroom alternative that excels in photo editing features and intuitive organization options, giving photographers the best of both worlds and eliminating the necessity of a second editing program. 

PhotoDirector’s editing tools don’t require any previous experience to master thanks to its guided editing options. Guided editing allows you to make complicated photo edits, like face beautification and content removal, with the touch of a button. This alternative to Lightroom uses artificial intelligence to make these changes automatically, saving you time and hassle. However, if you are someone who enjoys spending hours editing each photo, you’ll appreciate PhotoDirector’s Photoshop-style layer-editing options. Adding clipping masks, layer filters, frames, and clip art is a breeze with this program’s intuitive layering tools. 

Download the best alternative to Lightroom for free today and use beginner-friendly tools to make professional-quality images.

Alternatives to Lightroom FAQ

1. What are the Best Alternative to Lightroom Apps?

  1. PhotoDirector App
  2. Pixlr
  3. PicsArt
  4. Snapseed
  5. Adobe Photoshop Camera

For a more in-depth look at alternatives to Lightroom apps, check out Best Free Photo Editing Apps for iPhone & Android.

2. What Features Should I Look For in an Alternative to Lightroom?

The top ten features you should look for are

  1. Photo management tools
  2. Pro color adjustment tools
  3. Denoise tool
  4. Portrait retouch
  5. Masking tools
  6. Presets & filters
  7. RAW image processing
  8. Layer editing
  9. Sky replacement
  10. Beginner-friendly

If you’re looking for an Alternative to Lightroom that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector Essential.

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like:

Recommend Products: