Best Inexpensive Photo Editing Software For Mac

Apr 13, 2021 When it comes to the best free photo editing software, Gimp has all the tools you could want, and works on Mac, Windows, and Linux systems. However, it has a steep learning curve, so we wouldn't. Luminar has been ranked among the best photo editing software for Mac by CleverFiles and Photolemur, among others. What could be improved: Mobile users might consider a mobile-specific app for an on-the-go photo editor, since Luminar.


When we think about a generic photo editor, Photoshop is the first name that comes to mind. A pioneer in its field, it’s one of the most tool-packed, multi-purposed programs and a great photo editor by all means. However, you need to be very skillful to feel comfortable working with Photoshop. Its features allow you to do wonders, but mastering them can be tiring and time-consuming for both beginners and professional photographers.


But don’t worry. There are many alternatives to Photoshop that are straightforward and easy to learn. The following list includes photo editing software for Mac and Windows that don’t necessarily address beginners but are very good for them. Which is the best photo editing software for you? There is no good answer. You have to try different types of photo editors and see what you prefer: a standalone photo editor, a phone editing application, or an online photo editor.

Before choosing a photo editor, consider your interests, skills, technical resources, budget, and workflow.

1. Luminar

When you open Luminar AI for the first time, you are immediately faced with a user-friendly and neat interface, extremely pleasant for a photo editor. There is a panel with presets in the lower part of the screen, a panel with photo filters and layers in the right part of the screen, and a few handy tools in the upper part of the screen. It’s straightforward even for beginners.

The filters’ range varies from basic such as brightness and contrast adjustments to powerful image enhancements and creative effects. Some of them use Artificial Intelligence algorithms to provide automatic adjustments for different types of images. Luminar offers many presets too. They are called Looks and cover a lot of photography styles (landscape, portraiture, aerial, street, etc.). More Looks can be downloaded from Luminar Marketplace.

Luminar provides intuitive masking tools and layers to create subtle adjustments and realistic-looking pictures. You can find many free learning materials, video tutorials, and examples on Skylum website.

The next Luminar release is announced for late December 2018 and includes a much needed digital asset management software that gives you access to photo albums, organizing, sorting, and browsing tools, the ability to rate and label your photos, and better tools for batch processing.

Luminar is suited for both professional photographers and beginners. The future release will make Luminar a powerful competitor in the market.

2. Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a compact-size version of Photoshop that gives you access to many of Photoshop cool effects without requiring so much learning time and skills.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great app for beginners and advanced users who want a quick fix. For example, it provides many tools for portraits retouching. It recognizes faces and facial elements and allows you to adjust specific parts of the face like lips, eyes, and nose. It also provides a function for fixing closed eyes.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is also a great way get to know the process of professional photo editing, as you can choose the difficulty of your tools and learn faster to use Photoshop.

3. Apple Photos

Apple Photos is the built-in photo editor for Mac and gets better and better with each update. It has Apple’s signature design and its modern interface is easy to navigate and learn.

Apple Photos provides options for iOS Live Photos, has amazing sharing features, and offers all the basic adjustments a photo editor needs. It also provides cool effects and filters. Unfortunately, filters aren’t customizable and more advanced features are missing. However, it satisfies the basic requirements and it’s a good start for a beginner.

A nice built-in editor, Apple Photos can help you with simple and fast edits and guide you on your path to perfect photos.

4. Microsoft Photos

Microsoft Photos is Microsoft’s software for organizing and editing photos. It’s relatively new and supports only Windows 10 but it’s also available for Xbox One, HoloLens, mobile devices, and Hub.

Microsoft Photos provides tools for viewing pictures, creating albums and movies with your photos, adding 3D effects, and basic editing. You can only adjust color, clarity, and light, crop and rotate images, and add text or textures. However, if your use Microsoft products and want a free photo editing software, you can give it a try.

5. Aurora HDR

If you like to improve your HDR photography, Aurora HDR editor is the right program for you. HDR photography captures details from images with different exposures and creates unique results. It’s useful for architectural and interior design photography, real estate photography, landscape shots, and many more.

Aurora HDR merges multiple images with different exposures and creates a single stunning image relatively fast. It can create a HDR photo from a single picture too. Of course, it isn’t just a merging tool as it allows you to retouch your photos and add creative effects.

Aurora HDR delivers high-quality images. It removes disturbing effects such as halos, ghosting, artifacts, and chromatic aberration and creates vivid and realistic images.

6. ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 can be used as a plugin and as standalone software. It provides powerful editing tools, ranging from basic to special image effects, HDR tools, panoramic stitching, and more.

ON1 offers all necessary tools for professional photographers at an affordable price. It has been upgrading and evolving quickly since its release in October 2017, trying to satisfy its customers’ requests. One drawback of this editor is the low performance of masks and layers. But ON1 offers a wide range of appreciated photo effects. If you are looking for your first photo editor, worry for your budget, or really want to experiment with a multi-purpose program, ON1 is a good choice.

7. Zoner Photo Studio

Zoner Photo Studio is a photo editor available for Windows. It offers a wide variety of tools and is a real competitor for Photoshop. Zoner Photo Studio is not expensive and has a monthly subscription that allows you to experiment for a short period of time and decide if you really need it without big investments.

Photographers claim that Zoner has a short learning curve. This is always a plus when you want to attract users dissatisfied with their current software. Overall, it has been described as intuitive and users can find similar tools in the Develop module (non-destructive editing) and in the Editor module (changes are integrated into the file). Users are still waiting for improvements in masking and layers area. That will elevate Zoner to the level of Photoshop.

Zoner is a powerful image editor, packed with a lot of professional tools.

8. Pixelmator Pro

For beginners who want more than a photo editor and look for graphic design, drawing, and vector graphics capabilities, Pixelmator is a good choice. It provides professional image editing tools and makes them accessible to everyone, beginners and advanced users.

Pixelmator values the user experience and a fluid workflow. It offers a single-window interface, which is elegant and focuses on the images you edit rather than on what’s around them. Using machine learning algorithms, Pixelmator provides great tools for selections, typography, and all sorts of editing. It has a very good price too.

Pixelmator Pro is professional software for photographers, designers, and artists. It’s a complete solution for creating digital art.

Warning: Pixelmator is photo editor for Mac only.

9. Corel PaintShop Pro 2018

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 is the latest version of Corel PaintShop and comes with faster and more enhanced tools packed in its user-friendly interface. It’s a combination between a photo editor and a painting application that allows you to have fun while doing professional editing.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 provides manual and automatic image enhancements features. It’s a good choice for beginners because it’s easy to learn and use and offers a nice and straightforward workspace. However, some of its features require powerful resources and may be a little slow on older systems.


A free program, Paint.NET is an image editor developed to replace the build-in Microsoft Paint you can find in Windows. It’s also available for Mac. Even though it looks simple, there are a lot of surprising tools you can use. For example, it provides a plugin system with a selection of free plugins to allow you to customize your workspace.

The user interface isn’t cluttered, and it’s easy to understand. Simple features such as cropping, resizing, adding custom text, and working with layers are at hand. Unfortunately, working with layers has limited possibilities and image enhancing isn’t as good as in other applications.

Still, Paint.NET is a free application and its large amount of plugins can help you complete the task. It’s been growing a lot since the pixel-based application for drawing.

11. DarkTable

Another free and easy to use editor is Darktable. It’s available only for Mac. Even though it looks a lot like Lightroom, there are still many features missing. However, considering it’s free, it remains a good alternative. Darktable provides a database that manages your digital negatives and allows you to preview them in a panel equipped with lights and zooming tools. Also, it supports RAW editing.

Darktable has a great interface and cool features, and, most importantly, it’s free. So you definitely should consider it and give it a try.

12. СyberLink PhotoDirector

PhotoDirector is a smart photo editing software that provides a wide range of professional tools. It allows you to transform your pictures in works of art in no time.

PhotoDirector help you perfect your photos using impressive AI-powered tools, layers, and presets. The editing tools are well organized in tabs and intuitive labeled and the entire process it fast and fluid.

The distinctive feature of PhotoDirector is the AI Style Transfer tool. Using deep learning algorithms, it recreates the style of an artist or of a painting and transforms your photos accordingly. AI Style Transfer tool creates stunning results.

13. Affinity Photo

Affinity is designed for professional photographers. It’s available for Windows and Mac and provides all the tools you need. Affinity’s powerful toolbox offers features for image editing and retouching, working with multiple layers, and creating creative compositions.

Affinity provides quick correction and retouching tools, support for RAW files and a dedicated workspace, and dodge, burn, clone, patch, blemish, and red eye tools. You can also be impressed by the Inpainting Brush Tool, frequency separation capability, and liquefy features. Affinity doesn’t offer a digital asset management system and organizing files is quite hard. However, it’s one of the best photo editing software.

Affinity is a valid competitor for Photoshop and Lightroom and a much cheaper alternative to other photo editing programs. It’s also available for iPad.


Pixlr Editor is an online photo editor. It provides more than 2 million effects, filters, and overlays, which makes it an extremely smart photo editor. Its drawbacks are the pop-up ads that distract you from the editing and the need to install Flash. However, it doesn’t require installation and works with many browsers.

Among its best features are layers and masks, a customizable interface, the possibility to open pictures from URL or import them from stock libraries, drawing tools, and retouching tools.

You can use Pixlr in a web page or as a mobile application. The mobile version is as good as the web one and allows you to edit your pictures on the go.

15. PicMonkey

If you want to use a photo editing program on Mac without installing anything, PicMonkey is a good choice for you. It’s an online photo editor that provides all the basic tools you need.

PicMonkey offers exposure adjustments, crop, rotate and resize tools, textures, themes and frames, effects, and image retouching tools. Unfortunately it doesn’t support batch processing and editing one image at a time can be time consuming.

PicMonkey is a great tool for beginners who want to learn more about editing and experiment with their photos without investing in expensive software right away. Still, PicMonkey is not free and requires a subscription.

16. Polarr

Polarr is a free photo editor, available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and online. It’s great photo editing software foc Mac because it provides a dedicated workspace for beginners, with basic tools and adjustments. Polarr allows you to adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows, color temperature, vibrance, and saturation. It also provides geometric transformations, filters, overlays, and effects. You can copy edits and apply them to other images.


Polarr offers image editing tools for advanced users as well. You can customize the interface by adding tools for creating distortions, adjusting sharpening and clarity, denoising, editing curves, adding borders and vignettes, and working with HSL.

Additional features like brush, color and depth masks, 3D LUTs, filters, overlays, double exposure, and batch exports are available for a monthly or yearly subscription.

17. IrfanView

IrfanView is a fast and compact free photo editor for Windows. It allows you to view images and convert them in other formats, create slideshows, do batch processing, and edit photos. IrfanView provides geometric transformation, color profiles, overlays and effects, screen captures, print options, and scan support. It’s a versatile program, perfect for working with large amounts of images.

IrfanView is a good choice for a beginner because it includes all the basic tools and supports many file formats. It’s perfect for adding watermarks and protecting your photos, resizing pictures before publishing them, and getting used with pictures’ information and settings.

18. BeFunky

BeFunky is another online photo editor and it truly lives up to its name. It’s designed to make photography fun and it’s a great way to learn to edit your photos. Among its features are tools that make your photos look like cartoons, oil paintings effects, or pop art styles. You can add a wide range of details to your photos like hand drawn graphics, photo frames, graphic overlays, customized text, and image layers.

BeFunky provides smart enhancement tools for fixing poor lighting, digital noise, fuzziness, and other common problems in seconds.

BeFunky feature is also available as a mobile application, which makes easy for you to learn how to edit pictures on the go. Even if it offers smart features, you still have to learn how to use it and practicing on your phone can be a good idea.

Every photographer has a preferred photo editing program. You just have to choose the best one for you. We hope this list will give you some ideas and help you decide what’s best for you.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just need to occasionally crop or add some text to an image, it’s important to choose the best photo editing apps for your mac.

Good image editing software will make it quick and easy for you to adjust the look of your photos and create simple graphics for your website and social media.

For simple photo editing, there are plenty of free apps to choose from. If you’re really into your photography or graphic design, you might want to pay for more professional software to access premium features.

Either way, we’ve rounded up some of the best photo editing apps for Mac in 2021 to help you choose.

1. Apple Photos & Preview (Best Free Apps for Quick Edits and Photo Management)

We’ll start with the easiest and most obvious tool, as it’s free and comes pre-installed with MacOS.

Photos is more of an image management tool, but you can use it to make simple edits to your photos (including RAW files) such as resizing, cropping, rotating, adjusting colors and contrast, and applying pre-set filters.

You can also use the one-click enhancer to automatically adjust and improve your photos.

All users get access to 5GB of free cloud storage and you can upgrade for more for a small monthly fee. The app will also sync across multiple devices. This makes Photos a useful tool for backup as well as editing.

Apart from the Photos app, another useful free app that comes pre-installed on Macs is Preview.

The editing function of Preview isn’t too obvious so many users don’t know it’s there. But it’s a very handy way to make quick changes to your photos such as resizing, adjusting colors, and adding text and simple shapes.

Price: Free

More info:

2. Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom (Best Pro Image Editing Tools for Photographers)

We’ve bundled these tools together because they’re now available together under a monthly subscription plan. Although you can pay for them separately, it’s not any cheaper.

Photoshop has been the undisputed king of photo editing apps since the ‘90s, and no professional digital artist or designer would be without it.

Whatever you want to do with your images or whatever kind of graphic you want to create, you can do it with Photoshop.

In fact, this app is so powerful and well known that “Photoshop” has become a verb. We no longer talk about “editing” photos to remove a blemish from a selfie or replace a dull background with a more appealing one. Instead we “Photoshop” them.

However, the tool is not without its downsides. The software is resource-intensive and can run slowly on older macs or those that don’t have a lot of memory. Opening up Photoshop is overkill if you just want to make a quick edit.

It’s also not exactly the cheapest option but for many people who are serious about image manipulation, it’s the only choice.

While Photoshop is the ultimate app for image manipulation, most photographers prefer working in Lightroom for more subtle edits. It’s not the tool for advanced photo retouching down to the pixel, but it’s perfect for adjusting the overall color balance, tone, and contrast of your images.

In Lightroom, you can record a series of edits, called a preset, and batch-apply this preset to several images to speed up your workflow.

This app is also one of the best choices for organizing your photos, and if you’re using the Cloud based version it’s a useful tool for backup too.


Adobe moved from a traditional software model a few years back and Photoshop is now only available as a “Creative Cloud” subscription. You can still use Lightroom as the “Classic” non-cloud version but need to pay a monthly subscription to access it regardless.

A Creative Cloud subscription starts from $9.99 a month, which includes Photoshop for desktop and iPad, the cloud and Classic versions of Lightroom, and 20GB of cloud storage.

For Lightroom only, you can opt for a plan that includes 1TB of cloud storage for $9.99 a month.

There’s also a Photoshop-only subscription for $20.99 a month, which includes 100GB of cloud storage and a drawing and painting app called Adobe Fresco.

For those who like Photoshop but don’t need the full suite of editing tools, Photoshop Elements is an alternative to consider. This software costs $99.99 as a one-off payment with no monthly subscription needed.

More info and download:

  • Creative Cloud Photoshop Lightroom

3. Affinity Photo (Best Budget Alternative to Photoshop)

Affinity Photo is a great budget alternative to Photoshop and has become more popular since Adobe changed to a subscription-only pricing model.

As well as all the editing features you’d expect, Affinity includes professional tools such as HDR merge, panorama stitch, and 360-degree image editing. You can also edit PSD files with full layer integrity, plugin support, and smart object import.

Affinity Photo is a cross-platform application that has full file format compatibility so you can work across multiple devices including Mac, Windows, and iPad.

Like Photoshop, there’s a learning curve to making full use of the app and it may be too advanced for those just wanting to do basic edits. But for anyone looking for a cheaper alternative for working with existing PSD files, it’s an excellent choice.

Pricing: $24.99 for the Mac version. The iPad app is an additional $9.99.

4. GIMP (Free Alternative to Photoshop)

GIMP is often described as the open-source version of Photoshop, and its suite of advanced editing tools is certainly more than what you’d expect from free software.

As it’s open-source, there are also a lot of third-party plugins available to extend its functionality and provide filters and tools for speeding up your workflow.

However, while GIMP may be powerful, it’s not the most user-friendly app on this list. There are also very few tutorials (official and user-created) compared to other software.

This app also has its own scripting language that you can use to automatically run a series of edits on a batch of photos, much like Lightroom actions. But the process of setting this up is pretty intimidating if you don’t have any coding experience.

GIMP is definitely a tool for the technically inclined. If you don’t mind spending the time to learn and the unappealing user interface, you can do a lot with it. But it’s not as advanced as Photoshop and lacks a mobile version for on-the-go edits.

Pricing: Free

5. Pixelmator (Good Budget All-Rounder)

Pixelmator is a very popular and easy-to-use image editing app for Mac that’s also very affordable.

This app comes in two versions: Classic and Pro. Classic is still available and includes all the tools you’d expect from an image editor including making selections, adjusting colors, retouching, adding effects, and adding your own text, vector shapes, and freehand painting. This version is no longer being actively developed.

The Pixelmator team is now concentrating on the Pro tool, which includes additional and enhanced features such as non-destructive workflow, a new painting engine with dual-texture brushes and advanced blending, and enhancements for fast performance.

Pricing: Pixelmator Classic is currently available for $4.99, while Pixelmator Pro is normally $39.99 but is on sale for $19.99 at the time of writing

6. Luminar (Best AI Tool for One-click Image Enhancement)

Luminar is an AI-powered editing tool that can help to improve your photography by making automatic tweaks guided by its internal algorithms. This means that it’s very easy for beginners to use to improve their photos without needing to learn how to make advanced photo edits.

You can also use Luminar to carry out more sophisticated changes such as replacing the sky in landscapes and adding effects like sunrays and digital fog, and perfecting skin and features in portrait photography.

Luminar is a great choice for anyone who wants to make their photos look more impressive at the click of a button. But while it has all the basic editing options, it’s probably not the best choice if you dislike auto-edits and filters and prefer to have more fine control over edits.

Side note: The popular free AI-powered photo-editing app Photolemur is no longer available and is now part of Luminar AI.

Pricing: From $73.70 for a single computer license for Luminar 4. Luminar AI costs an additional $108.90, which includes a license for two computers.

7. Fotor (Free Basic Editor with Upgrade Option)

If you’re looking for a free photo-editing app with basic functionality, you might want to give Fotor a try. This app is the perfect antidote to complicated software with dozens of options. You can also install it on multiple devices.

Fotor includes all the basic photo editing tools you need to adjust the color, contrast, sharpness, and saturation of your images. You can also apply photo effect filters in a single click and use the portrait retouching tools to enhance your pictures of people.

There’s also a suite of design tools so you can easily add borders, stickers, and text to create photo collages, graphics, posters, flyers, and more. The app includes thousands of pre-designed templates that you can edit as needed.

Pricing: Fotor Basic is free to download and use. Fotor Pro is also available from $8.99 a month. This version includes advanced editing tools and more photo effects, layouts, and templates.

8. PhotoScape X (Simple Free Image Editor & GIF Creator)

PhotoScape X is another free image editing tool that makes it easy for you to adjust and enhance your photos.

The software comes with a number of filters and photo effects to create artistic looks with your photography. There are also hundreds of frames and patterns to create graphics, and a collage and cut out tool.

You can edit your RAW images with this app, and it also includes a handy GIF creator.

Price: Free

9. Movavi Picverse (Best for Photo Restoration)

Best Photo Editing Apps For Mac

Movavi Picverse Photo Editor is an easy-to-use image editing app. It’s designed to meet the needs of beginners and professional photographers alike.

Its AI-powered tools make it quick and easy to enhance your photos, remove or replace image backgrounds, remove objects from images, and restore scratches, stains, and noise from scans of old photos.

You can apply one of hundreds of filters to change the look and effect of your photos instantly.

There’s also a suite of advanced photo retouching tools for improving portraits including removing blemishes, applying makeup, and enhancing smiles.

Pricing: $59.95

What is the Best Photo Editing App for Mac?

So, how to decide on the best photo editing software for you? You must first consider how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Best Mac Laptop For Photo Editing

The free Photos tool that comes pre-installed on your Mac will do just fine for basic edits, or you can use a free app like PhotoScapeX or Fotor for more filters and options.

Editing Software For Mac Free

When you want to get into serious photo manipulations, you’ll need a tool that has a more advanced suite of editing tools.

If you have a spare $10 a month, check out the Photoshop/Lightroom combo. There’s no doubt this will help your images look amazing. If you’re making money from your photography, it’s worth the investment.

For those on a more modest budget, try Affinity Photo or Pixelmator Pro. They’re both impressively powerful for a very low one-off cost.

Artificial intelligence technology has made it possible to instantly improve your photos in a single click. You can also achieve tasks such as removing unwanted objects or people from your photos in a fraction of the time it would take you to do manually. If you want an AI-powered image editing app, take a look at Luminar or Movavi Picverse.

Do you take a lot of photos on your phone and post them directly to social media? Or prefer working on the go from your iPad? If so, it makes sense to choose an app that has cross-platform support. Photoshop, Affinity Photos, and Pixelmator all include cloud syncing tools. This means you can access your images and edit on mobile devices.

Best Inexpensive Photo Editing Software For Mac Pro

You might also want to take a look at our list of web-based photo editing tools. You can use these services to make quick edits on most devices.