The Best Subscription-Free Lightroom Alternatives for Every Budget
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Lightroom is the default photo management and editing app 3 Reasons All Photographers Should be Using Adobe Lightroom 3 Reasons All Photographers Should be Using Adobe Lightroom A lot of people aren't quite sure where Lightroom fits into things. It's an image editor… but it's not as good as Photoshop? Here's everything explained. Read More for photography enthusiasts and pros. But Adobe’s recent decision to go all-in on subscription pricing Everything You Need to Know About Adobe Creative Cloud Photography [+Giveaway] Everything You Need to Know About Adobe Creative Cloud Photography [+Giveaway] Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography plan gives you access to Photoshop, Lightroom, and a whole lot more. We're giving away three copies to lucky MakeUseOf readers. Read More , as well as a gradual shift toward the cloud, has many users looking for Lightroom alternatives.

In case you missed it, here are the key changes:

  • The old desktop version of Lightroom, renamed Lightroom Classic, is now only available on subscription. The days of buying (and keeping) the software outright are over. You now have to pay in perpetuity.
  • Classic is accompanied by the all-new Lightroom CC, an entirely cloud-based service. While it’s undeniably convenient to have a seamless interaction between your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone, the cloud isn’t for everyone. A cynic might argue it will only serve to lock you in to the service even more tightly.

But are there any real alternatives to Lightroom? If you don’t want to subscribe, or don’t want to use the cloud, here are your options.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

1. Lightroom 6

Lightroom 6, the last version of Lightroom that you could buy outright, may have been discontinued, but that’s no reason to stop using it if you’ve already got it. And if you haven’t you might still be able to buy a copy for a little while yet.

The only downside is that it won’t be updated beyond 2017, so support for new cameras won’t be added. That may not be a problem immediately. But when you eventually buy a new camera, Lightroom won’t be able to read the RAW files it produces.

But for now, it’s one of the best Lightroom CC alternatives.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More information: Adobe (No trial available)

2. Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is the closest thing to a direct replacement for Lightroom, although the starting price of $299 makes it a tool for professionals and very serious hobbyists only.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

The feature set is impressive. You can migrate your catalogs over from Lightroom. There’s support for RAW files Budding Photographer? Here's Why You Should Be Shooting Raw Budding Photographer? Here's Why You Should Be Shooting Raw Every dSLR, prosumer and even some high-end compact cameras have the ability to save raw image files. This isn't just a higher quality of image, it's a gift from the photography gods. Read More from more than 400 cameras. 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.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More information: PhaseOne ($299, Free trial available)

3. DarkTable

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.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

DarkTable offers detailed asset management and decent editing options. Its RAW processing support for over 400 cameras is well regarded by its users. It also includes tools that have been omitted from the initial release of the new Lightroom CC program, including split toning and curves adjustments.

On the downside, DarkTable’s interface lacks the finesse of its commercial counterparts. At the time of this writing, DarkTable is available for Mac and Linux, and a Windows version is in development.

Available for: Mac, Linux

More information: DarkTable (Free)

4. Adobe Bridge

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 Adobe’s free apps 5 Awesome Adobe Apps That Are Completely Free 5 Awesome Adobe Apps That Are Completely Free Adobe makes industry standard design programs. But it also offers high-quality software and apps that are free. Here are the top five Adobe tools that are all free. Read More . 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.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

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 GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One Is Right for You? GIMP vs Photoshop: Which One Is Right for You? Photoshop is the most popular image editing app out there and GIMP is the best free alternative to it. Which should you use? Read More , or take a look at Affinity Photo as an affordable paid option.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More information: Adobe (Free)

5. DxO OpticsPro

OpticsPro is the third pro-level image editing app, competing with Capture One and available at a similar price to Lightroom 6. It doesn’t offer asset management options — in fact, it’s designed to work with Lightroom or Apple’s Photos app. Or you can use it with Adobe Bridge instead.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

The basic editing features from Lightroom are all in place, and it’s easy to use and very responsive. The noise reduction capabilities in particular are highly rated.

The main negatives are that you cannot make local adjustments to images (you need to jump into another editor for that) and that RAW support is limited to around 250 cameras. Even without those features, it’s a viable alternative to Lightroom for most users.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More information: DxO ($99–$149, Free trial available)

6. RawTherapee

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.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

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 the app, but it rewards the time you put in.

Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux

More information: RawTherapee (Free)

7. ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo RAW is a relative newcomer to the market. It 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.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

It’s fast, and has strengths in making local adjustments and working with effects and filters. But it does suffer a little from a cluttered interface that hides important tools while also causing you to rethink your workflow.

Available for: Windows, Mac

More information: ON1 ($119, Free trial available)

8. ACDSee Photo Studio Professional

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional is a Windows program that has clearly got Lightroom in its sights. Priced at $99.99, it 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 500 cameras. But 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.

Available for: Windows

More information: ACDSee ($99, Free trial available)

9. Apple Photos & Google Photos

Finally, what of Apple and Google’s Photo apps? Chances are you are already use either of them on your phone. Are they a viable alternative to Lightroom?

Apple Photos is very good for photo management, and it plays nicely with your third-party editor How to Use Photos for OS X With Photoshop, Pixelmator and Other Image Editors How to Use Photos for OS X With Photoshop, Pixelmator and Other Image Editors Get your Photos images into Photoshop, Pixelmator and other applications despite the new restrictions put in place by Apple. Here's how. Read More of choice. The recent addition of tools like a tone curve and definition slider (called “Clarity”) have made it easier to get the kinds of results you’d expect from Lightroom. RAW support is built into Mac OS, so the app works with a large number of cameras.

lightroom best free alternatives no subscription

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 What Can Google Photos Assistant Do for You? What Can Google Photos Assistant Do for You? Assistant is one of the best features of the Google Photos app, but you could be missing out on its best features. Here's how to take full advantage! Read More . 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.

In summary, neither app can really compete with the desktop version of Lightroom. But both could serve as alternatives to the cloud-based Lightroom CC.

Available for: Mac (Apple Photos) | Windows, Mac, Linux (Google Photos)

More information: Apple Photos (Free) | 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 they well fit both your gear and your workflow.

Do you use any of these apps, or do you have a great Lightroom alternative that we haven’t listed? Share your experiences and recommendations with us in the comments below.

Image Credit: clearviewstock/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Adobe Lightroom, Image Editor.

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  1. LindaWill
    May 18, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Affinity Photo can be an alternative, really powerful tool. I'd also recommend BatchPhoto for batch editing, really useful for easily resizing, watermarking or date stamping multiple photos at once.

  2. Kerry Sainsbury
    November 15, 2017 at 2:06 am

    If you have a Sony camera, Capture One has a free version or you can get the full version for $50

  3. John McCormack
    November 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Luminar could be a very real alternative once the new version with digital asset management arrives soon.

  4. Paul Regel
    November 14, 2017 at 5:39 am

    I find Corel's Aftershot Pro an excellent alternative to Lightroom.

  5. steve
    November 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    You are a little out of date with DxO - they now have DxO PhotoLab which since their purchase of the NIK software from Google offers local adjustments very much in the style NIK users will be used to. Perhaps it would also be worth pointing out that DxO has over 38,000 body / lens correction permutations as it's not just cameras alone which count. BTW, I have no connection with DxO but I do use it in conjunction with LR6.