In a world where every moment is captured through the lens of a camera, the importance of post-processing has grown exponentially. The right editing can transform an average photo into a stunning masterpiece, from color correction to improving saturation or fixing contrasts.
However, finding the best photo editing software for beginners can be daunting. Fear not, we have compiled a list of the top photo editing software for novice editors.
Whether you use a DSLR or a smartphone, this user-friendly software will help you elevate your photography game without requiring any prior experience.
What to Look for in Photo Editing Software for Beginners
When choosing beginner photo editing apps & software, consider the following factors:
First and foremost is a simple user interface. The software should be easy to navigate, with clearly labeled buttons and menus and a well-organized layout that makes it easy to find the necessary tools. But a clean interface does not necessarily mean a lack of features. The best photo editing software for beginners should balance simplicity and functionality.
Ease of Use
The software should be easy to use. It should have intuitive tools and a simple workflow that makes it easy to perform basic edits like cropping, adjusting brightness and contrast, and applying filters. The software should also be beginner-friendly, with clearly explained and easy-to-understand features.
There are two types of photo editing software. The first is the destructive photo editing software. This software “destroys” the initial state of a photo after you’ve made a change, and there’s no way to go back. The second is non-destructive, which saves the initial state of a photo and lets you go back no matter how many times you edit. I recommend non-destructive editing software for beginners as they are easy to work with.
Good photo editing software for beginners usually comes with tutorials or guides that explain how to use the software’s features. This can include written guides, video tutorials, or interactive demos that walk users through the editing process step by step.
As a beginner, choosing software that fits your budget is important. Many good options are available that are affordable or even free, as you will see in this guide. If you don’t want a free pie, go for software that includes a free trial. This way, you will experience it before deciding whether to commit full-time or not.
Photo editing software should have a good balance of basic and advanced features. Beginners should look for software that includes basic tools like crop, resize, and color adjustment but also has more advanced features like layers, curves, and clone stamping.
Supported File Types
Photo editing software should support a range of file types, including common image formats like JPEG and PNG, as well as more advanced formats like RAW, which gives much more flexibility. If you plan to shoot in RAW, choosing software to handle these files is important.
Features vs Needs
When balancing these features with the project’s needs, consider what type of editing you will do. For example, if you are a beginner looking to edit photos for social media or personal use, a free or low-cost option with basic features and a simple interface may be sufficient. However, if you plan on pursuing photography as a profession or need to edit photos for professional use, you may need to invest in more advanced software with professional-level features.
Some free software may have limited or ad-supported features, while more advanced software may be more expensive and have a steep learning curve. Weigh the pros and cons of each option and select one that best fits your needs and budget. So, the best way to determine the right photo editing software for you is to try out several options with free trials and see which one feels the best to use.
Overall Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners
Lightroom – Easy Photo Editing Software For Beginners
First on our list of the best photo editing software for beginners is Lightroom. It’s my top pick because of its intuitive and easy-to-use interface, allowing users to experiment and create art effortlessly. It also allows users to organize and tag photos easily, making the process of managing large numbers of photos more manageable.
Moreover, Lightroom supports virtually all RAW file formats, making it accessible to users regardless of the camera they use. The software also offers a range of impressive features, such as the ability to transfer image settings from one image to another, correct exposure and white balance, produce natural-looking vignettes, and adjust the hue of certain objects.
- Complete creative control over photo editing tools
- Supports all types of RAW file formats
- It makes organizing large numbers of photos easy
- Excellent file-sharing capabilities
- Built-in tutorials to help you get started
- It can be too expensive for non-professional users
- Requires advanced photo editing skills
- A limited number of portrait editing features
Photoshop – Best Photo Editing Software for Anyone
I know, I know… you must be thinking Photoshop shouldn’t be on this list. But hear me out. Photoshop is THE industry standard for photo editing. It offers a range of tools that you won’t find anywhere else. While learning Photoshop as a beginner used to be tough, times have changed. Today, anyone can learn Photoshop in a few hours.
One of the benefits of Photoshop for beginners is its versatility. It allows users to perform any photo manipulation they can think of. Other important benefits include working with multiple panels simultaneously, using the new Hue slider to change color in specific areas of the picture without altering the whole image, and rotating patterns at any desired angle, etc.
- Industry-standard software used by professionals worldwide
- Robust and powerful photo editing capabilities
- User-friendly interface with customizable panels and workspaces
- Regular updates and improvements
- Cloud-based storage system
- Requires a powerful computer to support the software
- Expensive monthly subscription
- Too many features can be overwhelming
Fotor – Most Intuitive Photo Editing Software
Fotor Photo Editor is a user-friendly online design tool. It allows non-professionals and creators to edit pictures and make cards, invitations, and flyers. It offers a wide range of templates and effects for users to make the best of their photos.
Fotor’s key features include a RAW file converter, a 1-Tap skin retouch tool, batch processing, and various blur tools. Its range of color adjustment tools is also excellent, with most available for free, like shadow adjustments, temperature, tint, brightness, and even a few color splash effects.
Fotor is accessible online as a free platform, mobile application, or PC program. It is free, with premium subscriptions available for $8.99 monthly for Pro and $19.99 monthly for Pro+.
- Easy to use for beginners
- Affordable pricing
- Wide range of effects and filters are available
- Built-in collage maker and design tools
- Batch processing for editing multiple photos at once
- Limited RAW file support
Canva – Most User-Friendly Photo Editing Software
Canva is my favorite entry-level photo editing software recommendation. It’s a great option for several reasons. The first is compatibility. Canva is an online tool, meaning downloading or installing anything on your computer or device is unnecessary. You only need an Internet connection to start editing your photos.
Secondly, it’s incredibly easy to use. Canva is designed to be user-friendly, even for beginners with no graphic design experience. It provides access to millions of bundled graphics, photos, and videos, making it easy to find and use high-quality images for your designs.
While it has a free version, its paid pricing plans start at $9.95 per month, which is still very affordable.
- Large selection of preset designs
- Easy-to-use interface, even for beginners
- It provides an easy way to ensure brand consistency
- The mobile app is functional for creating visuals on-the-go
- Provides an easy way to create one-off prints
- Photo editing tools are limited
- Output formats are limited
- Support is email-only
Best Free Photo Editing Software for Beginners
Gimp – Best Photo Editing Software With A Low Learning Curve
GIMP is a great software for beginners, offering professional editing functions and filters. It’s an open-source alternative to Photoshop with editing capabilities such as painting tools, color correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.
The software is free, gets regular updates, and features a tutorials section to make finding what you’re looking for easy. Other notable features of GIMP are a customizable interface, custom brushes and patterns, unlimited images open at once, digital retouching, and a corrective mode to eliminate perspective distortion.
However, if you’re an advanced user, you may find GIMP slower than premium options.
- Free to use
- Wide support for plugins
- Can open almost any image file
- The interface may seem cluttered
- Slow upgrades to the product
Photopea – Best Photo Editing Software For Non-Professionals
The second on our list is a little less known – Photopea. Photopea is a free, web-based, and basic photo editing software. It is an excellent option for beginners who want easy and accessible software. It also provides a lot of tutorials to help beginners learn the basics of photo editing.
One of the significant advantages of using Photopea is that it helps users better understand Photoshop’s interface and tools, which can be helpful if they switch to Photoshop. For instance, the Refine edge tool makes it easy to work with complex shapes. Similarly, the vector graphics option provides a range of options to let you experiment. You can also use smart tools like patch and brush to refine the result.
- Easy to use
- Accessible with just an internet connection
- Tons of tutorials to help beginners
- Lack of predefined templates
- Doesn’t work well with all PSD files
Darktable – Best Photo Editing Software For Novice Photographers
Darktable is another free, open-source photo editing software. It offers professional-level features and tools, making it an excellent alternative to expensive paid software – particularly Lightroom. Its compatibility with Windows, Mac, and Linux, support for 21 languages, and geotagging support are significant advantages. Moreover, Darktable offers high-quality RAW processing and fast performance thanks to GPU-accelerated image processing and OpenCL support.
However, Darktable has its drawbacks. It has a steep learning curve, making it less suitable for those new to photo editing. The software also needs a clearer grouping of features, making finding the tools you need challenging. Despite these limitations, Darktable is a top-notch piece of RAW image editing software that offers a powerful solution to photo editing needs for both beginners and professionals.
- Free and open-source
- Professional-level features and tools
- Good quality RAW processing
- Fast performance
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Support for 21 languages
- Geotagging support
- The steeper learning curve for beginners
- Confusing groupings of features
Paint.net – Popular & Most Simple Photo Editing Software
Paint.net is a free photo editing software that offers a range of features for inexperienced photographers to edit their images. It has a neatly organized interface with tools grouped into different menus, making them easily accessible. It supports editing multiple images simultaneously, each displayed in a separate tab. You can select a wide range of effects and filters from its library.
Furthermore, the range of tools available for editing is wide, including cropping, adding effects, filters, and text layers. Paint.net allows users to reduce contrast, make colors more vibrant, and quickly undo mistakes using the History tab. The software is suitable for novice photographers who want to edit images for social media.
- Easy and convenient to use
- Neatly organized interface
- It allows for reducing contrast and making colors more vibrant
- Provides online tutorials
- Different formats for saving images after editing
- Limited brushwork
- No text correction after applying other effects
- Supports only common photo file formats
Quick Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Photo Editing Software for Beginners
- Before you start editing, always save a copy of the original photo.
- Use built-in tutorials and online resources to learn the software thoroughly.
- Most photo editing software support keyboard shortcuts that can speed up your workflow. Use them!
- Sometimes, a few simple adjustments can make all the difference. So, go for simple edits; never over-edit your photos!
- Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Sometimes, the most interesting edits come from trying something different.
- Experiment with adjusting color temperature, saturation, and hue to see how it affects the mood and feel of your photos.
- Practice, practice, practice… Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
So, these are the best photo editing software for beginners. You can choose from free, premium, downloadable, or browser-based software according to your requirements. It’s up to you to see which best suits your requirements.
Sure, editing is not easy, but if you are motivated enough to start trying, you will see results over time. Take some time to get hands-on experience with the software. Once your confidence grows, your editing skills will start feeling more natural. And you will be ready to learn new tools to supercharge your editing skills.