What's the best photo editor for Mac these days?

Hey community, I’ve recently started dabbling in photography, and I’m on the hunt for a top-notch photo editor for my Mac. There are so many options out there, and I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the choices. Whether you’re a pro or just passionate about photo editing, I would love to hear your recommendations! What’s working for you and why? Thanks in advance!

Hey there! Great to hear you’re getting into photography. It’s such an exciting and rewarding hobby. Choosing a photo editor can indeed be overwhelming, especially with the vast array of options available today. Let’s break down some of the best choices out there for Mac users and see what might fit your needs the best. We’ll cover different programs, each catering to various skill levels and requirements. I’ll also include some specific tips and methods to help you get started.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Ah, good old Photoshop. It’s practically synonymous with photo editing and image manipulation. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Photoshop has a ton to offer.

Why It’s Great:

  • Powerful Tools: Anything you can imagine, you can probably do it in Photoshop. From basic edits like cropping and exposure adjustments to complex tasks like compositing and digital painting.
  • Resources: There are countless tutorials, plugins, and resources available online. You’ll never feel lost.

Getting Started:
Fire up Photoshop and start with the basics:

  1. Opening an Image: Go to File > Open and select your image.
  2. Basic Adjustments: Use Image > Adjustments, and you’ll find tools for brightness, contrast, levels, curves, etc.
  3. Layers: Get familiar with working in layers. This non-destructive method allows you to make changes without altering the original image. You’ll find layers in the right-hand panel.

Here’s a quick pro-tip: Start playing around with adjustment layers (like levels, curves, and color balance). They are non-destructive and can be modified at any time.

2. Lightroom

Lightroom is another powerhouse from Adobe, but it’s more focused on organizing and batch-processing images. It’s excellent for making global adjustments quickly.

Why It’s Great:

  • Non-destructive Editing: Your original photo remains untouched. All edits are applied in layers.
  • Cataloging: Great file management system that helps you organize and find your photos easily.

Getting Started:

  1. Import Photos: Open Lightroom and go to File > Import Photos and Video. You can organize into collections right away.
  2. Develop Module: Switch to the Develop module (D key). Here, you can adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks quickly using sliders.
  3. Presets: Utilize presets for quick edits. Lightroom comes with some, and you can download many more for free or purchase professional ones.

3. Affinity Photo

A fantastic alternative to Photoshop if you don’t want to subscribe to Adobe’s model. Affinity Photo is a one-time purchase and offers a comprehensive suite of tools for photo editing.

Why It’s Great:

  • Powerful Features: Similar capabilities to Photoshop – layers, adjustments, masking, etc.
  • Cost-Effective: One-time purchase makes it appealing for those who don’t want ongoing subscriptions.

Getting Started:

  1. Interface: Familiarize yourself with the interface. It’s similar to Photoshop, with the toolbar on the left and layers on the right.
  2. Adjustment Layers: Start using adjustment layers (same concept as Photoshop).
  3. Panorama and HDR Merge: Check out their specialized features if you deal with panoramas or HDR photography.

4. Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro is a bit more streamlined and user-friendly compared to Photoshop. It’s fantastic for both beginners and intermediate users.

Why It’s Great:

  • User-friendly Interface: Clean and intuitive UI.
  • Powerful Enough: Offers most of the necessary tools without overwhelming the user.

Getting Started:

  1. Templates and Presets: Start with templates and presets to get a hang of its capabilities.
  2. Editing Basics: Utilize the basic editing functionalities like color adjustments, retouch tools, and filters.
  3. Learning Curve: Visit tutorials available on their website, which can help you learn how to use each tool in a practical context.


If you’re looking for a free, open-source option, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a solid choice. It’s quite capable, but the interface might seem a bit dated if you’re used to modern software.

Why It’s Great:

  • Free and Open Source: No costs involved.
  • Extensible: Lots of plugins and a supportive community.

Getting Started:

  1. Install Plug-ins: Enhance GIMP by installing plugins that add functionalities.
  2. Layers and Masks: Dive into layers and masks first. They are fundamental to advanced editing.
  3. Online Resources: Make good use of tutorials and forums. GIMP has a large user base that shares a lot of knowledge and tips.

Comparing the Programs

Let’s quickly compare these programs on a few important aspects:

Feature Photoshop Lightroom Affinity Photo Pixelmator Pro GIMP
Price Subscription Subscription One-time One-time Free
Ease of Use Intermediate to Advanced Beginner to Advanced Intermediate to Advanced Beginner to Intermediate Intermediate to Advanced
Organizing Photos Limited (Bridge Needed) Excellent Limited Limited Limited
Editing Power Comprehensive Excellent for Edits Comprehensive Strong Comprehensive
Community & Resources Huge Huge Growing Growing Large


Ultimately, the best photo editor for you depends on your specific needs and how deep you want to dive into photo editing. Here’s a quick recommendation:

  • Just Getting Started: Go for Pixelmator Pro or Lightroom. Both are user-friendly and powerful enough for most needs.
  • Intermediate to Advanced: If you’re willing to invest some time learning, Photoshop or Affinity Photo will give you endless capabilities.
  • Cost-Conscious: GIMP could be a great option if you’re okay with a slightly steeper learning curve and don’t want to spend any money.

Happy editing, and don’t hesitate to experiment with different software to see what clicks best for your workflow. Good luck, and I hope you capture some stunning shots!