Photoshop vs the world

Here’s a comparison I made in 2018 comparing the features of Photoshop and other pixel editors.  It may be a little out dated now, but I’ll retain it here because it’s probably still useful.

This list includes pixel editors which have similar functionality to Photoshop.  Pixel editors specialise in making anything possible, but they’re not the fastest or simplest way, especially if you have a lot of images, so most likely you’ll also need other software alongside a pixel editor to help organise and edit images in bulk.

Here’s a feature list of the most prominent pixel editors as of 2018.  pixel-editing-software-april-2018

The contenders:

Adobe Photoshop

Since Photoshop was born 28 years ago it’s become an industry leading giant, capable of just about anything you can imagine.  Photoshop installs with two other apps, Bridge and ACR, a trio combination that can cover all bases from organising to editing multiple images at a time.  Be prepared for a learning curve though, this trio has become so capable, but also so complicated they created Lightroom to fill that gap. My major gripe with Photoshop is that you can’t actually buy it any more, it can only be rented as part of the Adobe subscription model at around AU$15 per month.

John’s recommendation:

The go-to pixel editor if you don’t mind the cost model

Who’s it suited to:

Pro’s
Enthusiasts
Students
Beginners willing to learn

Serif Affinity photo

Affinity is the game changer, here to shake up the industry, or so I hope.  25 years AP (After Photoshop) and finally Serif provided an excellent Photoshop alternative, or almost a clone if you like.  Not that I believe for a minute that Photoshop is all it could be, it’s foundations were built 28 years ago, and we could do better now, but things are what they are.

Some Affinity features are actually better than Photoshop’s and some still need work.  I’ve tried to use Affinity as a Photoshop replacement several times but always seem to come unstuck but I think the foundation is at least as good.  Affinity doesn’t yet have a companion for image management but I’m sure that’s in the works too, and as with all these choices you can use any other software you choose to help manage the images.  There’s a lot of similarity between Affinity and Photoshop commands which makes an easy switch between the two and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with its features.  Affinity also comes with a more attractive cost model than Photoshop at around AU$80 outright.

John’s recommendation:

The go-to pixel editor if you don’t like the Adobe cost model and don’t need to do things the Photoshop way.

Who’s it suited to:

Pro’s
Enthusiasts
Students
Beginners willing to learn

Gimp

A free Photoshop alternative.  It’s less refined features can feel a bit dated but it’s good enough for basic editing.  No image management features built in, but there are lots of add on’s available.

John’s recommendation:

Worth trying since it’s free.  It doesn’t support 16 bit files, which is an issue for anyone shooting raw to maximise image quality.  (update 2020: 16 bit now available, but adjustment layers still not there)

Who’s it suited to:

Enthusiasts
Students
Beginners willing to learn

Corel Paintshop Pro

Combines image management with a Photoshop like editing suite.  Feels slower and more clunky than Photoshop with less to offer on the whole.  The interface may be a little simpler to get into than Photoshop or Affinity, and the image management is kept simple.  It’s kind of a cross between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop.

John’s recommendation:

I’m not sure I could recommend Paintshop.  Affinity seems like a better non-Photoshop choice in my book.  Paintshop is a bit slow and awkward and doesn’t have quite as many features useful for photographers, and the cost is about the same as Affinity at AU$100.

Who’s it suited to:

Enthusiasts
Students
Beginners willing to learn

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Like the name implies, Elements includes many Photoshop features and simplifies editing for beginners.  It’s adds some interesting organisational features like a map view, and the ability to output images straight to email or facebook, but it lacks many of the more advanced photo editing options.

John’s recommendation:

Elements has some good points and I can tentatively recommend it if you’re not shooting raw images.  Its specialty as a simplified all-in-one package compromises the some of the more advanced features.  It’s OK if you’re happy with simple editing tools, don’t want a subscription, and if you don’t shoot raw.

There are other software packages that may be a better choice for people interested in Elements for its simplicity.

Who’s it suited to:

Those who prioritise automation and a ‘Photoshop for dummies’ entry point over depth, features and max quality.

Conclusion

Choice is good, at the end of the day it’s best to choose what suits your priorities best.

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