Using image-sharing apps like Instagram and Flickr is a great way to follow amazing photographers and find inspiring images.
Trying their techniques or processes can help you boost your photography. But how much of their beautiful images comes down to photo effects software?
Few images in the history of photography haven’t been altered. Before Photoshop, photographers used darkroom techniques to achieve the effects they desired.
Don’t want to get your hands dirty in the darkroom? Software will be your new best friend and we’re here to help.
We’ve rounded up five of the best programs, though you won’t find web-based applications like PicMonkey or Canva here.
We’re sticking to serious software so you can give your photography a boost. So keep reading on reading!
1) Adobe Lightroom
Want to try photo effects software to get results like this photographer? You can’t talk about photography and photo effects software without mentioning a product by Adobe. Photoshop might seem like the obvious choice but Lightroom is also an excellent option.
Why? Photoshop offers vast potential for photomanipulation, graphic design, 3D renders and beyond. But Lightroom focuses on getting the best out of your photography.
Being a specialist piece of software means it does its job very well. Think of it as a digital darkroom for your RAW photography.
Photoshop has a RAW processor within it. But Lightroom allows you to add extra effects like split toning.
It’s also great for batch processing, so you can apply the same settings to lots of images from the same shoot. You can also organize your image library, adding keywords or editing the metadata.
It’s a lighter program meaning it doesn’t hit your system resources as hard as Photoshop. That’s great news if your budget doesn’t stretch to a brand new laptop.
Try our complete guide to Lightroom if you want to learn this amazing software.
2) Affinity Photo
Brought to you by the company that made Serif PhotoPlus, Affinity Photo is a heavyweight contender for Photoshop’s photo effects software crown.
At a fraction of the price for an Adobe product, Affinity Photo offers a one-off cost. There are no subscription fees but they roll out regular updates to the software.
Its interface mimics Photoshop and the software even handles PSD files. If you can already use Photoshop but dislike its price tag, you’ll be up and running in minutes.
Alongside a raft of selection features, Affinity Photo offers plenty of non-destructive editing options. Take advantage of their Live Adjustment Layers to apply effects to one layer – or all of them.
Install your Photoshop plugins or brushes to work with the software. If you’re still not sure, download their free trial to take it for a test drive.
If you’re used to the handy filters in Instagram or the Flickr app, Pixeluvo might be the photo effects software for you. Its Quick Color tool offers plenty of color balance options to apply to your images.
Its selection tools are easy to use and it offers handy previews of blending modes before you apply them.
That’s better than Photoshop. In Adobe’s offering, you have to manually select each blending mode to see the effect. That can lead to plenty of pointless clicking until you find the mode you want.
The software doesn’t include layer options like styles and groups, so if they’re your favorite tools in Photoshop then Pixeluvo might disappoint you.
But that makes it easier to learn if you’re new to this software. It’s cheaper than Affinity Photo and it comes with a trial version.
4) Nik Collection
Still want to use Photoshop but want to remove some of the learning curve? Try Google’s Nik Collection.
This free suite includes seven Photoshop plugins that also work with Aperture and Lightroom.
DxO acquired the collection and will release a new set in 2018. For now, download the existing set for free. Get started on beautiful images at the click of a button.
What Are The Plugins?
Analog Efex Pro lets you fake the look of classic lenses, cameras, and films. Film photography gets expensive with the cost of developing negatives. This plugin will get you the look more easily.
Silver Efex Pro gives you tools inspired by the darkroom to help you improve monochrome photography.
Color Efex Pro uses filters to give you a range of options for retouching, color editing, and more. Or use Viveza to adjust color and tone without using selections and masks.
If that weren’t enough, you can use Sharpener Pro to sharpen your images. Or try our HDR photography with HDR Efex Pro. Finally, Define helps reduce noise.
We couldn’t write a post about photo effects software and not mention GIMP. The classic alternative to Photoshop, this free open-source program even handles PSD files.
You can work with layers, apply photo actions, or install custom brushes to enjoy a similar workflow to Photoshop users. GIMP is a powerful program, considering it’s free.
Apply filters, effects, and more to achieve impressive results.
At present, GIMP’s biggest downside is the lack of non-destructive editing. If you make a mistake, you have to go back to the beginning and start again. You can’t just turn off an adjustment layer.
We say ‘at present’ since that’s going to change. Version 3.2 will introduce the non-destructive editing features photographers love, along with adjustment layers.
Even smart objects are on their way at some point.
With a price tag of ‘free’, what have you got to lose by trying it?
Photo Effects Software Doesn’t Have to be Complicated or Expensive.
Photoshop is an obvious choice for photo editing. But there’s a lot to learn and paying for a subscription can soon mount up.
Lightroom is a cheaper option which will level-up your photography almost overnight.
If the cost is still too much, Affinity Photo might be the right software. Or try GIMP – maybe it’s steep learning curve is less intimidating since it’s free.
Still got questions about downloading photo effects software? Please contact our support team. We’re happy to help.