How Do These Photo Editors Compare?


Photo editing is a great way to make your images stand out and develop your unique style. And if you’re just getting into the space, you’ll likely learn of Adobe Lightroom’s existence quickly. But while this is one of the most popular tools on the market, it’s not your only option.

You can pay for a lot of great photo editing software, such as Capture One and Photoshop. But if you’re not ready to spend money yet, you can try a selection of free tools. Apple Photos is one that many overlook, but the platform has numerous features to help you bring your images to life.

In this article, we’ll compare Apple Photos and Adobe Lightroom—to ensure that you make the right decision.

1. Device Availability

The devices you can use Apple Photos and Adobe Lightroom on differ quite significantly. Like other Apple apps, Apple Photos is not available on non-Apple devices. You can use the tool on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you have an Apple device, you’ll have the app pre-downloaded.

Adobe Lightroom, on the other hand, is a little different. First, we need to understand that two versions of Lightroom exist: Lightroom Classic and Creative Cloud. Lightroom Classic is available on macOS and Windows; you’ll first need to download the Adobe Creative Cloud app.

Lightroom CC is also available on macOS and Windows. On top of that, you can download the app for your iOS or Android device. If you import RAW files into Lightroom CC on your computer, you can continue editing these on your smartphone or tablet—as long as you sign in with the same Adobe Creative Cloud ID.

We’ll talk mainly about Lightroom Classic in this article, but you should note that Lightroom CC has many of the same features as Lightroom Classic.

2. Pricing

Another difference between Lightroom and Apple Photos is the pricing. If you have an Apple device, you can use Apple Photos for free. You’ll need an Apple ID, but you don’t need to upgrade your iCloud storage to use all of its tools.

To use Lightroom, on the other hand, you’ll need a paid subscription. You can choose to pay monthly or yearly; Adobe no longer offers a one-time purchase for its apps.

Lightroom costs $9.99 per month for the simplest Photography plan, which includes Lightroom and Lightroom CC—along with Photoshop. You can also get a subscription with upgraded Creative Cloud storage for $19.99 per month. See the Adobe Photography plans page for more information.

While you’re restricted with your Creative Cloud storage, you can save as many images to your external hard drive as its storage space allows.

If you’re a beginner photo editor, you should start with a few basic tools before moving on to the more advanced options. Examples of these include:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Highlights

Lightroom and Apple Photos are similar with the basic image editing tools they offer. You can edit the exposure, shadows, and brightness in Apple Photos with different sliders. You’ll also find a tool called Brilliance, which adjusts the lighting in certain parts of your picture.

Apple Photos also offers tools that help you sharpen your picture, plus much more. While you can adjust sliders manually, you’ll also find a range of Auto buttons to alter parts of your image without much input on your end.

Apple Photos Interface Screenshot

Adobe Lightroom also lets you auto-adjust numerous parts of your photo, and you can even select one tool that will move all of your sliders however you deem necessary. Moreover, you can tweak the exposure and highlights in your picture with minimal effort.

Lightroom Editing Tools Interface Screenshot

Lightroom offers tools to increase the texture in your images, in addition to altering the clarity of your photo and more.

Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of photo editing is adjusting the colors in your pictures. Many users start by tweaking the vibrance and saturation, but that is only the beginning of what you can do.

Apple Photos lets you change the vibrance and saturation in your shots with two separate sliders. You can also change the hue, saturation, and luminance for individual colors within your images. And there is a tool that lets you automatically choose the hue in your picture—based on one area of it.

Color Grading Wheels Lightroom Screenshot

Lightroom is the more advanced option for editing colors in your photos. You can change the vibrance and saturation, along with the luminance and hue for each color. But perhaps the most interesting tool to use is color grading.

Lightroom offers three color grading wheels for different parts of your photo, along with one that impacts the overall colors within your image. And you can use the Calibration tool in Lightroom Classic to change the red, blue, and green primaries within your picture.

5. Editing RAW Files

While you can get great photo editing results with JPEG files, you’re limited in numerous ways. RAW files save more data and allow you to go much deeper with your edits.

Lightroom lets you edit RAW files, and you can do several things with images of this kind. For example, you can add different camera profiles for Fujifilm and other camera manufacturers.

If you’re editing in Apple Photos, you can also import RAW files. However, editing these isn’t as easy as doing so in Lightroom.

6. Export Settings

Once you’ve finished editing your pictures, you’ll want to export them somewhere else. You might choose to share them on social media, and in other cases, you may wish to use a different tool to continue your edits—such as Photoshop.

Lightroom Export Screenshot

Lightroom lets you export your image files in multiple formats. You can choose JPEG, PNG, PSD, and several others.

Apple Photos Export Screenshot

Apple Photos also offers a selection of export options. You can choose from PNG, JPEG, and TIFF.

Two Very Different Photo Editing Apps

Choosing a photo editing tool is challenging, and you might find that you change to something different as you become more skilled. Apple Photos and Lightroom offer different things to their audiences. The former is a good choice if you want to learn the basics, but you might find that it doesn’t serve your needs as you become more advanced.

Lightroom, on the other hand, is more scalable. You’ve also got more exporting options, and it’s handy if you want to use Photoshop later. While you will need to pay money, it’s worth the investment.


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