Which Editing Software is the Most Popular?

Top Photo Editing Software:
Some of the most Popular Choices

photography, office and magazine concept - female retoucher with drawing tablet and computer working at home or office


In the age of social media, digital marketing, and ever-evolving camera technology, photo editing software has become an essential tool for photographers, designers, and hobbyists alike. With a plethora of options available, it can be difficult to determine which software best suits your needs. In this blog, we will delve into the world of photo editing software, discussing Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, their major competitors, and the reasons behind their popularity.

The data used to put this article together was gathered from our online Photography Assessment Tool.(PAT)  The PAT is a questionnaire for photographers to test their knowledge.  It asks a range of questions to help analyse strengths and weaknesses and produces a personalised report.

As patterns emerge, I will continue to publish the results.

Over the next few weeks, I will look at a number of editing tools to help you decide which could be useful for you.

But first, we look at the results of our survey, kicking off with a very brief overview of the history of photo-editing software.


A bit of history

The introduction of personal computers in the 1980s paved the way for the development of early photo editing software. MacPaint, released in 1984 for the Apple Macintosh computer, was one of the first programs that allowed users to create and edit bitmap images. It provided basic tools such as a paintbrush, eraser, and fill bucket, as well as the ability to work with multiple patterns and textures.

Deluxe Paint, released in 1985 for the Commodore Amiga, was another early photo editing software. It offered more advanced features compared to MacPaint, such as support for multiple colours, custom brushes, and image scaling. Deluxe Paint quickly gained popularity among Amiga users and became a key player in the early days of digital art and design.

The Game Changer: Adobe Photoshop

In 1990, Adobe Photoshop was released, marking a significant milestone in the history of photo editing software. Developed by brothers Thomas and John Knoll, Photoshop offered a comprehensive suite of tools for image manipulation, including layers, filters, and advanced editing capabilities. Its extensive functionality and user-friendly interface quickly made it the industry standard for professional photo editing.

Over the years, Adobe continued to refine and expand Photoshop, introducing groundbreaking features such as the Magic Wand tool, the Healing Brush, and Content-Aware Fill. These advancements allowed photographers and designers to work with greater precision and control, enabling them to create more complex and visually stunning images.

The Rise of Alternative Software

Following the success of Photoshop, numerous competing photo editing software programs emerged, offering users a variety of options to meet their specific needs.  We will look at a number of them below, links are provided (click on the software name) to explore them for yourself.


The Most Popular Editing software results:

  1. Photoshop
  2. Lightroom ClassicPhotoshop
  3. Lightroom (Cloud-based)
  4. Photoshop Elements
  5. Affinity
  6. Capture One
  7. DxO Nik Collection
  8. Topaz Labs
  9. Paintshop Pro
  10. ON1
  11. Luminar


Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop: The Market Leaders

According to our recent survey, Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop were the top choices for photo editing, garnering 35% and 22% of the votes, respectively. Both are feature-rich and offer a comprehensive suite of tools for photographers to perfect their images.

Which Editing Software is the most Popular?

Data collected from photographers in southern England who completed our online Photography Assessment Tool

Lightroom Classic

Lightroom Classic is preferred by many for its non-destructive editing capabilities, streamlined workflow, and efficient organization system. It offers a comprehensive RAW editing suite, making it an ideal choice for professional photographers who need to process large numbers of high-quality images.

It’s interesting to note, that despite Adobe’s passion to get photographers to use their Cloud-based version of Lightroom, it just isn’t working.  The desktop version (Lightroom Classic) completely trounces it.  The Cloud version attracted a mere 9% of users. 


Photoshop, on the other hand, is an incredibly powerful and versatile software, known for its advanced editing tools, layers, and the ability to create complex compositions. It is the go-to choice for graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers who require detailed retouching and compositing capabilities.  Photoshop is the byword for image editing and despite the fact that it’s not the easiest to use, its extraordinary power is the reason why so many people prefer it.

Competition in the Photo Editing Space

Although Adobe products dominate the market, they face stiff competition from other photo editing software. Some noteworthy competitors include:

  1. Photoshop Elements: A simplified version of Photoshop, Elements offers a more affordable and user-friendly alternative for beginners and hobbyists. It includes most of the essential editing tools found in its more advanced counterpart but lacks some of the more advanced features.
  2. Affinity Photo: A cost-effective alternative to Photoshop, Affinity Photo offers a one-time purchase price with no subscription fees. It provides similar functionality and tools as Photoshop, making it a popular choice among those looking to reduce costs without sacrificing features.
  3. Capture One: Favored by many professional photographers, Capture One is renowned for its powerful RAW processing capabilities, advanced colour management, and customizable interface. It is particularly popular among medium-format and high-end camera users.
  4. DxO PhotoLab: With its unique lens and camera correction tools, DxO PhotoLab is another strong competitor in the photo editing market. It boasts an impressive library of lens profiles, making it an excellent choice for photographers who prioritize correcting optical imperfections.
  5. Topaz Labs: Known for their suite of AI-powered editing tools, Topaz Labs offers innovative software like Gigapixel AI, DeNoise AI, and Sharpen AI, which aim to enhance image quality and reduce noise in photographs.
  6. PaintShop Pro is an affordable, user-friendly photo editing software that caters to both beginners and professionals. It offers a range of versatile tools for image editing, graphic design, and digital painting, enabling users to create visually stunning content without breaking the bank.
  7. ON1 Photo RAW is a comprehensive photo editing software designed for photographers seeking a powerful, all-in-one solution. It boasts an extensive range of features, including RAW processing, layer editing, and a wide variety of creative effects, making it an ideal choice for enthusiasts and professionals alike.
  8. Luminar is a powerful, AI-driven photo editing software that simplifies the editing process for photographers of all levels. With its intuitive interface, innovative tools, and customizable workspaces, Luminar enables users to effortlessly enhance their images and achieve professional-quality results.

Editing workshop at Hampshire School of Photography with Kevin Ahronson

Why Some Photographers Prefer Not to Edit Their Photos

In our survey, 14% of respondents stated that they prefer not to edit their photos. Reasons for this may include a desire for authenticity, a focus on getting the shot right in-camera, or simply personal preference. These photographers often rely on the JPEG format and the camera’s built-in processing capabilities.



The world of photo editing software is vast and varied, with Adobe’s Lightroom Classic and Photoshop remaining the dominant choices among professionals and enthusiasts alike. However, competition from alternatives like Affinity Photo, Topaz Labs and Capture One ensures that the market remains diverse, catering to a wide range of preferences and budgets. While some photographers choose not to edit their photos, the majority recognise the value of these powerful tools in enhancing their work and creating stunning visuals.

As technology continues to advance and new software enters the market, photographers have more options than ever to fine-tune their images and bring their creative visions to life. Whether you’re a professional photographer, a budding enthusiast, or a hobbyist looking to improve your skills, there’s a photo editing solution out there that can meet your unique needs and requirements.

In conclusion, the photo editing landscape is constantly evolving, with new software and features emerging to meet the diverse demands of photographers worldwide. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each option, you can make an informed decision about which photo editing software best aligns with your personal style and requirements. Ultimately, the right software will empower you to unleash your creativity and produce stunning, high-quality images that stand out in today’s competitive visual landscape.


What’s your opinion?  

Let us know your thoughts about photo editing and a whole range of other photography issues.  Complete our online Photography Assessment Tool by [clicking on this link] and get a personalised report.



Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

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