I’ve been editing pictures on computers since the beginning of digital photography. I started with one of the first consumer grade digital cameras, the Casio QV-11 and never went back to film. I’ve used countless photo editing apps but nothing compared to Adobe’s Photoshop.
Adobe changed to their current subscription only model in 2013 and I signed up. I paid sixty dollars a month for access to all of Adobe’s software and one-hundred gigabytes of cloud storage. For a while the cost seemed justified. Eventually, I started thinking about its cost compared to how often I used it and decided I needed to find an alternative.
I began testing alternative applications to see if any had improved enough, or if there were any new offerings that could replace Photoshop for my needs. Paint.Net and GIMP are great, but they lack true digital pen support, advanced brushes, batch processing, and some of the other tools that I’ve come to rely on. My goal wasn’t to find free software, but if it was I would probably be using Paint.Net (can still download free from the web site).
I had looked at Serif’s Affinity Photo in the Microsoft Store before. It was coincidentally on-sale so I purchased and installed it. I launched the new software with a skeptical mindset. How could a forty-dollar app compete with a powerhouse like Photoshop? The skepticism didn’t last long.
What sets Photoshop apart from other photo editing software is the number of options, customizations, plug-ins, brush packs, and the ecosystem around it. While Affinity is not on the same scale as Adobe, it does have many of these features. Places like Frankentoon make custom brush packs for Affinity. All of the tool panes can be customized to your liking. Lots of Photoshop plug-ins can be imported into Affinity.
You can process jobs in batches, create your own custom brushes, export your work into almost any format you can think of, and more. Affinity Photo supports the Surface Dial and other digital tools, it even allows you to select from multiple GPUs. For me the only Photoshop feature I use on a regular basis that was missing from Affinity Photo was Lightroom.
I was able to find the perfect open-source replacement. Darktable runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It costs nothing, and works great for my needs. There’s both a lightroom for pursuing your photo collections and a darkroom for adjusting images.
Photoshop is still the king of photo editing solutions. Its high-price can be prohibitive for average use cases. If you’re a power-user like myself, give Affinity Photo and Darktable a try (both have trial editions). I bet you’ll be shocked at how easily you can transition into these apps.