Over the last three blog posts I’ve tried to go through the options for Adobe Lightroom, and provide some advice in the form of questions to ask before buying it.

As a result of this you may be thinking that Lightroom is not the tool for you to process and manage your images.  So in this blog post I want to look at some of the alternatives that you might want to look at.

Caveat Emptor

No “Caveat Emptor” is not the name of a piece of software – it’s latin for “Buyer Beware”.  Before I look at these suggested alternatives, I need to give a warning.  You need to do your own research, and if you think one of the products is right for you.  Test it out for yourself.  None of these alternatives are pieces of software that I have used.  They are products that I am aware of, and products that I keep an eye on – but not ones that I actually use.  That means that what I am presenting is based on research NOT on personal experience of using the product.

Photoshop Elements 2019

There is a product out there from Adobe that offers most of the RAW processing functionality of Lightroom but doesn’t have a subscription.  Adobe Photoshop Elements comes with Adobe Camera Raw – which means that you can open and edit RAW files pretty much the same as you can in Lightroom – most of the sliders are the same and as of 2019 version you even have the ‘profiles’ capability as part of it.

The downside is that the batch processing and image management options of Lightroom are part of this.  But if you don’t need to have a catalogue of your images and you don’t need to process RAW files too often this might be a reasonable alternative for you.  For example is you shoot RAW+JPEG and mainly use the JPEG files direct from camera, but once in a while need the additional dynamic range of the RAW file this could be a possibility for you.

Price: Approximately £60 – one-off payment.

Serif Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is really marketing itself as a Photoshop alternative – and I know of quite a few creatives who have ditched photoshop for it.  I haven’t used it myself, but if the engineering behind is anything like Affinity Publisher – which is their Adobe Indesign alternative this should be a good contender.

The downside, like Photoshop Elements it doesn’t offer image management.  In other words no equivalent to the Library Module in Lightroom.  But if, as mentioned above you only need to process the occasional RAW file this could be a product to look at.

The price is £48.99 – One off payment all upgrade (until version 2) will be free.

On1 Photo RAW

In the last few weeks On1 have release their latest version of Photo Raw – version 2019.5.  The feature list for this product is very impressive and generally, it can do most of what Lightroom can.  Not only that but you can actually migrate you Lightroom Processing settings over to it.  I understand that it is not a perfect migration but if you adjustments are fairly straightforward this should save you a lot of work.

The biggest draw with the product, like so many, is that it doesn’t yet have the level of support of image management in terms of metadata and keywords.  For example, it is only in the latest release that they have started to support hierarchical keywords.  There is currently no way to define your own metadata.  Nor does it provide an architecture to support third-party plug-ins.

I have heard complaints about performance, but I would be very surprised if that performance is any worse than Lightroom.

This is certainly a product to watch.  Their development cycle of two releases a year has seen major improvement at every iteration.  I am fully expecting this to catch up and possibly overtake LR in the next couple of years.

Price: $79.99 but they often run offers to keep an eye out for a lower price

Capture One Pro

Capture One isn’t cheap, but it does have a reputation as being the best RAW processing software on the market.  Historically, it was developed to handle RAW data from medium format digital capture devices.  As a result, it probably has the best tethering capabilities of all the products.  I am aware of many professional photographers who are switching over to it.

The downsides to Capture One are the image management functions.  I have heard reports that it doesn’t work well with large catalogues of images.  Leaving some photographers to have a new catalog/database for each year.  If like me you have a need to search for images across multiple years this would be a major problem.  As with other products adding your own metadata and the ability to create plugins to extend functionality is non-existent.

The price is either £20 per month, or £299 perpetual licence

IMatch

IMatch is the complete opposite of all the other packages that we have looked at.  It is asset management software for photographers – it doesn’t have the ability to process RAW files but you can open images in external editors.  That gives the ability to work with individual files but you would need to do RAW conversion outside of IMatch

However, it is a very good product for organising and cataloguing your images and provides you with many ways to search and view your images.  It provides users with the ability to write their own scripts and some are available from third parties.

This is the product I used to use to manage my images before moving over to Lightroom.  IMatch is good at what it does but I found I needed to extend the functionality by writing my own scripts.  The other issue I had with IMatch was the fact that it is effectively created and supported by one person.  This meant that there could be a long wait between versions.  I was also worried about the longevity of the product.  What happens when the creator decides to retire?

Price £103.30

What about me?

I am currently ‘locked in to using Lightroom’ – At the time of writing it is the best solution for me – but I am constantly monitoring the market to see if anything could replace LR in my workflow, for various reasons at present I don’t believe that any of the alternatives I have mentioned will be an option for me and my workflow.  That is because there are certain things that I need to do that I can ONLY do in Lightroom – such as integration with Alamy stock library, and the ability to define my own metadata fields to store training information about images.  The things that bind me to Lightroom probably don’t bind you – therefore you may find that one of the alternatives is right for you.

If I was starting from scratch I would probably look at On1 Photo RAW and hope that the image management side improves.  Alternatively Capture One is worth looking at because of the quality of the RAW processing engine – but with the knowledge that I would end up with a very different workflow to the one I currently have due to its limitations on the size of the databases.

Until next time, keep MAKING great images,

Ian.

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