Home News Best Non-Destructive Editing Software for Photography

Best Non-Destructive Editing Software for Photography

Best Non-Destructive Editing Software for Photography


With so many editing / post-processing software packages on the market today, photographers might find it rather difficult to go through them all and compare key features in order to pick something that would ultimately work for their needs. Many of us go through that stage, especially when starting out. What is the best software for photo editing? What features does it have? Is it easy to learn and how much does it cost? These are just some of the questions photographers seek answers for. We decided to put together a detailed table that compares the most popular non-destructive editing tools on the market today.

Fuji X-T20 Image Samples #31
Image Edited in Lightroom Classic CC
X-T20 + XC16-50mmF3.5-5.6 OIS II @ 16.7mm, ISO 200, 1/6, f/8.0

We picked the following six software packages that offer non-destructive editing based on their popularity among photographers:

  • Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
  • Capture One Pro
  • ACDSee Photo Studio
  • On1 Photo RAW
  • DxO PhotoLab
  • Luminar

We recognize that there are many more out there, but we cannot include them all, since such research would take a lot more time and the chart would get massive, making it hard to read. If you disagree with our choices and would like to see other non-destructive software included, please let us know in the comments section below (note that destructive software editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Affinity Photo, PaintShop Pro and GIMP should not be in this list). To come up with all the data below, we had to install every software package on a single machine and run them all for some time, going through and testing out the features. It was a pretty exhausting task to say the least! Below is the software comparison table:

FeatureLightroom ClassicCapture One ProACDSee PSOn1 Photo RAWDxO PhotoLabLuminar
1Subjective opinion based on personal experience of the author
2HDR Merge Tool in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2020 is extremely poor / unusable
3Aurora HDR Tool must be purchased separately
Operating SystemsWin/MacWin/MacWin/MacWin/MacWin/MacWin/Mac
Database CatalogYesYesYesYesYesYes
Import ToolYesYesYesYesNoYes
File ManagementYesYesYesYesNoYes
Color ManagementYesYesYesYesYesYes
RAW File SupportYesYesYesYesYesYes
Fuji X-Trans RAW SupportYesYesYesYesNoYes
Tethered ShootingYesYesNoYesNoNo
GUI CustomizationYesYesYesNoYesYes
4K+ / Retina Screen SupportYesYesYesYesYesYes
Dual Monitor SupportYesYesYesYesNoNo
GPU AccelerationYesYesYesYesYesYes
Lens CorrectionsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Basic RAW File Editing (Crop, Exposure, WB, etc)YesYesYesYesYesYes
Templates / PresetsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Selective SharpeningYesYesYesYesYesYes
Selective Noise ReductionYesYesYesYesYesYes
Advanced Color AdjustmentsNoYesNoNoYesNo
Distortion, CA and Vignetting CorrectionsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Perspective CorrectionYesYesYesNoYesYes
Merge to HDRYesNoYes2YesNoNo3
Merge to PanoramaYesNoNoYesNoNo
Photoshop / Lightroom IntegrationYesYesYesYesYesYes
Brushes / MaskingYesYesYesYesYesYes
LayersNoYesYesYesYesYes
Luminosity MaskingYesYesNoYesNoYes
Spot / Dust RemovalYesYesYesYesYesYes
Haze RemovalYesYesYesYesYesYes
Focus StackingNoNoNoYesNoNo
Insert New ObjectsNoNoNoNoNoYes
Sky ReplacementNoNoNoNoNoYes
AnnotationsNoYesNoNoNoNo
Multi-Batch ExportYesNoNoNoNoNo
Stability14/54/53/53/54/53/5
Speed / Performance14/54/55/53/53/53/5
Learning CurveMediumDifficultMediumMediumEasyMedium
Update Frequency5/54/53/54/54/54/5
Training Availability5/54/52/53/52/53/5
Retail Price (MSRP)N/A$299$149$50$199$89
Cloud Subscription Price$10/mo (+PS)$24/mo$69/yr (+extras)$60/yr (+extras)N/AN/A
Device Activation Limit231532

Please note that we did not list every possible feature and slider offered by each individual software package, as it would make the above chart unreadable. Instead, we decided to focus on the key / most important features and include additional data for consideration, such as Stability, Performance, Learning Curve and Update Frequency. Some of this data such as Stability and Learning Curve is rather subjective – it is based on my experience running the software, which might differ from other people’s experiences. So if you disagree, please let us know in the comments section below!

Based on the above chart, it is pretty clear that most modern image editing tools tightly compete with each other. If just a few years back Lightroom and Capture One were in the lead, other software such as On1 Photo RAW and Lumunar caught up with a lot of the features, including Digital Asset Management (DAM) for the proper file management.

Personally, I primarily use Lightroom Classic CC for my editing needs, but every once in a while, I fire up Capture One Pro to do some editing. While some of the features that Capture One Pro offers are light years ahead of Lightroom (advanced color adjustments, layers, masking, tethering, etc), its file management features / DAM are rather weak, and it is not an easy tool to get used to. In addition, it has no capabilities to merge HDRs and Panoramas, which is the strength of Lightroom when compared to everything else out there.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is great for those who are starting out, and its extensive list of features is impressive. However, ACDsee is quite buggy, has very annoying notifications that cannot be easily turned off, and its license limit of 1 is very limiting for those who own more than one machine. I used to rely on ACDSee for viewing images before, but it has gotten slower over time, and ever since I started using FastRawViewer for image culling, I see no need for it anymore.

DxO PhotoLab feels a bit out of place here, since it is designed to be more of a plugin for Lightroom and not its direct competitor. However, considering how well its lens corrections tools work, it is certainly worth having a look at. Since purchasing Nik Software, DxO added the U Point technology into PhotoLab, which works amazingly well for quick and easy adjustments. Best of all, it is very easy to use, and its default rendering of RAW images is excellent. The biggest issue with DxO PhotoLab for me personally, and the reason why I stopped using it, is the lack of Fuji X-Trans RAW support. I personally use Fuji X-series cameras a lot, and find it unacceptable that DxO is continuing to refuse to add support for Fuji X-Trans.

On1 Photo RAW and Luminar have evolved quite a bit in the past few years, going from a very limited feature-set to a full-blown solution that competes head-to-head with Lightroom and Capture One. I must admit, I have limited experience with both of these tools when compared to Lightroom and Capture One, so I am planning to spend a bit more time with them to see which one I like better. So far, Luminar looks a bit more attractive to me due to its versatility and easy to use interface, but On1 also has its strengths (the image resize / enlargement tool is excellent). I found both to be a bit sluggish and occasionally buggy though, which is unfortunate.

What software do you use for post-processing and what do you like / dislike about it? Please let me know in the comments section below!



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