The Best Photo Editing Software for Macs in 2023

Creative types tend to favor Macs over Windows PCs, and photographers are no exception. When it comes to photo editing software, Mac users have plenty of options—so many that it can be hard to pick the right app for your particular needs. That’s where we come in.

Apple no longer produces its own pro-level photo software, having abandoned the outstanding Aperture program years ago (it still maintains its professional video editing software Final Cut Pro in state-of-the-art condition, however). That said, the Apple Photos app that comes with Macs is both easy to use and powerful. But you can get even more features and editing prowess by installing other photo editing apps from imaging powerhouses like Adobe, Capture One, and CyberLink, among others.

Here we take you through the features of the best photo editing apps for Mac and explain how they’re different, followed by more tips on how to choose and buy the best photo editing software.

Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Best for Professional Photo Workflow

Why We Picked It

Adobe Lightroom Classic is the longtime software choice of working professional photographers. In addition to top-notch importing and organizing tools, Lightroom Classic gives photographers the best tools for correcting and enhancing photos in a raw file process. It includes things missing from the non-Classic version of Lightroom (see below) that pros need, such as printing, soft-proofing, tethered shooting, and plug-in support. You don’t, however, get some of the features amateurs and hobbyists might like, such as basic video tools and lots of learning content.

Who It’s For

Lightroom Classic is primarily for professional photographers. In fact, it’s the industry standard. When professionals and articles directed at them talk about Lightroom, they invariable mean Lightroom Classic. It’s also only for those willing to pay a recurring subscription fee.


  • Excellent photo management and organization
  • Auto masking for local adjustments
  • Face recognition and geo-tag map
  • Plug-in support
  • Connected mobile app


  • Initial raw conversion is slightly more detailed in some competing products
  • Requires subscription

Adobe Photoshop

Best for Detailed Image Manipulation and Design

Why We Picked It

Photoshop is the photo editing software that started it all. It’s become the most powerful image-editing software, bar none. Photoshop is often where Adobe puts its latest state-of-the-art features first, such as the new AI-powered object selection tools. It includes the complex layering, masking, text and shape tools, gradients, and filters that professionals need.

Who It’s For

Photoshop is for pros and serious image editing enthusiasts. It’s not for people who shrink from complexity. Even though it has an incredibly deep set of tools, its interface is flexible and has gotten more manageable in recent versions, with things like hover-over help tips and a persistent search box at the top. As with other Adobe offerings, however, it’s not for anyone unwilling to cough up a recurring subscription fee, as that’s the only way to keep using it.


  • Vast set of photo correction and manipulation tools
  • Slick interface with a lot of guidance
  • Tools for mobile and web design
  • Rich set of drawing and typography tools
  • Synced Libraries and Cloud Documents
  • Supports collaboration


  • No perpetual license option, hard to find the best price online
  • Premium assets aren’t cheap
  • Steep learning curve
  • Runs many processes in the background

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Best for Hobbyists

Why We Picked It

Photoshop Elements includes much of the capability of its big sibling, Photoshop, but it wraps that functionality in a friendlier interface that emphasizes hand-holding. Its Guided Edits ease the process of creating stunning effects with your photos. You still get layers, filters, and a smart Organizer utility to keep track of your photo collection.

Who It’s For

Adobe describes the audience for Elements as “memory keepers,” those members of the family who want to create appealing photographic keepsakes from family occasions. Elements also offers anyone a good way into the processes behind the pro-level effects designers get with Photoshop proper. It’s also good if you don’t want to keep paying a subscription, as it’s available for a reasonable one-time purchase price.


  • Many powerful image-manipulation tools
  • Strong face-tagging and geotagging capabilities
  • Excellent image output options
  • Powerful search
  • Helpful guidance for advanced techniques


  • No chromatic aberration correction tool
  • No lens geometry profiles
  • Too few social sharing options
  • No local help system

Apple Photos

Best for Free, Easy Photo Editing

Why We Picked It

Yes, Apple Photos is included free with every Mac, and it’s an excellent photo editing application. It includes strong organization and photo adjustment features and is particularly suited to those who take pictures with iPhones. But the app also lets you view and edit raw camera files from popular SLR models, making for more powerful editing possibilities.

Who It’s For

Anyone with a Mac already has Apple Photos preinstalled and couldn’t remove it even if they wanted to. But consumers and hobbyists will be pleased with its impressive functionality. Professionals and photo enthusiasts will want more capable software, however. That said, it’s free, and who doesn’t like free stuff?


  • Free
  • Intuitive, slick interface
  • Face recognition
  • Capable auto-corrections
  • Plug-in support
  • Neat tricks for iOS Live Photos


  • Auto-created Memories not editable
  • No chromatic aberration or geometry correction
  • Sharing limited to Apple ecosystem

Learn More

Apple Photos Review

DxO PhotoLab

Best for Noise Reduction and Camera Profile Corrections

Why We Picked It

DxO pioneered several technologies that went on to be used by other software products. Lens-profile-based corrections, geometry fixes, and deep time-consuming noise reduction have all shown up later in competitors. In fact, its DeepPrime XD noise reduction is now faster and can make unusable photos usable; PhotoLab is worth getting for that alone. It’s also excellent at removing chromatic aberration and automatically fixing the lighting with its SmartLighting tool. The included U Point technology offers unmatched control over local adjustments, too.

Who It’s For

DxO PhotoLab is mostly for professionals who need to get the best out of their raw camera files, but it will be of interest to engaged amateurs as well. If you just need noise reduction and lens corrections, the more limited DxO PureRAW product serves your needs. PhotoLab is not for those looking for a cheap solution, but its pricing is one-time perpetual rather than a subscription like most Adobe software is.


  • Clear interface
  • Best-in-class noise reduction
  • Excellent autocorrection based on camera and lens characteristics
  • Haze remover
  • Geometry corrections
  • Powerful local adjustments


  • Few workflow tools
  • No HEIC/HEIF support
  • Noise-reduction can be slow

Learn More

DxO PhotoLab Review

Adobe Lightroom

Best for Serious Amateurs

Why We Picked It

Lightroom combines some of the most powerful photo editing and organizing tools in one of the most usable and appealing interfaces. It simplifies the more pro-oriented Lightroom Classic, and keeps all your photos and edits in the cloud for anywhere access. The learning and community features are hard to match, thanks to Lightroom’s Discover feature.

Who It’s For

Lightroom appeals to serious amateur photography enthusiasts. It’s also for professionals who don’t need printing, plug-in support, or tethered shooting capabilities. Those who recoil at its $9.99-per-month subscription fee will want to look elsewhere at software like Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements or CyberLink’s PhotoDirector, both available as affordable one-time purchases.


  • Simple, clear interface
  • Syncs photos to cloud storage for access on other devices
  • Light, color, and detail adjustments equal to Lightroom Classic’s
  • Powerful raw profiles and filters
  • Strong community features


  • Subscription only
  • No local printing or plug-in support
  • Limited sharing
  • Forces you to upload all photos to its cloud storage

CyberLink PhotoDirector

Best for Low-Cost Workflow and Editing

Why We Picked It

PhotoDirector offers both Lightroom- and Photoshop-like functionality in a single, affordable application. You get all the workflow features of Lightroom—nondestructive import catalogues, keywords, and other organization tools—as well as Photoshop’s layer editing, masking, and even some clever AI-powered effects.

Who It’s For

Its quick performance and deep set of organization tools and effects makes PhotoDirector good for amateur photo enthusiasts, but there’s also enough there for pros who don’t want to spring for Adobe’s subscription pricing.


  • Friendly yet powerful interface
  • Many advanced effects
  • Body shaper and other impressive editing tools
  • Extensive layer support
  • Painterly AI styles
  • Tethered shooting


  • No geotag maps
  • Weak chromatic aberration and noise corrections
  • Not enough lens profiles
  • Some menus occasionally slow

Capture One Pro

Best for Raw File Conversion

Why We Picked It

Capture One is often referred to as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom. It is super-powerful professional photo workflow software, and it does the best job of interpreting a camera’s raw image data into a sharp, accurate photo. It includes an abundance of adjustments and local edit tools, as well as layers and advanced color grading. A unique speed edit feature lets you get to frequently needed tools with a key press. It still trails Lightroom when it comes to workflow abilities, however.

Who It’s For

Capture One is squarely aimed at pro photographers. Its interface could be intimidating to those not willing to put in the time to learn it. The program is priced like a professional application, too, available as both a subscription (costing more than Lightroom’s) and a one-time purchase.


  • Superb raw file conversion quality
  • Pleasing interface
  • Fast import
  • Excellent photo adjustment tools
  • Collaboration functionality


  • Interface can get complex, especially with layers
  • No face recognition for organization
  • Weak for online sharing
  • Expensive

Skylum Luminar Neo

Best for Unique AI Corrections and Effects

Why We Picked It

Skylum Luminar is a well-designed photo app with some unique innovative tools, such as AI-based power-line removal and a tool that relights different parts of a photo based on distance. It also aces at fixing drab skies in your shots, as its name suggests. The interface is clear and simple, but it’s short on photo organization and workflow compared with Lightroom (either version).

Who It’s For

Anyone who wants to have a lot of fun enhancing their photos should check out the easy-to-use Luminar, whether pro or amateur. It can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. The program is a good value for a reasonable one-time price.


  • Unique AI photo-fixing tools
  • Simple, pleasing interface
  • Lots of adjustment tools, filters, and effects


  • Some operations are slow
  • No face recognition or keyword tagging

Buying Guide: The Best Photo Editing Software for Macs in 2023

How Do You Choose Photo Editing Software?

When choosing a Mac photo editing app, look for a clean, well-designed interface with lots of help and tutorials. Beyond that, there are different types of apps that specialize in different parts of the photo editing process. The app or apps your choose will depend on what you need to do.

For example, some applications excel at workflow—the whole set of steps from importing, organizing, correcting, and enhancing your photos. They often use modes, which simply means you select a layout for the stage of work you’re doing—one mode for importing and organizing, one for adjusting and correcting, and another for exporting. Additionally, some workflow software lets you organize images by faces using AI and location using the GPS data of where the picture was taken.

Non-workflow software, by contrast, gives you all its tools all the time, but doesn’t help you import and organize your photo collection. Photoshop is an example of non-workflow photo-editing software.

What’s the Best Photo Editing App for Macs?

Our pick for the best photo workflow app is Adobe Lightroom Classic. It lets you import photos from a camera memory card converting raw camera files to viewable images using excellent profile options. It then lets you pick, reject, color tag, keyword tag, and star-rate the photos in your collection. This way, you can quickly find a particular image you’re looking for. Like the best workflow apps, it lets you search for an image based on the equipment (camera and lens), shot settings (aperture, exposure, and ISO), date, and whether you’ve edited it.

But Lightroom Classic is also strong at photo correction (lighting, color, detail, and geometry) and even manipulation, with more Photoshop-style tools arriving in it with each update. Finally, it does at least three things the newer Lightroom (non-Classic) can’t do: It lets you perform tethered shooting, in which you connect your camera to the software to see images on the computer as they’re shot; it allows you to install third-party plug-ins for added editing and exporting functions; and it offers deep printing options.

For non-workflow photo editing software, Adobe Photoshop is the undisputed best application, with an unmatched and ever-increasing set of state-of-the-art image editing tools. It excels at layer editing, which lets the user overlay many levels of images and effects. It also is the best at letting you select areas and subjects within your image to choose where an effect applies. You get plentiful drawing and typography tools in this beast of an application, too, and its recent Neural Filters take advantage of AI image analysis for some mind-blowing effects.

What’s the Best Free Photo Editing Software for Macs?

Our top pick for the best free photo editing software for Mac is Apple Photos. It’s free in the sense that it comes included with the purchase of any Mac computer. Aside from Apple Photos, there are other free tools for editing your photos on a Mac.

Google Photos is one tool that excels at organization and backs up your photos online, with up to 15GB worth for free. It syncs photos from both Androids and iPhones, offers a decent set of online editing tools, and even uses AI to suggest edits and creations.

Another excellent free tool is Polarr, which has mobile and desktop versions, though it does offer in-app purchases. Picktorial(Opens in a new window) is another popular choice in the Mac App Store, and it handles raw camera files (see Editing Raw Camera Files on a Mac, below). Of course, the open-source Photoshop wannabe GIMP(Opens in a new window) raises its ugly interface in every discussion of free photo software, and if you don’t mind navigating its Byzantine, outdated UI, it could suit your needs, as the powerful toolset is there.

What Do Mac Photo Apps Do?

Photo editing software must be able to import and organize your digital photos. After that, you need tools to crop the pictures and adjust their lighting, color, and detail (adding sharpness or removing noise, for example). Then comes the fancy stuff: bokeh, artistic effects, overlays, black-and-white, colorization, and pixel manipulation—things like removing unwanted objects or creating selection masks. Finally, you have to output the image to the destination and in the format of your choice.

Some tools perform nearly all these functions, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, CyberLink PhotoDirector, and ON1 Photo RAW. Other products specialize in one or another of them. For example, DxO PureRAW and Topaz DeNoise are all about reducing noise and, in the case of DxO ViewPoint, camera and lens distortions.

The most famous photo application of all, Adobe Photoshop, does image adjustment and manipulation—corrections, selections, layers, effects, compositing, adding text, and so on. It’s not for importing and organizing your photo collection, however. For that, you’ll need Lightroom. Serif Affinity Photo is similar in that regard, though it lacks Photoshop’s state-of-the-art tools and polished interface.

Some tools (not included in this roundup) focus solely on organizing and importing: Adobe Bridge, Mylio, Photo Mechanic, WidsMob, and the open-source digiKam(Opens in a new window).

PCMag Logo How to Choose Photo Editing Software

Editing Raw Camera Files on a Mac

If you use a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you’re best off shooting in raw camera files rather than JPGs. That way you can get a lot more out of the image at the editing stage, in terms of lighting and color adjustment. It’s important when you’re trying to retrieve detail from a very dark or light part of an image. In particular, a Shadows slider is used to bring out detail in a dark area, while the Highlights adjustment can show the blue and clouds in an otherwise bleached-out white sky.

Adjusting raw files also lets you change the white balance you chose at the time of shooting. For example, if a photo looks overly warm—towards the red, orange, and yellow side of the spectrum—changing the white balance can make the colors more true-to-life.

Recommended by Our Editors

Most of the higher-end software now includes some automatic corrections based on your camera model and lens. This includes corrections for lens geometry distortion (think warped edges on a wide-angle shot), vignetting (dark edges), and chromatic aberration (color fringes). Make sure the software you choose has profiles for your equipment.

Other tools you want in your photo software involve adjusting the fine details, for example sharpness and noise reduction. Useful related tools include dehaze, clarity, texture, and microcontrast (called Texture in Lightroom).

For more creative editing, look for selection tools, blemish repair, masks, filters, and text overlay capabilities. Photoshop now has tools that let you reshape a face, and CyberLink PhotoDirector has body-reshaping tools. Some software supports LUTs (aka CLUTs—color lookup tables); these are filters that create moods by shifting color. The motion picture industry has long used LUTs to give a shot a sunny dreamy effect or to simulate nighttime even if the shooting took place during the day.

Mac Photo Output Options

Finally, you want output options. All the software in this roundup lets you output from raw format to JPG, which is universally accepted, especially for online use. Some let you create images optimized for social networks and directly upload them to online services. Many support online galleries for your work, to which you can upload from inside the app.

If you need to print, look for a program with soft proofing, which shows whether all the colors in your image can be printed. Applications like Apple Photos, Google Photos, and Lightroom Classic include excellent book layout options and let you order custom photo books directly.

Make Sure You Have the Right Camera!

If you’re a beginner to digital photography, you also want to make sure you have some good photography hardware. Phones have better and better cameras these days, but they still can’t beat a dedicated camera. For help choosing one, read our roundups of the best digital cameras and the best camera phones.

Once you have your hardware, make sure to read up on our quick photography tips for beginners and beyond-basic photography tips. After that, you’ll be ready to shoot great pictures that you can make even better with the software included here.

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