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The Top 5 Free Alternatives to Lightroom

by Alexandra Bateman on Oct 24, 2020

Adobe is one of the world’s best-known brands when it comes to photo editing. With industry standard photo editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom, there isn’t an effect you can’t achieve with Adobe. Given that Adobe is so powerful, you might be wondering if there are free alternatives to Lightroom and Photoshop.

While Photoshop may be the better-known tool, Adobe Lightroom is the solution that many professional photographers rely on to process RAW images and organize content via names, tags, and metadata. The question is, what if you don’t have the cash to pay for Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan? Are there any free alternatives to Lightroom?

The short answer is yes! Digital photo editing programs have come a long way in recent years, and many reputable companies now make their own free photo editors. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best Lightroom-style editors you can get for free, including:

  • RawTherapee
  • Irfanview
  • Lightzone
  • Chasys Draw IES
  • Google Photos

Free Alternatives to Lightroom

1. RawTherapee

An image of a girl standing on a balcony loaded into Raw Therapee
RawTherapee Workspace

RawTherapee is one of the best-known free alternatives to Lightroom on the market today. It’s respected for its lightning-fast performance, as well as it’s excellent batch processing and workflow support features. This advanced open-source alternative to Lightroom is great for dealing with raw files and compressed images.

Like Lightroom CC, it also supports non-destructive editing, which means that you can revert back to your original files whenever you need. The program’s advanced image-processing toolkit lets you adjust sharpness, colors, noise and more in minutes. If you’re a Lightroom user, you’ll also be happy to know that RawTherapee’s user interface mirrors that of Adobe’s leading photo editor, so you’ll be able to jump right into editing.

But, if you’re worried about support, RawTherapee does have its own extensive documentation. You can find all you need to learn the ins and outs of the program at RawPedia, an online encyclopedia of all things related to the software.

Pros:

  • Non-destructive editing
  • Photo-editing programs
  • Batch processing
  • Excellent documentation

Cons:

  • History resets as soon as you close the app
  • Not quite as feature-rich as Lightroom
  • Doesn’t do photo management

2. IrfanView

A list of image effects over a dog sitting in a yard
IrfanView Demo

IrfanView is another great addition to this list of image editors. It combines an advanced image editing system with fantastic organization and photo management features. While this program isn’t the most advanced choice on the market, it’s packed full of great tools for professionals with a range of abilities. IrfanView is also one of the best options for cataloging your images and editing metadata.

Perhaps one of the biggest draws of this Lightroom alternative is its customization options. The software offers a variety of plugins to help expand its capabilities, including some that allow the program to read different file types. Other plugins allow you to paint with the software and even add additional features.

IrfanView also comes with regular updates and a lively community of forum users that are happy to offer assistance.

Pros:

  • Great raw format support
  • Batch editing tools
  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • Very fast
  • Multi-language support

Cons:

  • UI isn’t ideal
  • GIF viewing has bugs
  • Difficult to find preferences at first
  • Only available to PC users

3. LightZone

A large set of various checkboxes and options in a settings menu
LightZone

Another fantastic choice, LightZone is a non-destructive editing tool with excellent raw processing solutions. While you use to have to agree to sign up for an account before you could use this substitute for Lightroom, you can now download it without creating an account.

LightZone allows you to stack and organize filters according to your needs, as well as edit them using a variety of professional tools.

Pros:

  • Vector-based selection tools
  • Non-destructive editing
  • Excellent support for RAW files

Cons:

  • Difficult website
  • Basic asset management features

4. Chasys Draw IES

Chasys Draw IES banner, with a scenic beach in the background
Chasys Draw IES

Chasys Draw is an excellent multi-functional photo editing tool and a good option for those in search of free alternatives to Lightroom. Alongside a selection of great image editing tools, Chasys Draw also comes with an image capture mode you can use to capture video or still photos from your desktop.

If you’re familiar with Photoshop, you’ll love that Chasys Draw IES is also a layer-based editor, which makes creating local adjustments (like local hue adjustments) easy. And, like Photoshop, Chasys Draw IES also even allows you to create animations!

While the raw processing of Chasys isn’t as intuitive as some other options out there, you do get a lot of control over your image editing options.

Chasys also supports raw files from many of the world’s largest camera manufacturers.

Pros:

  • Flexible and powerful program
  • Clean coding
  • Fast and efficient

Cons:

  • Complex user interface
  • Steep learning curve

5. Google Photos

Google Photos editing workspace
Google Photos

Google Photos isn’t the most in-depth alternative to Lightroom, but it is a great place to manage, store, and sort your images. It is available both online and as an app, with an optional desktop tool you can use to upload extra images.

Google’s photo program is also very convenient for editing and managing photos on Android phones. You can use the online interface to convert and process your raw images as well.

Sadly, there’s nothing close to the processing power of Lightroom included with Photos. However, it’s still worth thinking about if you’re looking for free alternatives, especially if you need a cloud based service.

Because Google stores all of your images in a digital cloud, you can access them from any device at any time. That makes this Lightroom alternative perfect for on-the-go photo editors.

Pros:

  • Simple and intuitive interface
  • Free online storage
  • Selection of filters to choose from
  • Mobile application

Cons:

  • Limited processing power
  • Not as many features as Lightroom

Conclusion

There’s no doubt about it, Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile are powerful photo editors. It’s hard to compete with their range of features including custom presets, batch processing, non-destructive RAW editing capabilities, and more. But finding a free Lightroom alternative is possible!

Try the photo editors on this list for yourself to see how they compare to Adobe’s Lightroom. If you’re looking for even more Lightroom alternative software, check out Capture One Pro, Corel PaintShop Pro, Affinity Photo, or any of the others on this list.

You might also be interested in these related articles:

Those are our top five free alternatives to Lightroom on the market today. What are your favorite tools to use instead of Lightroom? Let us know in the comments, and remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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