What’s the Best Photo Editing Software

I get asked about the type of photo editing software that I use a lot.  In fact, aside from people asking me what camera gear I use, it’s probably the most asked question regarding my travel photography.  And the truth is that I don’t actually just one piece of photo editing software.  I actually use a variety of programs all in conjunction to bring my images up to snuff.  For example, I might use photoshop elements to make an HDR, I might use Photoshop CC to blend exposures, and then I use Lightroom for about 95% of the regular edits.

Of course, if you’re not in the market to purchase every photography editing software on the market, you’re probably trying to decide what program is right for you.

Luckily, for you, I’ve created the following video to help you understand the differences in the products in hopes that will help you figure out which program to use.  I’ve also included some information about the new-ish Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan which is a great option for people looking to up their game.

Check out the video below, or there’s some written information below it as well.

Photoshop Elements

Some people might call Elements “a cheaper version of Photoshop”.

However, I think the word “lighter” is probably a little better. In fact, in my daily photo editing there are few things that I do that I can’t get accomplished in PSE12. And, for the first couple years I was shooting I did all my heavy editing on Photoshop Elements; I couldn’t afford Photoshop, and it worked as well as I could want.

Now, you’re probably wondering who would use Photoshop Elements? Well, for me there’s a nice range of people that can really benefit from Photoshop Elements. If you’re new to photo editing, it’s the perfect beginner’s tool. There are options for quick edits, guided edits, and then more freedom in an expert editing platform. Thus, if you don’t really know how to make certain edits, this is a good tool to help improve your editing skills.

I think, however, that the biggest benefactors to using Photoshop Elements are the type of people that might shoot photography in project form. If you’re the type of person that likes making photo books, slideshows, etc. from your photos, there are lots of cool tools in the system to make those things easy. I also think, if you’re the type of person that only shoots very casually, this is a much more affordable purchase.

Photoshop CC


There’s not much for me to tell you about Photoshop that you don’t already know. This is the premier photo editing program on the market. There isn’t another program in the world that holds a candle to it. It offers complete freedom to edit your images. Moreover, there is much more of a designer’s edge to the process in Photoshop than you get in the other programs. Thus, it’s obviously geared towards people that are designers or professional photographers. It takes a lot of training to build your Photoshop skills to a place where you’re really good at it, so it obviously takes some serious commitment.

That being said, it’s my opinion that Photoshop is more a tool for graphic designers than photographers. Sure, photographers can use it – and many do. But, I think most photographers fix most of their editing workflow through Lightroom.

Personally, I don’t pass much of my workflow through here. I use photoshop to blend exposures, for the clone stamp tool, and then some design work for things like the covers of books, magazines, and the YouTube video. Of course, some photographers pass their entire work flow through Photoshop.

Lightroom Classic

The introduction of Lightroom to the photo editing world was a massive revelation. I

t has made photo editing a much quicker process than it used to be. Moreover, the power that Lightroom wields is serious. There’s not much that I can’t do to a single image in Lightroom.

As a result, about 95% of my workflow happens in Lightroom. In fact, I know some photographers these days that don’t touch any other piece of software. If you’re a busy photographer who isn’t really into putting too much work into their images, Lightroom is your tool. If you’re more of a classic photographer that likes to get the image right in the camera, then there is often little need to go elsewhere. The beauty, though, is that you can actually use Lightroom and either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements in conjunction.

These days, there’s two versions of Lightroom. Legacy Lightroom users can still edit on a Lightroom Classic. And through it’s called “Classic”, it’s being updated and now even includes some incredible new tools such as denoise AI.

Lightroom CC

I’ll be honest, I haven’t dug into Lightroom Creative Cloud too much. I’m so familiar with the feel of the classic Lightroom, it feels like it doesn’t make much sense for me to switch things up.

I think that Lightroom CC was built for photographers that use tablets and mobile devices to edit a lot. In fact, anytime I’ve used this version of the photo editor it has been on a tablet when I was teaching one of my photography workshops. It definitely works better on a tablet than classic. So if you edit a lot on a tablet, this might be the best device for you.

What is the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan?

The Adobe PP gives people a package of software to use rather than making them choose one of the items.

For $9.99 a month, the package includes both Lightroom and Photoshop CC as well as some bonus items like Bridge. Packaging the products together like this is perfect for professional shooters who want to use both Lightroom and Photoshop. In a way, it works like leasing a car although there’s no fixed term on the usage. Thus, if you only want to work on your photos one month a year, it’ll only cost you that $9.99.

The best part is that if there’s ever a new version out you don’t need to pay for the upgrade since you’re part of the Photography Plan. Another great aspect of the Creative Cloud Photography Plan is, of course, the access to the creative cloud. The cloud program makes your photos ready across the board wherever you need them. Want to see your images on your phone or tablet, get them on the cloud and they’ll be accessible there. Want to show them off online to your friends, they’re there. You can even give access to friends and family members by email to view and download the images online.

Is it Time for you to Upgrade to the Photography Plan?

If you feel like your photo editing skills have moved beyond the need for the guidance that Photoshop Elements or other more basic photo editing software gives you, then it’s probably time to make the jump. For me personally, the jump to the photography plan gives me much more flexibility and allows me to create a bit more. On the other hand, if you like the DIY project aspect of Photoshop Elements it’s probably best to stick with that program and maybe just purchase Lightroom as an add-on for quicker editing.

What’s Next?

Well, I’ve got lots of gear still coming including a new Tripod from 3 Legged Thing that I’m excited to test out.  I’ll do a review once it arrives.  I’ve also got lots of cool locations coming up – more from here in Switzerland, then Iceland; if the volcano doesn’t blow.  Stay tuned!