For years, Adobe Photoshop has been the king of image editing software, dominating the market and providing professional post-processing capabilities to experienced photographers as well as amateurs and enthusiasts. However, some people can’t afford the full version and others have more specific needs. Fortunately, in recent years, a number of smaller companies have released post-processing software of their own. This article reviews the following five post-processing software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Aperture, Pixelmator, GIMP, and Acorn.

1. Lightroom

Superior image organization

First released in 2007 for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was developed by Adobe Systems to help users organize and post-process large amounts of images. Although the official name says “Photoshop,” Lightroom is really a subset of the Photoshop empire, created mainly to improve image organization capabilities.

Current Release: Version 4.3, December 2012

Price: $149, $79 to upgrade


  • Post processing software lightroomLocation-based photo organization
  • Extended video support
  • Import libraries
  • Highlight and shadow recovery
  • White balance brush
  • Additional adjustment brushes
  • Watermarking
  • Cross-platform 64-bit support
  • Multiple monitor support
  • Tone curve tools
  • Red eye removal
  • “Soft-proof” photo previewing

Click here for a full list of features.


  • Best Product Award, Designer Today
  • DV Excellence Award, DV Magazine
  • Gold Award, Digital Photography Review
  • Award of Superiority, MicroFilmmaker Magazine
  • Editor’s Choice Award, The Epoch Times
  • Best Product 2010 Award, Zoom Street Magazine


  • Superior image organization
  • Intuitive environment
  • Nondestructive editing
  •  Full range of exposure and white balance tools
  • Beats aperture in speed, editing, and stability
  • One-click editing


  • Cluttered and complex interface
  • Sluggish processing in the newer version

2. Aperture

Professional photo treatment

Post processing software aperture

First released in 2005 for Mac OSX, Aperture was developed by Apple Inc. to help users with photo post-production tasks, such as corrective adjustments and importing and organizing image files.

Current Version: 3.4.3, November 2012

Price: $79.99


  • Raw fine tuning
  • Wide range of image adjustment tools
  • Lens correction tools, such as chromatic aberration
  • Project management, with extensive metadata and searching support
  • Auto-stacking
  • Light Table, a free-form workspace
  • Tethered shooting from Nikon and Canon DSLRs
  • Nondestructive image editing
  • Customizable printing and publishing
  • Full-feature full-screen mode, for editing and sorting images
  • Face recognition and geolocation
  • Custom multimedia slideshows

Click here for a full summary of features.


  • EISA 2010-2011 Photo Award for Best Photo Software


  • Clear and uncluttered interface
  • Support for iCloud Photo Stream
  • Great value for the price
  • Asset management capabilities
  • Easy to use brushes with edge awareness


  • Slow processing
  • Unstable interface
  • Weak noise reduction
  • Mac-only

3. Pixel Mator

Inexpensive layers-based editing

First released in 2007 for Mac OS X by Pixelmator Team Ltd., Pixelmator is an intuitive combination of open source and Mac OSX technologies offering retouching, color correction, and layer-based image editing.Post processing software pixelmator

Current Version: 2.1, August 9, 2012

Price: $29.99


  • Layers-based editing
  • GPU-based
  • 40 + tools for selecting, cropping, painting, retouching, typing, measuring and navigation.
  • Shape tools
  • 50+ preset filters.
  • Versions, auto save, and full screen mode
  • 64-bit architecture

Click here for a full overview of features.


  • Apple Design Award
  • Best of Mac App Store 2011


  • Intuitive, attractive interface
  • Affordable pricing
  • Incredible variety of tools and filters


  • Layers are sometimes glitchy
  • Limited depth
  • Mac-Only

4. Gimp (GNU image manipulation program)

Post processing software GIMPFree photo editing software

Released seventeen years ago in January of 1996, GIMP has grown up alongside Photoshop as a free and open-source image editing software for Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X.

Current Version: 2.8.4, February 5, 2013

Price: Free!


  • Raw compatibility
  • Plug-ins
  • Drag images directly into the application
  • Customizable menus
  • Layer-based editing
  • 32-bit color support

Click here for a full list of features.


  • Editor’s Choice Award, PCMag
  • Editor’s Pick Award, Software Informer
  • Softpedia Pick Award


  • Supports Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • It’s free
  • Power level similar to Photoshop
  • Versatile Editing Tools


  • Complicated interface geared for experienced editors
  • Sluggish Processing
  • Rejects Photoshop plug-ins

5. Acorn

Layer-based editing for beginners

First released in 2007 by Flying Meat Inc. for Mac OSX, Acorn is an easy-to-use, layer-based image editor and a good starting place for photographers new to editing photos.

Current Version: 3.5.1, January 22, 2013

Price: $49.99, $20 to upgrade


  • Retina Canvas
  • Layer-based editing
  • Multi-stop live gradients
  • Quickmask and layer masks
  • Customizable brushes
  • Vector tools
  • 100+ Filters
  • Raw file compatibility

Click here to read more about Acorn’s features.


  • 2011 Reader’s Choice Award Runner-Up for Best Mac Image Editor,


  • Large tool palette
  • Easy to learn
  • More than 100 different filters


  • Photo editing power on level with iPhoto
  • Slow processing
  • Cluttered Interface
  • Only operable on OSX 10.6.6 or higher
  • Lacks built-in photo organizer


Choosing the best post-processing software depends on your needs. Consider how much you’re willing to spend, what equipment you need, and the kind of photos you want to produce.

About The Author

Joey is a Boston-based freelance writer and photographer passionate about cultural development and fascinated by people. Her website is:

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