Here’s a short review when you’re search for a Lightroom alternative.
TL;DR: acdsee Photo Studio Ultimate is the best app I can find at the moment, if you want support AMP Tracks’ free content or blog, please use this referral link to buy it.
Why I don’t like Lightroom
As I’m not a big fan of Adobe Software I’m constantly looking out for alternatives. With Adobe I neither like their subscription modell nor their behaviour when dealing with (security) critical software bugs – some of my generation may remember the burden called “Adobe Flash” that opened doors widely for security threads on every PC, and thank god it’s dead. Paying a monthly fee to a company that doesn’t patch their software is grotesque to me.
What are the alternatives?
That aside, what can I recommend to quickly develop your digital raw files? Well, I’ve tried & tested many alternative, from the open source RawTherapee to programs like Corel Aftershot which has excellent features, but the same time is a bug fest I haven’t seen in a while + Aftershot’s Overlay Tools and Brushes offer the most horrible user experience I’ve ever seen, I would call them 100% unusable.
But here’s the thing: If Corel would fix Aftershot it would be my go-to software, cause everything is just a notch better where it counts, the noise removal, the sharpening, the color tools. But Corel hadn’t fixed it at the time of this writing and I’m pretty sure they won’t do so in the next update, because my release version, the most recent version of Aftershot, is now 2 years old and has been marketed to me in, let’s say, shady ways. 😀 Thats why I recommend acdsee Photo Studio Ultimate, which I had aquired by accident via a Humble Bundle and had it sitting in my library for maybe 6 month before I gave it a shot.
acdsee Photo Studio Ultimate
Ok, I can’t say this software is bug free (which software is?) but it’s managable. It never crashed on me, even on my heavily overclocked Ryzen 7 system, but sometimes the dockable windows behave strange or disappear altogether. Feature-whise it has everything you need, with one teribble exception I’ll note below. On top, it can be a bit laggy, especially when I have other CPU-demanding software running in the background, e.g. an Ableton Live scene that hoggs 20% CPU on idle. It’s not a RAM issue, my 32GB aren’t used for the most part. But again, this is a common thread with all Photo Apps I’ve tested so far, like the excellent Affinity Photo, which I’m using as alternative for Photoshop (and I’m loving it): All of them tend to underperform given the workstation they’re running on (RTX 2080 being my GPU).
What I really like is the library and export features, they don’t really advertise these a whole lot, but it’s the best thing about the whole software: You can create presets for almost anything, like export or image proccessing, and it speaks to me that the developer actually does use his own software, maybe is a fotographer him- / herself.
This saves me so much time and hazzle and even encourages me to work more on my photos, I can save out several versions with one click, for example a heavily compressed one for websites, a 32bit file for processing further with Affinity and a 100% JPG or PNG for Stock.
The second best feature is the mentioned dockable windows and the 2nd-monitor-mode, which places a separate window for my photo library on my second screen while I have the whole area on my primary monitor for processing the image.
Now for that “terrible” downside I meantioned earlier: It’s the overlay brushes. While they work fine and are very easy to operate (in opposition to Corel Aftershot), they only give you the most basic controls while in “Develop” mode like Exposure, Contrast or Clarity, but spare out on advanced options, sadly also Curves is an advanced option.
acdsee Photo Studio can do all of these things in the “Edit” mode (which is a bit like a cheap Photoshop clone) but that’s not where I need them. I need them in the “Lightroom-mode” aka Develop.
This is the best Lightroom alternative I’ve found till this date. Right now I’m working with the 2018-Ultimate version but planing to upgrade anytime soon. If you use the referall link to buy acdsee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 (20% off), you’ll give some support to us.