Photo editing on a Mac is full of wonderful possibilities — much more than what you can do on mobile devices.
Photo editing has become a big deal on iPhone and iPad because that’s where we tend to take and share our snapshots these days. But many of us still keep our main libraries on our Macs. Because of its faster processors, larger storage, and all-around bigger computing power, the Mac is still the best device for serious photo editing.
The built-in Photos app on Mac offers several useful photo editing tools. You can crop, adjust lighting and color, set the white balance, add filters, remove unwanted blemishes, and a few more things. It’s really not meant to be a robust editing app, though. So If you are looking for something to really finish your photos right, we’ve got a list of the best photo editors for Mac.
There’s no end to the possibilities available with Affinity Photo on Mac. It’s just about the most robust photo editing app you can get and it really makes your photos pop. It supports unlimited layers, groups, layer adjustments, filters, masking, and a whole lot more. Tools include dodge, burn, clone, blemish, patch, and red eye fix. Everything you do can be undone thanks to nondestructive auto-saving. The Liquify feature is just outrageous, allowing you to manipulate your images by dragging the cursor around.
Its iPad counterpart is no small potatoes in terms of what you can do on a tablet. You can also sync your work across devices, which is invaluable for photo editing on the go.
If you’re a serious graphic artist or professional digital photographer, your workflow isn’t complete without Affinity Photo for Mac.
- $49.99 – Download now
Fotor Photo Editor
Fotor is incredibly easy to use. The main editing features are all easy to find on the right side of the interface. You can quickly fix washed out photos with the scene selector, tweak highlights, white balance, and more with the adjusting tools, add effects overlays and borders, create tilt-shift images, add text, and more. You can also create collages and perform batch edits. For less than $3.00 per month, you can add hundreds more effects, frames, stickers, and templates.
If you are new to editing on a Mac and are intimidated by the complexities of most high-powered photo apps, Fotor will not only put your mind at ease — it’ll make you feel like a pro.
- Free – Download now
Lightroom is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography suite. With it, you can remove haze from photos you’ve taken on a gray winter day, merge the best shadows and highlights to create a real dynamic range, sharpen blurry images, create panoramic shots, and a whole lot more. It’s photo organization tools are based on the metadata for each image. So, you can search through thousands of pictures very easily. You can even create new folders within Lightroom to store your best pics.
You can download Lightroom free for 30 days as part of a trial period. After that, you can add it to your Photoshop CC subscription for $9.99 per month.
If your goal is to enhance a nearly perfect photo with highly detailed adjustment tools — especially if you use it on the desktop — Lightroom is for you.
- Free trial – Download now
Pixelmator is a detailed photo editing app that has great layering tools and a lot more. You can combine two different photos, mask a foreground image and add a background layer with shapes, gradients, and all manner of objects. You can mask off unwanted parts of a photo, remove them, and clone stamp the area to make it look as though nothing was ever there. It also has a handful of effects layers that give you control over the intensity, so you can add subtle changes, or go wild with color, saturation, and contrast.
If you need Photoshop but don’t want Photoshop, try Pixelmator instead. In a much more Mac-like package, and at a much lower price.
- $29.99 – Download now
Pixlr by Autodesk is the perfect filter and overlay app for creating unique and interesting pictures, especially for social networking. It features dozens of painterly effects, interesting lighting options, vector graphic shapes, stickers, and more.
If you don’t want to waste time tweaking white balance, saturation, or hue, but want to make your pictures flashy, Pixlr will make you the talk of your social networking feed.
- Free – Download now
GIMP is basically an open source version of Photoshop. It is an advanced image manipulation program with detailed customization for color reproduction. Like Photoshop, it is big on layering to allow you to mask out objects, add in colors, and a whole lot more. You can convert photos to black and white, adjust color tones of a photo, and more.
If you like the tools that Photoshop has to offer, but don’t like paying the price, check out GIMP for free.
- Free – Download now
Snapheal from MacPhun does one thing, really, really well — removing unwanted objects from your photo. Did someone photo bomb your family portrait? Is there a guy sitting right in the way of your otherwise perfect sunset? Do you wish there wasn’t a piece of trash next to that feeding a deer? Snapheal can fix all of that. The erase tools range in ability from “Global,” which removes large objects, to “Dynamic” which is used for removing small imperfections. You can adjust the masking tool, use a magic rope instead. or simply clone stamp your way to a new photo.
If you want your picture to be perfect, and you need a giant eraser to do it. Snapheal erases those unwanted memories.
- $7.99 – Download now
Preview for Mac gets an honorable mention in this list. I use it every single day, multiple times per day. Most of the time, I’m simply viewing a photo. But, with Preview you can quickly crop a photo, adjust the color, rotate it, add shapes, texts, and a signature, export as a different format, and more.
It is far from being a full-featured photo editing app, but Preview has just enough tools to let you quickly make minor adjustments without having to get into it more. Plus, it’s built in.
- It’s already on your Mac.
What is your favorite photo editing app for the Mac? Why does it work the best for you?
Updated July 2017: Added Affinity Photo.