Best RAW Photo Editors

Experienced photographers know Shooting in RAW lets you capture a lot more details of the scene.

But when it comes time to edit these files, you need a RAW photo editor capable of giving you top-quality results.

Every RAW editing software processes images a little differently which can affect sharpness and color, including the Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) effect.

From Adobe Lightroom to Darktable, there are a ton of RAW photo editors out there, and finding the right one can be tricky.

Fortunately, We’ve got lots of experience, and came up with eight great software options for your RAW photo editing, from free options to lifetime licenses.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, there is an option for you.

What is a raw photo editor, and why should I use one?

RAW Photo Editing

A raw photo editor is program designed to process and enhance raw image files captured by digital cameras.

With the power to adjust exposure, shadows, highlights, and more during post-processing, you can breathe new life into lackluster footage or transform good footage into stunning imagery.

8 Best software for editing RAW photos in 2024

Here are our top picks for programs for editing RAW files.

We will briefly discuss each below so you can decide which program is best for you.

1. Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom RAW Photo editor

Adobe Lightroom CC has been the standard in RAW photo editing for years for its ease of use, image synchronization, presets, and large community.

Lightroom has a clean and easy-to-use workspace with both basic and advanced editing tools.

With Lightroom’s powerful photo management tools, you can upload and sort images into convenient folders.

The software provides a huge range of manual filters and a few AI filters that can speed up your photo editing.

Lightroom provides an extensive range of adjustments you can apply to your photos. It even allows for some basic video adjustments!

You can do everything from basic tonal adjustments to color grading and calibration with photos. This extends to great object removal tools and other AI functions such as denoise or lens blur.

Lightroom gives you access to cloud space and synchronizes your edits across all your devices, even for phones or tablets!

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android and iPadOS.

Pricing: You can get it from Adobe Photographers Plan ($9.99/month) which also includes Photoshop.

2. Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro RAW Photo editor

Capture One Pro is a high-end RAW processing software. It prioritizes collaboration, tethered shooting, and color science.

Unlike module-based workflow of Lightroom, It has a fairly conventional user interface, which is substantially customisable both in appearance and for keyboard shortcuts.

It’s packed with features and allows photographers to make extremely granular adjustments required for high-end work.

You will appreciate its excellent RAW engine, which results in smoother, crisper, more natural-looking raws than Lightroom.

The editing tools are both powerful and extremely effective, especially the layer and mask based approach to local adjustments.

The built-in Styles and Presets offer a varied range of effects, and there are more available.

Thanks to its unique controls, you can use multiple techniques to adjust colors to your desired output.

Like Lightroom, it features a fully fledged cataloguing system for your image library, with a dedicated ‘Sessions’ command for housing different jobs.

Capture One achieves excellent results with all camera brands, but it’s especially relevant for Fujifilm and Sony RAW shooters-with dedicated versions.

The software earns this stellar reputation thanks to its high level of detail and control. It is particular popular with studio photographers.

Of course, not everything is perfect. This is a complex tool with a lot of features, and as such, the learning curve is steep, and it doesn’t have Adobe’s cloud-based ecosystem – yet.

Compatibility: Windows, and MacOS.

Pricing: Capture One is available either as a one-time licence payment of $299, or as a subscription service for $24 per month.

3. DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab RAW Photo editor

DxO PhotoLab is a complex RAW photo editor for professional photographers. It focuses on color accuracy and camera compatibility.

One of the main features of this software is its DeepPRIME technology, a powerful anti-noise tool that uses AI to remove noise while maintaining color accuracy.

It’s optimized to process RAW files at high speed, has more than 40 presets, and features several color tools, such as ICC profiles, Moiré removal, HSL local adjustments, and more.

DxO PhotoLab accepts raw files from 500+ different camera models, automatically performs camera RAW processing and lens correction in accordance with its own database of camera and lens info.

DxO provides an easy-to-use photo library manager where you can tag, sort, and rate your images to organise them. Although not as advanced as Lightroom and Capture One in this regard.

It’s available in two versions: basic and Elite version. We advise the Elite version, as the basic version doesn’t feature the advanced clone and repair tools, noise reduction capabilities, etc.

Compatibility: Windows, and MacOS.

Pricing: A perpetual license is $139 for Essential Edition and $219 for Elite Edition.

4. On1 Photo Raw

On1 Photo Raw editor

ON1 Photo RAW is an affordable all-in-one photo editor with good organizational and editing tools.

Like Lightroom, it includes several modules which you can use to organise your photo collection, develop RAW files and apply special effects.

UnLike Lightroom, ON1 Photo RAW supports layers, and has a number of fairly advanced tools including tools to remove unwanted images and blemishes, HDR merging, focus stacking, tethered capture, a proprietary resize tool, etc.

What helps set ON1 Photo RAW apart is a compelling set of AI-enhanced filters, including Sky Swap AI, NoNoise A, Portrait AI and more. You can quickly improve your photos without too much effort.

It has a built-in hybrid browsing and cataloging module that gives you fuss-free exploring of your image folders but more powerful search tools if you need them.

In terms of the interface and learning curve, ON1 is fairly complex, less intuitive than Lightroom, and workflow features like organization and output options also fall short.

Compatibility: Windows, and MacOS.

Pricing: Perpetual license for $99. ON1 also gives you the option to buy their plug-ins and cloud storage separately.

Subscriptions with software, all plugins and cloud syncing start at $89.99 per year or $7.99 per month.

5. Luminar Neo

Luminar NEO RAW Photo editor

Luminar Neo is an AI-based RAW photo editor available as a standalone application or a plugin.

Luminar’s interface and basic image editing tools are definitely easier to pick up than Lightroom, and it also features layers support, masks, and more, allowing you to fine-tune every aspect of an image.

Luminar uses AI to analyze your photo and make editing recommendations. It recognizes objects and people and applies custom adjustments for different types of pictures.

You can edit a large array of RAW format photos using any of the available Neo AI features, such as sky replacement, portrait bokeh background, skin smoothers or shaders, and many other dynamic features.

Moreover, Luminar comes with more than 70 built-in presets, called Looks, that provide easy access to the most popular artistic styles. You can also create your own presets or download from the Luminar Marketplace.

Photo management tools aren’t as comprehensive as Lightroom, they are certainly enough to get the job done for most needs, with everything from keywording to image rating available.

Luminar supports extensions, which are paid addons to Neo. These bring additional features, including advanced noise removal, HDR merge, resizing, background removal and other tools.

Compatibility: Windows, and MacOS.

Pricing: Luminar Neo is currently available either on subscriptions starting from $6.63/month to $14.95/month, or for a one-off payment at $269.

6. ACDSee Ultimate

ACDSee RAW Photo editor

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is an excellent RAW workflow management and image editing program that is very affordably priced.

Easy to use interface, excellent image management, Local adjustment tools, layer editing, and AI features make it a great option for photographers.

It’s fast and supports many file formats, offers batch processing, and has a lot of tools for zooming, previewing, and reviewing images.

ACDSee supports more than 500 camera models and offers RAW editing tools such as LUTs, color grading, lens corrections, noise and haze removal, contrast and brightness adjustments, layers and masks, selection tools, and local adjustments and more.

Light EQ is ACDSee’s patented light control technology. It lets you highlight and edit each pixel of your image in isolation. In the Advanced Mode, you can get a great deal of control over your image.

Portrait and fashion photographers will love this software. It has AI-powered face detection tools to locate faces in your photographs.

It also boasts other cutting-edge AI-powered features like AI Keywords, AI Sky Replacement and AI Object Selection, among others.

ACDSee provides reliable digital asset management, similar to Lightroom Library module. You can use this to apply color labels, star ratings, edit meta data and add keywords to your photos.

Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, and iPad OS.

Pricing: ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is available either a perpetual license for $149.99, or through a subscription model that costs $89 annually or $8.90 monthly.

7. RawTherapee

RawTherapee RAW Photo editor

RawTherapee is a popular, free, open-source editing software that allows you to work with your RAW files in a non-destructive way.

Managing your images, making edits to basic values such as exposure, contrast, and saturation, as well as applying color corrections can all be accomplished within Rawtherapee.

The software also includes more advanced features such as batch editing, tonal correction, demosaicing algorithm, multiple denoising methods, RAW adjustments, etc.

Although it’s open-source software, RawTherapee supports most common RAW file formats, including those from Pentax and Sony.

RawTherapee has a neat interface that allows you to find all you need in seconds. It’s intuitive, well-labeled, and has shortcuts for everything.

It also provides file browsing, ratings, and color labeling, and it supports metadata. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support layers, local adjustment or masks and quite slow at exporting.

Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Pricing: free

8. Darktable

Darktable RAW Photo editor

Darktable is more powerful than RawTherapee, but has a steeper learning curve and a really unintuitive UI.

For a free editor, darktable offers exquisite tools, from an optimized RAW processor that can manage large files to non-destructive edits and professional color management.

It has ICC profiles, several demosaicing methods, base and tone curves, lens corrections, and tools for dithering, haze, fringing, noise removal, color, contrast, and white balance adjustments.

Darktable has advanced masking features that mean you can target the exact areas you need to adjust. It also offers a few filters for creative effects.

While the number of features is impressive, Darktable lacks of built-in support for camera color profiles, reduced accuracy in local selection tools, and a few strange, random bugs.

You shouldn’t worry whether it can open your photo as Darktable works with the most popular formats.

Darktable has minimal image organizing functionalities compared to other editors. But It allows you to sort, rank and search photos by tags, stars, and labels, and it works with metadata.

Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Pricing: free

How to choose the best RAW Photo editor?

On1 Photo Raw software

Editing RAW images will vary greatly depending on the software you choose to use.

To make sure you choose the right RAW photo editor for your needs, budget, and resources, consider the following features:

Camera compatibility

Make sure you choose software that supports your camera and lenses and provides custom manufacturer profiles.

Camera compatibility is important for achieving accurate colors, maintaining fidelity in the details, and having access to customized tools.

Hardware/OS Compatibility

Before settling on what photo editing software you should use, it’s vital to consider its compatibility with your operating system, graphics card, and processor.

RAW Processing performance

All RAW processing editors are NOT the same, so you should pay attention to its RAW processing capabilities, whether the RAW processor is good enough and how well it handles RAW images.

Photography Editing Style

Each photographer has a unique artistic style and needs different editing functionalities.

There are photo editors dedicated to portrait photography, fine art photography, landscape and nature photography, or something else.


A good workflow needs an easy-to-use interface and speedy performance.

If you edit images from different places and devices, you might need cloud storage that can keep your pictures synchronized.

Presets and filters

A rich library of presets and filters can save you time and energy. You don’t have to recreate the same style over and over again.

Make sure that you choose a photo editor that includes a wide variety of presets and allows you to fine-tune them and save your own for later use.

Digital asset management

Photographers work with large sets of pictures. Besides batch processing, photo editor requires a good image management system, sharing capabilities, and efficient search tools.

If you don’t want to use separate software for organizing your images, choose professional photo editing software that provides this functionality. Make sure it allows you to label, rate, sort, share and search images.


Most professional photo editors offer a free trial version.

A perpetual license is a one-time purchase that gives you the right to use a software forever.

With a subscription license, the customer pays monthly or yearly, and the vendor commits to delivering updates over time.

If you’re just starting out, a free program may be a much better choice than a more advanced one, even if, technically, it’s not as good.


Your RAW editing software should be able to preserve the quality of the photo, have a user-friendly interface, and fast processing speed.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or professional, these are 8 of the best photo editing programs out there for handling RAW files.

With Adobe Lightroom being convenient to most photographers, Capture One Pro and Luminar Neo bring in great technology to keep your workflow diverse.

RawTherapee and DarkTable are two of the best free options and are very feature rich.

Find one with the features that are most important to you and have fun!

If one application alone is unlikely to meet your needs, You can use more apps simultaneously.


What are the differences between JPEG and RAW file formats?

RAW files are lossless and bigger, because they preserves the full data from your camera sensor, providing more flexibility for post-processing.

In comparison, A JPEG image is essentially all that data compressed down into a smaller file size that’s easier to share.

What are some unique features in raw photo editors?

Raw editors often offer advanced features like non-destructive editing, which allows you to adjust images without altering the original data.

They also provide precise control over highlights and shadows, exposure, noise reduction, and lens correction.

What are some free Free apps for editing RAW photos?

There are 2 free and open source programs, RawTherapee and DarkTable that benefit photographers interested in investing in learning how to use them.

It’s a shame people do not realize how great these programs are but simply see they are free and assume they are not worth anything.

What is the difference between raw editing and regular photo editing software?

Regular photo editing software typically works with compressed image formats like JPEG, PNG, TIFF, etc.

If you need to carry out detailed retouching and repair work, a Regular photo editing software like Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or Gimp is likely to be your first stop.

Raw editors, on the other hand, work with unprocessed data from your camera, offering greater control over exposure, color balance, and detail.

Do I need a pen tablet for RAW photo editing in Lightroom?

There is much more control over the brush as pen tablets are pressure sensitive, so the harder you press the more effect you have.

Pen tablets are better if your doing a lot of masking, dodging, burning, touch-up and such in photoshop, and need to trace more complex shapes that are hard to do with a mouse.

As for RAW photo editing in lightroom and alike, The sliders are done better with a mouse, for speed the mouse wheel or manually imputing numbers can be faster.

If you do want to be faster memorising hotkeys & setting custom defaults help as well as a dual display setup.

Additionally, If you have created a graduated filter in Lightroom, but need to erase portions, then the precision of a pen is invaluable.

About the author : Clinton Kane

A technical content writer, passionate about sharing high-quality knowledge of pc technology, software, and creative workflows.