Can Photoshop and Lightroom be Replaced in Your Photography Workflow?

Last Updated on March 27, 2021 by Susheel Chandradhas

Yes, Photoshop and Lightroom can be replaced in your digital photography workflow, and without any compromises to the quality of your output. Affinity Photo, and Capture One Pro are alternatives that are full-featured, professional-grade, and in some instances, even easier to use.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom seem to be the stalwarts of the digital photography industry. However, there are robust (and sometimes better) alternatives to these two tools. If you’re looking for other options, there’s a long list of Photoshop and Lightroom replacements at the end of the article.

Why did we pick Capture One Pro and Affinity Photo?

Though there are other alternatives to Photoshop (PS) and Lightroom (LR), all the others felt like there was something compromised. They didn’t feel quite right.

Capture One Pro has never felt like a compromise to me, and after some setting up, Affinity Photo seems the same way to me too. They’re both solid tools that have well-thought-out interfaces, full-feature sets, wide capabilities, don’t compromise on image quality, and in some instances even improve on features that Adobe came up with.

So let’s get into it. My workflow starts with processing images that I’ve captured during a shoot in batches, so let’s get into Capture One Pro first.

How Good is Capture One Pro When Compared to Adobe Lightroom Classic?

Capture One Logo

Capture One comes from ‘pro’ lineage … The high-end photography company Phase One.

My first encounter with Capture One was while using a Hasselblad camera with a Phase One back – photographing Formula Race-Car driver Armaan Ebrahim for a clothing brand back in the early 2000s. The resulting output for print was outstanding.

Today, Capture One Pro 21 (CO21) supports pretty much every top-of-the-line camera, while also having support for entry-level cameras too. In fact, they even offer tethered capture and live-view for a large number of Canon, Nikon and Sony APS-C cameras. Surprising in my opinion, but also welcome, because it means that there is an upgrade path for an amateur who wants to turn pro eventually.

What is the Single Most Outstanding feature of Capture One When Compared to Lightroom?

I’d have to say that the one feature that I loved, was ‘Layers’. The implementation of layers in an image processing software felt like nodes in DaVinci Resolve does… It gives you the flexibility to work with localised grading & healing, and it works like a dream. In fact, the lack of layers in Adobe Lightroom leaves me scratching my head. After all, Adobe came up with them in Photoshop.

What is the Capture One User-Experience Like, When Compared to Lightroom?

Capture One 21 (CO21) is a professional’s app. At the same time it is extremely customisable. Panel locations can be changed, popped-out, hidden or rearranged.

This means that even if the interface seems unfamiliar initially, it can easily be made to look similar to Lightroom by using the Migration workspace (Window > Workspace > Migration). There are other preset workspaces including ‘Simplified’ and ‘Wedding’. You can probably customise it to look, and work very similarly to any RAW editor that you are accustomed to.

Having said that, it would be unfair if I said that I could just jump into Capture One and immediately use it as if I have been for years. Capture One has a few differences in the concepts it uses, and we will deal with those in detail in upcoming articles.

Overall, the interface is as complex or simple as you want it to be. If you want to , you can download CaptureOne Pro 21 and try it out for 30 days here. After you have it installed, visit the very useful Capture One YouTube Page where you can follow some CaptureOne tutorials to get started.

Capture One Pricing and Alternate Versions

You can buy a perpetual license of Capture One for US$320, or Subscribe monthly for the full version at US$20.33 or US$14.98 for specific brands. There is also a free scaled down version called Capture One Express for Fujifilm and Sony cameras.


How Good is Affinity Photo When Compared to Adobe Photoshop?

Many photo editors try to emulate or copy Photoshop, and that’s for a good reason. Photoshop is the most used image editing software the world over and has been for decades.

So when a company tries to copy photoshop, the result eventually leaves something to be desired. This is especially true for someone who is transitioning from the original.

Instead, Affinity Photo (AP) gives you all the functionality of Photoshop but goes further by innovating in places where Adobe seem to have become complacent, or where they have decided not to rock the boat. This is a refreshing change.

Affinity have gone all-out and created a suite of apps that are compatible with Adobe images and graphic file formats, but that also go beyond (in my opinion) the vision of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

The interface is familiar, but at the same time has features that you will have to explore. The good news is that all the familiar keyboard shortcuts are the same. The layers window pops up with Ctrl+L, but it is an adjustment layer by default. You’ll have to click the ‘merge’ button to apply the adjustments permanently to the pixels. These small, but thoughtful additions to the workflow become more apparent as you use the software. It left me smiling.

In the end, it takes a little bit of re-learning, but Affinity Photo quite capable in its own right. To get started, download Affinity photo’s 90 day trial, and maybe also get a book to help you along the way.

What Features Stood Out to me When Using Affinity Photo?

Layers panel in Affinity Photo

Since I’ve not really used Affinity Photo as much as Capture One Pro, I can’t really tell which features are the most impactful compared to Photoshop.

However, from the experimentation that I have done, I can already see that the Live Updating Layer Groups, live filters, and some of the previewing features really made me feel that they’re taking the baton from Adobe, and progressing image editing and retouching to the next level. Their RAW image support is quite extensive, including support for quite a few Cameras and Lenses, and image processing quality is quite good. You can expect this section of the article to be updated in the months to come. Here is a full list of Affinity Photo’s features.

Affinity Photo Pricing & Compatibility

Affinity Photo is extremely affordable and DOES NOT have a subscription plan. Affinity Photo for Mac OS and Windows is typically priced at US$ 49.99. The iPad version is US$19.99 , but is currently on a 50% discount. There is also a 90 day trial period for you to really try out the software.

Do Capture One and Affinity Photo Work Well Together?

Adobe’s ecosystem of apps and file formats that just work together seamlessly is one of the attractions of the suite. Round-tripping between LR and PS is something that photographers and editors do as part of their daily workflow.

So, do Capture One and Affinity work well together? The answer is a resounding YES. They do. Admittedly there may be a single extra step in Capture One where you check and confirm the settings in the ‘edit with…’ menu, but you’re also presented with so many more options, including Photoshop (if installed), for apps to edit your photo with. When saved, the image is viewable and editable in CO21 as usual.


Why Would Anyone Want to Switch Away?

This is a good question. Photoshop and Lightroom are both industry standards, and have led the way since the early 90s. I have spent many hours faced with their familiar interfaces, and I feel at home when using Adobe tools.

So why am I thinking of switching tools? Is Adobe expensive? Are PS and LR less stable now? Do the features lag behind other tools? These are very real considerations that many photographers and digital artists are thinking about, and considering moving away from Adobe because of the Subscription format. While that is something to consider, I don’t think it should be a defining factor.

Personally, I’m exploring these tools simply because I think that it is important to know what they can offer to us as creative professionals. I think that CO21 and AP have workflows, and feature sets that are innovative, and that will bring new life into the way I work.

Should I Switch Immediately?

No… Of course not. Most professional tools have a learning curve, and these tools are no different. Although the principles are mostly the same as the software that you will be switching from, some of the details of how to execute them are different. I suggest that you use the trial period on offer to test out these tools extensively, and understand how they fit in your image creation workflow.

Finally, make the switch slowly, venturing into more complex, but live projects so that you really get project experience with them. The answer? For many people, Photoshop and Lightroom can actually be replaced by Affinity Photo and Capture One Pro.

What other software can I use instead of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom?

Here are some alternatives to using Adobe Photoshop (in no particular order):

Here are some alternatives to using Adobe Lightroom (also in no particular order):

Next on this Blog:

In the coming weeks, we will be doing more deep dives into Capture One Pro, and Affinity Photo, with image quality comparisons, some real-world processing workflows including tethered shooting in the studio and more. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Share Your Creations With Us

Finally, if you do decide to make the switch to either of these tools, please leave a link to your creations in the comments or tag us on Twitter.

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