Lightroom is perfect for cataloging your images, making color corrections, and basic editing. Affinity Photo, on the other hand, has no cataloging function – but it’s great for color correction and both basic and complex image editing. Both programs have the capacity to work with RAW files non-destructively (in other words, your original image files remain unaltered when you edit).
So which program should you buy? That depends on your budget, your level of experience, and your editing needs. Below, I offer an in-depth comparison that looks at performance, editing tools, pricing, and more!
Affinity Photo: Overview
Affinity Photo is a powerful editing program that offers dozens of tools and non-destructive RAW editing – all for an outstanding price. It also features high-level layer editing (much like Lightroom’s more advanced sibling, Adobe Photoshop) and is perfect for both photographers and graphic designers.
- Non-destructive RAW editing; also offers complex, multi-layered raster image editing
- Vast selection of tools
- Well-designed layout
- Can be used to edit vector image files
- Inexpensive one-off price
- No image cataloging functionality
- Not yet available for the Android mobile platform
Adobe Lightroom: Overview
Adobe Lightroom is a comprehensive program that combines basic editing and advanced file management. In Lightroom, you can organize your images into Collections, add ratings, and search for files based on metadata. You can also do in-depth image processing (including tonal and color adjustments), and you can speed up your workflow via one-click editing presets.
- Easy to navigate
- Has a vast collection of tools
- Incorporates image cataloging
- Available for all popular platforms
- No layer-based editing
- Subscription pricing
- Adobe apps run continuously on your devices even when you’re not using Lightroom
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Ease of use
Neither Affinity Photo nor Lightroom is impossible to learn, even for an absolute beginner – but both programs are complex and require lots of study and practice before you can use them well.
I used Lightroom for many years before I ever touched Affinity Photo. At first, I found the Affinity Photo interface challenging to navigate, not because it’s poorly designed, but because it is very different from Lightroom’s interface (which is what I was used to).
If you’re starting out and have no experience with Affinity Photo or Lightroom, neither should be much more difficult to learn than the other – at least not if you want to do basic editing. In my experience, the key to learning any image editing software is to take your time. Find some good tutorials by presenters who are easy to understand. Eventually, you’ll learn Affinity or Lightroom, and you’ll be ready to do some beautiful editing.
Note that Lightroom technically offers two different layouts, depending on the software you use. Lightroom Classic’s interface is driven by functionality, while Lightroom CC’s interface is sleeker. They’re essentially the same program, but with different interfaces and cloud connectivity, so I encourage you to look at both options and see which you prefer. (Affinity Photo only has one available interface.)
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Performance
If you’re already editing with Adobe software, you may be aware that it uses a significant amount of your device’s resources. Even when Lightroom isn’t open on my computer, there are 17 Adobe processes running in the background. And when Lightroom is open, it creates an immediate drain on system resources.
Affinity Photo is also relatively resource-intensive, though the two programs do have different system requirements. For instance, Affinity Photo requires 2 GB of RAM whereas Lightroom requires at least 4 GB. And the storage space required by Lightroom Classic is far greater; Lightroom needs at least 2 GB of hard drive space, while Affinity Photo needs only 670 MB.
In other words, Affinity is an easier program to run.
But bear in mind that image-editing software is pretty much always resource-hungry. If you have an older computer, you’ll notice a heavier drain on the system; new software is generally designed to work with newer hardware. So if you have an older laptop, you may struggle to use Lightroom, even if you have the required 4 GB of RAM. You really need a higher-spec computer if you need to manage lots of photos and/or plan to do complex editing.
Personally, I’ve noticed little performance difference when doing basic edits in Affinity Photo and in Lightroom Classic – but just because the programs run well on my computer doesn’t mean they’ll run well on yours.
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Photo organization capabilities
Lightroom is – at least in part – a catalog system for organizing your photos. Affinity Photo has no such functionality; if you want to manage image files, you’ll need to purchase other software.
Lightroom is a great way to handle large image collections. You can group files within catalogs, and you can have as many catalogs as you like. I find that the larger the catalog, the slower the software performs. So you can speed things up by using smaller catalogs (though switching between catalogs isn’t so convenient!)
Lightroom makes it easy to browse and select images for editing. And because Lightroom also offers editing tools, you won’t need to open the files in another program. There are also plenty of handy features, like being able to compare two or more selected images side by side. Keyword management in Lightroom is decent, but it’s not as efficient or well-managed compared to other cataloging software.
If you use Affinity Photo, you’ll need to either do cataloging in desktop folders (which I do not recommend), or you’ll need to grab another program with digital asset management capabilities. When I started using Affinity Photo, I researched image cataloging options and settled on ACDSee Photo Studio. It’s easy to use, it’s inexpensive, and I find it pairs well with Affinity Photo.
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Editing capabilities
Editing in Lightroom is effective, but it’s far more limited compared to Affinity Photo. In Affinity, you can do pretty much everything you can do in Lightroom and so much more.
For instance, Lightroom doesn’t offer layer-based editing, and you cannot combine multiple photos to create composites (unless you’re producing panoramas or HDR images). Affinity Photo is a more comprehensive editor; it allows you to work with multiple layers, and you can create composites to your heart’s content.
Lightroom does offer plenty of basic editing tools, all of which are non-destructive. You can make exposure adjustments, add contrast, do color grading, work independently with different hues, apply crops, and correct perspective distortion. You can also create and apply presets with the click of a button, and you even have access to a few advanced tools, such as an adjustment brush and subject masking.
But Affinity Photo can match pretty much all of these tools, and in my experience, many of them perform better in Affinity than in Lightroom. Affinity also lets you work with multiple images at once, use masks, apply filters, and more. (And depending on your workflow, this can be non-destructive.)
Affinity Photo makes adding text to images easy, and you can open and edit vector files with Affinity Photo (but not in Lightroom). So if you frequently download vector illustrations from stock websites, Affinity is the way to go.
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Pricing
At the time of writing, you can purchase Affinity Photo for $54.99 for Windows and Mac OS. If you want the iPad version, it’ll set you back $19.99. Note that you’ll only need to make a single payment – there are no subscription plans – and that Serif, the Affinity Photo publisher, discounts the software by up to 50% at times.
Lightroom, however, cannot be purchased for a one-off fee. Instead, you’ll need to sign up and buy an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. At present, you’ll pay $9.99 per month for the Photography plan (which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and 20 GB of cloud storage).
Affinity Photo is the more cost-effective photo editor. If you do the math, you’ll see that you’ll pay more for six months of Lightroom than a lifetime of Affinity Photo. Lightroom has no end to the monthly payments; with Affinity Photo, you pay once and continue to receive upgrades for free.
If you like Affinity but want the image cataloging features Lightroom provides, there are a variety of solutions, some of which are completely free (such as RawTherapee). And you can always hope that, in the future, Affinity Photo will incorporate cataloging tools.
Affinity Photo vs Lightroom: Verdict
So which is best, Affinity Photo or Lightroom? Honestly, while both programs have their pros and cons, I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other. The two editors are well-built and packed with features.
If you’re already using one of the editors, switching to the other will take some time and effort. Though if you’re a Photoshop user, then switching to Affinity Photo may not be that hard (the two programs do have a lot of similarities).
I’ve used Lightroom for many years. I don’t like the subscription model – I think it is exploitative – I’m so familiar with the workflow that I continue to subscribe. (Also, I need experience with various programs if I want to write articles like this one!)
Personally, I think Affinity Photo is a great alternative to Lightroom. You get much of Lightroom’s functionality (minus the cataloging capabilities), and you get plenty of Photoshop-level features, too. That’s why, for all but the most advanced photo editors, Affinity Photo is a great, cost-effective program. You can use it to perform all the editing tasks you can imagine, and if you pair it with image cataloging software, you’ll end up with a far less expensive solution than Adobe Creative Cloud.
Which program do you plan to use, Lightroom or Affinity? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!