Best free photo editing app for Mac: Alternatives to Photos


Photos is the free photo editing and image library app on every Mac, iPhone and iPad. It’s completely free, easy to use, and has the benefit of syncing across all your devices if you take advantage of Apple’s iCloud Photo library (for which you will need to pay for iCloud storage, from $0.99/£0.79 a month for 50GB).

Prior to 2015 Photos on the Mac was iPhoto. When Apple replaced iPhoto with Photos in 2015 it also stopped selling another photo app, Aperture, which offered more advanced image editing. Photos has more in common with Photos for iOS and very little in common with Aperture. It’s not a professional image editing app, but it is easy to use and will do for basic to moderate photo management, and quick image tweaking.

The app is a great a tool for organising your photos. It arranges your pictures and videos into the same Years, Collections and Moments as on iOS. You can assign photos to Albums and Shared Albums and Projects. Searching for images can be made easier by identifying People in them so that you can, for example, see every image featuring a particular person in your library. Add a year to the search to see every photo of that person in that year. You can also search for all your photos with cats, or plants or the sea in them, for example.

If it’s image editing feature you are interested in you can apply the same Instagram-like filters as are available in the iOS version of the app, but you can also adjust light, color, switch to black & white, eliminate red-eye, adjust white balance, reduce noise and sharpen. There’s a Heal tool, but there’s an absence of pen or brush-based tools in the Edit toolkit. You can’t sharpen or blur individual spots in the picture, for example, or fix the brightness/darkness of regions of the picture. Nor can you add text or shapes, or make selections. For a quick edit you can click on the Auto Enhance icon, which adjusts colour and contrast for the image–as a result images tend to look brighter and more colorful. For advice and help read How to edit in Photos for Mac.

Photos is both very easy to use and you can edit and improve images, easily share them with friends and family directly (via Shared Albums) or to social networks like FaceBook. But if you want more in the way of editing tool you might need to look further–in which case, check out our alternative options below.



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Photos is the free photo editing and image library app on every Mac, iPhone and iPad. It’s completely free, easy to use, and has the benefit of syncing across all your devices if you take advantage of Apple’s iCloud Photo library (for which you will need to pay for iCloud storage, from $0.99/£0.79 a month for 50GB).

Prior to 2015 Photos on the Mac was iPhoto. When Apple replaced iPhoto with Photos in 2015 it also stopped selling another photo app, Aperture, which offered more advanced image editing. Photos has more in common with Photos for iOS and very little in common with Aperture. It’s not a professional image editing app, but it is easy to use and will do for basic to moderate photo management, and quick image tweaking.

The app is a great a tool for organising your photos. It arranges your pictures and videos into the same Years, Collections and Moments as on iOS. You can assign photos to Albums and Shared Albums and Projects. Searching for images can be made easier by identifying People in them so that you can, for example, see every image featuring a particular person in your library. Add a year to the search to see every photo of that person in that year. You can also search for all your photos with cats, or plants or the sea in them, for example.

If it’s image editing feature you are interested in you can apply the same Instagram-like filters as are available in the iOS version of the app, but you can also adjust light, color, switch to black & white, eliminate red-eye, adjust white balance, reduce noise and sharpen. There’s a Heal tool, but there’s an absence of pen or brush-based tools in the Edit toolkit. You can’t sharpen or blur individual spots in the picture, for example, or fix the brightness/darkness of regions of the picture. Nor can you add text or shapes, or make selections. For a quick edit you can click on the Auto Enhance icon, which adjusts colour and contrast for the image–as a result images tend to look brighter and more colorful. For advice and help read How to edit in Photos for Mac.

Photos is both very easy to use and you can edit and improve images, easily share them with friends and family directly (via Shared Albums) or to social networks like FaceBook. But if you want more in the way of editing tool you might need to look further–in which case, check out our alternative options below.



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