The best free alternatives to Adobe Lightroom

The world of digital photography has long been within everyone’s reach, even the novice can quickly become a good photographer and a skilled craftsman of photo editing. Through some computer programs, each device in our possession manages to become a powerful darkroom, a real post-production laboratory.

Lightroom. The standard for digital photo development
Lightroom. The standard for digital photo development

How to develop and improve photographs after the shooting with the new digital darkrooms

Lightroom, produced by Adobe, is a specific program for digital photography that carries out the classic darkroom operations by acting on the bits of information contained in the photos, rather than on a chemical level as was once done with analog photography. Capture, edit, and share your photos all from one place. Lightroom can manage any number of photos so you’ll always stay organized and on top of your game.

Basic operations without which you would not be able to use the shots taken with the digital camera (unless you shoot directly in an already developed format such as JPEG) such as, for example, the development of the Raw format, the color controls, exposure, and contrast, or the correction of lens aberrations.

The useful operations to switch from the image taken to the one ready to be exposed (or converted for web, paper or other) are manifold and must be processed according to particular algorithms. And this is where the success of Adobe Lightroom was born, a program that is simple to use, but full of functionality and equipped with absolute quality conversion algorithms. Obviously, all this has a price. Being proprietary software, purchasing a license costs a few hundred euros and the demands in terms of hardware requirements are very high. Lightroom, therefore, is not a software within the reach of all budgets.

If for Photoshop, the software for photo editing par excellence, we have many alternatives and that incredible opensource program that is GIMP, for Lightroom the field is not so crowded. Fortunately, even in this case, the world of free software comes to our aid by offering us a series of professional quality tools that have nothing to envy to the counterpart of Adobe. Multi-platform programs running on Linux, macOS and Windows, localized in every language and able to run even on old machines or not exactly the latest generation.

Free alternatives to Adobe Lightroom. Manage photos professionally and for free

Free alternatives to Lightroom are more limited but extremely noteworthy. Above all, two excellent products such as Darktable and RawTherapee. The vast majority of photographers do not know that they are not forced to buy expensive proprietary programs to get good results. They are not absolutely necessary: ​​the numerous free alternatives are valid tools, with equally useful functions, and they are ideal for use in the hobby and professional fields.

Darktable

Darktable is an opensource application for photographic workflow management and raw development, a light table and a virtual darkroom for photographers. It manages digital negatives in a database and allows you to see them through a light table with zoom. It also allows you to develop raw images and improve them through filters and plug-ins.

Darktable is an opensource application for photographic workflow management and raw development
Darktable is an opensource application for photographic workflow management and raw development

Most of the image processing done by Darktable is done in the CIE-Lab color space, which is much wider than the range of modern displays and printers and even human vision. Essentially, Darktable offers the user a virtual darkroom to develop digital negatives and where to apply photo editing operations. Thanks to several integrated modules, Darktable allows you to carry out different types of changes, from the most basic ones such as cropping and eliminating imperfections, to more advanced ones such as changing the manual exposure or simulating night vision.

+++ Link to the official Darktable website +++

RawTherapee

RawTherapee is an incredible work of open source software and is very similar to Lightroom in terms of functionality, but it even offers superior algorithms in some fields of digital photo development. Like Lightroom and Darktable, this program also modifies the images in a non-destructive way, allowing you to always and in any case return to the original file, as well as a preview mode that allows even less experienced users to process with the prerogative of not risking to irreparably damage the original file.

RawTherapee is an incredible work of open source software and is very similar to Lightroom
RawTherapee is an incredible work of open source software and is very similar to Lightroom

This cross-platform application offers advanced functions for archiving, converting and processing the Raw format and for subsequent export to other image formats. The cutting and orientation of the images, the setting of the colors, the saturation, the brightness and the contrast, the control of the sharpness, the evaluation of the correct exposure and the white balance, are all easy operations to perform and which, in the in most cases, they offer results that are superior to far more noble professional software.

In the end, RawTherapee is a recommended program for managing your digital images, which offers very high-quality conversion algorithms as well as a high level of performance at all levels. As far as usability is concerned, we are a step below Lightroom and Darktable, but in the face of a slightly wider learning curve, this application offers advanced functionality and quality of rendering, usually the prerogative of professional software.

+++ Link to the official website of RawTherapee +++

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