Editing Photos Like a Pro: TOP-5 Free and Cheap Mac Apps

Editing Photos Like a Pro: TOP-5 Free and Cheap Mac Apps

The built-in 'Photos' app for Mac is pretty good, but not everyone like it. I'd like to tell you about alternative variants.

I want to start with the fact that the 'Photos' applications for replacing iPhoto that didn't work properly. It is cloud based and more up to date with the contemporary users needs. If we talk about image-related tasks, it won't fault. Those who don't like the app mean the whole infrastructure, not the tasks they can perform on Mac. They don't enjoy working with iCloud and synchronizing processes.

Are you one of those people? Does syncing your photos terrifies you? Than you'd be pleased to know that there are many alternatives to 'Photos'. Today I'll show you TOP applications that are cheap or absolutely free, but in the same time powerful photo editors for mac and give vast opportunities to users.

They may be not very professional photo editors, anyway, everybody can use them and understand the way they work. So, be ready to get fascinating photos in a couple of clicks for free! I want also to note that I won't mention programs like ​Photoshop and GIMP open source image editor​ ​here, as they have more advanced options, and I've already said about them in one of my previous articles.

The two functions I want to concentrate at today are: management, cataloguing pictures, creating albums, etc, and editing images (it's the main purpose of any picture editor, isn't it? :)

And now, sit back and be ready to meet that cheap and useful picture editing apps!

Google Photos​

This app is free as the majority of Google's services. It exist online mostly, and can be accessed with any web browser. It is free for people who have a Google acc: http://photos.google.com.

If you use this app, your pictures will be stored online in the cloud. There is a small application for Mac that can be installed for uploading your images to the Google cloud storage and for monitoring them (there are also apps for iOS and Android that manage to do the same).

You can easily use the storage, for instance, attach your camera with a cable or insert a memory card into your Mac, and the application will upload all the pictures to the cloud.

There are 2 uploading options:

  • 'hiqh quality' pictures,
  • 'reduced size' images.

Anyway, no matter what you choose, it allows uploading as many photos as you want, with no limits. For doing that, some Google Drive space is needed. They give you 15 Gb of free space, and if it's not enough, you may buy additional space.

Google Photos can be a great images organizing service, you can even create albums and slideshows. Copy the link of your album when you want to share it with others.

One more useful feature of Google Photos is its ability to recognize the images content automatically. It happens so thanks to the metadata and neural network identification function. You can easily check this feature by typing 'man' in the search field, and the web app will show you all pictures with men on them. It can even search for some complicated phrases like 'woman in London'. It will save you from manual tagging.

However, every app has its weaknesses. Google Photos can't be called the

best photo edit app. Its opportunities are limited to adjusting color and lightness, vignette and 'pop'. You can also crop and rotate images with is, as well as applying nice looking ready-made filters. That's all. So, if you need brush, masking, sharpen or any other tools, you won't find them here.

In case you want to edit a photo from Google Photos with another

image editor, you may download it to Mac first, edit it in another app, and upload it to the cloud again. So, that could be rather annoying.

As a conclusion, I can say that this service is as good as it can be, because it's free and easy. I'd even say that it is perfect for those who wants just to categorize his photos and store them in one comfortable place.



This picture editing software costs around 10 pounds in iTunes (but it's a surprise that it costs more than 40 pounds on Amazon).

In general, I can call this app 'a nice photo manager' that is optimized for showing galleries.

Point at your folders with pictures you need and they will be imported to the application interface. You can also do it via the 'Preferences' box later. When you create an album in the Unbound program, a new folder appears on your drive. Use it to move pictures there, or delete images and folders in it. They will be processed the same way if you'd do these steps on your usual drive, so they will be moved to Trash as well.

This application is perfect for those who look for something simple, intuitive and comfortable. Of course, it won't recognize faces or do some clever stuff, but locating folders, managing images is what it was designed for. Creating slideshows, gathering the EXIF info (this is some technical data imported from the camera), defining the location data on the map - these options are quite possible.

When a question about how to edit photos on Mac with Unbound rises, you may open them with any other image editor, for example, Preview.

Unbound is a file manager firstly, so it will open an already edited image since you save it in another program on your Mac.

If you need to store your photos somewhere in a cloud service, use Dropbox or a similar service. Moreover, Unbound for iOS works with Dropbox and gives you a chance to synchronize pictures across all your Apple devices. But it's not free and costs around 3 GBP. However, this sum is not so large, so it's okay for the everyday use.

Surely, some people can criticize this application for its simplicity, but in fact, the whole point lays in it. It is one of the best managers for your pictures libraries. You can use it in conjunction with the Photos app that gives you the full arsenal of tools for managing your images.


Adobe Photoshop Elements 15

We've discussed programs like Photoshop many times, however, no one will argue that this app is worth all the money spent on it.​ ​

The 'Elements' version costs around 70 dollars on Amazon and around $90 on the App Store.

Photoshop Elements is a photo edit app that can satisfy all your needs of any form and shape. It can be named almost a professional photo editor for the best price ever.

Elements is simpler than the full version and anybody can understand how to use it on Mac. Adobe gathered the most useful functions of a professional Photoshop version and created an app with a set of easy tools for users who want to work with their pictures with comfort.

As it was for the Photos application, Elements photo edit app can be an organizer. You may create different image collections, group together faces, places and events.

You can work with projects, for instance, photo DVDs, slideshows, calendars, photobooks, printed media.

This is the best photo edit app for novices, as the interface is intuitive and user-friendly. Adobe always improve this feature of their programs. You can do everything you want with the pictures. For beginners, there are special 'Smart fix' tools. If you want to get more acquainted to the ​application, use the 'Guided edit' mode. It will help you step by step, so you can create any artistic effect and even restore old pictures! They say, i​​t can also remove haze or camera shake from images.

In case you are not a newbie and need a professional photo editor, switch to the 'Expert' mode. A new toolbar will appear and the program will remind the original Photoshop version. Choose any tool you need​:​ heal, clone, selection, etc. Don't be surprised that this photo edit app looks a bit different, in fact, it offers the same functionality that Photoshop does.

​Another useful feature of Photoshop Elements is its Filter gallery with tons of ready-made one-click artistic filters.​ You also have an opportunity to change your photos as you wish, stretch, distort them, correct the perspective, and so on.

I really confess that Photoshop Elements is a brilliant photo editor for Mac. It suits beginners, amateurs and experts. However, this application doesn't store pictures somewhere in a cloud storage. It doesn't share them with all your Apple devices, so you should do it by hands, if you choose this app.



This one costs around $50 on Amazon. and nearly $30 on the App Store. Pixa is similar to the Unbound app I was talking about earlier. But it's a bit more sophisticated.

​Pixa collects all your images and adds them to its library. So, you shouldn't worry about doing something to the originals, you won't lose anything in case you delete it accidentally. You can choose what folders and even drives are needed to be added there by using the 'Live folder' Pixa system. ​The application will grab new pics from the chosen photos and copy them into its internal library. No matter whether you choose a folder on the Mac's internal drive or an external SD card connected to your Mac via USB.

It may seem a bit strange, but Pixa calls its albums as 'Projects'. You can add projects to other folders. For example, you can create a folder with different projects that will show various vacations or photos from several countries you visited this year.

Pixa stores all the photos on your Mac's hard drive disk. There is also no iOS version of this app. Nevertheless, there is a 'Share' button that can send images to Dropbox, Imgur or CloudApp. As for Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Box, it doesn't support them, unfortunately. You can set up just one of the services as a default service.

After you click the share button, no message appears, and your photo is already shared with the world, and there are no possible ways to delete it. It is the main inconvenience of working with the Pixa application.

It can search images by keywords and tags you need to add manually. This can be useful, but rather long.

​As for the positive sides, Pixa allows working with different file formats, even with vector graphics, so it may be comfortable for designers and professional artists. There is even a special feature that can capture screenshots and import them to Pixa. The same is about making web pages printscreens.​

Pixa doesn't include any editing tools or effects, but it offers some handy export options allowing you to shift between file formats and image sizes.​ It also has an opportunity of creating iOS icons!

Right-click a picture to edit it with any other ​picture editing app and the changes will be displayed by Pixa immediately.


AfterShot Pro

AfterShot Pro is one of the advanced picture editing apps for Mac. It is created by Corel and costs around $90 on their website. I can call it a Lightroom's competitor, as it is aimed for helping experienced photographers to process the RAW images.

It can both organize and edit pictures. But the first function works not the same as in the Photos app. You may take sometime to manage your pictures into folders, catalogs and projects.

The most options can be found in the 'File' menu. Sort your images by name, date, shutter speed, focal length, or any other settings that can be found in the EXIF information. A special Metadata browser can locate such data for your picture files (date, time, flash settings, etc).

AfterShot can display previews in a vertical strip near a large view of the selected image. So, you can scroll your library and look at full-size photos at the same time. It is a quite comfortable option.

Editing tools of this application are split into a series of palettes. The 'Standard' one has a set of slider controls for changing the basic parameters like exposure, contrast, saturation. Other one concentrate on color correction, detail enhancement and tonal adjustments.

A watermarking tool will help you with protecting your copyright. A blemish feature will remove spots and other unnecessary artifacts. To choose the origin point should be indicated by hands, not with the 'Alt/Option' combination, as it's in many other picture editing apps.

If you are an expert​​ looking for the best professional photo editor, AfterShot will be ideal for you, while a newbie may become confused with all those tools. Believe me, there are a lot of them!​

If you are not a professional yet, try to play with different sliders, see how they work. if you don't want to spend your time on this, the app offers a simpler option. The autolevel button that will adjust.

AfterShot is a really powerful competitor to Lightroom and Apple Aperture that was departed at the same time as the iPhoto program. Anyway, it offers a 30-day free trial and is cheaper than Lightroom. So, you can choose it without hesitating.



This photo editor for mac costs nearly 27 dollars on the App Store. It doesn't offer us working with image categorization or management, however, it gives us an opportunity to compare pictures and work with images in sequence. A nice advantage is a plugin for Photos that can be installed in the 'Extensions' menu of 'System Preferences'. Once installed, it will appear every time when you edit pictures with the Photos app. The set of its functions will be shown in the Photos window as well.

​Though Polarr is sold on the App Store, there also exists a free version of this ​image editor. The main differences from the paid version are: there's no Photos integration, premium packs, and some other things. So, try both versions before making the final decision.

As a picture editor, improver and tweaker, the Polarr app is really worth its price. It is something standing between the ​​AfterShot professional photo editor and a standard Mac's Photo editor. Here you can do all the things simply and quickly. Adjust the color temperature, vibrance and tint, and also fix the exposure, highlights, shadows and many other parameters.

If you are going to find more useful functions in Polarr, it offers vignette and curves tools as well as the lens distortion correction tool. Haze adjustment feature will help in making the skies more artistic in landscape photos.

These tools can be found in the set of graphs and sliders at the right. On the left, there is a great variety of one-click Instagram-like filters. They can bring you lots of fun and help to improve the quality of your photos.

The ability to get back and edit the history of the work is useful for everyone who wants to improve his pictures. You can undo not the last steps, but a few of them (as many as you wish). The before & after tool will compare the original picture and the edited result.

The masking tool is able to help in selecting the certain areas where an effect should be applied. However, this option is limited to be limited to the gradient and radial selection tools. So, you'll be able to select areas only with them.

Polarr is an intermediary between the pro and amateur levels​​. So, if you feel that you're more than a beginner, but not an expert yet, choose this ​picture editing software​​.



You can buy this picture editor​ ​for 20 bucks from the Lyn official website or for a couple of dollars more expensive from Amazon.

​All the images I reviewed here were simple and easy-to-understand. This​ picture editing software is not an exception. It justifies its price and I'll tell you how it does now.

You can use Lyn in conjunction with Photos, if you want, as it's compatible with Mac's photo libraries. The app supports various file formats including RAW (the format for professionals).

It is an ideal option for those who hasn't used Photos. It doesn't have its own images library, so you won't have tons of duplicated files on your disk.

Still, there are some slight disadvantages for this application. Lyn is not smart enough to manage complicated structure of folders. So, you may have to go through a series of different folders to find the necessary image (for instance, Holidays > 2017 > August > 8 > 10048676-10384).

Lyn can't create albums, so you may use Finder for doing that. However, Lyn is able to create folders. What is good about this image editor for Mac, is an opportunity of multiple viewing while browsing pictures and creating links to favorite folders.

​You can see a preview and a split view on a larger image close-up.​ You can also see the metadata (such as aperture and exposure settings), the GPS information and keywords alongside the previews.

Lyn gives a chance for editing your pictures with some basic tools, they are very similar to ones that can be found in Photos. A histogram for correcting colors, sliders for adjusting brightness, contrast, exposure and color settings. Unfortunately, there are no quick fix opportunities or one-click filters.