I recently purchased a Sony Alpha a33 and was told Lightroom was the only way to go for photo editing. My photography right now is purely of our brand new baby right now, so I won't be profiting from any of the shoots as of now so any money I invest will not have a return. With a brand new baby, we are trying to find was to do things for less. Is there any tolerable alternative to Lightroom or an option for purchasing it for less than a whopping $300 + tax? (Even the lowered price for Lightroom 4 may be too much for some people.)

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

It's worth noting, I've looked into Picasa, BlueMarine, and LightZone, but none of them really seem to compare. Also, I found a couple of sites that have it for download for a much lower price (here, for example) but not sure if it's reliable.

  • 8
    The link you gave (activedownsite) is definitely a pirate site. Look at the bottom of the page where they say 'Copyright © 2010 Microsoft', which is ludicrous. Apart from ethical concerns, there is a good chance that software from this site is infected with trojans. – labnut Nov 7 '10 at 7:04
  • The horrendous, outdated mess that are the answers below are an object lesson in why shopping recommendations don't work on Stack Exchange — except the top answers, which totally avoids the asked question and instead addresses the heart of the matter. (But it's pretty hard to enforce a rule that any such questions must only be answered in that way.) – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 14:38
  • @mattdm The answer about Darktable is still correct and in the interim Darktable has improved significantly and it has remained GPL. To me, the issue is with the question being framed as a shopping question rather than a question about photo editing alternatives. What makes the question problematic is that part of it's motivation seems to be getting validation for a decision to purchase Lightroom. – user50888 Dec 23 '16 at 18:38
  • Photo-editing software 'recommendations' might be a good candidate for a wiki Q&A. It could cover destructive versus non-destructive, cloud versus local, free service versus FOSS versus commercial service versus commercial desktop app etc. – user50888 Dec 23 '16 at 18:42
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Are there any free but comparable alternatives to Lightroom? – user50888 Dec 23 '16 at 18:43

12 Answers 12


Short Answer

  • Invest now, reap rewards later
  • Don't have a short term financial plan, but have a long term requirements plan
  • Cheap can mean more expensive over a long period
  • This is a lifetime investment and one day you may want to see a photo of your child at x months old
  • Learn to research and budget so that you can acquire the resources as you grow

My minimum requirements that should be attained to get the best possible returns from your investments:

  • Good catalog/basic photo editing package (eg: lightroom 3)
  • Good lens beyond kit lens (eg: 18-200 range to cover all possibilities)
  • Good flash that can be manipulated so light bounces of walls or ceilings
  • External storage with mirror capabilities (eg: WD mirror edition or dedicated NAS)

Long Detailed Answer

Lets be honest here. I have a two year old. My wife wanted top quality photos and we got charged over $1,000 for 12 photos on a burnt CD. This was a commercial company and the photos were good but we wanted something better.

So after some research I invested in a Nikon D90 with standard kit lens. After a thousand photo's later it become clear that I needed somewhere of organising the photos taken on the DSLR and the point & shoot that my wife uses.

I invested in lightroom 3 as we are talking about a long term strategy and the investments that I make now should be reaped a few years into the future.

Then I invested in 2 lenses to improve photo quality: 18-200mm lens for all situations and a 85mm f/1.8 prime for specific portraiture work.

Next up is around $2,000 to by a NAS that has native ZFS support so that I don't have to worry about bit rot during long term storage.

With these investments, hopefully, when my daughter is 30, I will have all the requirements about getting the photos we need from our infrastructure.

My only concern would be the long term support of lightroom, but because I now use DNG, all my edits are stored in the DNG file so I can move to any other solution that has native DNG support.

I don't know if this exactly answers your questions but may give you some food for thought from somebody who has been in your shoes and made the decision to think about the future and not now.

If we cannot afford something right now we either budget for the purchase, or use the credit card and pay it off over a period of time.


A cheaper option (free) is picasa for organization and gimp for editing.

It's a little clunky, as they don't fully integrate, but this is what I'm using until I can justify the cost of lightroom or aperture.


You might check out the software recently released by Corel called AfterShot.

It's definitely cheaper than Lightroom. I've not read any reviews however on it yet.

Price was $99 or $79 with upgrades.....

  • 2
    Corel acquired Bibble Labs, and AfterShot is based on Bibble. – coneslayer Jan 12 '12 at 15:42

Darktable is free (but only available for Linux and OSX/MacOS, not Windows). It is a decent catalog and a good non-destructive editor.

Since DT develops rather quickly, I find myself resorting less and less to Digikam for cataloging.


One possibility is Bibble. It's got some, er, quirks but it is fine and the Lite version is certainly cheaper ($100). Pro is $200 but I don't know how competitive it is with Lightroom. (I use Linux, where Bibble is really the only serious option; there's not Lightroom.)

  • This software was acquired by Corel and is the basis for Aftershot Pro. It no longer exists as Bibble. – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 14:36
  • I deserve a downvote because I wrote a decent answer six years ago and it's gone out of date? The comment is useful, but please revert your downvote. – Reid Dec 23 '16 at 16:53
  • Not downvoting you. Downvoting the answer, which, as the downvote hover text says, is not useful. It needs to be updated or deleted. I'll be happy to revert my downvote in that case. – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 16:53
  • It's my reputation that goes down, along with that of every other user who you've downvoted on this question. With your comment, the answer is now up to date. This is not the way to approach answer obsolescence. Please revert your downvote. – Reid Dec 23 '16 at 16:59
  • The comment doesn't make the answer more helpful. The answer should be fixed or removed. If you post time-sensitive answers, you should be ready to maintain them. That's what the reputation system is for. – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 17:01

If you look around, you can sometimes find Lightroom for cheaper. I managed to buy it on Black Friday for only $130 or so. Still, you can find it on Amazon for only $230 or so now.

Definitely get a student version if you qualify, it's the full version, just not licensed for commercial use. The exact quote from the Adobe Website as to who qualifies is:

* University and college students - students enrolled at a higher education institution defined as an accredited public or private university or college (including community, junior, or vocational college) that grants degrees requiring not less than the equivalent of two years of full-time study.
* Primary and secondary school students - students enrolled at an accredited public or private primary or secondary school providing full-time instruction.

If you don't qualify, go to your nearest community college, enroll in a photography class, and you'll probably still save money, not to mention learning more about photography;-)


If you own an Apple computer you can purchase Aperture 3 for $199, alternatively you can purchase an education version of Lightroom (or Aperture) at a discounted price if you know somebody who works in education or is going to college. The license is a little different though in case you're using it professionally.

Edit: After the AppStore was launched, the price has dropped to USD $79.99

  • I am windows user, but I have see Aperture to work and have features that I can not find on windows programs. – Aristos Nov 9 '10 at 13:34
  • This software is discontinued. – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 14:34

You should be aware that the newly released Lightroom V4 is only half the price of previous versions!

Available direct from Adobe for USD 149, or GBP 103


This doesn't appear to be a time-limited offer!

  • This is also true for current versions; although they push the subscription version at $10/month, a perpetual version can be purchased for about $150. – Please Read My Profile Dec 23 '16 at 17:21

I want to stress student discounts; Lightroom is a powerful tool and worth it with the discount (Wherever you/wife/etc went to school; walk in and talk to the IT department; they might be able to hand you a copy); I think I got it for ~90 from adobe direct with my wife's' student id.

If that's not an option; and all you want is basic editing; previous recommendations for Gimp are good; but you might want to consider Photoshop Elements also; <100usd without any discounts; and has nearly everything from Photoshop you would use for photography(Goes much farther than lightroom for editing). You could then use Picassa or similar to organize(More of a PITA; especially if shooting raw; but life is a compromise sometimes..)


Those who told you that were wrong.

Lightroom is great. It works both as a cataloging tool and a photo editor but as far as editing goes it is quite basic. What it does which is great in terms of editing is what is called 'non-destructive editing'. That means that it makes edits in a database rather than modify your files, so your originals can always remain intact.

For editing, the best value is quite possible Photoshop Elements. Depending on where you are it may cost about $100 USD. This is a photo editor and not an organizer.

If you are looking for an organizer, you can read this. It covers Lightroom and 4 other software, including Bibble Pro which is quite good (with exception to their support unfortunately, at least based on my experience).

  • 3
    I think you and the OP may be giving different meanings to the term "photo editing" as used in the question. – Reid Nov 7 '10 at 1:47
  • 1
    I can agree that compared to something like full Photoshop, Lightroom as an editor could be described as "basic". However, as a statement on it's own about Lightroom, I don't believe describing Lightroom as a "basic editor" does it justice. I believe a lot of photographers hardly ever feel the need to use something like Photoshop anymore, finding Lightroom's set of tools more than sufficient in a lot of cases (I know I do, although I'm only an enthusiastic amateur). I agree that the OP's original quote about being told that "LR is the only way to go" is a somewhat blinkered statement. – Conor Boyd Nov 7 '10 at 20:13
  • @Conor - Don't worry, some of us like myself never edit passed crop and rotation. My wife on the other hand transforms images in ways that can't even be started in Lightroom. One of the beauties of Lightroom is that it is basic and therefore easy to learn. Photoshop can be quite daunting on the other hand but is extremely powerful. – Itai Nov 8 '10 at 0:57

Digikam. It is free software and is very feature complete.


Capture One for Sony

Since you're using a Sony Camera the answer is CaptureOne. They have a free version specifically for Sony: https://www.phaseone.com/en/Products/Software/Capture-One-for-Sony/Sony-Pro.aspx

Your camera like most Sony cameras is supported. The main thing not in the free version is Live Shooting / Tethered Shooting. If you want those features the Pro Version for Sony is only $50 USD one time fee. This will give you all of the features as long as you're using Sony file formats.

Just realize this is a special Phase One arranged with Sony. If you switch to Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc or download a .NEF or .CR2 file from someone else you won't be able to really make use of those in the Capture One for Sony. You'd have to get the full Capture One or rely on some other software.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.