Some of the best subscription-free photo editing software

Not a fan of monthly subscriptions when it comes to using software? I’m not much a fan of it either, yet it seems to be way of the future because it puts more money into software developers’ pockets.

Darkroom macOS photo editing software.

Among some of the hardest hitters when it comes to software-based monthly subscription costs is Adobe. While the company used to sell its professional-grade software at one flat cost, it has since moved to subscription-based models that guarantee ongoing perpetuity in exchange for your use of Adobe’s software. It’s a lot like renting; stop paying, and you lose access.

Applications like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are insanely popular among photographers who edit their work in post-production, but if you’re looking to dodge the monthly subscription costs, then you should know there are excellent alternatives available for macOS, Windows, iOS, and iPadOS that can get the same job done without the recurring subscription costs. We’ll show you some in this piece.

Subscription-free photo editing software


App icon for GIMP.

Free, open-source, and available for all major desktop operating systems, the tried-and-true GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) software carries many of the same tools that Adobe’s venerable Photoshop software does.

GIMP has been around for a very long time, and there are tons of satisfied users who can tell you just how resourceful this free software is. It even helped law enforcement solve a homicide case once; true story!

Head over to the GIMP website to get started.


Darkroom app icon.

Darkroom is a competitive and award-winning alternative to Adobe Lightroom that offers many of the same RAW photo editing features that the bug guy does, but at a fair flat price.

While Darkroom does come with subscription options of its own; a lifetime license can be had for $74.99 that works universally across the macOS, iPadOS, and iOS platforms. Sadly, it’s not available for Windows. I personally use this for a lot of my RAW photo editing.

Head over to the Darkroom website to get started.

Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro is a powerful alternative to Adobe Photoshop and offers tons of tools for retouching images, including a powerful AI-based spot healing brush that can make elements of a photograph disappear.

Pixelmator Pro is only available for macOS, but for a low flat price of just $49.99 (but a free trial is available!). I use this software almost religiously for doctoring images and making banners and can attest for just how useful it is at the price point. Again, this software is sadly not available for Windows.

Head over to the Pixelmator Pro website to get started.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo icon.

Affinity Photo is a great photo retouching software for macOS, Windows, and iPadOS that offers support for professional-grade tools and even RAW photo editing without a subscription attached.

Available for a one-time payment of $69.99 for either macOS or Windows, $19.99 for iPadOS, or $169.99 for everything, you can download and enjoy this software for last-minute photo editing without a continuous stream of payments.

Head over to the Affinity Photo website to get started.

Topaz Photo AI

Topaz Photo AI icon.

You can’t really mention photo editing software without giving an honorable mention to the young, but truly advanced Topaz Photo AI program for macOS and Windows.

Topaz Photo AI uses artificial intelligence to automatically soup up any and all of your photographs. It comes with de-noising capabilities, blur-removal capabilities, and even resolution-enhancing capabilities, all of which I use on a regular basis for improving my photographs.

Topaz Photo AI is a bit on the pricey side at $199, but at least you won’t have reoccurring payments like some of those other types of photo editing software.

Head over to the Topaz Photo AI website to get started.


Preview app icon.

The Mac’s native Preview app is more powerful than you might think. Not only is it an image viewer, but it provides photo editing tools that can be especially useful, including lighting and color adjustments that work almost as good as what you’d find in Adobe Lightroom.

We thought this was important to mention before you decide to buy expensive software because most people don’t even realize that their Mac comes with pre-installed powerful photo editing software. Unfortunately, Preview is native to macOS and can’t be had on Windows or mobile platforms.


While some people flock to the subscription-based Adobe software simply because of the brand’s reputation in the industry, the good news is that you can prevent yourself from being sucked into ongoing subscription payments by using any of the quality photo editing software discussed above.

Personally, I’d rather pay once and own the software for life than pay continuously and lose access to it when I stop paying, so I’ll be using these alternatives for a long time to come – maybe forever!

What’s your favorite photo editing software? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below, along with the platform that you prefer editing on.