I'm so close to phasing Adobe out of my life; I need a Lightroom replacement

I’ve been a Windows user most of my life. I’m a hobbyist creator who sometimes freelances. I take photos with a DSLR, I make motion graphics, I make still graphics, and I do video editing. When I moved to the Mac a few years ago, I fell in love with Final Cut Pro and decided to use it over Premier.

Fast forward to today, and I’m almost completely free of Adobe’s $50/month subscription. I have replaced Photoshop and Illustrator with Affinity Photo and Designer. I have replaced After Effects with Motion. I also just want away from Adobe Creative Cloud.

However, I am struggling with a Lightroom replacement. Here’s my ideal photography workflow:

  1. Load SD card into Mac, and copy all RAW photos to a folder to be backed up and archived.
  2. Import the RAW photos into a photo editor (currently Lightroom).
  3. Do my curation and editing process.
  4. Export the pictures that made the cut into large JPEGs and then import those into iCloud Photo Library.

I have tried:

  • Apple Photos: Don’t like it because Photos is my “personal library” and I don’t want to load it up with a bunch of RAWs that I’ll be deleting.

  • Darkroom: Don’t like it because it doesn’t have an area I can just import to that isn’t your photo library. This was the best app to work with, but when you click “import”, it puts them all into your Photos app and I’m back to the problem above.

  • Luminar: The closest so far. I import my photos, do my work, export to my hard drive. This is currently my best option but they lack an iPad app. I do occasionally enjoy cuddling up on the couch to edit photos on my iPad.

  • Darktable: Not a bad app, but it’s open source and has that non-modern “open-source look” that just looks extremely dated.

I’m willing to pay for a good app that preferably comes for Mac and iPad but not a subscription. I’m so close to not needing Adobe.

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you could give a shot to capture one. Pricey (one time purchase option available) but worth it imho.

It works on a catalog principle, as Lightroom or aperture.

they have 30 days freer trial IIRC.

the other suspects that you might want to try are:

Exposure (former alien skin software): great film recipes, but never liked the interface

ON1 Photo Raw: powerful with layer capabilities.

Both work without a catalog, adding sidecar files or folder to your file structure (never liked this feature, it depends on how you manage your files, and how much ocd you are :upside_down_face:)

Edit: of course I missed the iPad app part :thinking::sweat_smile: AFAIK for iPad and Mac app you’re out of luck outside adobe’s realm. On1 has a mobile app but never tried it


As Emanuele said, Capture One is the de facto alternative here, but they don’t provide any sort of mobile editing support. Nothing comes close to Adobe on that front, I’m afraid.

If you exclude Apple Photos (for the valid reasons you stated in your OP), you essentially have to choose between great software that’s desktop only (Capture One), mediocre software that has some mobile editing support (ON1), or decent software that’s desktop only (DxO PhotoLab, Luminar, Exposure, etc.)

Affinity have said they’d be interested in working on their own Lightroom alternative for quite some time now, so that’s also something to be aware of. I don’t think there’s been much in the way of follow-up but I suspect that would be a natural choice for you if it ever materialized.

Have a look at ACDSee - Mac and iPad, good editor and not very expensive.

I have too much invested in Lightroom to reestablish the extensive libraries somewhere else. Any, I like it too. I subscribe to the “Photography” plan – Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99/month on all platforms. So, you don’t need to spend $50 monthly just to access Lightroom.


Have you looked at Pixelmator?

There’s Pro for the Mac which is great and I love, and then on iOS they have Pixelmator and Pixelmator Photo, depending on what you want one may suit your needs more than the others.

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I’ve tried to phase out Adobe as well. Lightroom ended up being my hang-up as well. CaptureOne came close, but I didn’t care how it managed files. I tried Pixelmator Pro, Affinity Photo, Luminar, and Darktable. While I still use the later four for different things, I launch them from Lightroom.

Here’s the plan that was referenced

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I’ve tried most of the solutions offered above and none came even close to handling my catalog like I can with Lightroom. You can use the Lightroom classic so avoid the Adobe Cloud completely, the Lightroom editor is good enough fo rmy needs and as @anon41602260 indicated you can get the photography plan that is $9.99/mo not $50.

My suggestion is to try a few of the other options on a subset of your photos and verify they will work and if not then look at the Photographer plan from Adobe.

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You could give Raw Power from Gentleman Coders a go. On Mac and iOS and written by one of the old Aperture team It is deceptively powerful and would certainly fit your described workflow. DXO Photo Lab may also be worth a look

There is also a programme that allows you to easily have separate iPhoto libraries, but I can not for the life of me remember what it is called.

I have never gone over to the Adobe cloud, but I searched for a long time for a Lightroom alternative, since the demise of Aperture there is no real direct competitor.

I am very interested in ditching LR as well, because of the abusive subscription cost, but I have lots of great presets in that format. I know you can convert some of them to LUTs, but not everything translates (and it’s a pain to convert anyway). Do you know of any app that can open LR presets natively?