Affinity Photo is a great alternative to Photoshop but it was only available on Macs. It’s finally available on Windows and I’ll be testing out the public beta. I spent the entire day playing around with Affinity Photo and today, you and I will be exploring the features, comparing the pros and cons between Photoshop, and finding out if it’s worth the switch from Photoshop to Affinity Photo. So if you’re interested, keep watching and let’s find out more this Photoshop competitor.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid product review and Serif, the company behind the software you’re about to see, they don’t even know anything about this review. What you’re reading is my honest opinion. Also, keep in mind that I’m using the free public beta release which just came out so I didn’t have time to play around with every single feature.

My Favorite Features

When you first use Affinity Photo, you’ll find that it’s very similar to Photoshop. The filters, adjustment layers, and even the keyboard shortcuts are mostly the same. But there are some great features that make Affinity Photo stand out.

1. Layers act like Smart Objects by Default

First, by default, the layers act sort of like Smart Objects in Photoshop. For example, you can resize it up and down without losing any image quality.

2. Fully-Editable Live Filters

You can also apply Live Filters which are like Smart Filters in Photoshop. The layers remember any live filters that you’ve applied and you can always go back to change the settings or remove it. But not all filters can be applied like this. For example, the Haze filter can only be applied as regular filter which means you should do it on a separate layer because you can’t remove it or change the settings.

3. Haze Removal that’s Better than Photoshop and Lightroom

Speaking of the Haze filter, that my second favorite feature in Affinity Photo. Haze removal is also available in Lightroom and Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter. But they’re not the same thing. The Haze filter in Affinity Photo is way better. There’s more parameters to adjust such as the distance setting which lets you specify how far into the distance the haze removal should reach. For example, you can remove haze in the foreground but leave it visible in the background. Or you can go all the way and remove it from foreground to background.

The results are also better than Lightroom or Photoshop. There’s still some glowing or halo effects around the edges, but it’s not as pronounced as Adobe’s haze removal and the colors are also much better. In Lightroom and Photoshop, if you push the Haze removal too far, you’re going to get a lot of color artifacts. In Affinity Photo, you can still get color artifacts but it’s much less.

4. RGB/CMYK/LAB Curves

My next favorite feature in Affinity Photo is their Curves adjustment. You can change the mode from RGB to other color modes like CMYK or LAB. But unlike Photoshop, you don’t actually need to change your document’s color mode to access these different modes. Now I wouldn’t say this is a necessary feature but it’s definitely cool to be able to play with curves in a different way. And I think it could open up some new color grading techniques.

Things That Aren’t so Great

There’s a lot more features in Affinity Photo such as a Frequency Separation filter and a really cool lighting filter. I really like Affinity Photo and I think the developers did an amazing job creating this.

But there are things that I don’t like.

1. Personas is Not Implemented Well

First of all, Affinity Photo has something called Personas which is a pretty ambiguous term. Personas are basically different workspaces. For example, we’re currently in the Photo persona which is simply the photo editor mode.

There’s also a Liquify persona for liquifying your photo, a Develop persona for the RAW image processor, a Tone Mapping persona for doing HDR stuff, and finally an Export persona for saving or exporting your document.

The problem with Personas is that they don’t really make sense. It’s not like Lightroom where you have a Library module, a Develop module, etc. and they’re in sequential order to a typical workflow.

Personas in Affinity Photo are really just anything that changes the workspace. I mean couldn’t they just move some of the personas into the Filters menu? It’s totally okay for filters to change your workspace temporally. For example, the Blur Filter Gallery in Photoshop already does this and it works perfectly fine.

What if Affinity Photo release new filters that also uses different workspaces, are they just going to keep adding more personas until they can’t fit anymore? I don’t know… personas seem like a fancy term for something unnecessary.

2. The Raw Editor is Basic

Speaking of personas, their Raw editor or develop persona isn’t nearly as good or powerful as Adobe’s Camera Raw Filter. It’s decent and has all the basics, but don’t expect much from it.

3. Minor Quirks and Bugs

The last point I want to make is that there’s a lot of minor quirks and I’m not sure if they’re bugs or just something that they never really paid attention to. Like when you’re using the Lighting filter, there are some adjustments that will automatically move the light back to the top-left corner.

Another minor quirk is that if you want to cancel out of a dialog or window, you’ll naturally press the escape key. The escape key just one of those shortcuts that we use so often and don’t even realize it. But there are some filters that when you press the escape key, instead of canceling it applies the filter as if you clicked the OK button. I hope these are bugs in the Windows version and not something that’s actually in the Mac version.

Should You Switch from Adobe Photoshop to Affinity Photo? No.

Time for the ultimate question. Should you switch to Affinity Photo? For most people, the answer is no.

First of all, if you use Lightroom CC (and I’m not talking about Lightroom 6 by the way), then you already have Photoshop CC as part of your subscription. Right now, Affinity Photo isn’t as good as Photoshop and it has a long way to go before it can catch up. There are unique features in both Affinity Photo and Photoshop, but overall the additional features in Photoshop outweigh the additional features in Affinity Photo.

Photoshop does a lot more than what most people realize. For example, you can work with 3D models, do 3D printing, it has enough vector tools that you can create entire vector projects from it, and you can even trim and color grade videos.

So who is Affinity Photo for?

Well, if you don’t like paying a subscription fee, and you don’t use Lightroom CC which already includes Photoshop, then Affinity Photo is right for you. In the long run, Affinity Photo will save you a lot of money compared to Photoshop.

But it’s not always about the price. If you already have a Lightroom and Photoshop CC subscription, you still might want to buy Affinity Photo for some of the stuff it can do better than Photoshop (ex. the Curves adjustment or Haze Removal filter).

So it all comes down to this. Currently the Mac version goes for $70. For what it offers, Affinity Photo is very well priced and is the best alternative if you can’t afford Photoshop. If you can afford Photoshop and you’re deciding which one to learn, then stick with Photoshop. If you’re a professional photographer and you already make money from it, then you should still use Photoshop as your main editing software, but maybe there’s stuff in Affinity Photo that you might find useful. Keep in mind that there are presets and plugins that cost more and do less. So for $70, Affinity Photo is still a great deal even if you don’t use all of it.

Correction: Affinity Photo is $49.99 USD.faviconDenny Tang

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Posted by Denny Tang

  1. I used to use Photoshop for high school and college, but I definitely hate that there is a monthly subscription. I did so much research to find a cheaper alternative to Photoshop and I came across Affinity Photo.
    I am glad I switched and I don’t really miss Photoshop. Affinity photo is stable, easy to use and by a fraction of the cost. It works well with my XPPen Deco Mini7 drawing tablet.


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