Software

Can Affinity Photo Replace Photoshop?


Reservoire at Crowden. Fuji X-XT2, 18-135 lens. All processing in Affinity Photo.

It appears a lot of people are looking for a Photoshop alternative at present. One question that comes up increasingly is, can Affinity Photo replace Photoshop. Only the other day a book cover designer emailed me with this very question. Now the features needed for that work are a little different to photo editing, but you can see the answer on my You Tube Channel.
But in this post, I want to look briefly at using Affinity Photo for photo editing, comparing it to Photoshop.

STOP NOW if you’re now reaching for close button, screaming Affinity Photo is only for the Mac. Affinity Photo is now available for Windows and that’s the version I’m using today. It was discounted at the start of the New Year and I decided to buy a copy. I now have all the versions including the one for iPad.

When you first start Affinity Photo, it’s not the most user friendly of interfaces. It probably matches Photoshop very well in that respect.

The default Affinity Photo interface when first opened

When you start to look around, it looks like most of the features are buried within a menu system or one of the side panels. This is very similar to Photoshop and if you look closely, you can see a lot of parallels between the two. A few tools I use regularly in Photoshop are Layers, Blending Modes and Channels, which I’m pleased to say are all present, they just work a little differently. In fact, everything I seem to use in Photoshop appears to be present in one form or another. It may not be immediately recognisable, but it is present.

To better test the features of Affinity Photo, I decided to process recent Landscape image from my Fuji X-T2. This was captured as a RAW file and was opened from the File menu using the option “File | Open…”

Affinity Photo with the Develop Persona active

Once the RAW file was open, Affinity Photo switched from the “Photo Persona” to the “Develop Persona”. I indicated the different personas in the top left of the diagram using a red box and arrow.
These “personas” change the view of the interface and the tools available. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, you can think of the “Photo Persona” as being like the default Photoshop workspace. The “Develop Persona” is more like Adobe Camera RAW, which also starts up when you select to edit a RAW file. Just like Adobe Camera RAW you will see the adjustment controls in a series of tabs on the right side of the screen (highlighted here by the red box).

As I worked my way through each of the panels, everything is here I would expect to see in Camera RAW, plus a few other things. The quality of the adjustments appears very good in general. Zooming to 100% on a 23” HD resolution monitor allows me to see and evaluate more detail than on my Mac 5K Retina display. Whilst the Retina display is beautiful, it hides problems because of its resolution. What I could see when using the Affinity sharpening and noise reduction tools impressed me. The detail and sharpness when processing the Fuji XTrans RAW files appears excellent. Noise reduction was also very good and preserved a lot of detail whilst removing noise effectively. Here you can see a section of the image magnified to 100%.

Section of the image magnified to 100% in the Develop Persona

It’s also possible to make selections in Affinity Photo, like the Gradient and Adjustment Brush tools in Photoshop. These are called Overlays in Affinity and are easy to use, but don’t feel as polished as in Photoshop. They lack some of the adjustments I would like to apply selectively such as sharpening and clarity. Despite this, they’re very useful and I like the “Overlays” panel where you can easily switch between the different selection’s.

Having applied all your adjustments, click the Develop button to generate the image. The interface then switches to the Photo Persona. Once here I started to add adjustment layers and fine tune selections using masks. I didn’t find this as intuitive as Photoshop, but I suspect an element of this is my lack of familiarity.

Layers window in Affinity Photo Develop Ppersona. Here you can see the Layers and Layer Masks for the image being processed.

Having completed the adjustments, you need to Export the image. The save option in the menu saves the image in the Affinity Photo format for future editing. Exporting converts the image to one of the popular (and not so popular) image formats.

Export options to convert the image to a standard image format.

Overall, I would say most if not all the photo adjustment tools you will need are present in Affinity Photo. It’s certainly one of the best options I’ve seen if you want to move away from Photoshop but still need to use the same features. Although it felt unfamiliar and a little limited in a couple of areas, I didn’t feel that I was making a significant compromise by using it.

12 comments

  1. Hello Robin,

    I really enjoyed getting your take, as an expert Photoshop user, on how it compares or differs from Affinity Photo. I recently got the Affinity Photo Workbook & am about half way through its very detailed lessons on my new 27″ iMac. Your observations about the resolution issues compared to your Windows version were interesting to read. I’m still somewhat undecided about how I will either integrate Photo in my work plan along with LR & PS, but may end up using LR for DAM needs but convert & edit my Fuji Raw files mostly with Photo. Time will tell, but hope you might still think about publishing your own eBook about using Affinity Photo. Cheers,

    Jed

    1. Thanks Jed. Yes, do watch out for the Mac resolution. You can change the resolution of the Mac screen very easily BUT it didn’t really compare to what I could see on my PC witht eh monitor set to HD. I will need to look into it more. I am still considering the Affinity book although I need to do far more investigation yet. I don’t feel comfortable with the Affinity Photo adjustments at the moment. I will be publishing a free alternative to Lightroom in the near future.

  2. Hi Robin

    I like this monochrome conversion but preferred the tightly cropped shot, that you posted last Friday. It looks like Affinity Photo has a lot of potential, but like Jed I will stay with LR because of DAM.
    I note that with the subscription versions of LR, that if I stop subscribing within the 1 year contract, that I will incur a fine- correct me if I am wrong, and that whilst the Library module will function, the Develop one will not. How mean, but I will not revisit this old chestnut.

    Regards

    Martin

    ps, You mentioned a book of walks for photographers in the Peak District, was this one of those?

    1. Hi Martin, I realise Affinity won’t be for everyone but I like to share my thoughts on the tools I have. I use Lightroom for DAM but used to use what eventually became Media Pro. I switched to Lightroom because it was a good all round solution/workflow and not because it was the best at DAM.

      Yes, this image was one from the Crowden walk. The book isn’t walks for Photographers but one of the Pathfinder guides mentioned in the earlier post. It’s a general walking guide book but I find them excellent as photo walks.

  3. Hi Robin,

    thank you for that interesting review!

    By any chance will you try out Luminar and do a similar review?

    Thank you in advance!

    Kind regards,
    Christoph

    1. Thanks Chris. I may do one on Luminar but I don’t use the software at present. I did try it out but wasn’t that impressed (I know that will upset some people) in comparison to other software I already use. I may need to wait for their next release in order to try it again as my trial version ha expired.

  4. I stopped using PS and moved capture One for RAW conversions 4 years ago. The difference in image quality was asotunding. It would be interesting to see how Affinity compares.

    1. Hi Colin, Capture One is a good product but the quality of the results do depend to some degree on the camera. I used to use it with my Micro 43 cameras but found I was getting a lot of artefacts in the images. Sony, Canon and Nikon were no problem and very good quality. The colours and contrast in the images were very good though. If I compare the results I see with Affinity using the Fuji X-T2, I see an improvement over Adobe but it’s becoming more marginal. The difference between the various converters is getting less and less all the time. I think the next race will be ease of use.

  5. In reviewing these posts on alternatives to PS, the question comes to mind what happens to one’s photos once they stop paying the subscription fee for PS & LR? My assumption has always been that the sidecar files stay with the user, and the outstanding issue is simply whether other software can access then so that the work done within PS & LR is not totally lost. Am I wrong?

    1. No, you’re not wrong. If you’re going to move away from Lightroom and to a lesser extent Photoshop, it needs to be planned. Many people have a large investment in keywords and other adjustments tied up in Lightroom. Another option is to export all your best images as DNG files with the information embedded.

  6. So glad I found this blog!
    (I was looking for reviews on the 18-135mm lens when I stumbled across the site.)

    I’ve been using Affinity Photo for a while now for my photo processing, and can say that as a long time photoshop user, I don’t feel like I’m missing much. As an added plot twist, I’ve been using it on an iPad pro of all devices! Will it out-process a desktop PC using On1 or something similar? Probably not. But at 1.03 pounds, I’d much rather trek the iPad pro up the side of a mountain than any full-on computer.

    I put together a little write-up of my experiences here if you’re interested: https://blog.mountainsandmaritime.com/ipad-pro-10-5-inch-the-perfect-travel-photographers-companion/

    Back to the topic though: I do worry sometimes that I’m not getting as much out of affinity as compared to a more specialized software. (I’m still pretty new to RAW editing overall.) Feature-wise, do you think it lives up to something like On1 or Lightroom? Like photoshop, Affinity Photo seems like it tries to do so much all at once. I guess I worry that it’s a master-of-none type scenario. :/

    1. Thanks, I’m pleased you like the blog. Nice write up of the iPad on yours by the way.
      I wouldn’t worry about Affinity not being able to do everything other packages will. All the other packages do is make it easier and faster to work. Affinity can do lots of things those other packages can’t. It really is an excellent replacement for Photoshop. I also have Affinity Photo for iPad and it’s possibly the most impressive piece of iPad software I have ever seen. It really shows up the limitations in the Adobe iPad offerings. I haven’t done much RAW processing with the iPad version but the RAW converter in Affinity Photo Desktop is excellent, especially if you are shooting with a Fuji. Affinity like Photoshop is a bit of an all-round application. It’s also very powerful but you need to know some of the “old school” photo editing techniques before you can work quickly and get the best from it. I have been working on a Photographers guide to Affinity Photo (similar to my Essential Photoshop book) but it’s still a few months away.

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