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.
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…”
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%.
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.
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.
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.