Affinity Photo for Mac

For the past three years or so, I’ve paid for an annual subscription to Adobe’s Photography Creative Cloud bundle, which is basically Photoshop and Lightroom. I know there’s been a lot of outrage over Creative Cloud and the Adobe subscription model, but the Creative Cloud Photography Plan at $99 per year is not a bad deal when you consider the individual cost of both applications and the fact that constant updates are included. It is, however, still a subscription. That, plus the way Adobe software tramples all over the Mac, made me finally decide to see if I could make do with available alternatives.

Replacing both Photoshop and Lightroom satisfactorily is hard, and will be impossible for many people. I started auditioning Pixelmator as a Photoshop substitute, and it’s good but not great. Let no one inform you that it is indeed a Photoshop killer or even a full replacement without understanding that, in their enthusiasm, they’re unintentionally lying to you. It can, however, do many of the things Photoshop does if you understand and are willing to accept its several deficits. It is, however, firmly in the junior league category.

Just over a year ago, during a lapse in my Adobe CC subscription, I bought Affinity Photo by Serif Labs on the Mac App Store, hoping it would replace the Adobe products for me. I thought it was a Lightroom equivalent, but to be honest, it’s positioned as a bit more of a Photoshop replacement. I was a bit disappointed in it at the time, particularly in its RAW development capabilities. It turns out I just didn’t realize how they worked. Also, new features have been added since then and are being added all the time. It’s actually better than Photoshop in some ways, even if it’s lacking slightly in others. And it has a strong advantage over Photoshop and Lightroom for people that don’t like subscriptions: it’s a one-time purchase for $49.99.

Affinity Photo’s workflow and file handling are more Photoshop than Lightroom. As far as I can tell, there are no libraries as there are in Lightroom. Any cataloging, rating, tagging, and batch organizing included in programs like Lightroom, and formerly Aperture, don’t exist. You’ll have to manually organize things in the file system. The more I think about it, the more Affinity Photo does like a Photoshop replacement rather than a Lightroom equivalent, but that’s ok. For some people, Photoshop is a Lightroom replacement too.

Adobe is a huge company, and Serif Labs probably isn’t. The one-time, $50 model leads to questions about sustainability, particularly for any development intensive application like top-notch photo editing software. However, it looks like Serif Labs knows not to prop up their stool on one leg – they also offer Affinity Designer, also a $49.99 one-time purchase, which is a vector graphic design application. It looks good – I’m not an artist and I don’t really go around cranking out vector drawings or illustrations, but it looks like something most artists would love.

Will Serif eventually add a third leg to complete their platform, or will they simply keep pouring hard work into Photo and Designer in order to boost their business? I’m not sure, but regardless of their future product plans, I hope they keep developing Photo.1 It’s a great product that good be even better with a bit more work.

I’m still relatively new to Affinity Photo despite having owned it for just over a year, because I’ve just now really started learning it, but I’m pretty excited about it. You can use Photoshop plugins, such as Google’s well-regarded, but sadly never again to be updated, Nik Collection.

Time will tell if Affinity Photo keeps me away from Adobe, but considering my meager photography budget and my relative disuse of my Nikon currently, I don’t see why not.


  1. See what I did there?