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Gear & Apps

‘Affinity Photo’ Seems To Be The First Real Photoshop Alternative | Get The Beta Version Free

By Kishore Sawh on February 9th 2015

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Photo editing applications come and go, and really very few have any manner of staying power. It always seems we end up with Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Lightroom. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Adobe created the genre and have been tinkering away at it for decades, with every new version a bit more refined, and we love Photoshop and Lightroom.

Traditionally, these programs haven’t been cheap, and Photoshop, in particular, has been quite pricey, which was a key factor in leading to the proliferation of Photoshop piracy, which in turn seems to have led Adobe to the Creative Cloud, which again, we highly regard. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone wants to pay ‘premiums’ every month or year for use of the software. The problem is there hasn’t really been much in the way of options. A company called Serif, is aiming to change that, and has just launched what appears to be the first real alternative to Photoshop. It’s called Affinity Photo.

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Serif made a bit of a name for themselves last year with the release of Affinity Designer, which was a more dollar friendly (read: low cost) alternative to Adobe Illustrator. I have little experience with Illustrator and none with Affinity Designer, but from all accounts it’s very good, and even more intuitive than its Adobe brethren.  With Affinity Photo, Serif seems to not only aim to match Photoshop, but to re-think it, and best it, with a focus on speed, efficiency, and price. Those are giant shoes to fill. You can see for yourself how well it fills them right now, since the Beta version was released today, for free.

One of the touted benefits to Affinity Photo is speed. There’s been a lot of talk surrounding this one ability, probably because Adobe products, Lightroom especially, are known to be utter resource hogs, so any speed improvement is welcomed with open arms. It’s been argued that Photoshop’s incarnations are all based off the initial, now over twenty year-old architecture, and that computing processes and powers are so different today, that what’s needed is a complete architecture overhaul. This is what Affinity Photo claims to do.

[REWIND: Adobe Officially Makes $9.99 Photography CC Bundle Permanent ]

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I haven’t had much time to spend with it, but I can say right now that I threw some very large files at it which opened in a blink, and the start-up shut-down process is equally quick, as were the edits made and so forth. So it seems so far that in terms of speed, it is making good on its word. I threw RAW files from 5 different cameras at it, and it opened them just fine, though either with a very flat picture (which is not bad actually), or in the case of the D750 RAW files, they opened with a strange red hue. I’m assuming this is just a Beta issue to be resolved quickly, though even the JPEGs seemed flat – perhaps it was a setting I’m unaware of.

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This also brings up the next big hurdle for Affinity Photo to leap, and that is users will have to learn a completely new software, when they’ve been spending years investing time and money in Photoshop education. They seem to be trying to combat this by simplicity, and while the program still uses the main frame of Photoshop, layers and all that, for an old Photoshop user like myself, it will take time to get used to. To help with that, there is a forum with guidelines which you can find here.

But the program seems bountiful in features, and features you’ll want to know how to use. Watch the video at the bottom of the post to get a taste of what you can do with it. You’ll see a lot of pro features you’ll recognize from Photoshop, and ones you don’t. Affinity Photo is geared to the professional after all, and includes the ability to do things like frequency separation, use blending modes, liquifying, and it uses CMYK 16-bit channel editing, RAW processing, LAB color, and Photoshop PSD and 64-bit plug-in ability. Oh, one major caveat – It’s only for MAC, for now.

I think it’s certainly worth downloading the Beta to see how you like or dislike the interface and general usability. I will, in time, put it through its paces and review it for those thinking of paying the meager $49.99 to purchase when the final product drops. Get the free Beta version here now.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Omar Donez

    I’m reading this almost a year later. I went to the site and software costs over $700 bucks. I guess the price focus is no longer in their strategy.

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    • Kitty van Gemert

      I just looked at it, a one-time fee of €49 (around $50) so not sure what you saw?

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    • J D

      I just checked too. Says “No Subscription. Just $57.99” and then a button to purchase and a button for free trial.

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  2. Talwin Davis

    Just curious…and maybe I missed it in your post, but is or will Affinity Photo be compatible with Adobe LR?

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    • J D

      As it is still in beta, I am sure they are working everything out and I cannot say for certain, but I do not see them shooting themselves in the foot and not making it compatible.

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  3. Lenzy Ruffin

    Perfect Photo Suite by onOne Software is worthy of consideration. It provides a layer-based workflow and doesn’t have the learning curve of Photoshop. It works great for those images that require processing beyond what can be done in Lightroom. I’m pretty sure it can’t do everything that Photoshop can do as far as graphic artistry, but I think it probably does everything that photographers would need Photoshop for.

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    • Greg Silver

      Another photo editing software for the Mac that I’ve been hearing good things about lately is Pixelmator. They also have an iPad app that I’m very interested in trying out.

      Has anyone else used this for the iPad?

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    • Richard Barrios

      I use Perfect Photo Suite also. It is a stand alone suite as well as works with PS and Lightroom as a plugin. I do like it a lot and use it often as a plugin with lightroom and PS. It is easy to use and gives great results.

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  4. Richard Barrios

    OH, had my heart racing for a minute. I sure hope there will be a pc version. I will be very interested in looking into this one. The biggest drawback I see is not the learning curve but possibly having to convert tens of thousands of photos to it. But, if it can read psd files may not be so bad either.

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  5. Aaron Gilpin

    I’ll admit I have only watched that quick video and not checked it out in detail, but it seems there is nothing new, nothing PS can’t do anyway. I use CC not the full CC just Lightroom and PS and all I pay is £8.76 per month, that in my eyes is a bargain, I can’t believe some people out there complain at the price yet will spend ££££’s on cameras and glass.

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    • Kim Farrelly

      I think it’s just another monthly cost, they add up after you factor in them all, web hosting, photo hosting, gallery hosting, marketing hosting CC hosting etc… Compared to paying for the DVD at over £500, CC is good value. Comparing £35 for a fully usable app for photo editing that takes on the might of Adobe’s CC is fantastic value.

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  6. Bogdan Roman

    tried it last night. it’s quite powerful at first glance. will see how it holds up in the long run

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    • J D

      I agree. Looks awesome and feels good on the first couple uses but will need some long term use to see if it will be a viable alternative that works for me.

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  7. Brandon Silvera

    So glad I made the switch to Apple back in November. Really helped take my work to a new level. This software looks awesome though. I’m excited to try it out. I dont mind paying $50 one time. That’s a very fair price.

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  8. Peter McWade

    My first thought after reading all the posts on this site and Premium Beat you all should have invested in Mac long ago as the preferred tool for photography or desktop publishing. Yeah, PC’s were cheaper but so were the programs and they were wrought with virus problems. Cost an arm and a leg to keep the little beasties out of your system. Now you complain because a great program is expensive.

    Been a mac guy from the beginning and I’m all over this one. Got it and running it through its paces. I think monthly payments for a subscription and cloud access is just dumb unless you do so much photo work and have such a fast internet upload that you can truly do that and once your allowed space is used up, guess what, you get to pay more. :)

    I paid for Light Room and Photoshop and now Affinity. Actually only the beta for now but Im guessing it will be a favorite soon enough and to top it off I only do this as a hobby.

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  9. John Cavan

    Heh heh, I must admit that I’m mildly amused that this is Mac only (or first) just because so much software goes the other way. Having said that, if this takes off, I’m sure they’ll be motivated. I’m signing up for the beta.

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  10. Murray Severn

    Pity it’s only for Mac. To me that just reinforces the old stereotype that Mac’s are for the creative people. There are creative people (like me!) who prefer the other systems for various reasons (usually price & customisation)

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  11. Chuck Eggen

    I’m all for another editing program that will rival PS. I have CS6 and of course I get no more updates after paying an arm and a leg for it. I love the program but I don’t want to rent it month to month. I’m hoping this will become something big and provide some competition. Hating this Cloud crap.

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    • Kiel MacDonald

      I built my entire computer system around being able to avoid PS cloud structure. I refuse to pay to use software on a monthly basis and I use Photoshop enough that I was willing to build a system to fit it. I get that pay-to-use eliminates the need to ‘upgrade’ in the future but it still would probably be more cost-effective as a user to use the same system and upgrade when you need to (not everyone bought every single instance of Photoshop along the way…)

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  12. Brian Stricker

    What a tease…..Mac only……I guess I will wait. I have never really dived into the PS pool so a cheaper alternative would be cool to play with. I guess I will be happy with LR for now.

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  13. Ben Perrin

    “It’s been argued that Photoshop’s incarnations are all based off the initial, now over twenty year-old architecture, and that computing processes and powers are so different today, that what’s needed is a complete architecture overhaul.”
    Um, photoshop got a complete overhaul during the 64 bit transition stage and is now suited for multi-core processors and graphics cards to improve performance. I can’t say I’ve felt like photoshop was slow even when editing many layers. Lightroom on the other hand is optimised for a single core, something which I suspect is going to change in the version released next month. Also lightroom seems to be a completely different beast to affinity.

    So far with what I’ve seen it doesn’t compete with photoshop for anything except price. It’s Mac only and it hasn’t got the extensive plugin system that photoshop does and I’d wager that it doesn’t have some of the advanced features only found in PS. I’m sure for some people this is going to be great though.

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    • Michael Old

      It is a beta, so yes no plug ins yet.
      Let’s see how it performs and wait for the full launch to evaluate it

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  14. Michael Old

    You had to leave the Mac only caveat right until the end didn’t you :-(
    I would like to know if they are non-destructive edits like Lightroom, or are they destructive like photoshop?
    Just as an aside. Jacking up the price of software because people are pirating it seems counter intuitive to me, all you are doing is punishing your loyal customers who are paying you and encouraging them to pirate your software too. I would think that it would make more sense to drop your prices to encourage more people to actually purchase your product. I suspect that Adobe has extremely high cost overheads and knew that their product was the industry standard and charged accordingly.

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    • Kiel MacDonald

      If it’s a Photoshop-like tool, it will be destructive, otherwise I think they’d call it a Lightroom rival. This is the reason why your first step in any new project is to save the file as a unique file (be it JPEG, PSD, whatever) so that future saves aren’t overwriting your original document (at least that’s how I do it usually)

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  15. Kitty van Gemert

    downloaded it just now. i felt unfortunate about not knowing PS but maybe that will be a plus. very interested indeed in this program!

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  16. Kim Farrelly

    Good to see what might be a serious contender to Ps out an about and for the price of a few months of CC it looks like a bargain probably even more so for the budding Photographer out there. Installing now.

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  17. J D

    Very nice. Gonna give this a try.

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  18. Greg Silver

    Only for Mac :( Was looking forward to trying this out!

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    • Paul Voinescu

      I went to their website from here, and when i saw “For MAC”…it was like a blow to the head. I really hope they make it for windows too.

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    • Graham Curran

      What a bummer, I already had my checkbook out.

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    • Jill Schindel

      Yep. My left mouse-clickin’ finger was all ready for that download. But as a PC user I guess I’m forced to wait this one out.

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    • David Hall

      It was so deflating to have read the Mac only bit near the end of the article, but I’m excited about it nonetheless

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    • Jason Boa

      Bucking the trend in more ways than one !!

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    • Jason Boa

      the developers are either very brave or stupid – taking on PS is like trying to build a better shaped wheel ??
      I wish them luck though !!

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