Post-Processing » Affinity Photo Tutorials » Affinity Photo Review – Pro Image Editing Software (2021)

Affinity Photo Review – Pro Image Editing Software (2021)

Affinity Photo Logo

Are you considering trying Affinity Photo? And is it the right photo editor for you in 2021? Then read this full Affinity Photo review. Learn about the pros and cons of this very capable image editing app.

We rate the app on a set of parameters like user experience, price, features, workflow, and integration and plugin support in this extensive Affinity Photo Review. Furthermore, you can find answers to most of your questions about Affinity Photo, if you have never used it. Let’s dig into the review and find out what is up and down.

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What is Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is a photo editor software app. Just like Photoshop, it is capable of performing very advanced image editing tasks, but at a fraction of the price of Photoshop. Affinity Photo is part of the Affinity Suite, which also includes Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher. It is behind in terms of advanced capabilities, but well suited for advanced image editing for even most professional photographers.

Affinity Photo Review Overall Rating: 4.0 (out of 5)

Pros:

Layer based editing. Panorama, HDR merge, focus stacking, macro support. Raw image support, but also works with raster and vector images. Very similar to Photoshop, but a bit easier to use.

Cons:

Limited lens-profile based corrections (in the develop persona). You cannot create custom workspaces. Just like Photoshop, it is not an easy program to learn for novices.

Quick Verdict

Affinity Photo is comparable to Photoshop in many ways. We think that most users would be very satisfied with the features included at a low price.

User Experience
We like that the user interface is simplified into task-focused workspaces (personas) making each workspace less cluttered.
4
Price
For $49.95, It’s a bargain compared to its main competitor, Photoshop which only comes with a subscription model ($9.95 per month bundled with Lightroom).
5
Features
From a photographer’s viewpoint, Affinity Photo is feature-rich and flexible. Some image adjustment algorithms could be improved.
3.7
Workflow
Comparing with an equivalent workflow in Photoshop, you would more or less perform the same steps in the same order.
4
Integration & Plugin Support
You can open your photos from all image library apps like Lightroom or Capture One, Luminar, ON1 Photo RAW, and so on. It supports using your Photoshop plugins, but it is not certain that a Photoshop plugin supports Affinity Photo. Nik Collection above v. 2.5 support Affinity Photo.
3.5

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With Affinity Photo, the British software firm Serif has made an incredible application for photographers who wants control over the images editing process. It is feature-packed, powerful, and affordable.

Affinity Photo Review: Focus Merge is particular interesting for Macro Photographers

Key Features:

  • RAW editing
  • HDR merge
  • Panorama stitching 
  • Focus Stacking 
  • Various adjustments
  • Batch Processing 
  • Optimize your workflow by saving your steps as macros (like actions in Photoshop).
  • PSD Editing support  
  • Layer-based editing for a non-destructive workflow
  • 360-degree image editing 
  • Single price and no subscription
  • Real-time viewing of filter modifications (Live filters)
  • Task-focused workspaces (personas), which simplifies the user interface.
  • Supports various file types on import and export 
  • Save your commonly using settings as presets, use default presets or manually adjust the sliders
  • Lighting filters
  • Unlimited history and snapshot

It also has a few shortcomings that have to be taken into consideration.

Some features (like tone-mapping or panorama stitching ) is often slow.

Furthermore, some of the algorithms could also be improved, like the one behind the shadow and highlight adjustment layers. It seems like Photoshop can get more details from the shadows and highlights than in Affinity Photo. However, in version 1.7 the shadow and highlight adjustment algorithm was rewritten.

Affinity Photo is still young compared to Photoshop, and the shortcomings are not deal-breakers for anyone but the pickiest photographers.

What Does Affinity Photo Cost?

Affinity Photo costs a one-time price of $49.95 for the desktop version of Affinity Photo. It is available in both the Microsoft Store and the App Store on Mac. You can also buy and download it directly from Serif.

Affinity Photo Review - shown on Windows Surface Studio

What is Included in the License?

As a private individual you are allowed to download and install the app on all computers that you own. No matter if it is one, two, five or ten. However, if you buy Affinity Photo for Windows, and you own a Mac, you need to also purchase the Mac version of the software. So the license covers all desktop devices you own running that particular operation system (Windows or Mac).

If you want Affinity Photo for iPad, you need a separate license for that too. We have a short section further down in this review that discuss the iPad version.

Downloading and Setting Up Affinity Photo

The download size in App Store is 349MB. After installing (the Mac version,) Affinity Photo takes up around 1GB of disk space. By comparison, Photoshop takes up 2GB.

The first time you run the program, you will see the startup panel, with tutorials, samples, and links to the Affinity User Forum. There isn’t a guided tour of the interface like you find in, i.e., Luminar.

The startup panel also includes a New Document link to a dialogue, which helps you set the properties for a new document. As a photographer, a link to open an existing image would be welcomed. However, it is a minor thing, as you probably want to disable the startup panel from opening once you get to know Affinity Photo.

The User Interface

The current trend in user interfaces is dark-gray and very understated icons. Affinity Photo follows this trend to a certain point with icons being the exception. The icons are colorful but easily distinguishable. The industry-standard of dark-gray understated icons may have gone too far to a point where it is actually difficult to distinguish the dark-gray icons from each other, which is a real annoyance in Photoshop.

If all icons have the same color and tone, you can only separate the icons by the shape, which is not user-friendly at all. So Affinity Photo avoided this trap with the user interface, which as great to see.

Serif has divided the user interface into separate task-oriented workspaces called personas. This means that you will only see icons related to what you are working with. It makes sense with all the features crammed into a single program.

The personas are:

  • Photo: used for most of the photo enhancement process.
  • Liquify: is used pixel manipulated, like giving a person a smaller face or more visible check bones, or creating creative and artistic effect to art images.
  • Develop is the RAW-developer for pre-processing steps before you take the image into the Photo persona
  • Tone Mapping is for creating HDR images, using local contrast, tone-mapping, and so on. You can compare it to Nik HDR Efex.
  • Export is for exporting your images to multiple formats, sizes, and slices at once. It is very similar to the slice tool in Photoshop.
Affinity Photo Personas
The Persona Icons

Like Photoshop, the interface shows a toolbar to the left, a topbar and context bar at the top and all the relevant panels at the right side. There are a total of 25 panels that you can undock or hide as you wish. Should you accidentally remove too many, you can reset the workspace from the View > Studio menu.

You can’t save the custom workspace as you can in Photoshop. However, Affinity Photo remembers your latest settings and activated panels.

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Customization, Keyboard Shortcuts and Clicks

You can use the mouse wheel + CTRL to zoom in and out on your image like you can use the common CTRL and + (plus) or – (minus) to do the same. Double clicking on a slider resets it back to the default value. CMD + 1 takes you to 100%, CMD + 2 to 200%, whereas CMD + 0 zooms to fit the working area in Affinity Photo.

The keyboard shortcuts can be customized under Affinity Photo > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts (on a Mac).

preference window in Affinity Photo - customization
You can configure how you want shortcuts to work

You can also configure autosave at a given interval and set up the undo and redo limits in under Preferences. Furthermore, you can control how many of your machine’s resources you will allow it to use.

Performance settings in Affiinity Photo

There is full support of Wacom tablets, include pressure sensitivity, as an alternative to using your mouse.

The Affinity Photo Assistant allows you to control how Affinity Photo behaves. For example, you can control whether a new layer is placed on top of the active layer or considered a child layer.

Photo Editing Workflow in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is not a complete photo editing workflow solution like Lightroom or Capture One Pro, Luminar or so on. It should be compared to Photoshop or Corel PaintShop Pro, which are likewise intended for photo retouching, focus stacking, and image blending.

Is Affinity Photo Non-Destructive?

Along the same line with Photoshop, Affinity Photo is only non-destructive in the sense that you save the images in another format than the original. You can save your edited images in *.afphoto or *.psd format. You can also create a non-destructive workflow inside Affinity Photo, by using layers for all your edits, so you can revert to your original image, by just removing or disabling the layers.

Workflow solutions like Lightroom and Capture One Pro stores your edits in a separate (sidecar-) file, so you keep the original intact and don’t have to save your edited image as a new file.

Curves adjustment panel in Affinity Photo

RAW Converter

If you open a RAW file in Affinity Photo, you will be taken to the Develop Persona, which is equivalent to Adobe Camera Raw.

Here you can make basic corrections which you can also do in the Photo Persona. However, some things like lens corrections, remove chromatic aberration, defringe, and lens vignetting can only be corrected in the Develop Persona. So if you at a later stage in your editing process want to change i.e. the lens correction settings, you have to visit the Develop Persona again, which is a bit annoying.

Currently, there are no lens profiles to apply automatic lens correction, like in Capture One Pro or DxO Optics Pro. You cannot save your settings as your own custom profile that fits your different lenses either.

Some reviews state that noise reduction is only available in the Develop Persona, but this is not true. You can always apply noise reduction as a normal filter or a live filter in the Photo Persona.

It support batch processing and macros, which is useful for speeding up your workflow.

Adjusting Images

The main image adjustment is done in the right side studio panel. This is where you find all the adjustment layer panels for enhancing tones and colors, like exposure, contrast, levels, highlight, and shadow adjustments, plus vibrance and HSL adjustments, and many more. The adjustment panels are placed at the center of the right side.

HSL adjustments

On top them, you can find things like the histogram, brushes, and the color picker panel. At the bottom of the right side, you will find the layers panel, channels, and the history panel. This is Very similar to Photoshop.

The Layer Panel is also quite similar to the one in Photoshop, and it doesn't take long to get used to working with.
The Layer Panel is also quite similar to the one in Photoshop, and it doesn’t take long to get used to working with.

To add an adjustment layer just select it from the adjustment layer panel and modify the sliders in the dialog.

To add sharpness and handling noise you add a filter. You can do this in two ways. You can add a normal filter, which is stamped onto your pixel layer (destructively) or you can use the Live Filter tool, which is added as a separate filter, you can modify at any stage of the editing process.

Selection Tools

The selection tools work well in general. The Selection Brush Tool is straightforward to use and a clear favorite when you want to create a quick selection. Affinity Photo also supports snap to edges, and you can adjust for feathering, smoothing, and anti-aliasing.

You can refine all selections to create a more precise selection. As you can see in the sample below, you can create very precise selections of even strands of hair using the Refine selection tool.

Refine mask

The healing tool is not quite up to Photoshop standard though, even though it does a decent job. The inpaint tool is excellent though and lets you easily remove most unwanted objects from your image.

Liquify Tools

All tools that let you push pixels around are grouped together under the Liquify Persona. Not many photographers will likely use these tools every day. However, it can be useful if you are into remodeling someones face in your images. You need to be very gentle when using these tools, to avoid ending up with unnatural looking faces.

Photo Merge Tools

Panorama Stitching

Even though Affinity Photo lacks some merging options, it generally does a great job with most panorama stitching jobs, you throw at it. In many cases better than Photoshop. We have tested using handheld vertical captured shots with a DSLR without any issues or messed up areas in the final result. It does lack the ability to properly edit the merged result, in case you want control of which overlapping areas are included and which is left out.

In Photoshop you can see and edit the layer mask of each image layer. This makes is easier to modify the final output. In Affinity Photo, you need to correct the sticking before making the final rendering and entering the Photo persona.

HDR Merge

HDR merge allows you to bring out the best details from multiple exposures into a single photo. In the HDR merger, you can select an unlimited number of source images. It will align them automatically before merging them into a final result.

Be warned though, it is a very resource-demanding task. It will likely take a couple of minutes to perform unless your computer is extremely powerful.

On an iMac with an i5 processor and 24 GB RAM, it took approx. 5 minutes to align, merge, and tone-map 5 bracketed 36MP photos into a single HDR. It is simply too slow compared to what competing software can deliver. However on a new iMac, MacBook or Windows PC, you will get different results.

Review of Affinity Photo - Tone Mapping Persona
The Tone Mapping Persona

However, the result is impressive. As with any other automatic HDR merge software, a skilled photographer can tell that it is not manually blended. After merging you will be taken to the Tone Mapping Persona unless you uncheck the box before beginning the merge process. If you instead prefer to blend multiple exposures manually, you can do so, using the blend range tool, or even create luminosity masks like in Photoshop.

Focus Merge

As a macro photographer, I am pleased to also see a tool like Focus merge.

Focus merge can blend focus stacked images into a single image with a greater depth of field. It is not flawless, but neither is Photoshop’s focus stacking tool. It all depends on the images you load into the focus.

You can use the stamp tool together with the source studio panel, to stamp in details from the different source images. You use this to make the stack perfect and remove ghosting artifacts from the merged image.

Automating Tasks

Affinity Photo does support automating tasks by using macros. Macros in Affinity Photo is the same as Actions in Photoshop.

Not all tasks or steps are supported for macro recording yet, however. For example, you cannot record moving layers and a few other tasks are also not recordable. This limits the types of macros that you can record. However, the feature is still very useful in a lot of cases, even though it is not as useful and flexible as Photoshop’s action feature.

Outputting Your Images

If you want to slice your image into custom slices, you should use the Export Persona. After slicing you can choose different output format for each slice and have them exported all at once.

If you don’t need to slice the image, which is the case for most photographers, you should go to File > Export and choose which file format you want to export your photo as. The photo editor support export in PNG, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PSD, PDF, SVG, WMF, or EPS.

Export options in Affinity Photo

The photo editor also supports soft proofing (through adjustment layers) and color management (including ICC profile importing).

Tutorials and Support

There is a growing number of tutorials for Affinity Photo, including those here on Photography-RAW. However, compared to other photo editing software, like Photoshop which has been on the market for ages. But, then again, how many tutorials for using the same technique, do we need.

Serif has a set of free video tutorials, which demonstrates how to use each technique in details. On this website, you can also find a complete video course, if you want to learn the most essential features necessary to build an entire photo editing workflow in Affinity Photo. You can watch the intro for the course just below.

The official Affinity Forum is very active in helping you with finding answers to your questions or issues. It is an invaluable source if you should run into any issues. Unlike most other photo editing programs, Affinity Photo has its own inbuilt help feature. This is very nice as an alternative to be sent online or to a user forum, whenever you need help with using a tool.

Performance

This Affinity Photo review was made by testing it on an iMac (2.9 GHz Intel Core i5 ) with 24GB RAM, with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M 512 M graphic card. The program was responsive most of the time and very stable. A few operations like Tone Mapping, Panorama stitching, and HDR merge were slow. However, it finished the job, even though it took a few minutes.

Affinity Suite

When deciding on a photo editor, you also have to take a look at your overall workflow. Do you need to use your images in illustrations or larger publications? Your photo editor needs to be able to work closely together with other apps.

Even though Affinity Photo can both load and save in the .psd file format, you will get the best workflow if you get Affinity Designer and Publisher for seamless integration between both your photo editor, graphic and illustration tools (Designer), and your multi-page publications in Publisher.

It does support working with vector graphics. However, if you want to work extensively with vector graphics, Affinity Designer is the way to go.

Currently, the Affinity suite doesn’t have a software app for digital asset management. This is actually one of its biggest drawbacks since they seek to win over Photoshop users, who also get Lightroom with their Photoshop subscription. With no image management system in place, many will hesitate from switching.

Affinity needs to offer a complete set of photo editing tools and photo library management. They currently only have a good contender for the photo editing part. Many will avoid the just as costly Capture One subscription model, as an alternative to Lightroom.

Affinity Photo for Desktop or iPad Version

If you like editing photos on your iPad, there is a version of Affinity Photo dedicated to the iPad as well. However, it requires a separate license that costs $19.99 and is available in the app store.

Affinity Photo for iPad works on iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 & 3, iPad Mini 5 and iPad (early 2017 onwards).

Affinity Photo Review – The Bottom Line

You can’t beat the fact that you get a whole lot of what Photoshop offers at the fraction of a price.

I know that many photographers have heated dreams of Adobe Photoshop being free. But it is not going to happen. And the completely free software alternatives to Photoshop, like GIMP or the premium Pixelmator PRO, are simply not professional enough for the needs of serious photographers.

In many ways, it can replace Photoshop for most photographers and a great way to a lot of money in the long run compared to Photoshop’s subscription model.

In some areas, Affinity Photo is quite a bit behind Photoshop. However, Photoshop has also been around a couple of decades more than Affinity Photo, and I doubt if most photographers will actually miss the most advanced features.

If you have a very advanced and intensive post-processing workflow, you might be more comfortable sticking with Photoshop. But then again, you can create advanced stuff like luminosity masks in Affinity Photo. I would say that your workflow has to be really special for this to be your strongest argument.

However, the bottom line of this Affinity Photo review is that you should give serious thought to whether Affinity Photo could handle your advanced post-processing needs, in order to save a lot of money. It is a great photo editing app that can compete with the most advanced competitors on the market.

Get a Free Trial Before You Buy

One of the best ways of finding out if Affinity Photo is a photo editor, that supports your workflow, is by downloading a free trial for Mac or Windows and taking it for a test spin.

Affinity Photo Tutorials on Photography-RAW

What is your experience of Affinity Photo? Share your thoughts below.

12 thoughts on “Affinity Photo Review – Pro Image Editing Software (2021)”

  1. What is the date of this review, which version was reviewed? Have you looked at Affinity Publish or is it incorporated in this review?

    Reply
    • Hi Stan,

      This review is made for version 1.7 of Affinity Photo. We have already planned to update it, however we have some other interesting things to work on before we get to updating this article to also incorporate changed in version 1.8 of Affinity Photo. However, the overall review is still valid, as there are not so many major changes in version 1.8.

      I have focused only on Affinity Photo, and not Affinity Publisher. This website is mainly for photographers, so I don’t think we will write a review of Affinity Publisher here.

      Reply
  2. Perhaps i should be embarrassed posting this…makes me seem incompetent.

    I find the beginner instructions and tutorials quite incomplete. I wanted an application for doing very simple things to photos, such as printing multiple good quality pics at home for a mural…just a fun wall. And the ability to ‘grow’ with the application as I saw fit.

    And to be clear…though I am no computer expert, I work with them daily…many applications. But I cannot do the simplest of things with Affinity. Though I work hard at understanding the language learning curve, I cannot even put 2 photos onto one page…let alone get to the printing aspect. Of course…I use their help menus, read internet forums etc, but no luck. I may have to bite the bullet and go to Adobe and get into the gruesome monthly contract.

    Signed, feeling like a fish out of water.

    Reply
    • It sound like some of the things you wish to do with Affinity Photo is more a job for Affinity Publisher or Designer, like putting 2 images side by side on the same page.

      I know that in i.e. Lightroom you can do that in the Print module, but Affinity Photo is more like Photoshopm which is also not the best application for putting several images on a page. It is doable in Photoshop, and also in Affinity Photo. However, it is not the best application for the task.

      Reply
  3. I’ve used Photoshop , and did like it, but not the pricing. I currently use several tools, Lightroom , Corel PaintShop Pro , CorelDraw, and now I mainly use Affinity Photo for photo editing . If I need to do something I’ll use which tool(s) work the best or at least what I can do the task(s) best with.

    the interactions with XP-Pen graphic tablets such as Artist Series https://www.xp-pen.com/series/Artist-display.html could be improved. In particular, there’s no way to properly use the brushes properties of pressure and tilt. The brushes customization self, is very complicated and inadequate, so it works bettere with mouse and keyboard instead than a graphic tablet.

    Reply
  4. Many thanks for the review.
    I have used photoshop for years , mainly to bring out the best in raw images .
    I am fed up with the subscription and have been since the days when they stopped selling PS.
    Cameras have advanced a great deal and with a little thought and the correct exposure and focusing one can now capture stunning images needing few adjustments.
    I intend to give Affinity a try and hope to rid myseldf of the PS subscription.
    Pity as I have alwasy enjoyed using PS but for me like many it has too many bells and whistles that I have never ever used

    Reply
  5. I am switching to Affinity Photo from Photoshop as I find the raw imaging is better with my Fujifilm camera. The only problem is the huge file size of afphoto files – easily double that of psd files. Have you any tips on reducing their size? Some youtube videos say you should ‘flatten’ he image between actions but I guess that loses all of the history?

    Reply
  6. Was a Photoshop user since version 4, I’m talking way back in the 90s. I wish Adobe still offered a purchase without subscription. I hate that model and find their customer support is horrendous. Started using Affinity about a year ago. This is awesome software (both Affinity Photo and Designer). It has replaced Photoshop and Illustrator for me. As of writing this it is on version 1.9.3 and I have found that everything I was doing with Adobe’s software I am able to do on Affinity. Decided to go full on about 4 months ago and have no regrets. With every release it gets better and the one amazing perk is that after you’ve bought the software you will get updates for life without having to cash up another payment.

    Reply
    • Hi Martha,

      Yes, Affinity Photo has a clone tool that works the same as Photoshop. It is my most used tool in Affinity Photo.

      Reply
  7. Since my retirement over 20 years ago I have edited, illustrated and prepared print-ready files for a series of five volumes of sailing directions for my yacht club, using Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Xpress. I am now at an age when I am looking to spread the load amongst a few fellow members but the difficulty had always been the staggering cost of providing them with the necessary software. The advent of the Affinity suite is the answer to my prayers.

    I came across it in early 2021 and bought Photo, Designer and Publisher in May and have never regretted it. Although I had been using the Adobe and Quark software since 1990 I have found the transition to Affinity no problem at all and find that they do everything that I need at a fraction of the price. I would recommend it unhesitatingly to anyone struggling to come to terms with the self-defeating pricing policy of Adobe and Quark.

    Reply
  8. THANK YOU for including detailed information about licensing (perpetual licence vs subscription, # of computers, download/install vs running off the internet, etc) and about the download file size! That should be standard on any kind of software review, yet it is usually omitted. Do you know of a bundle price for the entire Affinity suite? Also, does Affinity have a good background eraser tool? That is what i would use it for mostly, and I can’t find a good background remover in any software. I mainly use it for extracting transparent objects from photos to insert into videos, video thumbnails, memes and such. Thanks!

    Reply

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