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Affinity Photo Review – Pro Image Editing Software (2021)

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

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What is Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is a photo editor. 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 well suited for advanced editing for most photographers. Affinity Photo is part of the Affinity Suite which also includes Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher (separate licenses).

Affinity Photo Review Overall Rating: 4/5

Pros:

Layer-based editing. Panorama, HDR merge, focus stacking, macro support. Raw image support but also works with raster and vector images.

Cons:

You cannot create custom workspaces, and it is a bit slow with very large files. Just like Photoshop, it is not an easy program to learn for beginners. It doesn’t support creating smart objects. You cannot save custom workspaces, but any change you make to the single user interface you have is saved.

Quick Verdict: Affinity Photo

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 Affinity 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
Compared 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. Affinity Photo supports using your Photoshop plugins, but it is not certain that a Photoshop plugin supports Affinity Photo. Nik Collection above v. 2.5 supports Affinity Photo.
3.3

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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 – supports most raw files.
  • HDR merge
  • Panorama stitching 
  • Focus Stacking 
  • Batch Processing
  • Lens corrections
  • PSD-Files Editing support  – Import Photoshop documents including smart objects
  • Layer-based editing for a non-destructive workflow
  • 360-degree image editing 
  • Single price and no subscription
  • Blend modes
  • 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 used settings as presets
  • Lighting filters
  • Unlimited history and snapshot
  • Delivers professional image quality
  • Thumbnail previews
  • Vector editing
  • Hide/Show interface elements

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 both the Windows version and Mac version 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. However, if you buy Affinity Photo for Windows and you also own a Mac, you need to also purchase the Mac version of the software.

If you want Affinity Photo for iPad, you need a separate license for that too.

Downloading and Setting Up Affinity Photo

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

The User Interface

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.

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 effects.
  • Develop is for editing RAW images for pre-processing steps before you take your image into the Photo persona.
  • Tone Mapping is for creating HDR images, using local contrast, tone-mapping, and so on.
  • Export Persona is for exporting your images to multiple formats, sizes, and slices at once.
Affinity Photo Personas
The Persona Icons

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

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 under Preferences. Furthermore, you can control how many resources you will allow it to use.

Performance settings in Affiinity Photo

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.

Curves adjustment panel in Affinity Photo

RAW Converter – The Develop Persona

If you open a RAW file in Affinity Photo, you will be taken to the Develop Persona, which is equivalent to Adobe Camera Raw. The Develop Persona is only meant for raw processing, like lens corrections and correct basic exposure issues. Everything you do here is destructive editing, meaning that it is burnt into the pixel layer. After doing the basic exposure adjustments to your raw files you do the rest of the work in the Photo Persona.

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.

Adjusting Images – The Photo Persona

The main image adjustment is made 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. This is also where you find the layers panel and create layer masks.

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 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.

Photo Merge Tools

Panorama Stitching

Even though Affinity Photo lacks some merging options, the image editor generally does a great job with most panorama stitching jobs. In many cases better than Photoshop.

HDR Merge

HDR merge allows you to 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.

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. 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

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.

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. This limits the types of macros that you can record. However, the feature is still very useful in a lot of cases.

Outputting Your Images

The photo editor support export in file formats like 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, this few compared to other photo editing software, like Photoshop, which has been on the market for ages.

On this website, you can also find a complete video course if you want to learn the essential features necessary to build an entire photo editing workflow in Affinity Photo.

Performance

This Affinity Photo review was done 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 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 the photo editing tools that 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 some areas, Affinity Photo is quite a bit behind Photoshop and does lack a bit of the finish found in Adobe’s software. 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.

It is a great photo editing app with advanced tools and beats other editing software in many aspects, even though it might not beat Photoshop. If you want to get rid of an Adobe subscription but really need something like Photoshop, then Affinity Photo is a great Photoshop alternative.

You also need to find an equivalent to Adobe Lightroom if you previously used Adobe Photoshop. The Affinity line of apps doesn’t include tools for managing your image files. You also need to think about whether you will miss other Adobe products

One of the best ways of finding out if Affinity Photo can work for you is by downloading a free trial for Mac or Windows and taking it for a test spin.

More Affinity Photo Tutorials on Photography-RAW

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

19 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
      • The title states 2021. Affinity 1.9 was released at the beginning of the year and 1.10 mid year. A lot has changed since 1.7. the cons stated at the beginning are no longer valid. Affinity allows you to download updated lens profiles in xml from GitHub and place them in the profile folder, so you can add newer lenses and being xml you can easily tweek them. They have studio profiles which are essentially custom workspaces. They have live filters and adjustment layers which are essentially like having smart objects without having to explicitly convert a layer to a smart object. Large performance improvements and better gpu integration have made it much faster than Photoshop.

        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
    • Hi Peter,

      If you are totally new to photo editing, I would suggest that you begin with a combined photo editor and photo library management app. They are faster to work with, but have their limitations when it comes to complex editing.

      This could be apps like Lightroom, or On1 Photo RAW. They are both great apps for most photographers. I think that Capture One will be too advanced and difficult for beginners.

      Reply
  9. Hello, question from Norway.
    Affinity Photo (and the complete Suite interests me).
    I am often visiting museums with objects exposed behind glass. Reflexes in the glass causes difficulties, also photo lights if used adds to reflections. These reflections often seem a bit like the haze on can see in outdoor photos, and I notice you have a “Haze filter” to improve , even remove the haze.
    Can this feature also reduce reflections in glass panes ? Or do you have other solution(s) to that?
    Sometimes taking several photos from slightly different angles will make different parts of the same object clear as the reflections move a bit. Is it possible to have the Affinity Photo combine several such photos to combine them into one picture without reflections?
    I think this is a frequent problems for many visiting museums.
    Sincerely Mr. Jon Dahl, Oslo – Norway

    Reply
  10. “It doesn’t support creating smart objects”
    In fact, it does not need to convert e.g. a picture into a “smart object” because every imported picture is “smart” by itself. I never understood why PhotoShop still needs this conversion. Just to confuse the user?

    Reply
  11. Hey Peter, I just updated my iMac desktop, and of course, as I knew it would, it doesn’t recognize my Photoshop CS3 version I was using. But I knew how to do many things with CS3. Really interested in Affinity Photo, as I’m not to excited about a monthly fee for Photoshop now ! Can you tell me,…with CS3 I used to make filter adjustments to some of my photos, like dry brush, water color, brush strokes, and ink outline, effects. Does Affinity Photo have something similar like that ?? Different filters you can use to change your photo looks ???
    Thank You,
    Doug Davis

    Reply
  12. i had to restore my pc, and during the upset, my Affinity suite, appears to have dissapeard.
    now Affinity say they have no record of my purchase….how come ?

    Reply

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