This article compares two popular photo editors, Affinity Photo vs. GIMP. You’ll find other comparative reviews on photography-raw.com. It’s important to be aware of what an editor has to offer and try it on your own before deciding to use it. You don’t want to change your photo editor, develop a new workflow, and lose old editing projects every two weeks. Choosing a photo editor is a long-term commitment.
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There are plenty of photo editors that promise to deliver amazing photos with no effort. Many of them use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to recognize objects or photography types. Then, they provide automatic adjustments with no or minimum user interaction. Others aim to transform a mobile phone into a portable photo studio. Some of them are free, while others require expensive monthly subscriptions. There are photo editors that run in any browser and there are photo editors that need powerful hardware resources. Therefore it’s not easy to figure out which one is the best photo editor for you.
We’ve analyzed the two photo editors chosen for this article from all points of view. Not only photo editing features matter. You have to consider costs, hardware and software requirements, maintenance, available plugins, workflow, support for RAW and batch processing, and image organizing tools. If you end up using three or four applications to process your photos, you may rethink your choices. Nowadays, photo editors are complete software solutions that cover everything from tethered shooting to printing settings.
The History of GIMP
GIMP was announced in November 1995 by Peter Mattis and was initially dedicated to Linux users. It was designed as a free open-source image editor aiming to provide an intuitive graphic interface. Over time, GIMP has become much more than that. Today, it runs on Windows and Mac as well and mimics pretty much all Photoshop’s functionalities. It even looks like Photoshop in terms of graphic interface. Moreover, GIMP has grown a wide community of developers and users and it’s still free. If you know how to code in C++, Scheme, Python, or Perl, you can improve the current version of GIMP and share it with your peers.
The History of Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo is a Serif product. Serif has been in the graphic software business since 1987 but it was the Affinity Suite that made Serif popular. Launched in 2014, 2015, and respectively 2019, Affinity Designer, Photo, and Publisher are award-winning creative graphics software. The Affinity Suite covers the entire publishing industry and delivers high-quality products loved by Windows, Mac, and iPad users. Affinity is not available for Linux users.
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The Battle of Requirements
It may seem unusual to start this comparison with system requirements but put it this way: If your device is unable to run the program, it’s useless to install it in the first place. So before getting exciting with a new and advanced photo editor, see if you have what it needs to function properly.
Requirements: Affinity Photo vs. GIMP
|Operating system||Windows, Mac, iPad||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|CPU||Intel 64-bit Core 2 Duo or better (from 2007)||Intel Pentium 4 (or equivalent) or better|
|RAM||2 GB||250 Mb|
In terms of price, we’ve already said that GIMP can be used for free. Affinity Photo isn’t too expensive either. A lifetime license costs only $49.99.
Workflow and Interface
Affinity Photo and GIMP have similar interfaces and follow the UI graphic design of Adobe Photoshop. You have the tools panel on the left and additional panels on the right. Both editors have customizable interfaces and allow you to change the GUI theme, hide or show panels, and place them anywhere you want on the screen. What’s even better, both editors allow you to open multiple images at once and edit them in parallel, copy objects from one image to another, and select a color from any image using the Color Picker tool.
It may seem that interface is only an insignificant detail, but a photo editor has to be easy to use and flexible. You want a fluid workflow with all the necessary tools at hand. The interface needs to be user-friendly, straightforward, and pleasant. Here Affinity Photo has an advantage over GIMP because its interface is modern and appealing. Everything is where it needs to be. Furthermore, panning and zooming tools are exquisite. Affinity Photo has smooth pan and zoom at 60fps.
GIMP and Affinity Photo focus on photo editing features and don’t include digital asset management tools. As any operating system comes with a file manager, the lack of digital asset management tools doesn’t ruin the workflow. However, batch processing is essential for a professional photographer, and here is where GIMP comes short.
Batch processing and file extensions
GIMP has a batch mode but it runs in the command line. Well, not many photographers know what a command line is. On the other hand, Affinity Photo has the New Batch Job function under the File menu. It allows you to save a bunch of photos in a different format, convert them into black and white images, or apply other prerecorded operations called Macro.
When you choose a photo editor you should look for layers, tools for selective edits, histograms, tools for recording editing actions and undo them, preview windows, and zooming abilities. All these make your editing process easier and faster. Both GIMP and Affinity Photo offer these tools and make them quickly accessible using shortcuts and intuitive graphic elements. In addition, GIMP supports a wide range of file formats including RAW file formats, animation file formats, Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, and PDF. Affinity Photo supports fewer file formats but still checks all important formats for a photographer such as RAW file formats, Photoshop, PDF, and HDR files.
Photo Adjustments and Filters
Although workflow and utilities are important, what really makes a difference for a photographer are photo adjustments and filters. Whether you choose GIMP or Affinity Photo you’ll have tools to rotate, scale, crop, deform, and flip your photos. You’ll also have tools for basic adjustments such as exposure, brightness, contrast, colors, white balance, and lens distortions.
Both editors try to provide the tools any professional photo editor has. Tools such as Levels, Curves, HSL, black and white conversion, Colorize, Posterize, and Channel Mixer are among the best features of these editors. They also offer automatic adjustments such as Auto White Balance, Auto Color, and Auto Contrast.
Many of these features are similar but the overall impression is that Affinity Photo’s adjustments are more refined and intuitive. The Levels tool, for example, displays histograms for each color channel and shows you small samples of how the result will look. It also allows you to choose a specific blending mode and create more artistic compositions. In terms of automatic adjustments, Affinity Photo also offers Auto Levels and its colors are more accurate and natural-looking.
Advanced photo editing features
Features such as Lighting, Vibrance, Split Toning, and LUT prove that Affinity Photo is designed with photography in mind. They provide fine-tuned controls, live previews, and subtle changes. Mix them with selective adjustments and layer overlaying and you have almost endless possibilities to edit your photos.
GIMP offers many useful tools too but it’s not easy to learn how to use them. Like Photoshop, GIMP focuses on applying one adjustment at a time and targets all types of images at the same time. You also have to learn to use complex selection tools, which isn’t easy when working with artistic photographs.
On the other hand, Affinity Photo targets photographers. You can still use it one action at a time but you can also choose to use dedicated workflows such as Develop Persona, Liquify Persona, and Tone Mapping Persona. These workflows bring together adjustments that are useful in specific situations. By restricting the set of tools, Affinity Photo provides shortcuts for editing a certain type of photos. Develop Persona, for example, is created for editing RAW photos and helps you fix exposure, reduce noise, correct lens distortions, and adjust tones. Tone Mapping is dedicated to HDR photography and Liquify Persona deals with accurate warping of images.
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GIMP includes filters with specific results such as adding blur, reducing noise, applying artistic effects, and adding frames and borders. All of them have lots of parameters you have to understand before using the filter. Moreover, you won’t find yourself using such extreme effects too often.
Affinity Photo has fewer filters and more orientated to photography. You’ll have filters for removing noise and haze, adding blur, sharpening, and distorting. The editor also allows you to overlay a texture or a different image, add or remove a vignette, and change the lighting. And that’s about it. In terms of parameters, Affinity Photo also chooses the easy way: all you have to set is the intensity of the filter.
Another feature that tips the scales in favor of Affinity Photo is the use of smart brushes. Tools such as Color Replacement Brush and Background Erase Brush save you a lot of time and energy. You don’t need to make selections and masks to change an object’s color or the background of a photo. These smart brushes do all the work for you. Again, it’s the photographer’s approach versus the graphic designer’s approach.
If you create digital artworks and need drawing features, you’ve come to the right place. GIMP offers everything from brushes to textures and text. It’s versatile, has plenty of selection tools and geometric transformations, works with layers to allow you to create collages, and exports in any possible file format.
Nevertheless, Affinity Photo also provides vector and text tools, brushes, support for creating and mixing brushes, and support for Apple Pencil. It allows unlimited layers and provides live blend modes to see the results in real-time. With plenty of effects and brushes, support for importing third-party brushes and textures, and the ability to work with really large images (100+ Megapixels), Affinity Photo proves once again it can handle big artistic projects from start to end.
Plugins and Presets
Being an open-source editor, GIMP has lots of plugins and many of them are free. Plugins cover situations where GIMP falls short. For example, if batch processing in the command line isn’t for you, install BIMP (Batch Image Manipulation Plugin). If GIMP’s filters are too harsh and hard to understand, install Beautify and transform GIMP into a photo retouching studio. You can also find plugins for stitching panorama, advanced RAW editing, image enlarging, and applying presets.
The most popular GIMP plugin for presets is GREYC’s Magic for Image Computing (G’MIC). It contains hundreds of presets, effects, and filters you can use without leaving the editor. These plugins transform GIMP into a complete photo editor.
Nevertheless, Affinity Photo has a different approach to plugins. It doesn’t require plugins developed specifically for Affinity Photo. It supports Photoshop plugins. This opens new perspectives for Affinity Photo because we all know that everybody makes plugins for Photoshop. For example, it supports Topaz Labs plugins and Nik Collection plugins too. You’ll find amazing plugins for denoising, fixing geometric defects, AI-based retouching, creating cinematic effects, HDR editing, and even editing analog pictures.
Presets in Affinity Photo is tool-specific settings that you can save. However, when we talk about presets in terms of applying a specific style to an image, Affinity Photo has much more to offer than GIMP. Whether they’re included in Affinity Photo or come as macros, plugins, or LUTs, presets for Affinity Photo are modern, stylish, and amazing. Take for example Silver Efex Pro from NIK Collection. It offers 20 stunning effects that emulate the look of classic film and allows you to adjust the finest details and create spectacular black and white photos. The same goes with Analog Efex Pro for vintage photography and Color Efex Pro for fine-tuning color photography. Presets delivers high-quality images in seconds.
Note that NIK is a separate app that you can purchase from DXO. It is not a part of Affinity Photo, but the point is that you can extend Affinity Photo with plugins with a range of popular plugins that also extends how you work with presets.
Which one is the best: Affinity Photo vs. GIMP?
GIMP is a great tool for image manipulation and basic photo editing. If you consider the plugins too, GIMP provides almost everything you need. It’s also free and cross-platform, doesn’t use too many resources, and you can find a lot of people ready to help you use it. However, GIMP gives you the tools and lets you do the rest. It tries to offer everything, from drawing features to effects, geometric tools, and RAW editing, and it becomes hard to learn and time-consuming. If you’re used to Photoshop, GIMP will be great for you. But if you want to process hundreds of photos fast and with natural-looking results, you want something designed for that.
Affinity Photo on the other hand tries to provide intuitive and straightforward tools. It is easy to use by professionals and beginners, and with amazing results. The editor is open to third-party plugins and brushes and focuses on artistic editing and image quality. Tools such as panorama stitching, 360 image editing, RAW editing, HDR editing, and macros and batch processing make Affinity Photo a great choice for photographers who don’t want to reinvent the wheel and do everything by themselves. It’s for creative people who need a fluid workflow and inspiration not changing one pixel at a time.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide which photo editor is the best for you. And your decision should be based on what you intend to do with the editor, what type of images you edit, and how well-equipped you’re in terms of hardware, software, and technical skills.
Let us know what you think and which editor suits your requirements. Do you prefer to edit everything yourself or save time by using smart tools and presets? Have you considered using GIMP vs. Affinity Photo? Use the comments section to share your thoughts with us.
Featured Photo by Joshua Rao on Unsplash
I’m a creative writer and photographer. For me, photography is a state of mind. It’s a way of living in the moment and transform it into memories. I photograph landscapes, wildflowers, and nature with my eyes and my heart. Through the viewfinder, I see the world free of any misconceptions.
5 thoughts on “Affinity Photo vs. GIMP”
I have seen GIMP but as I have the Affinity suite and more a Graphic Designer than photographer I prefer the interaction between Affinity Photo and its illustrator partner, Affinity Designer. This allows me to be more creative with my imagery where I can work in either of the two apps. For me GIMP would mean I have to rely on just pixel editing where currently I can switch between the two, as Ive said and use pixels in Affinity Drawing. This way of working opens up creativity, even more so than using Adobe’s Creative Suite. However I have recommended GIMP to friends who are creating more standard photographic imagery that don’t require the cross platform result.
A couple of things which are not covered in the review is O/S availability and the demands on O/S and hardware which do affect the ‘total cost of ownership’. Although both are available on Mac & Windows, GIMP is also available on Linux which does enable it to run on less powerful hardware and in the case of Chromebooks, much less expensive hardware. Whilst there is a version of Affinity for iPads (and it would be great if there was an Android version), GIMP has no offering on either.
I tried both for a few days before spring the $50 for Affinity. The bottom line for me was:-
1) Similarity to PS in organization and tools shortened adoption and learning curve
2) Edge selection tools, feathering and moving pixel boundaries much easier using Affinity. Not quite as accurate as PS but darned good. Gimp was really painful to use scissors tools etc for object selection.
NIK plug-ins also run on Gimp, with a very easy set-up (several YouTube videos are available for this).
I’ve had terrible luck with Bimp for batch processing, though.
Focus stacking – I do this a lot – in Affinity Photo it is very easy (easier than in Photoshop even) and effective; in GIMP it is tedious and difficult – really not worth the trouble. So, if you decide to use GIMP, you need another program for focus stacking.