If you shoot RAW photos, it may seem like you have to fork out for Lightroom or other similar expensive software to easily view and process those images. But do not rush to get upset. There are quite a few options available on macOS when it comes to high-quality free RAW editors. It remains to figure out which one to choose?
In this post, we'll go into more detail on some of the best free RAW photo editors for Mac.
Software from camera manufacturers
Before turning your eyes to third-party RAW photo editors, do not forget about the options that are initially at your disposal. Most cameras use a proprietary (proprietary) RAW format, so they come with free software to process your images.
For example, to view CR2 format on your Mac, you can use Canon's proprietary software suite: Digital Photo Professional. And if you're a Nikon user, the free Capture NX-D software is available to you.
Here are some links to download free branded apps from major camera manufacturers:
- FujiFilm X Raw Studio | Silkypix
The software offered differs in quality, the best option, perhaps, can be called Sony Capture One Express. Nevertheless, these applications are great for primary photo editing. After you've tweaked your image, you probably want to feed it to your editor of choice for further processing.
Some manufacturers (and smartphones) use DNG for RAW. It is a versatile format that any RAW editor will work with.
When it comes to software you already own, don't forget Apple Photos. This app is installed on every Mac and is a pretty decent RAW editor on its own.
The main function of Photos is to organize photos. The app is especially useful if you take a lot of photos on your iPhone. However, the editing features in Photos are there too, and they are better than you might expect. The app borrows a lot from Apple's old Lightroom alternative, Aperture, which was discontinued some time ago.
The program is great for quick editing and can work with large libraries. If you are interested in basic settings - brightness and contrast, horizon alignment, etc., then you do not need to look for an alternative to Photos. There are also Curves and Levels tools for more practical scenarios.
Darktable is one of the most popular free open source RAW photo converters for Mac. But there are versions for Linux, Windows.
The app can be considered a complete replacement for Lightroom. It allows you to perfectly organize and manage your photos. Darktable includes a professional print mode as well as a map mode that uses location data embedded in your photos.
As a RAW editor, darktable performs at its best. It includes all the features you'd expect for color and contrast adjustments or noise reduction. One interesting tool is the tone equalizer, which provides a graphical way to give your pictures a general mood.
As is often the case with open source applications, power comes from excellence and usability. While the basics of darktable are easy to grasp, if you need to use more advanced tools, you will find that it takes some learning.
Download: darktable (Free)
RawTherapee is another popular open source editor available for both Mac and Windows, Linux. The app is incredibly powerful, and the first time you open it, the interface can even be a little overwhelming. But RawTherapee is worth the persistence of learning to work with it.
There are a huge number of tools here. But even a relatively simple action, such as sharpening images, can seem much more difficult than in other programs. But if you want precise control, then this is the best option.
Luckily, you can download or save your own development profiles. Once you find a style that you like, it will greatly simplify your entire workflow. And the complexity of the program really means that it has almost all the features you need: haze reduction, distortion correction, and more.
In general, RawTherapee is not suitable for newbie users. Another major drawback is that it is not very suitable for file management. If that's exactly what you want, it's best to look for another way to organize your shots.
Download: RawTherapee (Free)
If you are primarily looking for a free RAW viewer rather than an editor then take a look at Picktorial. The app is exclusively for Mac and has some powerful and useful image management features in its arsenal.
The free version of Picktorial can be used to open, view and export RAW images. You can quickly import, sort and rate your photos, and the A / B and Before / After panels make it easy to compare and find the best shots.
And if you need full-fledged editing, then Picktorial will do just that. But in this case, you need to upgrade to the Premium version with a monthly subscription or one-time payment.
Download: Picktorial (Free, premium version available)
And here's another open source RAW editor.
Several features are standard RAW processing tools, such as curve and level corrections, or noise reduction and sharpening.
Some of the features are more in line with what you expect from Photoshop. You can use digiKam to add text or apply drawing filters, and you can also export images directly to your social media accounts.
It will take some time to master digiKam, because the program has many features and tools.
Download: digiKam (Free)
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