Gadget news
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 review: an Adobe alternative, but it’s not for pros
2:20 pm | December 22, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

Choosing the best photo editing software is very much a matter of personal choice, with cost, features, and ease of use playing important roles in the decision-making process. Adobe dominates this area as the market leader for professionals and enthusiasts, but despite being the best available, it’s certainly not for everyone. This has opened up opportunities for alternative solutions, and an option for Windows users is ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024.

If you’re unfamiliar with this software, Photo Studio Ultimate offers a similar workflow to Lightroom and Photoshop, but its features are combined within a single interface rather than two separate programs. For some people, this will provide a more seamless editing experience, although Lightroom and Photoshop do integrate well despite being two separate programs for performing different tasks.

In a nutshell, Photo Studio Ultimate lets you view and manage images on your computer and process raw files with excellent functionality available alongside photo editing. This all-in-one photo editing solution for Windows provides an attractive alternative to the Likes of Affinity Photo 2, Lightroom, and Photoshop. Photo Studio Ultimate is available in two licensing flavors: a subscription and a perpetual license. Users can choose the licensing model that meets their needs and preferences, with pros and cons for each option mainly relating to cost over time, updates, and cloud storage.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Pricing & plans

  • Released in September 2023
  • Subscription and perpetual license options
  • Windows-only software

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 was released in September 2023. This latest version of the Windows-only software delivers a range of AI-powered tools and additional feature updates. The software offers a comparable package to the Adobe Photography Plan within a single interface and is targeted more towards beginners and enthusiasts.

ACDSee Home Plan is a monthly or annual subscription that costs $8.90 / £7.99 / AU$13.99 per month or $89 / £72 / AU$137 per year. This includes continuous free updates for the duration of the subscription, free tech support, up to five device installs, recording and video editing software, 200GB of cloud storage, and exclusive tutorials.

The ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 perpetual license costs $150 / £121/ AU$230 and includes free updates and tech support for one year, alongside one device install. While this is Windows-only software, Mac users can use ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 10, which is similar to Photo Studio Ultimate and costs $100 / £81 / AU$153.

  • Pricing & plans: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Interface & tools

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • Seamless Mode-based interface
  • Excellent raw processing functionality
  • Edit Mode offers photo editing

Photo Studio Ultimate provides a single, seamless interface that's divided into five Modes: Manage, Media, View, Develop and Edit. You can click on the desired Mode name at the top of the interface or begin with Manage for a raw file, for instance, and the software will take you through to Develop and then Edit if required. It’s an intuitive interface, but it could be further improved by combining the functionality of Manage, Media and View into a single Mode. In fact, Media could be eliminated because it’s not particularly useful or even necessary when you have Manage.

Manage is where you can view folders on your computer using the file tree on the left to select the desired image folder. You can move, delete, copy, rate, keyword, and even print images from here, as well as open them in the Develop and/or Edit Modes. Double-clicking on an image opens it in View with a film strip of thumbnails below. Double-clicking the image in View takes you back to Manage. In terms of how it works, it's great, but this functionality could be combined within a single Mode as previously mentioned. Media is simply images from folders that have been opened and is an unnecessary mess. That said, you can completely avoid it if, like me, you have no use for it.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The Develop Mode is primarily for raw image processing, but you can also run other file types, such as JPEGs, through these controls if you want to take advantage of the tools available. The Develop Mode is extremely feature-packed and provides a similar level of control and functionality as Lightroom, with all the controls you need, including masking for localized adjustments and presets for quick fixes. And although it’s not intimidating for enthusiasts, even professionals could achieve their desired results here.

Edit Mode is comparable to Photoshop and the Photo Persona in Affinity Photo with a wide variety of adjustments available, including Layers, Adjustment Layers, Layer Masks, Layer Effects, and Blending modes. Then there are Tools for performing specific tasks and what you might call direct common adjustments grouped on the left of the interface to keep things simple.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

While the interface here is well laid out and doesn’t throw up any surprises, the Edit Mode lacks the features and functionality advanced users and professionals would expect and need. For instance, you can only clone on pixel-based Layers rather than empty Layers, and you can’t group Layers. This area of the software would benefit from improved functionality, although the revamped Brush Tool now provides control over flow, shape, angle and jitter alongside the older Size, Feather and Opacity options.

This certainly doesn’t mean that the Edit Mode is bad. However, where the Manage and Develop Modes have always impressed and continue to do so with advanced functionality suitable for professional use, the Edit mode remains geared more towards beginners to intermediate users. You can undoubtedly achieve a lot here, and with just a few small improvements in functionality, it could become a much more capable section of the software.

  • Interface & tools: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Performance

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • Easy to use and intuitive
  • Zoomed images in View Mode are blurred
  • Inconsistent performance of features 

Photo Studio Ultimate is fairly easy to use and intuitive overall, though, of course, there's a small learning curve involved. I’ve used several versions of the software in the past, so it's familiar to me, but in all honesty, it’s the kind of software where just watching a few of ACDSee’s tutorial videos is enough to get you started. The interface is logical, so anyone with existing experience in photo editing software will find that while it has its own approach to some tasks, everything remains within familiar territory.

Image rendering and loading in other Modes can be a little slow compared to other software options, even with a powerful computer. In View Mode, when zoomed in at 100% to view image details, images appear blurred, even if they are sharp. This even occurs at 30%, which makes image assessment tricky when zoomed in, while at the default amount of 23% images look fine. Despite this, there are no slowdowns with tools or other features, which is most welcome. However, image assessment is important, and ultimately let down by this.

Overall, despite the limitations of the Edit mode, you can achieve many effects, and image quality can be great thanks to the excellent Develop Mode. Results of features, however, are inconsistent. Also, one issue that has remained from previous versions of the software is that the level of control available in more advanced features, including HDR, Panorama and Focus Stacking, lack controls, and results are inconsistent to the point where their inclusion feels like more of a box-ticking exercise than a meaningful inclusion of the features.

  • Performance: 3/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: New AI functionality

Image 1 of 2

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 2

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • New features focus mainly on AI
  • Content-aware keyword suggestions
  • AI-powered selections and masks

In Photo Studio Ultimate 2024, the main focus of new features is predominantly on AI functionality. Incorporating AI into photo editing software is commonplace at the moment, with most software options available offering varying degrees of AI-powered functionality. What’s new in ACDSee doesn’t raise any ethical questions around image creation and manipulation, with time-saving being the key term here. Well, except for AI Sky Replacement and AI Face Edit, these have been standard features in other software for some time.

Within the Manage Mode, AI Keywords provide content-aware keyword suggestions, making applying keywords to images quicker and easier, alongside the ability to manually type in keywords. Keywords can be added to IPTC data within images and can also be used for filtering images by category and keywords. Together, this is incredibly useful if you use keywords for searching images and/or for search engine optimization.

The Develop mode has also seen some AI improvements, which focus on masking for localized adjustments. These are self-explanatory and include AI Subject, AI Background, and AI Sky. At a basic level, they’re almost as effective as those in Lightroom, but they can't be intersected with other Masking Tools. There is a Brush Tool to add to masks, but unfortunately, no ability to delete from them that I could find.

Moving on to Edit Mode, this is where there are the most AI-powered features, and they work with varying degrees of success. Of course, the image or subject being edited does play a role here, with some performing better than others. AI Sky replacement allows you to use either ACDSee skies or your own images of skies that can be loaded in.

The feature even has a reflection option if water and a reflection are present in an image. This, as you’d expect, is most effective with less complex horizons, but on the whole, the controls available are comprehensive.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

AI selections have been incorporated into the software with the AI Object Selection Tool. With this, you draw loosely around an object, and the mask will snap to the object alongside three one-click menu-based selection options: AI Select Sky, AI Select Subject and AI Select Background. They do work, but results can be inconsistent depending on the complexity of the subject and background. They’re still useful, but not quite as effective as similar AI features in other editing software.

Finally, there are upgrades to Face Edit, which lets you adjust facial features in portrait images and, on the whole, works well if you don’t push settings too far. The new additions include the ability to change the direction of eyes both horizontally and vertically, although effectiveness does depend on the angle of the face. Then there are upgrades to the Skin section, which adds the functionality of the Skin Tune Tool (Smoothing and Glow) alongside the ability to smooth wrinkles and crow’s feet.

  • New AI functionality: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023: Scorecard

Should I buy ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023?

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023: Also consider

The Adobe Photography Plan featuring Lightroom and Photoshop is the industry standard and market-leading photo editing software, although Photoshop does have a steep learning curve. Features, functionality and the quality of results are hard to beat, so if you’re happy with the subscription-based licensing model this is the best software of its type available. The software is also available for both Mac and Windows.

Affinity Photo 2 is the next best software alternative to Photoshop, offering much of the same functionality and a much lower price for the perpetual license. The only downside is that there’s no image management available, with raw processing being more akin to Adobe Camera Raw than Lightroom. An image management solution is needed alongside this software for the best workflow experience.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 review: low-cost Photoshop alternative
11:30 am | December 10, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Two-minute review

For image editing, the market leader for decades has been Adobe Photoshop. However, PaintShop Pro has been around for almost as long and has grown to include a nearly identical feature set. 

The main Complete workspace will serve anyone wanting a Photoshop alternative well, with almost everything looking and feeling very familiar. There's also a dedicated Photography workspace, designed for use on a touchscreen, with a minimal design and tools that are essential rather than comprehensive. Its biggest frustration is that the look and feel are so different from the Complete workspace that it can be jarring. The same can also be said for the raw image editor. 

As with all new software, there are AI tools. However, these tools are similar to those Adobe has been using for years, even back when AI was just a scary buzzword. Some of the AI tools do an excellent job of masking images or reducing noise; they just don't seem as precise and intelligent as Adobe offerings. And there's no Generative Fill - the real cherry on the Photoshop cake. 

It feels like Corel is trying to pack as much as possible into PaintShop Pro without really thinking about how it all works together, and that is perhaps its biggest weakness.

The tools are all there, and anyone looking for a budget Photoshop alternative would do well to consider PaintShop Pro. It is excellent value and great for those who don't want to sign up for a subscription.

Main screen of Corel Paintshop Pro 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Pricing & plans

  • Available as Standalone software with Pro and Ultimate Versions 
  • Pro - $79.99 / £69.99 / AU$83
  • Ultimate - $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$104
  • Regular offers and discounts

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShop Pro is a subscription-free image-editing suite and comes at a very affordable price. We've tested the Pro version in this review, but there's also an Ultimate version that includes extra software packages, but in our eyes is far from essential. 

In addition to the tools mentioned in this review, the Ultimate version adds Corel Mutilcam Capture 2 for recording from a screen and webcam simultaneously, Highlight Reel, which lets you create short highlight videos, and the Sea to Sky workspace, that's designed for use with underwater and drone images. There's also Photo Mirage Express for creating animated versions of your images, Corel Painter Essentials 8, 50 free fonts, and a Corel Creative Collection that includes new backgrounds, paintbrushes, and textures. 

Again, most photographers and graphic artists will need nothing but PaintShop Pro, but PaintShop Ultimate may be useful for the Sea to Sky mode if you regularly shoot drone or underwater images and wish to speed up your editing. 

Upgrade pricing is available for those who already own PaintShop Pro or Ultimate. Best of all there's a 30-day free trial so you can give the software a try and see if it meets your needs.

  • Pricing & plans score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Interface

  • A variety of different workspaces for different types of users
  • Dedicated Photography workspace designed to be used with touchscreen devices

Since its creation, originally by Jasc software, PaintShop Pro has always had a very familiar interface. Initially, it resembled an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, with tools for beginner and advanced image editors. As Adobe Photoshop became the industry-leading image editor, PaintShop Pro gradually adopted more and more of Photoshop's features. Now, it's one of Photoshop's main competitors on Windows computers, which is most likely why you're reading this. But how close is it to Adobe Photoshop, and how user-friendly is it for those who don't need all of Photoshop's often intimidating advanced features?

When you first load PaintShop Pro, you're asked which workspace you want to use - Complete, Essentials, or Photography (and even within these, there are sub-workspaces, depending on the task you're performing).

The first workspace is the Complete workspace. It's best to consider this your all-in-one image-editing space; it's where you want to go for a Photoshop-esque experience.

Corel PaintShop Pro Manage screen

(Image credit: Future)

Everything in the Complete workspace is very familiar, down to the color scheme and choice of iconography for the tools. There's a Tool palette, Layers panel, and Materials panel - featuring color swatches and a Filmstrip bar at the bottom where you can see thumbnails of library images. The language of the user interface is familiar and understandable, and anyone with knowledge of Photoshop or similar image editing software will be able to jump right in. If you're a beginner, there's a Learning panel that outlines everything in easy-to-understand language.

At the top of the Complete workspace are the sub-workspace options of Edit and Manage. Selecting Manage opens an Adobe Bridge-style experience for viewing and organizing your image. However, in the Edit workspace, you can add an Organiser panel that's effectively a filmstrip bar for easy search access to images you may need. You can switch individual panels on or off, or move them around to customize the workspace.

Without going into every menu item and aspect, enthusiast image editors should be able to find everything they need. There are Selection and Masking tools, including Smart and Auto selection options, and the usual text and brush tools. Everything may have slightly different names or sit in different places, but all the essential tools exist. Layers can be created with various opacity, masking, and blending options. And within the Effects menus are a vast number of image editing effects. Those used to Photoshop will need to grab a coffee and have a play around but should be able to easily work out where everything they're used to can be found.

Corel PaintShop Pro Essentials Screen

(Image credit: Future)

Those wanting a more simplified experience can opt for the Essentials workspace, which does what you'd expect to. Gone are the vast majority of the panels; instead, there's a simple Tools Panel and a Materials Panel. You can do some basic image editing in this space, and it's still customizable, so if you find you need a few of the advanced tools, you can add them to the Tools Palette or add something like the Layers palette back into the workspace.

Then there's the Photography workspace. This is designed for touchscreen devices, and it declutters the space with large, clear icons and a simplified menu system – basically, it looks like an app. All the standard photo-editing sliders you'd expect to find are here: Brightness and Contrast, White Balance, Sharpening, Fill Light, and Clarity. However, it is very basic – don't expect to see histograms or be able to work with individual color channels in this workspace.

Corel PaintShop Pro Photography workspace screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

There's also an AI button in this mode. It allows you to apply Instant Effects to an image, such as an Aged Effect or Watercolour. On double-clicking to apply the AI-powered effects, the screen is overlaid with 3D Mesh grids twirling around, implying that some AI power is going on in the background. However, these seem to be no more AI-powered than any of the effects that other software uses. There are sliders to make adjustments, and I can't tell where the AI comes into play. It seems more like an algorithmic application of an effect without any scene or object recognition that we'd associate with AI. And the results certainly don't appear to offer any advantage over any other effect.

  • Interface score: 3/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Raw photo editing

  • Three different ways of editing and converting raw images
  • Aftershot Lab is a Camera Raw style editor, lacking more advanced options such as selective adjustments and masking

Photographers wanting to edit raw files are better taken care of with three different options. The Aftershot Lab is reminiscent of Adobe Lightroom but lacks any of Lightroom's organization or output options. It also lacks a lot of the more advanced color and retouching tools; it's simply image-adjustment software, with noise, sharpening and lens correction, plus other essential tools. The Camera RAW Lab option streamlines this further and works within a floating window. However, it looks very dated and even advertises the company's AfterShot Pro 3 software, its raw photo management and editing software package (when advertised to me within the software, it cost £54.99). The third option is that Paintshop Pro can automatically apply a default decoding of the raw image and open it directly in Paintshop Pro for editing.

Corel PaintShop Pro AfterShot raw image editing screen

(Image credit: Future)
  • Raw Editing score: 3.5/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Portrait mode

  • AI Portrait mode recognizes subjects and creates a selection
  • It allows for backgrounds to be blurred to create a shallow depth-of-field effect
  • It lacks AI effects such as changing facial features or applying makeup 

AI Portrait Mode is the one that most users will head towards, and it's at least straightforward to use. All the AI tools are found within the Adjust Menu, with a sub-menu revealing the four tools. However, there are no facial adjustments, skin smoothing, AI makeup, or any other effects than the ability to blur the background. The artificial intelligence part of Portrait Mode is actually image recognition; the first stage of the software presents you with a cutout area of the image that it detects as people.  

The cutout is good but far from perfect. Edges that were quite clear in some of the images that I tried it with, such as a mid-length portrait against a red curtain backdrop, still showed too much of the background. Hair is always the most significant challenge with a portrait cutout, but even with slick black hair against the red background, the software showed significant parts where it had either masked some of my hair or left apparent areas of the background. Photoshop's AI tools produced a much cleaner result with the initial selection.

Users can adjust the mask. There are standard options to paint on areas to add and remove, as well as being able to expand the border and feather the edge, which is helpful with curly hair. If you want perfection, you'll be using these tools a lot. For the average user just wanting to blur the background a little for a social media post, the cutout will probably be okay, although it's a little obvious if you are looking at it. 

Screen shot of Corel Paintshop Pro Portrait selection screen

(Image credit: Future)

The next stage is to blur the background around the subject. You can adjust the strength of the blur, and you can even change the shape of the aperture, which can be fun if you have specular highlights and want a more hexagonal-shaped bokeh. The range of the focus can also be changed, which adjusts the strength of blur, but seemingly only over the face. There doesn't appear to be any form of AI depth map creation, except for knowing where the edges of the face are and increasing the blur towards them appropriately. Then there's the feather edge, which changes how quickly the edge of the face drops off into the blur of the background. 

Again, you can achieve reasonable results – with some work. My main problem with the Portrait Mode is that, as something advertised as 'AI,' a lot of user input is needed. 

When nearly all premium smartphones have Portrait Modes that use depth effects and very simple settings to increase or decrease the strength, I don't think Paintshop Pro does any better, especially considering the effort involved. 

  • AI Portrait Mode score: 3.5/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Background Replace

  • Utilizes portrait recognition to mask subjects
  • There's a range of backgrounds to choose from or you can use your own images
Image 1 of 2

A screen showing Corel Paintshop Pro's AI Background replace tool

Corel PaintShop Pro AI Background replace tool (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 2

A screen of Adobe Photoshop showing how Generative Fill has been used to replace a background

A screen of Adobe Photoshop showing how Generative Fill has been used to replace a background (Image credit: Future)

Using much of the AI Portrait Mode is the AI Background Replace tool. This uses the same cutout technology found in AI Portrait Mode but allows you to add a background. Corel provides a handful of backgrounds, or you can use your own. 

Again, the tool is dependent on how good the initial selection is, so Adobe Photoshop has the advantage. In addition, the Generative Fill tools in Photoshop allow you to simply describe the background that you want and it will create it. This allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity compared to what is basically adding a layer below a portrait cutout, which is what PaintShop Pro is doing. 

Overall, Corel PaintShop Pro AI background replacement does a reasonable job of cutting out a portrait and changing the background, but it lacks the power and finesse of Adobe Photoshop's AI tools.

  • Background Replace score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Denoise and Artifact Removal

  • Removes noise using AI
  • Automated artifact removal gets rid of artifacts with a single click

Also within the AI menu are AI Denoise and Artifact Removal. Of these two simple tools, Artifact Removal is simply a button that automatically analyses the image and reduces artifacts. I found a slight difference in JPEG artifacts, but you can't see any difference unless you look at pictures at a very high magnification. As a single button press, there's no preview option to see the side-by-side changes.

AI Denoise, on the other hand, does have a preview window. There are three different options for the severity of the removal, and I found it best to use the highest setting, which did an excellent job of reducing both luminance and color noise. However, in some cases, you'll want to add a touch of a film grain effect for a little texture. 

One confusing thing is that there's also a Digital Noise Removal Tool, a one-step noise removal tool - that removes noise with a single click, as well as an Add/Remove Noise menu option with several different options, such as Despeckle and a Salt and Pepper Filter. This is without mentioning the noise removal options within the raw conversion options. 

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 AI Noise removal before/after screenshot

(Image credit: Future)
  • AI Noise removal score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Upscaling

  • AI-powered image upscaling up to 10,000 pixels along the longest edge
  • Automated noise reduction with three strength options can be processed at the same time

Lurking within the Photography Editing workspace is also an AI-powered upscaling tool. The tool is straightforward and has Photorealistic or Illustration options to help you decide how to render the upscaled image. You can also reduce noise while upscaling, with a slider giving you control over the strength. A slider also allows you to select the size of the increase up to 10,000 pixels along the longest edge. 

I compared it to Adobe Camera Raw's new Enhance feature, which allows resolution to be increased by 100%. I also ran the image through Topaz AI with the default image settings. 

The quick comparison of the image shows that Topaz AI has a clear advantage, though as a standalone piece of specialist software, this is expected. Adobe Camera Raw's Enhance produced a surprisingly similar result, which, with some tweaking in Camera Raw, could probably match Topaz, or at least not be far off. The result from PaintShop Pro 2023 was a good starting point but would require some work to make it match Photoshop or Topaz AI. Once again, though, AI Upscaling is another useful feature in Corel's affordable and comprehensive photo editing software suite.

A comparison of the AI Upscaling features of Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 and Topaz AI

(Image credit: Future)
  • AI Upscaling score: 3/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Should I buy?

The loading screen for Corel Paintshop Pro AI effects

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Also consider

For Windows users, Corel PaintShop Pro is one of the most comprehensive image editing solutions and an obvious alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is the king of image editors for good reason, and you can read our full review of Photoshop 2023 to see what the latest incarnation brings. However, Photoshop is subscription-based, which can put some users off. It can also be overwhelming for new users. 

Luminar Neo is another option that takes a middle path. An AI photo editor with a suite of intelligent tools, it costs $11.95 per month, $99 per year, or $149 every two years. Alternatively, you can purchase it outright with a one-time payment of $249. It can’t match Photoshop for sheer versatility, but if you want affordable access to automated edits and quality results, it’s worth considering.

You can read our in-depth guide to the best Photoshop alternatives here.

PhotoRoom review
9:41 pm | November 6, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

PhotoRoom: Two-minute review

Removing backgrounds from images used to mean manually masking subjects. Adding different backdrops and drop shadows required a deft touch, too. Not with PhotoRoom: harnessing the power of AI, it automates the background removal process and makes it a cinch to place people and products in new settings, complete with accurate shadows.

Available as a mobile app for iOS and Android, as well as a web-based tool, it has the potential to revolutionize promotional imagery for online businesses. With just a few taps, PhotoRoom makes it possible to cut out subjects, place them against virtual backgrounds, and then export them at the perfect size for different social platforms.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

A Pro subscription removes the PhotoRoom logo from high-resolution exports, unlocks powerful batch editing support, and grants access to a catalog of templates covering everything from birthday cards to seasonal sales. You can make mock magazine covers, create studio-style imagery for your online store, or instantly upgrade your marketing graphics – all without expert knowledge of design software. It can even transform self-portraits into headshots that pass for professional.

It’s easy to use, yet the results are broadly believable. While it's not infallible, PhotoRoom is impressively effective at matching backgrounds and shadows to the lighting of your original subject. And though not every virtual backdrop is photorealistic, the majority give the impression of genuine placement within the scene – or at least that the image has been professionally produced. If PhotoRoom’s presets don’t fit the bill, you can generate custom backgrounds using simple text prompts, giving you theoretically infinite possibilities.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

With layered editing, including the option to place and edit text and graphics, PhotoRoom firmly plants its flag as an alternative to Adobe Express – a rival web-based design tool with AI features from the maker of Photoshop. Editing professionals may find some limitations, but for most users, PhotoRoom is slick, quick, and surprisingly powerful. 

If you only want to separate subjects from their backgrounds, there are cheaper – and even free – alternatives. Equally, if you want a fully-fledged image editing solution, you should look at our round-up of the best photo editors

But if you want an accessible toolkit that lets you rapidly generate pro-grade promotional imagery, and seamlessly place your subjects within a vast library of settings – all from your smartphone or web browser – PhotoRoom is well worth the cost of a monthly subscription.

PhotoRoom: Pricing & availability

  • Weekly prices start at $4.99 / £3.99 / AU$17.99
  • Many features are available for free, including background removal
  • Pro subscription removes branding and unlocks full feature set

PhotoRoom is available as a smartphone app for iOS and Android and online via the PhotoRoom website. Many of its features can be accessed without a subscription, including the background and object removal tools. With the free version, you are limited to 250 image exports, all of which will be watermarked with the PhotoRoom logo.

If you plan to use PhotoRoom for your business, you’ll probably want to pay for the additional features included with a Pro subscription. Paying for full access removes the PhotoRoom logo and export cap. It also unlocks batch editing, design resizing, and high-resolution exports, as well as the full collection of instant backgrounds.

Pricing for the Pro plan varies based on the frequency of the renewal period you choose. In the US, the rolling weekly plan costs $4.99, while the annual plan costs $89.99 per year. In the UK, you can subscribe for £3.99 a week or £69.99 a year. In Australia, the weekly cost is AU$17.99, while the yearly price comes in at AU$139.99. 

PhotoRoom offers a free trial of the Pro features through its smartphone apps. Be aware that this will auto-renew if not cancelled before the end of the trial.

PhotoRoom: Interface & tools

  • PhotoRoom can be accessed using the app or via the web
  • Simple, icon-based interface is easy to use and understand
  • One-click templates and AI backgrounds can be easily edited

Whether you use PhotoRoom on the web or through the smartphone app, the core user experience is very similar. The icon-based interface is designed to be simple and self-explanatory, even if you’ve never used a photo editor or any kind of graphic design software.

You start by selecting a tool, template, or photo: all options lead to the same destination, only the route is different. With a Pro subscription, you also have the option to edit in batches, applying the same template or background swap to several images at the same time.

Pick an image, and PhotoRoom will automatically run the background removal tool, separating the subject from its surroundings. From there, you can edit the outline of the cutout, either manually – by painting with a brush to adjust the masking – or with AI assistance, which automatically detects the objects you click.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

Once you’re happy with the cutout, your first option is to explore PhotoRoom’s preset templates. Some are purely functional, making the background transparent or resizing the canvas for different social platforms. Others keep it simple and professional, with a drop shadow and a plain backdrop. The most dynamic add everything from text headlines and graphic elements to photorealistic settings and artistic blurring. 

A tap or a click is all it takes to apply any of the templates. What’s more, every component in the template can be repositioned, rotated and resized to suit. Each occupies a separate layer, which you can drag to rearrange. You can also tweak each layer using the adjustment toggles and sliders. While PhotoRoom is far from a Photoshop alternative, you can make a range of color tweaks, change the perspective and add creative effects, including several blur and texture options. All of these tools are intuitive to use, and the learning curve is minimal.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

The instant backgrounds tab is where AI really steps into the spotlight. You can browse by background category, spanning all manner of materials, scenes and settings, or pick from suggested backdrops based on the subject detected by PhotoRoom. Pick one, and you’ll get four versions of that theme. If none fit the bill, you can tap to generate four more.

Where backgrounds get really interesting is with custom prompts. Under the assisted tab, you can specify the surface and any background details you’d like. Or you can go full manual and write the entire prompt yourself, together with a negative prompt to exclude specific elements. You can also upload an image as a prompt. All three are straightforward to use and genuinely accessible.

AI is also deployed for the magic retouch tool, which allows you to paint over objects to remove them from an image, and for instant shadows, which can read the object placement within a given composition and introduce soft, hard, or floating shadows accordingly.

PhotoRoom: Cutouts

  • AI effectively recognizes and cuts out subjects 
  • Manually brushing to edit the mask can feel clumsy

Any background removal tool is only as effective as its subject recognition. Luckily, PhotoRoom is remarkably good at detecting and selecting. From clothes to creatures, it effortlessly traced around countless subjects in our tests. What’s more, because the AI engine tries to understand what it’s looking at, it’s also effective at cutting out elements within an object – such as the spokes of a bicycle.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. It can struggle when presented with busy scenes that feature multiple potential subjects. Outlining can also falter when there is poor contrast, dim lighting or a low resolution, all of which affect the definition of a subject’s edges. But upload a well-lit image in clear focus and PhotoRoom will almost always extract it cleanly from its surroundings.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

This is good, because editing a cutout isn’t the most precise affair. The guided mode is useful if you want to simply remove specific objects from the selection. But when it comes to manually refining the mask, you’ll need fine fingerwork to paint around objects. And while you can change the brush size, there’s no option to adjust its softness. Strangely, there's no undo option: if you accidentally paint to erase part of a selection, you’ll need to repaint it with the Restore brush – or cancel and start again. 

So while the option to edit cutouts is necessary, the slight clumsiness means you’re often better trusting in the automated selection and accepting any minor deviations, which usually won’t be visible when viewed at standard screen sizes.

PhotoRoom: Performance

  • Instant backgrounds can deliver remarkable realism
  • Post templates require more creative input
  • Retouch tool is a useful addition for removing objects

A creative eye is still required when it comes to working with templates. Unlike backgrounds, PhotoRoom won’t suggest templates to suit your image, so you’ll need to pick one that works for your subject and purpose.

Realism is rarely the aim here, with many of the presets featuring bold graphics, text, and obviously simulated settings. It’s important to choose one that matches the theme of your subject, otherwise, your cutout can look out of place. Perspective is also important to bear in mind, particularly with product photography: the templates are most useful for subjects shot straight-on.

The best of PhotoRoom’s templates are those that keep things subtle, specifically those that place your subject against a relatively plain background with a soft drop shadow. Even then, you’ll often want to adjust the placement of your subject within the template and consider adding a shadow using the adjustment menu. With the right touch, results can be fun and dynamic.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

The believability factor is far higher with PhotoRoom’s instant backgrounds. That’s not to say that every placement looks like a real photo. You will still encounter AI artifacts, especially with backgrounds generated from prompts. You’ll also need to ensure that the scale appears consistent: many have defocused elements that can throw off the perspective. One background made a bicycle look like a miniature model on a shelf, for example.

On the whole, PhotoRoom is remarkably good at placing subjects in scenes with a high degree of realism, particularly when that subject is an object. Whether you pick from PhotoRoom’s suggested backgrounds or select a theme for yourself, it will incorporate the item contextually – often with breathtaking effectiveness.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

When tasked with placing a camera on a table surrounded by succulents, PhotoRoom generated shadows that looked true to life, weighting the camera in the scene. Swapping the table for a concrete step, it added a subtle reflection in the polished stone below. Equally, when situating a lamp on a bedside table, it cast a glow on the neighboring wall. It’s these details that make PhotoRoom stand out as a tool for product photography.

Not every result appears authentic, but for every four variations generated, at least half could pass for a genuine image from a photoshoot – certainly to the untrained eye on social media. Even those that don’t quite pass for genuine frequently look as if they’ve been manipulated by a professional graphic designer. And it’s worth remembering that these aren’t fixed scenes into which different subjects are substituted: each is generated specifically for the given subject, based on your chosen theme or prompt.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

What’s so impressive is that new versions can be generated with just a click, and every result can be reworked simply by changing a few words in the text prompt. As with many generative tools, prompts won’t always yield the exact visual you had in mind. But the option does put an arsenal of creative possibilities at your fingertips, with no training required. With batch editing available to Pro subscribers, you can achieve a consistent look for up to 50 image subjects at once. This works best with similarly framed shots.

In short, PhotoRoom is a powerful tool for producing virtual photoshoots. If you’re an online seller, it has the potential to eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming seasonal shoots. From one clear, well-lit set of images, you can produce realistic visuals of your subjects in all manner of scenarios, from minimalist retail stores to kitchens at Christmas. When you compare the relative costs and the quality of its output, PhotoRoom makes a convincing case for itself.

Should I buy PhotoRoom?

PhotoRoom review screenshots

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

PhotoRoom: Also consider

The closest competitor to PhotoRoom is Adobe Creative Cloud Express. Like PhotoRoom, this is a web- and app-based editing platform that makes it easy to produce professional marketing graphics.

It doesn’t have PhotoRoom’s ability to produce instant AI backgrounds for a given subject, which means PhotoRoom remains the top choice if you want to create realistic virtual product shoots. But Adobe Express does include a free cutout tool, social templates, and AI-powered generative fill, which can be used to add and remove elements within existing images. 

If you’re looking for an intuitive online solution for producing polished marketing content in a range of sizes and formats, Adobe Express is arguably the more comprehensive option in terms of templates, font styles, graphic elements, and overall versatility. At $9.99 per month, it’s more affordable on a monthly basis, although the yearly fee of $99.99 makes PhotoRoom the cheaper annual choice. 

It’s worth noting that if you have a Creative Cloud subscription, you’ll likely have access to Adobe Express already.