Best photo editing apps for astrophotography 2024

You'll want one of the best photo editing apps if you want to take your astrophotography seriously. Sure, some photos might look amazing straight out of the camera, but most of the time, photographers will want (and need) to edit their images in suitable software to get the desired results. Even NASA uses image editing software to produce their most stunning shots!

When shooting astrophotography, a good editing app is more important than ever. The low-light conditions of shooting the night sky can prove a challenge for even the most seasoned photographer — and a good software suite can help reduce any noise, balance light and enhance colors. Photo editing apps are useful for correcting other issues too, like vignetting and barrelling. They'll lift your best images to the next level and can even turn the most unremarkable images from your shoot into works of art.

With such a wide range of photo editing apps to choose from, our reviewers have narrowed down your options and reviewed all the pros and cons of each app on this list so you can make an informed choice. If you're looking to upgrade the rest of your gear, we have guides to the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography, along with the best telescopes for seeing planets and best telescopes for deep space. You can also check out our list of the best stargazing apps to help you plan your next big shoot.

Remember that Amazon Prime Day is coming up next month and while you're unlikely to be able to buy any of our recommended photo editing apps from Amazon, it may be a good time to stock up on any other photography gear you're in the market for. Prime Day is Amazon's annual major sale, offering big discounts to its Prime members across thousands of products.

Last year, we saw big savings on cameras (like $500 off the Sony A7 III) and lenses (a huge $585 saving on the Sony FE 24/70mm 2.8 GM, for example), so it's worth staying tuned in. We'll be covering all the best photography deals right here, so be sure to visit in the run up to Prime Day.

The quick list

Best photo editing apps for astrophotography 2024

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Best photo editing app for astro

Best photo editing app for astro: There are some useful preset astro features available on this editing app and it's more reasonably priced than some of its rivals

Specifications

Payment type: One-off
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iPad
Mobile app: No
Cloud storage: None

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper Photoshop rival
+
Some useful dedicated astro features
+
Excellent tutorials

Reasons to avoid

-
The layout will be unfamiliar to Photoshop veterans
-
No cloud integration or storage
-
One-off payment
Buy it if

✅ You specialize in astrophotography: Overall we were really impressed with the extensive astrophotography stacking persona, and there are a ton of astro macros to speed up your workflow.

✅ You like to own the software: There's no option to subscribe to Affinity Photo, so once you buy the software, you own it.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want in-built organization: We'd love to see them adopt some kind of library system, as currently it relies on the folders on your computer.

The bottom line

🔎 Affinity Photo 2 The best app for astrophotography, its astrophotography stack persona is like no other, although it has a way to go in other areas to live up to Adobe. That said, it's affordable and fairly user-friendly, and has a bunch of useful features once you delve in. ★★★★½

In late 2022, 7 years after the original software was released, Serif launched the latest version of Affinity Photo, packed with fantastic new tools for editing and manipulating your photos. We particularly love the masks, which now work as well as those you'd find in Lightroom or Photoshop. They also added non-destructive RAW development, meaning your original photos remain untouched no matter how much you edit them. The live mesh warping feature and layers panel also make the software even more powerful than before.

None of these upgrades have been specifically designed for astrophotography, it's worth saying. But that doesn't mean you won't benefit from them in your astro work — at the very least, they make Affinity Photo much more capable and user-friendly than it's ever been before.

Affinity Photo 2 is split up into five different workspace areas, known as 'personas'. Each persona of the app is designated to a specific part of the editing process, and so it's reasonable that you might make use of every one of the different personas as you go through one editing job. The personas are Photo, Liquify, Develop, Tone Mapping and Export.

The Develop and Photo personas are where you make your initial edits, much like in Lightroom or in Photoshop's Camera RAW. The Liquify persona is to warp or distort your images, Tone Mapping is most typically used for 32-bit HDR files and the Export persona is self-explanatory. During our Affinity Photo 2 review, we spent most of our time in the Develop and Photo Personas.

There is a dedicated 'Astrophotography Stack' function and we were very intrigued to see how it compared to Photoshop, which we found wanting in that department. To put it simply, astrophotography stacking in Affinity Photo 2 is an easy way to combine your calibration and light frames. 

With just a few clicks, you can import these frames and let the software stack them automatically. In our testing, we were very impressed with its performance, especially in aligning the stars — they came out perfectly. However, when we tried to stack an image that included a foreground, it struggled and only aligned the stars, which is the opposite of what we found in Photoshop. It's a non-issue if your focus is solely on capturing images of the sky without any foreground, such as the Milky Way, nebulas or constellations, and many astrophotographers often replace the foreground entirely anyway. In terms of stacking capabilities, we think Affinity Photo 2 is the one to beat.

Another Astro-friendly function we enjoyed is the 'Remove Background' filter. AI helps to restore the dark sky around the stars back to its original dark color and removes color casts that may have crept into your images — particularly useful if you live in an urban area.

Affinity Photo 2 is now available as part of their universal license — you pay a one-off fee of $164.99 for Affinity Photo, Affinity Publisher and Affinity Designer. If you don't need these, you can still purchase Affinity Photo 2 individually for a one-off payment of $69.99, or $18.49 for the iPad version.

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Affinity Photo 2
AttributesNotes
PricingSubscription free.
User interfaceSplit into five different personas.
Key featuresNon destructive RAW editing.
Astro featuresImpressive astrophotography stacking tools.

Best editing app overall

Best editing app overall: Lightroom has a brilliant and non-destructive workflow that will suit busy photographers

Specifications

Payment type: Subscription
Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Mobile app: Yes
Cloud storage: Up to 1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Unrivaled image organization
+
Great for batch editing using presets
+
Available for desktop, tablet and mobile
+
Non-destructive workflow

Reasons to avoid

-
Monthly subscription only
-
RAW image conversion could be more advanced
-
Not many astro-specific features
Buy it if

✅ You want an all-in-one image editor and catalog: Lightroom excels in both image editing and organization, making it hard for many other editing apps to beat.

You want excellent noise reduction: Lightroom introduced an AI noise reduction tool in 2023, which we think is very impressive, albeit a bit slow.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to stack or create composites: One feature lacking is the ability to blend layers and create composites which are often used in astrophotography.

The bottom line

🔎 Adobe Lightroom If you're looking for image editing software to rule them all, you won't be disappointed with Lightroom. It has unrivaled catalog organization and all the editing tools you need to create stunning images. ★★★★★

Lightroom used to be used solely by professionals, but in recent years it's become a popular choice for hobbyists and amateur photographers. It's an editing app that's not as dense to learn as something like Photoshop, making it more appealing to casual users — but that doesn't mean it isn't robust and capable enough to deal with most tasks.

You'll find many features in Lightroom designed to streamline your workflow and simplify your post-processing. One of its major selling points is how well it can organize and catalog your library, and it also excels at handling RAW images. That alone is a big bonus as shooting in RAW will give you much better color depth and detail in your images.

It's quick and easy to import your images to Lightroom after a photo session, and you can create a database of all the shots from that day, including geotags and facial recognition. Then, you can use flags, stars and colors to organize and rate the files, keeping the best photos and getting rid of the ones you don't want in your library.

The organization tools in Lightroom make it stand out from other editing apps, although some apps are starting to offer similar features, especially since the recent advancements of AI. Photographers who shoot events and weddings will find these tools especially helpful, as they often have to wade through thousands of images from each shoot. 

The editing toolkit is also very extensive and, in our opinion, the best out there in terms of capabilities and layout. When you're editing in Lightroom, you have complete creative control over many aspects of the image, including contrast, brightness, texture, clarity, color hue and saturation. You also have the option to smooth out any distortion and lens idiosyncrasies. 

You can create and save presets, edit with masks and heal any unwanted dust spots or distractions in your images. Then, once you've finished editing, a high-quality JPEG image can be watermarked, exported and shared, all while keeping your original RAW file intact. And as Lightroom's workflow is completely non-destructive, you can go back and make edits whenever you like, as often as you like, without touching the original file. It's only when you choose to export an edited image that any changes become permanent, and even in that case, the edited file is saved separately. 

Shortly after we published our Adobe Lightroom review, an AI denoise tool was introduced, which is great news for astrophotographers. With just a click of a button, it'll intelligently remove unwanted noise from your image based on the percentage you set. We've found that it works incredibly well and rivals DxO's deepPrime tool, but the bigger the file and more noise reduction you do on a particular image, the longer it takes — sometimes it can take up to 5 or 6 minutes per image, and again, it'll depend on the speed of your computer. 

Lightroom also excels at batch processing photos so you can import all of your images at once, batch edit (essentially copying and pasting the same editing settings onto each image), and then export them to another app for stacking. If there was one photo editing app to rule them all, it's Lightroom.

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Adobe Lightroom
AttributesNotes
PricingSubscription only, but included in good value Photography bundle.
User interfaceNot a very exciting layout, but simple to understand.
Key featuresUnrivalled cataloging and organization.
Astro featuresNew AI-based denoise proves a hit with astrophotography.

Best for large projects

Best for large projects: This powerful image editor works seamlessly across desktop, iPad and mobile

Specifications

Payment type: Subscription
Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Mobile app: Yes
Cloud storage: Up to 1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Sky replacement tools work effectively
+
Strong mobile and web design tool

Reasons to avoid

-
Neural filters are unpredictable
-
Only available with a subscription
-
Complex interface to learn
Buy it if

✅ You want one app that can do it all: Photoshop can do pretty much anything you want, so you won't need multiple different apps that all do different things.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need good organization: Organization and cataloging aren't what Photoshop is known for — for that, you'll want Lightroom.

❌ You're a purist: If you don't believe in manipulating images or creating composites, you likely won't make use of the majority of Photoshop's features.

The bottom line

🔎 Adobe Photoshop Photoshop has been the industry standard for a long time, and with the introduction of AI, we don't see that changing any time soon. Available on subscription only, but it's included in a good value Photography bundle along with Lightroom. ★★★★★

Like Lightroom, Photoshop is an image-editing app that has inspired the design of many other image-editing tools. Although Photoshop can be intimidating to get to grips with at first, it's an incredible tool for astrophotographers and is considered the go-to photo editing app used by professionals worldwide — even NASA uses Photoshop to enhance the detail in their images.

We looked at all the pros and cons of this powerful software in our Adobe Photoshop 2023 review. It can be pretty daunting to figure out how to use Photoshop if you're a complete beginner as it has such an extensive toolset, but there are plenty of online tutorials on how to do pretty much anything and everything, so if you have the time and patience to put into it, having a Photoshop skillset is very desirable. 

Photoshop employs selections and layers in its editing process — a feature that Lightroom, among other apps, has also since adopted. With layers, you can edit specific parts of a photo (like just a fire hydrant or the color of someone's sweater) without changing the rest of the image. This is handy for complex edits because if you mess up, you can simply adjust or remove that particular layer instead of starting over with the entire image. You can also label your layers to keep things organized while you edit. 

Layers are an essential tool that lets you stack different elements on top of each other. This flexibility allows you to move, merge, paint, hide or even cut holes in these layers, enabling you to create complex effects. Astrophotographers can utilize layers to enhance the soft glow of nebulas or produce stunning star trail images by combining multiple photos. Adobe Sensei, a cloud AI technology, can even automatically identify selections for you, making the process even easier.

Perhaps the main downside of Adobe Photoshop is that it's geared towards heavy photo manipulation. If you simply want to make colors pop, adjust the contrast and make smaller tweaks, you're not going to be getting the full power of the software. If, however, you want to be able to get fully creative with your images, or create something like composite images — stacking together two or more images to use parts of each to create one finished piece — then Photoshop is a great option.

Plans from Adobe are decently priced considering the variety of tools you have access to. For $19.99 a month, you can purchase a Photoshop and Lightroom subscription together, which is an excellent deal if you regularly use both apps — especially considering Photoshop is $20.99 on its own. If you don't want the full-fat version of Photoshop, you may find Photoshop Elements a bit easier to navigate — it's a little further down in this buying guide and might be more suited to your needs.

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Adobe Photoshop
AttributesNotes
PricingSubscription only, but included in good value Photography bundle.
User interfaceSubstantial learning curve, but fine once you know it.
Key featuresGreat features for all skill levels.
Astro featuresAuto-align and auto-blend for astro images.

Best for powerful editing tools

Best for powerful editing tools: This package has extensive editing tools and works reliably for tethered shooting - but it comes with a steep price

Specifications

Payment type: Subscription and one-off
Compatibility: Windows & Mac
Mobile app: Yes
Cloud storage: No

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely professional quality
+
Compatible with many file formats
+
Fantastic for tethering

Reasons to avoid

-
Has a premium price tag
-
It isn't beginner friendly
Buy it if

✅ You're a studio professional: Capture One Pro is definitely aimed more at professional photographers who will make use of its tethering capabilities.

✅ You want to tether to a tablet/smartphone: The mobile version is actually quite affordable, so if you want to do on-location portrait photography and want to tether straight to a tablet and edit on the go, this would be a great option.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You don't want to spend loads: No matter whether you pay monthly or for a one-off subscription, it's expensive software.

The bottom line

🔎 Capture One Pro 23 A professional-level editing app that specializes in color and tethering, this software is not for beginners, nor is it priced as such. The mobile app, however, is very reasonably priced and could prove useful for on-the-go shooting. Sadly, it doesn't offer any dedicated astro features. ★★★★½

Capture One Pro is a photo editing app that has taken a leaf from Lightroom's approach to editing rather than Photoshop. In other words, it's designed to streamline editing and photo management rather than heavy and creating editing tasks.

Particularly popular with professionals for how well it performs with studio photography, Capture One Pro has fantastic RAW image decoding which guarantees excellent results. It also supports a huge range of image types (including the HEIC files you'll get on newer iPhones), which makes it a valuable tool for photographers.

Capture One Pro excels in almost every aspect, particularly in fine-tuning colors, offering a wide array of editing and color-grading tools. It could be an excellent option for enhancing colors in deep sky images of nebulas and cosmic dust clouds, bringing out vibrant pinks and blues to create stunning visuals. In our Capture One Pro 23 review, we loved its ability to accurately color grade images and how well it manipulated colors in the image, as well as maintaining accurate skin tones.

Capture One Pro is a remarkably robust software that combines the best aspects of Lightroom and Photoshop, although it has been designed with professionals in mind. It does include a useful 'learn' feature with in-camera tutorials, which can make it more beginner-friendly for those just getting started with the software. However, if you're new to photo editing altogether, we wouldn't necessarily recommend starting with Capture One Pro unless you're ready to delve into its full range of capabilities.

Once you become familiar with the basics, the software provides a unique and robust set of tools that will elevate your editing skills to new heights. It's a fantastic choice for experienced photographers who need advanced editing capabilities and a comprehensive all-in-one solution.

Although Capture One Pro is a fantastic tool for improving workflow, many of its most recent changes appear to be more focused on photo organization than editing, making it better for photographers who photograph people or events and need to sort through a high number of images quickly — taking a leaf out of Lightroom's book.

The downside? Capture One Pro is expensive whichever way you slice it. Monthly subscriptions are $24/m, annual is $179/y and a one-off payment for the license is $299. You could get two or more of the other apps for the same price so it's probably not worth it unless you are a studio pro and use tethering as a regular part of your workflow.

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Capture One Pro 23
AttributesNotes
PricingExpensive, but multiple ways to pay.
User interfaceClean, customizable layout.
Key featuresSpecializes in tethering.
Astro featuresNo dedicated astro features.

Best for speedy editing

Luminar Neo

Best for speedy editing: This reasonably priced software allows you to make super fast edits

Specifications

Payment type: One-off or pay in installments
Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Mobile app: No
Cloud storage: No

Reasons to buy

+
One-click editing can improve images quickly
+
Clean interface

Reasons to avoid

-
Batch processing could be quicker
-
Can be buggy
-
Slow to export images
Buy it if

✅ You want to edit quickly: Neo features a lot of one-click editing tools that speed up workflow, especially with the use of AI tools.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want decent cataloging: Organization and cataloging aren't Luminar's strong suit, so you'd be better off opting for another editing app.

The bottom line

🔎 Luminar Neo This software uses a lot of AI-based tools to help create polished and professional-looking images, although it's not the best for astrophotography alone. It excels in speedy editing, although some users have reported that it can be buggy and slow. ★★★★

We've previously recommended Luminar AI in this guide until it was discontinued in 2022. In our Luminar AI review, we found it to be great for applying Instagram-friendly filters and creative edits to images. However, it may not be the best choice solely for astrophotography, as each astro image typically has unique needs that vary significantly from other types of general photography. If you're an astrophotographer looking for conventional image-editing tools, we recommend considering their newer software — Luminar Neo.

Neo now takes center stage as Luminar's flagship product. Sporting a new editing engine and more capable than ever at creating polished and professional-looking images, it's been built from the ground-up rather than simply being a modernized iteration of Luminar AI.

If you liked AI, not all has been lost: you'll still find powerful one-click AI adjustments within Neo to help speed up your workflow if that's something you like to do. Like Photoshop, Luminar Neo lets you use layers in your editing process, and it includes a developer module similar to Lightroom's features. 

However, we found Luminar Neo's cataloging abilities to be quite basic. You can only flag the images, so it might not be the best option if you need a robust system for organizing and managing your images, like professionals who may need comprehensive catalogs of all their shoots.

We've yet to do a full review of Luminar Neo, but keep your eyes peeled as we'll do one soon. Some users have reported the software being a little buggy, but hopefully, these will continue to be ironed out over time.

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Luminar Neo
AttributesNotes
PricingYou pay a one-off fee.
User interfaceClean interface.
Key featuresLimited cataloging features.
Astro featuresSome helpful AI tools for astro editing.

Best for amateurs

Best for amateurs: A solid entry-level piece of software for hobbyists

Specifications

Payment type: One-off
Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Mobile app: No
Cloud storage: 2GB

Reasons to buy

+
Technique guides are helpful
+
Quick switch between Editor and Organizer

Reasons to avoid

-
No profiles for lens correction
-
Software will ultimately be replaced by a newer version which you will have to pay for again
Buy it if

✅ You're a novice: If you find the full version of Photoshop overwhelming, this could be a good introduction to all the basic tools in the software.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want the most affordable option: With the full version of Photoshop being available in the Adobe Photography bundle for a good price, you'd need a good reason to just go for Elements instead.

The bottom line

🔎 Adobe Photoshop Elements A good choice for beginners and enthusiasts who don't want the monthly subscription to the full version of Photoshop, but have all the essentials. It doesn't cater specifically to astrophotography, but you can do basic astro editing. ★★★★

Adobe Photoshop Elements is an all-rounder photo editing app that provides a slimmed down version of some of the features found in the full Adobe Photoshop. It's extremely beginner-friendly and would make a good choice for someone who feels daunted by the full version of Photoshop and just wants to be able to do some basic astrophotography edits without getting hooked into a subscription fee system.

The app comes split into three parts. You can use Quick