Affinity or Lightroom?

Is Affinity a good alternative to Lightroom? Yes is the short answer, but with a few critical caveats, especially if you are used to the speed of Lightroom.


The main reason people object to buying Lightroom is that it's a subscription. Around £10 a month will get you both Lightroom and Photoshop. With Affinity you just have a one-off payment of around £50.


I'll get my biggest objection to Affinity out of the way to start with. It is just much, much slower than Lightroom. A 33MB RAW file from my Canon 5DIV takes more than 7 seconds to open in Affinity, and a similar size file from my X-T1 takes more than 13 seconds. I use a Mac Pro - the tower kind, not the laptop. It is very fast, I have plenty of spare hard drive, but Affinity takes a looooong time to process big files. With Lightroom, files open instantaneously. No wait at all - because it isn't loading the whole file, you are just working with a preview.

Photoshop, which needs to open the file from scratch like Affinity rather than working from a preview like Lightroom, takes less than a whole second to get the file ready to work on.

Once your file is open in Affinity, the processing is fast - there's no lags as you wait for edits to show on screen.


Lightroom is more than just an editor, it's a digital asset manager. It was set up to mimic a photographer's workflow, so you simply work from left to right in the workspace: import, edit, print or share. At the import stage you can add keywords and rate your images. You can view all your images at once, or narrow your search by date, keyword, ranking, kit used, settings used, and more. I use this function daily: I'll search for photos tagged "Scotland", and shot with my 11-24mm if I need something landscape and wide angle. Or I'll look for anything with a shutter speed of more than 15 seconds if I'm doing a piece on long exposure. None of this is available with Affinity. In this respect, Affinity is much more like Photoshop than Lightroom. It's a photo editor, nothing more, nothing less.

By having to rely on my Mac's folder system to use Affinity, this is how my files show up when I go to open them:

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 12.18.05.png

Compare the much more useful view available in Lightroom:

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 12.18.16.png


Affinity has layers, giving you more options than Lightroom (where you are limited to your single photo layer and nothing else - you have to keep dipping in and out of Photoshop if you want to work with layers). 


Affinity is much more sophisticated than Lightroom when it comes to local editing. The selection tools work well, and intuitively, allowing you many more options than the adjustment brush tool in Lightroom. 

Getting started

To get started with Affinity, watch the series of video tutorials here: Click for Affinity tutorials

To get started with Lightroom, watch this series of video tutorials: Click for Lightroom tutorials


The actual editing output on Affinity is great - no question that I could use it to get professional quality edits. But if you need to work fast, or work with big files, or need previews, or like the integrated catalogue that Lightroom has, or want uncomplicated non-destructive editing, then Affinity will irritate you. If you just want a non-subscription based editing platform that is powerful and professional, and you're not already used to the speed of Lightroom, you'll be very happy with it. 

This review just covers the desktop version of Affinity, but I should add that I love the iPad version of Affinity more than Lightroom mobile, because I don't use the catalogue when I'm working on my iPad, and it is quicker and cleaner to start up. I'll be sticking with Lightroom on desktop and laptop, and switching to Affinity on iPad. You do need to buy Affinity for iPad separately from Affinity for desktop. 


Free online beginner's photography workshop

Do you need help understanding your big camera? A Year With My Camera is a beginner's workshop available free by email. Join here and get started today:

Click here to subscribe

EditingEmma Davies