This post is part of the 2019 Engadget Camera Guide providing information about what to buy, and how to get the most from it.
Adobe Creative Cloud Photography
Adobe makes a dizzying number of Mac, Windows and mobile applications for creative professionals. The best-value subscription for shutterbugs is, unsurprisingly, the Photography plan for $10 per month. It nets you the latest version of Lightroom, the desktop-focused Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, the portfolio-centric Adobe Spark and 20GB of cloud storage. Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standard for a reason — they're rock-solid applications with tons of features for editing and organizing your photographs. Don't think you need Photoshop? There's another plan for the same $10 that comes with just Lightroom and a whopping 1TB of cloud storage.
Buy Adobe CC Photography - $10/month
Skylum Luminar 3
Adobe is the undeniable king of creative software. The company's monthly subscriptions, however, can be a huge turn-off for professional and enthusiast photographers alike who want to save a bit of money. Enter Skylum's Luminar 3. It's a single application that aims to replace both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Available for less than $80, Luminar 3 offers a digital "library" for organizing, rating and previewing images on your hard drive. There's also a competent photo editor with some AI-powered tools and all of the usual Lightroom-esque sliders to tweak exposure, contrast, temperature and more.
BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve 15 Studio
Mention video-editing software and two products will immediately spring to mind: Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. There's a third option, though, that every professional and aspiring filmmaker should consider. DaVinci Resolve 15 is a single application for editing, color correction, audio postproduction and visual effects. It's made by BlackMagic — the Australian company that builds those fancy video cameras — and works on Mac, Windows and Linux. The best part is that it costs $299 and doesn't require an ongoing subscription. If you want to try before you buy, or don't feel like you need all those features, consider DaVinci Resolve 15 — it includes a lot of the paid app's features free of charge.
Buy DaVinci Resolve 15 Studio - $299
Sorry, Windows users — this one isn't for you. Pixelmator Pro is a single-window photo editor designed specifically for the Mac. It has a simple and incredibly intuitive layout that should appeal to photographers who are overwhelmed by Adobe Photoshop or simply tired of remembering menus and keyboard shortcuts. As you would expect, the app has tons of adjustment sliders for every part of your image, including the highlights, shadows, brightness and contrast. It's not a full Photoshop replacement by any means, but for $40 you get a meaningful upgrade over macOS' built-in photo-editor.
Buy Pixelmator Pro from App Store - $40
VSCO no longer makes Photoshop and Lightroom presets that emulate analog film. The company does, however, develop a brilliant set of iOS and Android apps for photographers. It's a complete solution that spans basic photo editing (contrast, saturation, sharpening and more) and best-in-class filters. These can be bought in themed packs à la carte or through a subscription service called VSCO X. If you're tired of posting your carefully curated images through Instagram, the app also has a smaller and arguably more serious social network that lets you share photos and take part in challenges.
Phase One Capture One Pro 12
Do you find Lightroom too slow and cumbersome? If so, it might be time to switch to Capture One. Many photographers are considering moving over to the software because it's faster and, depending on who you ask, just as powerful as its Adobe counterpart. Capture One has all of the tools that you would expect from a professional editor and custom profiles that take into account the camera and lens you capture the image with. You can grab Capture One Pro on a $20 monthly subscription, but if that's exactly the reason you're looking to move away from Adobe, there's a "perpetual license" that lets you own the latest version and gives you discounts on future upgrades.
Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps
It should be obvious by now that there are many capable photo and video editing options out there. That said, no company has a single solution that offers the power and breadth of Adobe's Creative Cloud All Apps plan. For $600 a year (or $53 a month), you basically get everything the company has to offer. That means all of its video and photo offerings, along with Illustrator, InDesign and about a dozen other apps. The plan also comes with 100GB of cloud storage and access to services like Adobe Fonts (née TypeKit) for web developers. If you're planning on picking up the company's industry-standard photo-video software, and might want to dabble in some audio editing or design work, the All Apps plan is actually a great deal.