Photoshop is a workhorse of which the first versions were released as early as the late eighties of the past century. Affinity Photo is brand new. So, would it be fair to compare them? If there would be any logic in software development, I’d answer that question with a “No”. But there isn’t — logic, I mean. Affinity Photo may well blow Photoshop out of the water. It’s faster, has no historically grown rubbish the developer needs to keep in there and is just plain powerful. And best of all: its licence model is customer-friendly.
The very first thing I find extremely important to mention about Affinity Photo is that it’s developed with non-destructive processing in mind from the ground up. For example, filters are never going to fool around with your image, and neither will adjustments — they are live and non-destructive without the need to deliberately select/create them as such. The History palette is pretty much infinite at remembering 8000+ steps to cycle back through and it supports recording over 8000 steps to record.
The second thing that I find very important is that the developers made sure Affinity Photo wouldn’t suffer from integration blues. Affinity Photo doesn’t just integrate with Affinity Designer (review here), but also opens and exports to… Photoshop files, as well as every other file format you’d expect. It exports to a number of formats you wouldn’t expect as well: PDF, SVG, EPS… Adobe users who want to jump ship are welcomed with the assurance they can import their brushes and colour swatches. Just as in Affinity Designer, you can export to slices, Retina files and everything else you need in this era of digital publishing.
Export has another great feature: continuous export. This export type outputs files automatically after content changes!
Full control over your art
Affinity photo gives you total control. Layers behave the way you would expect if you’d never used them before. Furthermore, you don’t sacrifice performance by adding layers, grouping or nesting them, and adding effects. Even blend modes are visible in real-time, while you’re scrolling the blend modes drop-down menu. It’s very clear Affinity Photo makes maximum use of the OS X’s many performance features, such as Grand Central and other OS X Yosemite features.
Everything Photoshop has, Affinity Photo has too, except for features such as 3D and movie — which are rather clunky in my opinion, anyway. Features in Affinity Photo that are also in Photoshop are either more user-friendly or more powerful. For example, creating or changing perspective in an image is simple and straightforward with Affinity Photo, just as masking is or brushing mattes, or creating gradients. Many of those features have more controls than the same ones in Photoshop and most are just more intuitive. It’s not that Photoshop does a bad job, because it doesn’t. But Affinity Photo just feels more like a Mac app, more like an artist’s tool as well.
Brushes in Affinity Photo are beautiful, include natural media and wet media brushes and offer per brush blend modes. Professional DAUB brushes are included as well. Of course you can create your own brushes as well and again this process is more intuitive than in Photoshop or Painter, for example.
Colour in Affinity Photo is supported with several colour spaces (LAB included), but also with scopes and not just the histogram. Scopes give a better idea of the colour distribution of an image than a histogram. Colour picking is easy too: you drag the pipette over an area — including outside the app — and release the mouse button when you have the colour you wanted.
Helper features are better too. The grid in Affinity photo can be any ratio. The Crop tool can be a Golden Spiral or a diagonals grid for centring objects in the frame. The colour picker can be anything from the Apple colour picker to a colour wheel like the one you’ll find in Painter.
Individual modes: Persona
Just as Affinity Designer does, Affinity Photo has multiple personas. Personas are modes or rooms, if you wish. The normal mode is the Photo Persona. Then there’s the Developer Persona, which Affinity Photo automatically switches to when you open a RAW image. In Developer Persona, you can adjust many parameters of the RAW files, just as you can with Capture One Pro or DxO Optics Pro.
The Liquify Persona is a dedicated workspace where you can manipulate images with liquifying tools only. Finally, the Export Persona is where you want to be if you need to concentrate on exporting, slicing images, optimising them, etc.
The Persona are a bit odd at first, but mainly because of the term that’s being used. If you replace Persona with “Workspace”, “Room”, “Module” or even “Mode”, then you’ll know these are meant to enable concentration on one part of an image processing workflow.
There’s a lot more to be said about Affinity Photo, but the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. You really must experience this new image editor to understand that you can’t compare it with previous Photoshop killer attempts such as Pixelmator. Affinity Photo is much, much more powerful and I wouldn’t hesitate it’s the first image editor ever that has a strong potential to unseat Photoshop. And not only because of its licence or price.
Affinity Photo is available in the Apple App Store and the full feature list can be found on the Affinity website. For a limited time, you can buy the app for €39.99.