I’m an amateur photographer in my spare time, and I swear by my Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop/and Photomatix (for HDR shots) combination. It has become a necessary part of my workflow, and I honestly cannot imagine using any other program that gives me both the power of the Adobe ecosystem and an extremely efficient workflow as Lightroom does. As my “go to” RAW editor, Lightroom allows me to work quickly and efficiently with large batches of photos, and any further touching up I need to dio can easily be ported over to Photoshop for that extra little “oomph.”

As arguably the most popular photo processor, Lightroom should have no worries with other competitors such as Darktable or RAW Therapee.

When I found out that Corel was coming out with AfterShot Pro 3, I was more than a bit intrigued. Unlike those other RAW editors (most of them open source projects), this was Corel, who is no stranger to the land of excellent video/photo editing programs. In fact, before I started using the Adobe suite of products, I was 100% a Corel guy (for my video editing, I still swear by VideoStudio Pro). So the big question remains: can AfterShot Pro 3 be a worthy alternative to Lightroom?

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is the price. Lightroom comes in two flavors; a subscription model ($119.98/year) or a perpetual license ($149.00), with each version coming in at around 1.5-2.0 GB. AfterShot Pro 3 will run you $79.99 for a perpetual license, and weighs in at a paltry 420 MB. So right off the bat, you have a cheaper program without the hassle of an annual subscription, and a program that takes up significantly less space on your hard drive (leaving more room for those ever so important photos).

Of course as we all know, you get what you pay for, and at this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself “Sure it’s cheaper, but I’m sure that’s because it’s not as good as Lightroom!” After all, there’s a reason why a Honda Civic costs about fifteen times less than a Ferrari even though they both serve the same function. So surely the reason why AfterShot Pro 3 is so cheap is because it’s the lesser of the two programs…..right?

Actually, the answer isn’t as simple as that. At the end of the day, I’m still going to return to Lightroom for my day to day photo processing needs, but AfterShot Pro 3 is most definitely a very powerful program and a more than worthy entrant into the photo processing world. In fact, there are a few things that I feel it does BETTER than Lightroom, especially on the workflow front.

As of right now, I can’t think of any one thing that Lightroom can do that AfterShot Pro 3 can’t do. However at the end of the day, there’s a reason why Lightroom reigns supreme, and it’s due to that ever important combo of power, convenience, and an established user base. AfterShot Pro is most certainly powerful, but I don’t feel that it’s as convenient to use as Lightroom, and that makes a BIG difference when I’m looking at editing 400+ photos from a shoot.

First, getting your photos imported into AfterShot Pro 3 (ASP3) is faster than other programs; though when I say “faster,” I really mean “one less step.” Perhaps that one step makes a difference to some people, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it changes the game.

ASP3 does away with the traditional import process by having the user choose which folder the pictures are in, and displaying all of them in your timeline. With ASP3, you’re not actually uploading all your files into the program; you’re more working direct from the file directory itself. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s certainly not a game changer, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to this feature being incredibly convenient.

As far as comparing ASP3 to Lightroom in terms of overall features, I’m actually quite impressed with Corel’s effort. I forced myself to do all my editing for two weeks on just ASP3, and I was pleased to see that there really wasn’t anything that Lightroom offered that ASP3 didn’t also have.

Some features required some digging around to find or figure out (for instance, “Clarity” doesn’t exist as a unique slider in ASP3, but you can still achieve the same effect with a combination of others), and of course learning a different UI always takes some getting used to, but ASP3 is very easy to pick and learn. Before long, I was just as comfortable editing large batches of photos via ASP3, and being pleasantly surprised by how smoothly I was able to work.

One aspect of ASP3 that I felt was a bit lacking when comparing it to Lightroom is the availability of plugins. ASP3’s selection is no slouch, and to be honest, comparing its plugin offerings to the mighty Lightroom/Photoshop is not really fair. I’m not a huge user of third party plugins with Lightroom, but those that I do use are invaluable, and while I could similar plugins via ASP3, it’s not really the same. Not a make or break sort of thing for me, but those that rely heavily on plugins might feel that ASP3 is a bit lacking.

Some features that ASP3 offers that I found to be especially convenient are:

Watermark editor – In short, it’s easy to use. Upload a watermark and tweak as needed. Simple and powerful with a ton of options

Built-in HDR processing – It works just fine, but I’m so used to Photomatix that I probably won’t switch. It’s nice having a built-in HDR editor with your main photo processing program, though. Definitely kudos for convenience’s sake.

Enhanced highlight recovery – The name of this features makes it seem a lot more complex than it really is, but I still found this to be a very helpful took. “Enhanced highlight recovery” is basically the “Highlights” slider in Lightroom with a few more options for tweaking. ASP3’s new algorithm allows you to access more of the data in your RAW files for better control over your highlight tweaking. This is one feature I wish Lightroom had expanded upon.

Blemish remover – nothing more than Photoshop’s Spot remover. Nothing groundbreaking here other than the fact that I don’t have to jump into an external program to do this task. Less programs running means a happier computer.

Lens corrections – Lightroom has this feature as well and I use it frequently, so I’m pleased to see that the feature is found in ASP3 as well. My kit lens, however, is nowhere to be found in the profiles, so go figure.

If you’re not looking to pay into the triple digits for photo processing software, then I implore you to give AfterShot Pro 3 a good, serious look. It offers an incredibly powerful suite of tools for an incredible price, and any of its shortcomings when compared to Adobe’s products are minimal at best. There isn’t any one thing that I would say is significantly lacking from ASP3, and like a mentioned earlier in the review, this is not some halfway, cheapo, scrub editing program. AfterShot Pro 3 is more than worth its value.

Corel AfterShot Pro 3 can be found the company’s website at aftershotpro.com and here on Amazon.com.