Editing thousands of digital images can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, the process can be both fun and rewarding. Here, the most effective apps and programs for your digital darkroom.

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Software Face-Off

When it comes to photo-editing programs, Adobe’s Photoshop products are the clear leaders. We break down the differences between their two most popular tools so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

Lightroom 5

$149; Mac/Windows

Who It’s For: Photo enthusiasts working with a large volume of images. Despite the slight learning curve, it is the preferred program of creative professionals.

User Experience: It’s mega-efficient. Not only does it geo-tag and group your snaps automatically but it also lets you apply edits to entire batches at once (perfect for those 100 shots you took on a cloudy day).

Compatability: Works with all types of files, from RAW to video and music, lending itself to multimedia slideshows.

Functionality: Offers fewer effects in favor of simplicity and practicality. The Upright tool, for instance, keeps skyline shots from looking like they’re leaning.

Elements 11

$99; Mac/Windows

Who It’s For: Experts and amateurs alike. It has the bells and whistles of Photoshop’s more expensive Pro version, plus easy-to-navigate tutorials for beginners.

User Experience: It’s intuitive. Learn new skills in Guided mode, work on simple retouching in Quick mode, or try your hand at more advanced moves (such as hybridizing images) in Expert mode.

Compatability: Requires a companion program for video editing and a plug-in for RAW files.

Functionality: Has numerous options for detailed and precise editing. We love the Auto-Analyzer feature, which picks out your best shots.

Best Mobile Editing Apps

Our favorite tools for photographers on the go.

Camera+: While we love the subtle and sophisticated filters of Camera+, the true selling point is its impressive ability to adjust problematic pictures with just one tap. The Clarity button automatically brightens, saturates, and sharpens shots, making it the best instant retoucher we’ve seen ($0.99; iOS, iPad).

Photoshop Touch: The smartphone version of this desktop classic has fun features such as Scribble Selection, which borrows elements from various photos and turns them into one great mash-up. Integration with Adobe Creative Cloud means it’s easy to keep editing back home (from $4.99; Android, iOS, iPad, Kindle Fire).

Snapseed: This app offers countless manipulations—from adding vintage-inspired filters to shifting perspective. Thanks to an intuitive interface, it’s easy to tweak the intensity of each effect with swipe motions, while a handy Compare function lets you view your edits alongside the original (free; Android, iOS, iPad).

iPhoto: For iPhone users, this multifaceted app offers a broad range of capabilities. See similar pics side by side to choose the best ones, then apply localized fixes by “finger painting” modifications directly onto problem spots. After you finish, everything is organized into an online scrapbook. ($4.99; iOS, iPad)

Cinemagram: It’s less a tool for photo editing than a nifty one-trick pony, but what a trick: shoot a still image and animate parts of it with looping video (say, a portrait taken in front of Chicago’s Navy Pier with just the Ferris wheel moving in the background). The premise is simple, but the result is surprisingly captivating (free; Android, iOS, iPad).