Affinity Photo A Low-Cost Photo Editor
Smart Photography|September 2020
Affinity Photo A Low-Cost Photo Editor
Perhaps your first reaction on seeing the title would be – “I am already using Photoshop (or some other editing package) and I am happy. Why should I learn and use another one?”
Ashok Kandimalla

I will not respond to this question now, but hope that you will find the right answer by reading this article. First, let me share some background about this. Affinity Photo is an image processing software package from Serif Ltd., a UK based software company. It is a sibling of Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher. All three are standalone packages and can be purchased independently. Since our concern is photo processing, we will only look at Affinity Photo.

So, what is Affinity Photo? It is an amalgamation of several image processing modules or applications all integrated to work seamlessly. Thus, it includes –

A raw converter and developer

A general photo (image) editor

A print module

Extended processing applications like Focus stacking, Panorama creation, and HDR (high dynamic range) processing. All these work with standard file formats as well as raw files.

Another important point is that every package has a learning curve. Hence, it will take time and effort to learn it. In that context, there are three important points that you need to consider.

First, Affinity Photo is a close clone of the popular software, Photoshop. The screen layouts, menus, tools, the concept of layers, etc., are nearly identical. Nomenclature is the same too and so are many of the keyboard short cuts. Even the raw converter of Affinity Photo looks similar to ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). So, if you are a Photoshop user it will not take more than a few hours to understand and start using Affinity Photo.

Second, Affinity Photo has excellent video tutorials for learning. These are all short, around 5 minutes each, and take you through basics. Third and last, Affinity Photo has a built-in help that does not need an internet connection and hence is available to you at all times. A printable softcopy of the manual (in pdf format) is also available as a free download if you prefer that.


Affinity Photo calls an operating environment as a Persona. You can also consider each Persona as a different workspace to cater to a specific purpose. You can move between personas back and forth. These are shown as five icons on the top left of the home screen (Picture 1). You can launch any persona by clicking on the respective icon. Here are the names with a brief description.

Photo Persona: This is the most important module of all and is where all the main photo editing will take place. It is the general equivalent of Photoshop for photo editing. The user interface too is similar as you can see (Picture 2). Most of the panels are also customisable like it is in Photoshop and you can only keep those you need to reduce clutter and make the operation efficient.

Liquify Persona: Designed for distortion work. You will probably be using this persona relatively less.

Develop Persona: This is functionally similar to the ACR converter in Photoshop and by extension the Develop module of Lightroom. Once again, the user interface is similar, as most sliders have the same names and functions (Picture 3). After raw conversion, you can switch from Develop to Photo persona for further editing such as adding layers, filters, etc.

There are some important differences when compared to ACR. In case of the latter, any editing you have done on the raw file will be stored in a sidecar file with the extension XMP when you exit. There is no such facility in Affinity Photo. Thus, when you exit Develop persona after raw conversion and enter Photo persona, all the development previously done is baked in. If you now save the resulting file, it will be saved as Affinity Photo file with the extension, afphoto (by default). However, the original raw file is untouched.

You can go back from Photo persona to Develop persona (remember, that with Photoshop you cannot go back to ACR once you exit) but, there are some limitations when you do so. This is what happens. When you switch back, all the changes made to the raw file earlier will be there but all sliders in the Develop persona will be reset to default settings, though, you can now start adjusting them again. This is not a serious limitation but, it is better to be aware of it. This behaviour is somewhat similar to what you see when you launch Photoshop from Lightroom to further edit an image and then return to the latter.

For raw processing, Develop persona is not as powerful and as dedicated as raw converters like Lightroom or Capture One, but, it is more than enough for most users, plus, it offers the convenience of an integrated package.

Tone Mapping Persona: This is used for the HDR processing and the underlying software uses high precision 32-bit floating-point calculations, allowing the entire tonal range to be preserved, without any compromises. This persona also provides good tone mapping and contrast controls to get the effect you want. Deghosting of moving objects can also be done - either automatically or manually.

Export Persona: This is for exporting your finished files into other formats for printing or sharing. All standard file formats and colour spaces are supported. There is an interesting option that allows you to export only a part (called “Slice”) of the image.



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September 2020