A Lightroom Killer? We Review Gemstone Photo Editor 12

If the Adobe subscription plan is weighing on your budget, maybe this one-time payment editing software can give you everything you need, and more. With so many other software, what makes this one different? In this article, we will only focus on the raw editing capabilities of the software to see if it is the answer to your subscription deal.

ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor is photo editing software that offers a wide range of features for raw image processing, retouching and advanced editing tasks. This powerful software supports both Windows and MacOS operating systems, and at $79.99 for all of it, you surely can’t go wrong. It is definitely a powerful and comprehensive photo editor. The raw processing capabilities alone make it a worthwhile choice, especially if you’re looking to get creative with your edits.

The interface

As raw editors, the whole import process is very simple. For this example, I went with a single image, although you can open and edit multiple images. If you’re familiar with Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom editing, there are more similarities than you might think, and that’s not a bad thing. However, if you are new to raw editing, the learning curve is not steep, quite the contrary, in fact, and you will be editing your raw images in minutes.

Upon initial opening of the file, we’re presented with the editing panel and plenty of tools to use, including the history and presets panels, neatly tucked away at the top right of the screen. This may seem like a minor point to point out, but it can be very beneficial if screen size is an issue.

Editing tool panels can be collapsed or expanded, whatever your working preference. On the Stage, along with the main development tools, you have options for zooming and viewing the original image, as well as a collapsible histogram, which provides information about the clipped information for the entire image.

Expanding the panels lets you see the range of editing possibilities at your fingertips, and although they are set to their default options, some panels have further drop-down menus for more advanced editors among you.

The editing workflow

For this image, I had to go through a few steps before I started editing, including horizon leveling and some lens corrections. Everything was quick and clean with no problems. I’d also like to note that if you hover your mouse over any of the sliders and roll the mouse wheel, the sliders activate and you can get smooth micro-adjustments to any of your settings.

Once back in the develop tools settings panel, if you want to see what is clipped in your image, just activate the triangle icon next to the brush tool. Alternatively, there is a very useful shortcut. By pressing the letter “e” on your keyboard at any time during your edit, all clipped areas will be displayed in red.

The Healing Brush

The repair brush for any image anomalies or lens smudges was best used in Blended Clone mode. In this mode it worked very well, whereas in healing or clone modes there were some deviations.

Color wheel target

I used it in its most simplistic form by simply spinning the wheel to highlight similar hues in the image. I kept the range at its default settings for testing and it worked very well, targeting hues all over the image. For a finer selection of hues, just use the eyedropper tool and refine from there.

Local edition

Personally, I do more local editing than anything else on an image once it’s been balanced, and I’m sure you’re the same, using a mix of gradient filters, radial filters, and the tool Brush. In Gemstone 12 they are as expected, very easy to use if you are familiar with the process.

Many adjustments can be made once the filter is applied, and you can apply up to eight at a time. The image above was mostly made up of radial filters and the Brush tool, which again has fine adjustment capabilities.

For best results, I’ve found the brush pressure setting should be lower than 100%, as this allows for more subtle adjustments. In the brush settings, you can target with smart brushing, color, brightness, and magic. The latter, I need to experiment more to see what it can really do, or you can just turn off the smart brushing and masking areas of your choice. To erase parts of your brush strokes, simply right-click with your mouse and return to the area.

What I liked

  • The familiarity of the whole process. After using Lightroom for many years, the interface was really easy to use. Sure, there are some additional features via drop-down menus, but overall everything was where I expected and everything I needed to process the raw file was available.
  • The user interface is clean and collapsible or can be opened completely, whatever your preference.
  • The clipping percentage indicator is a nice touch.
  • Micro-adjustments to one of the UI sliders via mouse wheel.
  • Color EQ position tracking, which automatically activates when you access the Color EQ tab. This may seem like a minor point, but it can be very useful when adjusting the image, as it has other functions when the Shift key is used with it, allowing for faster workflows.

What could be improved

There’s not much to improve on with the raw editing capabilities of this software, but if there was one thing that I think could be refined further, it would be the Develop Brush. On a couple of occasions I’ve found that when using the magic brush option, which is like an auto mask in Lightroom, when I adjust the saturation the results don’t show immediately. At the time, I had other rendering software running in the background, so it was more than likely.


Although I’ve focused primarily on raw capabilities in this article, the software can do a lot with your images. Once your raw file is open, you can then switch to full composition editing mode or graphic designer mode, if that suits you. The software is feature-rich, including HDR, focus stacking, layer masks, layer alignment and blending, and much more.

Everything was where I expected on the raw editing side of the software and worked as I expected when editing. I briefly dove into the composition area of ​​the software, using an older image for speed, and again it did everything I expected, with only a few seconds to research certain features which I am used to in my usual software.

If you are new to raw or photo editing software in general, yes there is a learning curve, but isn’t it the same with all software? The fact that the software combines the functionality of Lightroom and Photoshop in one package is really useful. It could probably be a one stop shop for many people. You may not want to quit or give up the software you’ve been using and investing in for years, but at a fraction of the subscription cost of some current software, it can be a great choice for you.

There’s a free trial on their website, which I think is worth checking out, as well as lots of helpful tutorials on the website and on their YouTube channel.

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