They can also embed other features, for publishing or archiving, but they main objectives are to let you improve the image itself.
Actually, most of the software now embeds two kind of features:
- The real improving features (contrasts, white balance, …),
- Digital filters.
The latest can be very sophisticated of course, masquerading analog films, or creating miscellaneous effects.
Lightroom: Mostly for sorting, publishing and archiving but embeds great features to improve the image quality. At the end of the day, it aims to be a one stop shop. Extremely popular but I am still not totally convinced. The new Lightroom, cloud based, is maybe able to do a better job but when it comes to really improving images, I have better options. You also have to deal with the complexity of two similar products Classic or cloud based, with probably the former being discontinued at a point of time.
Nik software is a real suite of software, extremely useful for photographers and specifically designed to improve your pictures. You need to understand how works the whole suite of software, and to use them in your workflow accordingly. Their control points really rock. The main drawbacks: it does not replace other tools for basic improvement, it is just for improving images. So you add extra steps to your workflow and so far the integration with other tools like Lightroom is OK but not great, making the overall process slower. Or you show me what I have missed.
DXO Suite made of Optics Pro, Film pack, View point: somewhat similar to Nik Software but don’t do exactly the same things! Yes, post processing is a complex thing… Their distortion correction features really rock, and their View point is also offering a great tool for portraits. Actually I like both Nik software and DXO. DXO finally bought Nik Software, from Google.
Google Photos: basic editing feature but of course integrated to the overall Google cloud experience. Great consumer tools but too limited for advanced users.
On1 Photo RAW: they claim officially to be a me-too of Lightroom and Photoshop. Try it and make your mind… Especially if you see no added value to the Adobe suite and you want to focus at improving images and not manipulating it.
Capture One: Capture One , from Phase One is originally designed for the medium format fans, a self-proclaimed professional software suite to improve your pictures. But everyone who likes to shoot RAW can use it.
RAW Power: for MacOS and iOS. The tool does not want to do too many things but aim at doing one thing very well: adjusting RAW files.
Luminar: from Skylum. Another tool to improve your source images. One more time, test it and make your mind. They are nowadays quite a few choices.
ACDsee: and here we go with one more tool to enhance your images…
Photoshop Creative Suite (CS): very famous, but certainly not the best tool just to improve the image. I like it to modify the image, not to improve it. Between modifying and improving an image, the gap the immense and that’s why Photoshop has been designed. Photoshop looks great to remove some parts of the picture, make the legs of your model nicer, but it’s basic purpose is not to reduce noise or improve contrast, even there are some features to do so.
Photoshop elements: the small brother of Photoshop, developed by Adobe like Photoshop. A kind of one-stop-shop which does nothing very well but is cheaper and can potentially do a lot for casual photographers. I still find it too complex to use for such people, and too limited for the others. And it is still a tool, like CS, to manipulate the image, not to improve it.
Try them, make your mind, and chose the one or those you really need. You need first to have understood the whole set of features they propose before really understand what you can do with your images.