How and why to use the Polarr photo editor

If you’re just getting into your photography and want to use RAW images rather than Jpegs, you need an editing programme rather than the basics you might use online.  On recommendation I’ve started using Polarr, and want to share what I’ve learnt about it.

Everyone seems to opt for Lightroom or Photoshop which do the job brilliantly, but in particular with Photoshop there’s a big learning curve.  There’s also a big expense.  With Lightroom you can pay a one off cost, but you don’t get updates with it, or a monthly subscription which is around £10 a month.  It’s not a lot of money, but the thought of having to pay £120 a year for photo editing software on top of all the other blogging fees I pay, was a little horrifying.  With Lightroom you have the organisation side of storage as well as editing.  But do your storage properly using tags and favourites outside of your editing software, then I’ve found I can do without.

how to use Polarr photo editor - Bubbablue and me

Jpeg editing options

With jpegs, I always used Picmonkey which unfortunately is now paid only (but pretty cheap, so I still use it).  There’s also BeFunky which is free, and Canva – although personally I prefer that for using templates and creating pinnable images rather than actually editing photos.

RAW editing

But with RAW, you need to be able to cope with the image size and edit the details.  If you don’t want to pay for subscriptions, then Polarr photo editor works for everything I’ve needed to do as part of my fine art flower photography course.

Polarr is a photo editor app which can be used online, mac, ios and android. The basic version is free. Once you start looking at spot editing that’s when the free options no longer work.  It’s currently $19.99 for the pro licence, and that’s lifetime access. With my current course editing is essential.  I thought I was going to have to use Lightroom (the course goes through the edits step by step for each lesson using Lightroom), but Polarr was recommended as a free option.  I’d used it but got stuck at one point where I needed to use a specific edit so upgraded to access it and haven’t looked back.

How to use Polarr photo editor

To run through everything that Polarr does is impossible, because there’s a lot there and I’ve still got lots to learn.  But they have a Polarr wiki area you can search on. And I signed up to get weekly email tips on how to use different edit options.  There’s also lots of youtube videos if you’re more a watch and follow person.

polarr wiki

The way I’ve learnt to use it, is from taking the lightroom steps from my course, and just translated those to try in Polarr. Generally I can replicated exactly what I want to do, although I did struggle to find the radial mask at first.

The way Polarr works is similar to Lightroom. It’s button based for each editing type and then you use a scale to increase or decrease each edit.

polarr curves

You can also batch your work – batch save, watermark, add meta data or copyrights, tag images, resize.

And the one things that saves time for photography editing.  Ok, when you’re working on one detailed image you might want to spend ages on it. But if you’ve been for a day out or have done a photo shoot, and you want to use the same edit on each photo you can do so.  And you can save the edit for next time – making it public or keeping it private.  There are also presets you can use.

I’ve saved several of my own – outdoor (garden style), snow days, darker moody, and ‘real’ brighter look.  If I open photos that fall under this style, I’ll click the relevant present, then bring it down if needed.  I can then do smaller edits on individual photos if needed.  It certainly saves time.

Key editing functionality:

  • Colour – vibrance, saturation, whites/blacks etc
  • Crop and rotate
  • Detail – Sharpening, clarity
  • Tone curves, masks and spot editing,
  • HDR
  • Presets – save your own or use those already available.

Do I always use Polarr?

I’m a lazy photographer. If I’m doing a specific shoot I really want to get right I’ll use the RAW images (eg flowers, or landscapes) and then use Polarr. But for snaps of N or days out for blog posts I’ll usually just use the jpegs.  I prefer to get the photo as right as I want it up front, then I can just sharpen, brighten and resize the photos that need it. I’ve used Polarr for a few jpeg edits if I want to batch edit. But mostly I would continue using fotosizer to batch resize a set of photos for the blog. And then Picmonkey for a few that need slight editing.

There are niggles I have with Polarr – I’ve probably just not found the solution yet and there’s no-one I know using it to compare notes.

  • Sometimes it’s temperamental when I try to move from one photo to the next, or if I want to highlight more than one photo. I have to reload it
  • It’s not pretty and not as easy as picmonkey to use. But it’s not dissimilar to Lightroom, so it’s just something to get used to.
  • The radial mask is hard to use accurately. This may just be a practise thing
  • The export to jpg and png is quite small.  When I have jpegs out of the camera they’re around 6-8mb in size. Exporting from Polarr is usually under 500kb. That’s fine for the blog, but I’m not sure how I’d manage that if I wanted to create a canvas.  It doesn’t appear to compress the image, but it’s a mystery compared to Picmonkey where my files remain much larger unless I resize them.

Polarr photo editor fills an editing gap for me. It’s got me into using RAW images which can be useful for certain types of photography.  If you use RAW and don’t want to spend the money on Lightroom, then try Polarr. It’s a reasonable interim solution which can save a lot of time, but still give you the flexibility in editing that you can get in more expensive programmes.

What do you use to edit?


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4 thoughts on “How and why to use the Polarr photo editor

    1. RAW would be great for your landscape photos because you can really bring out the different colours in the sky etc. But for snaps and activity stuff stick with JPEGS because it’s so much faster for photos you need to get on the blog quickly. But presets are great, and you can only really get them in bigger editors like lightroom or polarr etc.

      You really should do a course – sign up for Emma Davies’ a year with my camera. She’s been through the 6 weeks of getting off auto already, but you’d still have access to the weekly lessons if you signed up now, and it’s free. I never keep up, but I did a different course so hers was good for explaining and answering questions I had and practising specific tasks to understand the settings.

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