Photo Software

Hello out there in Digital Land,

 I thought it might be a good idea to start a discussion on different editing software as well as other software products that help us with our creations. By the way, “I’m a total Software Head as well as a Gear Head” in case you were wondering. What can I say ………… I love to experiment.

 Most of us out there are not just photographers, we are artists, and as artist we need to experiment, explore and as they say “push the envelope”!

 Here are a few of the software products that I use to push that envelope:

 1. Of course, # 1 on my list would be Photoshop. This is the industry standard for amateurs and professionals alike. This software does much more than I will ever be able to learn, but for how I use it, it is indispensable. It is available in 3 basic levels, namely the CS (Creative Suite) standard level, the CS Extended level, which has extra features for graphics and 3D applications, and the Elements level, which is a scaled down version of CS but is still capable of doing a great job.

 CS and Elements both incorporate the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) raw file converter although the CS version is much more advanced than the Elements version.

 CS and Elements both contain an organizational module where you can view and search your images files . Both are browser based, which means you are viewing the actual images stored on your computer’s hard drive or external hard drives as opposed to programs like Lightroom which are catalogue based (see Lightroom description below for details). The Elements browser is called the Organizer and is an integral part of the Elements program while the CS organizer is called Adobe Bridge and is a stand alone browser, giving a “bridge” or connection of your files to the CS editor.

 2. Lightroom is not necessarily my next favorite editing program but I import all my images from my camera memory cards onto my hard drives via this program. I name all my image folders and keyword my images in Lightroom. Lightroom is a catalogue based system, meaning that the thumbnails you are viewing in Lightroom are virtual copies of your images that Lightroom stores in a catalogue.

The key to the Lightroom catalogue based system is that Lightroom knows where each of those images are on your computer.  This catalogue system allows you to sort and make collections of images, drawn from many locations on your computer, into one place without the need to make duplicate copies of the images.  If you need an actual physical copy of the images in a collection you can export them out to a location on your computer.  Lightroom then makes a real copy of these images wherever they may be and places them in the location of your choice.  I find this incredibly useful for gathering and organizing images for presentations or slideshows.

 In addition to its organizational properties, Lightroom 4 has a Develop Module for processing Raw images, which is in fact, identical to the ACR converter in CS6 (Adobe’s latest version of Photoshop).  Lightroom does not support layers but Lightroom 4 and CS6 were made to work together and you can transfer images from Lightroom to Photoshop when you need to use layers and then back again as flattened PSD or Tiff files, or you can save the files directly from Photoshop to your computer as PSD or Tiff files, keeping the layered files intact for future editing.

Lightroom is totally non-destructive.  Any changes you make to a file in Lightroom are written to a side car file called an XMP file. This file accompanies the Raw file and contains a set of instructions of the changes you made to the image (Just like in the movies, “no pixels are harmed in the making of these images”)

 There are many more useful modules in Lightroom including: Map (for geo-tagging location information on where the image was captured ……. very helpful on photo trips etc, I use this feature all the time.); Book (you can design a book and send it to Blurb to be published); Slideshow, Print and Web (for exporting images to the web as galleries etc.)

 3. The following software programs are called Plug-ins and work primarily within Photoshop and Lightroom although some of them will work as stand alone programs.

 For me personally, Nik Software is # 1! (www.niksoftware.com).  I use it in one way or another on almost every image. The programs included in the Nik Bundle are: Veveza (my favorite go-to final editing program); DFine (for Noise Reduction); Color Efex Pro (Image enhancement in a thousand different ways); Silver Efex Pro (a super Black & White conversion program); HDR Efex Pro (for combining bracketed exposures to increase the dynamic tonal range of an image); and Sharpener Pro (for critical image sharpening).

All the Nik software programs utilize what they call U-Point Technology allowing you to make minute and exacting editing adjustments to your images. The programs can be purchased as a Bundle or individually. Not super cheap but I find the programs super useful.

The other two software programs I do use (but not as much as Nik) are Perfect Photo Suite by OnOne (http://www.ononesoftware.com) and the plug-ins by Topaz Labs (www.topazlabs.com).  Perfect Photo Suite contains the following modules: Black and White, Portrait, Layers (allows you to use layers in Lightroom), Effects (similar to Nik’s Color Efex Pro), Resize (as far as I’m concerned this is the absolute best program for upsizing images for print, hands down!), Mask (a very sophisticated masking program) and Focal Point (for controlling and changing depth of field etc. in an image)

 The Topaz Labs Software includes 12 products (B&W Effects, Clean, Adjust, Star Effects, Simplify, DeNoise, Lens Effects, Detail {great for enhancing fine details}, ReMask and InFocus) plus a stand alone version called Photo FX Labs. I haven’t had a chance to really explore this software yet but what I have tried seems to work well.

 I would love to hear about your favorite editing software, why you like it and how you find it useful.

 Cheers, Larry Citra

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