Software

Here I present information about the software I use or have reviewed. Rather than regurgitate marketing materials provided to me, I will offer my own experiences and opinions after having used the various products myself.

Photoshop/Adobe Camera RAW
Part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop CC as it is now called is only available by a monthly subscription of $20. Many software companies have made the move to subscription only. The advantage is that you are always updated with the latest version while the disadvantage is that you are constantly paying for the service. Personally, I think it is a good deal even though the price has recently doubled. There are some alternatives for free but you get what you pay for in my opinion. It is hard to beat the many thousands of free online tutorials that are made only for Photoshop (or Lightroom), something you just don’t get with the less popular software. Add to that, the local knowledge base, and it’s hard not to go with the crowd.

I call Photoshop the great tool box of image editing. It has pretty much everything you need to create amazing images and artwork. Like any toolbox however, it can be overwhelming when you first open it and see all the tools and functions available. Realize that you only need a few of these to get started. And for me, even after quite a few years of using it, I still only use a small fraction of what’s there. So don’t get overwhelmed but relax and just use what you need.

I group Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) with Photoshop because they are an integral set of tools that I use to start on any image editing. When I open a RAW image into Photoshop, it opens into PS but also opens ACR where my image first appears. It is here where I do almost all of the tonal edits to my images. The ability to have presets is useful once you develop your own style of editing, especially if you have a large number of images that were taken under the same conditions.

Once I have finished with ACR, my image then opens into PS proper where I perform my final processing, usually noise reduction and sharpening, and final touchups including any cloning of problem areas, and then adding my watermark.

For me, Photoshop is an indispensable part of my editing process. I use it to launch several plug-ins including Fisheye-Hemi, Noiseware, Photo Lemur, and Topaz Adjust.

Lightroom

Like learning a new language, switching to a new software platform can be painful. Lightroom comes to you as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. I have tried to make the switch a couple of times but I found it to be futile. It does a nice job of categorizing your images for you but if you already have your own method for doing that then you may find LR to be as frustrating as I did.

Many swear by it just as others do Photoshop. I think it has a simpler interface for those who are new to image editing but it lacks many of the sophisticated tools that you will likely end up wanting to use. You can easily open images from LR into PS for that. But again, I’m so used to the PS environment that it’s hard for me to make the change and I’m completely happy with that.

To download a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud and start using it today, click here:
https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/free-trial-download.html

Photomatix Pro

One of the standalone programs that I use frequently is Photomatix Pro. This is a nice companion for combining multiple exposures when you use auto exposure bracketing to construct high dynamic range (HDR) images. Although many cameras provide in-camera HDR, they typically output as JPEG, making any further edits highly destructive and in the 8-bit color space as opposed to the 16-bit of RAW. With Photomatix, you load your RAW images and select the blending parameters and it outputs a 16-bit image that you can then further manipulate in Photoshop or your favorite editor.

The Grand Tetons using Photomatix Pro. Three exposures taken 0.7 eV apart.

To download your free trial and start using Photomatix Pro today, click here: https://www.hdrsoft.com/download.html

Fisheye-Hemi

Adobe Camera RAW offers automatic lens corrections which loads profiles for correcting the geometry, light falloff (vignetting), and other shortcomings that many lenses have. Especially when using fisheye lenses, I often prefer the corrections offered by the plug-in, Fisheye Hemi, especially when people are in the scene. In many cases it renders the geometry better and doesn’t seem to chop off as much of the original scene as the built in profile does. Of course sometimes I prefer not to correct for any of the geometric distortion of the fisheye, preferring that surreal look.

Fisheye image in New York City, geometry-corrected with Fisheye-Hemi.

To download and start using Fisheye-Hemi today, click here:
https://imadio.com/products/prodpage_hemi.aspx

Noiseware

This is another plug-in for Photoshop and one that I use on EVERY image edit. I turn off all of the noise reduction and sharpening provided in Adobe Camera RAW and do it all in Noiseware. For me, it tends to reduce more noise and do it in a more graceful manner. And since I often shoot at ISO values well above 5000, I depend on good noise reduction and subsequent sharpening.

Low light scene using Noiseware for noise reduction and sharpening

To download and start using Noiseware today, click here:
http://imagenomic.com/Products/Noiseware

Photo Lemur

Photo Lemur is another plug-in to Photoshop and one that I haven’t had a lot of use for, probably since I have extensive experience in editing the types of images I capture regularly. I will be using it more, to see what it may offer me, especially in the snapshot department, where the images are less artful or technically challenging. Family shots with my cell phone come to mind.

To download a free trial and start using Photolemur today, click on the banner below:

Topaz Adjust

Adjust is one of several offerings from Topaz Labs. Designed more as a set of one-touch preset filter, it offers some really fun effects, most of which I find do not fit into my usual toolbox. I do however fine the Mild Details filter to be very useful when I want a grungy look in some of my live music image or anything where I want to accentuate fine detail. If you can imagine it, you can probably find it in Topaz Adjust.

Cy Curnin of The Fixx with Topaz Adjust for increased sharpness.

To download a free trial and start using Topaz Adjust today, click here: https://topazlabs.com/adjust/ref/236/

Topaz Studio

If Topaz Adjust has a lot of offerings, then Topaz Studio is a whole world of offerings. I find it to be pretty memory intensive for my laptop work but if you need a wide variety of artistic renderings of your work then you are bound to find it here. Another plug-in, it is accessible directly from your filters menu in Photoshop.

Cedar waxwings using Topaz Studio artistic filter

To download a free trial and start using Topaz Studio today, click here:
https://topazlabs.com/trials/ref/236/