This week there was quite a discussion in my shop about the selection of software for producing quality images. Today photographers are clicking camera shutters more than compared to just a few short years ago when photography was ruled by film. Exposing four or five 36-exposure rolls while on vacation, or at a family event, was pretty much the norm instead of the 600, or 1600, captures filling memory cards today.
We each talked about our personal workflow for editing images. The following is some of what I added regarding my own workflow, and some of the programs I use to speed things up.
When I get home with images in my camera the first thing I do is remove the memory card, insert it in the card reader attached to my computer, and begin the process of downloading. I am usually excited with anticipation about the images I have just captured and I want to see them right away.
I begin with a program called Photo Mechanic from Camerabits.com. Photo Mechanic is a fast and easy way to work with and manage groups of photos. I open up a screen full of pictures, select those I want to keep, batch-rename them, and move them to a new folder. The process is very fast and in a short while I can go through and review what I have just photographed.
I don’t leave my image files waiting very long before I start to work on them. I am always excited; I hate waiting, and I enjoy working on my pictures. Years ago I would be in my photo lab, with the stereo turned up, happily developing, and printing enlargements in a darkened room only illuminated with red and amber lights.
Nowadays I am still happily “developing”, but with the music coming from bigger speakers in my living room and I am sitting in a comfortable chair instead of standing on a rubber mat in my basement darkroom. There are no wet trays; there are no coloured lights, just a couple of big, bright computer displays with colourful pictures.
I then start the process of enhancing images and for that I employ several programs. Of course there is the ever-familiar Photoshop, however, depending on how I decide to fine tune my images I might choose to use the feature packed Perfect Suite program from Ononesoftware.com. Perfect Suite is a photo editor that works as either a standalone application, or plug-in editor, to Adobe Photoshop that includes some pretty exciting tools.
For years photographers have used graduated filters to cope with the contrasts of bright sky, and low light foregrounds with deep shadows, or bright highlights, when photographing landscapes. Although I don’t recommend getting rid of those filters yet, there is a program that may save lots of time usually spent in Photoshop lightening and darkening those landscape pictures. It is called Photomatix from HDRsoftware.com. Photomatix combines more than one exposure of a single subject that is exposed from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlights by creating an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image.
Finally, I will reach into a powerful and fun collection of fine-tuning programs from Niksoftware.com’s easy to use image editor that allows me to compare and make different adjustments quickly.
Most of my images are pretty good when I finish them in Photoshop. However, in my continual quest to speed up my post-processing of images, reduce my time behind the computer, and still produce quality images I find that combining these five programs fits my workflow perfectly.
I know that new cameras and lenses are what most photographers lust after, but I think if you are trying to justify expensive equipment purchases to your spouse, partner, or banker, it might be easier if you are already making show stopping, eye-catching pictures. Check the programs I have mentioned (always try their trial copies first) and see if they are for you.
Always interesting to get insight on how others do their business – thanks
Thanks Scott, it is all so much fun working on the files from our digital cameras. I do appreciate that you took the time to comment.
Wow your desk is so neat and tidy and you have 2 monitors!! Fab. I have Lightroom and PSCC and also the nik software and Perfect suite, also Photomatix but I rarely use it as I don’t do HDR very often. 🙂
To be honest fragg, I removed the pile of paper before I took the picture.
I have stayed with Photoshop CS5. It works good enough for me needs. Regarding all those other programs, I just use ’em when I am in the mood. Mostly I work with Adobe Raw then finish with some of the stuff in NIK’s stable. And end sharpening using Photoshop HighPass filter. I like to print also.
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I always enjoy reading about the techniques other photographers use in taking and editing photos. As an old darkroom tech myself, I have come to accept computer editing as a creative way of getting the most out of the files and I really enjoy it. Thanks for sharing some of your techniques.
Thank you for your comment oneowner. I expect like me, you might see the data captured in your camera, as just the beginning.
Interesting. Our workflows are quite different.
I also have two monitors. It looks like your main one is on the left. Mine is on the right. Mind you, I’m looking partly towards a window on the left.
I use Lightroom for the vast majority of my processing. I find it easy to use and powerful, it allows me to quickly find images and I can quickly modify images en masse on occasion.
Recently I have taken to using FastRaw Viewer as an initial step for selection and marking for deletion. Lightroom can be a little slow to turn over from one RAW file to another and FastRaw Viewer is instant. Also it gives accurate information on underexposure and overexposure in the RAW file so I can quickly see which files really do have blown highlights and which I may need to combine with HDR. It is a new program from the makers of RawDigger and costs $20 only.
I’ve never tried PhotoMechanic. Currently I am importing into Lightroom, culling the files in FastRaw Viewer (and marking files for deletion with a red label rather than using the default RawViewer method which moves them to another directory), then updating metadata for all those files in Lightroom to receive the changes.
I also use Photoshop of course and I use the Nik suite (though mainly for monochrome conversion and noise removal). I have the Topaz suite but don’t use it and I’ve never tried OnOne.
For HDR, I mainly use HDR Pro in Photoshop with the 32 bit processing option. I can then modify the 32-bit image in Lightroom. I still use SNS HDR sometimes. It offers very good control though not 32-bit processing and is not so good for dealing with movement in the images. Nik HDR Efex Pro is another possible option, though limited in its presets. I’ve never much liked Photomatix. It started off predicated to the tacky grungy look and realistic HDR/ fusion seemed something of an afterthought. Dealing with movement was also not as good as Photoshop.
I also use Autopano Giga or Merge to Panorama in Photoshop for panoramas, and I sometimes use Helican Focus or Photoshop for focus stacking.
Two monitors are great! I only have one at my shop and its so limiting not being able to move files and PS tools around..
I have never been comfortable with Lightroom Murray. I tried it several times over the years and it feels awkward, I suppose that comes from using Photoshop since, gosh PS-3 back in the late 1990’s. I climbed from 3 to 4 to 6 then thought things couldn’t get better when PS-7 was introduced years before CS. Now I have stopped at PSCS-5. I have retired and don’t work for others anymore so I expect I’ll stay there.
Camera Raw is pretty much the same for both LR and PS. But PS is fast and offers way more of what I want. I have just moved to the newest iMac and it moves RAW files instantly.
You have my interest in Fast RAW Viewer. I intend to check it out.
Regarding Photo Mechanic. When I first started trying to change to digital back in the 1990’s I searched online for what sports photographers were using and Photo Mechanic kept coming up. I have been with it since 2001 I think. It is a fast way to select out, move and rename files. It seems much like how you describe Fast RAW.
I choose Photomatix when I was doing lots of interior photography and it worked great for that. I don’t do much HDR, although I have been thinking about it and your advice is worthwhile. I’ll keep that in mind. Also your experience with Helican focus is welcome.
There are so many fun programs being developed and I look forward to trying more in the years to come.
I always look forward to your comments Murray. You always get me thinking.
I think I started off in Photoshop with PS5. I’m on CC 2015 now and much of the functionality I use in Photoshop is I think post-CS5 though of course basic functionality of layers and masks in unchanged for eons, well, years. I seem to recall both HDR Pro and Merge to Panorama were much improved in CS6. You won’t have 32-bit HDR processing because that is quite recent (and my comment about processing the file in Lightroom also applies to ACR).
There are other recent PS features I find useful. The shake reduction filter can work magic on some images that would otherwise be unusable. Content-aware fill can be great to remove unwanted items or to invent the edges of a panorama. I think the quick selection tool came out in CS6. I find that invaluable for creating quick masks and I think the Refine Edge finessing to that came out in CS6 or later.
I’ve been using Lightroom since the Beta for Version 1 so I’m quite comfortable with it. The interface is very different to Photoshop so I guess that takes some getting used to. I generate a couple of thousand final images each year and I process most images after the initial cull to get a good sense of where I can take them and which to prefer. That means a fast workflow is important to me and I find I can get that with Lightroom. I also find soft proofing and printing much better in Lightroom than Photoshop. You can also save presets for settings, papers and profiles which makes the process much more straightforward.
For me, the $10 per month for a current copy of Photoshop is quite reasonable and I now get a current copy of Lightroom tossed in.
Thanks Murray, That is good to know about light room. I can’t understand how soft proofing would be different in Lightroom than Photoshop.
I can’t see myself going with Photoshop CC in the near future. The cost of data is expensive for those of us in rural Canada.
Great article on the available software John! I use Perfect effects 9 from Perfect Suite, and I have just purchased the Photomatix 5.0.5. I used the free version of photomatix for years before upgrading.
I have never used Lightroom but am seriously looking at upgrading my photoshop from elements and adding lightroom as well (for 10.00/month) My only concern with that is how much data that would use as I do not have unlimited internet at home.
As usual I appreciate all the knowledge you share!
I wondered about the cost of data with the Adobe cloud also. Like you my rural internet is very expensive and as I just found out when doing updates while I changed my computer. The cost was very high.
Thanks for commenting Wendy, I really appreciate your opinions.