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.