I have had a few messages asking me which software packages I use to edit some of my photos. Whilst there are times when the image doesn’t require any editing, there are some excellent software packages available which are relatively easy to use and which can add to the impact of a photo. Just as art is a medium that evokes a very personal response from the viewer, edited photographs are not to everyone’s taste! This is particularly true of HDR photography (see my other blog for details).
I make use of a wide range of software packages, the main ones being Lightroom 5, Photomatix Pro 5 and Aurora HDR. Here are some brief details of each:
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.0 makes everything about digital photography easier, faster, and more amazing. It allows you to perfect your shots with powerful adjustment tools like the Advanced Healing Brush. Efficiently organise all your photos and share them almost anywhere.
Here are some of the features:
• Don’t let dust spots, splotches, or other distractions and flaws get in the way of a great shot. With the Advanced Healing Brush in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, you can not only change the brush size but also move it in precise paths. Unwanted scene elements – even those with irregular shapes such as threads – just disappear.
• Straighten tilted images with a single click. The Upright tool analyses images and detects skewed horizontal and vertical lines, even straightening shots where the horizon is hidden.
• Emphasize important parts of your image with more flexibility and control. The Radial Gradient tool lets you create off-centre vignette effects, or multiple vignetted areas within a single image.
• Easily share your work in elegant video slide shows. Combine still images, video clips, and music in creative HD videos that can be viewed on almost any computer.
• Create beautiful photo books from your images. Lightroom 5 includes a variety of easy-to-use book templates, and now you can edit them to create a customised look. Upload your book for printing with just a few clicks.
• Find, group, and tag images by location, or plot a photo journey. Automatically display location data from GPS-enabled cameras and camera phones.
• Bring out all the detail that your camera captures in dark shadows and bright highlights. Now you have more power than ever before to create great images in challenging light.
• Gain powerful control over the tonal qualities that make or break black-and-white images. Precisely mix information from eight colour channels when you convert to greyscale.
• Speed up day-to-day imaging tasks and process images faster with cross-platform 64-bit support for the latest Mac OS and Windows operating systems.
• Expand your creative control with flexible brushes that let you adjust targeted areas of your photo for just the look you want. Selectively adjust brightness, contrast, white balance, sharpness, noise reduction and much more.
• Get amazing, natural-looking results from your high ISO images with state-of-the-art noise reduction technology. Apply noise reduction to the entire image, or target specific areas.
• Set your creativity free in a nondestructive editing environment that lets you experiment without limits. Your original images are never altered, and it’s easy to reverse your steps or save multiple versions of any photo.
• Save time by instantly applying favourite looks to images. Store Develop settings as presets and apply them to your other photographs at any time with one click. Many presets are included, and thousands more are available from Lightroom photographers and experts.
Please note that the latest Lightroom package is available as part of an ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’ subscription plan. I use the standalone Lightroom 5 package.
Photomatix Pro 5
• Create HDR photos and adjust them to get the look you want.
• One-click Presets let you choose a style, from natural to painterly to surreal.
• Automatic alignment of hand-held photos and advanced tools to remove ‘ghosts’.
• Batch mode.
• Plugin for Adobe Lightroom included.
There is no doubt that HDR images can often look ‘over-cooked’! There are those who feel that HDR has no place in photography. I don’t subscribe to this view and love experimenting with Photomatix and other HDR software. One of the joys of using it is that there is such a wide range of effects that can be produced. Some will just serve to ‘tune’ the image and others will create an almost surreal look. There is no right or wrong in HDR photography; it’s all down to personal taste.
Aurora HDR from Macphun lets you combine different exposure photos of the same view into one single image that captures the full dynamic range of the original scene from light to dark, which can easily exceed the capability of a single photograph to capture. The software is easy to use and effective, although to get optimal results you will definitely need to experiment.
The various adjustments can be quite subtle, and may not have much obvious effect on any particular image. I found myself moving sliders to extremes to see what was changing, and whilst you can save your own presets, there is no snapshot or history feature if you find yourself up a blind alley and want to go back to what you had 10 minutes earlier!
There is a good range of built-in presets that should cover many user’s needs.
Since Aurora HDR was launched, I have found myself using it more than Photomatix Pro 5. At the time of writing, it is only available for Mac computers. Trey Ratcliff, known internationally for his HDR travel photos, says that Aurora HDR is the only program he uses for editing photos on his Macs. In addition to being able to merge bracketed photos with tone-mapping to create HDR photos, Aurora HDR has layers, HDR denoise, a special “glow” effect, curves, “HDRness” adjustments, colour filters, RAW/JPG/TIFF/PSD support, and many other smaller features and tools.
Other software that I use
In addition to the above-mentioned software packages, I occasionally use the programs shown below. If you would like further details of these, please use the Contact form on my website and I’ll be pleased to help.