Software For Digital Photography Once you start accumulating digital images you will be faced with a number of challenges and the first question you will probably ask yourself is " How do I easily view my images? " Other questions that follow are " How can I easily organise and find the images I want? " and " How can I change the brightness, colour, contrast and a number of other aspects of my images? " Answering these questions is a matter of finding software to perform these tasks. In the following sections you will find descriptions of programs for viewing, organising and editing. We also indicate in these sections which are our favourite programs and which we use regularly. Let's explore each question in a little more detail and get a feel for what we will need and why we chose a particular package. Viewing Images A good viewer program is obviously a requirement for viewing your images. The program you choose should be easy to use and support all types of file formats easily and quickly. Here is a list of features and functions we believe are the most important when choosing a viewer program: Support all major image formats Display images quickly and allow you to flip forwards and backwards through images on disk Display images full screen (reduced to fit the screen) or full size Scroll around images that are too large to fit on screen Batch processing including rename function We have been using IrfanView for viewing our images for many years and have not come across a better program for doing this. IrfanView is small, fast and performs a huge number of functions and best of all it is free for personal use, but please do support the author by giving a donation because it is a truly fantastic program. The program you use is a personal choice and as long as you are comfortable with it and it satisfies your needs then there is no need to change. Managing Images Once you start collecting digital images you will soon find that you are struggling to find a particular image. This is where image management software steps in to assist. As with viewer software, the image management software should support all major image formats and make it easy for you to manage and locate images. Here is a list of features and functions we believe are most important when choosing an image management program: Support all major image formats Catalog images quickly and efficiently Provide a method to categorise your images Enable you to locate images easily and quickly Support removable media such as CDs and DVDs We initially chose and used IMatch because it met all our requirements and is extremely flexible and allows you to manage your images no matter where they are stored. What made IMatch so good is you can manage you images on disk (move, rename, delete etc.) and it will automatically update its database with these changes. IMatch also has a scripting language which allows you to program new functionality that is not built in. IMatch comes with excellent documentation and best of all it is NOT expensive and is very well supported by the author. We have now started using Photo Mechanic to manage our photos as it is very quick and has some incredible features for copying images from camera cards and managing metadata. There is a new version in development which will give similar Digital Assest Management functionality to iMatch or Lightroom Editing Images A good editing program is essential to get the most out of your images. Most digital cameras come with some simple software to adjust images for colour, brightness and contrast. These programs are usually very simple but easy to use and adequate if all you want to do is make simple adjustments. For more advanced editing you will need more advanced software. There are plenty of programs available and many of them are free and others are hugely expensive and designed for the professional graphic artist. Most people have heard of PhotoShop and think this is the ultimate program for image editing but there are alternatives which are as good and sometimes better for the digital photographer. Let's take a brief look at some of the options available. Free Software Probably the best known free software is GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). This program is very similar to PhotoShop and runs on most platforms with Linux and Windows being the most popular. This is a full-featured program but we have found it to be rather slow. Another free program is Paint.NET . This program is very good and is relatively small and runs only on Windows. If you have no other program then this is a good program to start with. Then of course there is Picasa from Google which is more an image management program than an editor but has many simple editing features including an option to load albums onto the web. There are other programs so search the web and you will uncover many more. Picture Window Pro is another excellent photo editor and was our editor of choice before we started using Lightroom. This program was originally commercial software but has now been discontinued. Fortunately, the developers have made version 7 (the latest version) freely available without any conditions for use. This program is designed specifically for the digital photographer and fully handles 48-bit images. Picture Window Pro is incredibly small and provides functionality I have not seen in any other program. Picture Windows had a standard version and a Pro version but now only the Pro version is available. The home page for Picture Windows has lots of tutorials and white papers and an incredibly useful Support Message Board. Commercial Software PhotoShop is the most well known software but it is big and very expensive although cut-down versions are available with a smaller price tag. PhotoShop is the benchmark program and is now only available on a subscription basis. A very good alternative to PhotoShop is ACDSee Photo Studio 2018. There are 3 versions to choose from: Standard, Professional and Ultimate. The Ultimate version provides layered editing and has most of the tools a photographer would need. We also use Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Xara Designer Pro for graphics and layouts as well as some simple photo editing. Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Xara Designer Pro are great vector graphics editors with a full suite of bitmap functionality which allows you to do some amasing things including building full websites like this one! Developing Images We predominantly take photos in the RAW format which allows far greater scope for post-processing. Think of RAW images as your negative which can be developed in many different ways for easy viewing or printing. RAW images contain all the raw data from the sensor without processing in the camera. What this means is you can adjust white balance, exposure, contrast and sharpening among many other options. If you are serious about your photography then always use RAW. The software we used for many years to develop our RAW images was Lightroom from Adobe. This program is extremely powerful and relatively inexpensive given its functionality. As a bonus you can Geocode your photos and version 6 now has HDR and simple Panorama Stitching built-in, both producing DNG raw files. As the newest version of Lightroom is now only available as a subscription, we have decided to use an alternative as we feel a subscription is not appropriate for our needs as enthusiasts. After many weeks of evaluating alternative software we decided to purchase ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate . Unfortunately we found this software to be a little slow so we started hunting for more alternatives and we are very glad to say that we have finally found our ultimate RAW processor - DxO PhotoLab 2 . PhotoLab has the best lens correction facilities available thanks to DXOMARK who scientifically assess image quality of smartphones, lenses and cameras and produce independent benchmarks. The benchmarks are then used to create lens correction modules used in DxO PhotoLab 2. What sets this apart from other lens correction solutions is that the modules produced are for a combination of lens and camera and includes sharpness correction. There are two versions of this software with the Elite version having a number of additional features such as Prime Denoise and Customisable Palettes. Local adjustments is extremely good and negates the need to PhotoShop. DxO PhotoLab 2 produces the sharpest images I have ever seen with my lens and camera combinations. If you are after an open source RAW converter then you can use RawTherapee or Darktable which are both very good programs. High Dynamic Range (HDR) High Dynamic Range (HDR) describes images with very dark and very light areas. Modern cameras cannot easily capture true HDR images with a single exposure. Many cameras provide an HDR function where the camera takes multiple photos at different exposures and then combines them to generate an HDR image. These HDR images more accurately portray what the human eye can perceive. Many programs are available to generate HDR images but our favourite is Oloneo Photo Engine . Although this software is not cheap, it does produce some of the best and most natural looking HDR images. Panorama Stitching There are many free panorama stitching programs available but they tend to be tricky to use. I have started to use Panorama Studio which is easy to use with an automatic function, but if you need greater control over your stitching then you can still do that with this program. DxO PhotoLab can export directly to another program and I have setup this facility to work seamlessly with Panorama Studio.
Keith & Vlasta Ross-Jones
© Keith Ross-Jones
Software For Digital Photography Once you start accumulating digital images you will be faced with a number of challenges and the first question you will probably ask yourself is " How do I easily view my images? " Other questions that follow are " How can I easily organise and find the images I want? " and " How can I change the brightness, colour, contrast and a number of other aspects of my images? " Answering these questions is a matter of finding software to perform these tasks. In the following sections you will find descriptions of programs for viewing, organising and editing. We also indicate in these sections which are our favourite programs and which we use regularly. Let's explore each question in a little more detail and get a feel for what we will need and why we chose a particular package. Viewing Images A good viewer program is obviously a requirement for viewing your images. The program you choose should be easy to use and support all types of file formats easily and quickly. Here is a list of features and functions we believe are the most important when choosing a viewer program: Support all major image formats Display images quickly and allow you to flip forwards and backwards through images on disk Display images full screen (reduced to fit the screen) or full size Scroll around images that are too large to fit on screen Batch processing including rename function We have been using IrfanView for viewing our images for many years and have not come across a better program for doing this. IrfanView is small, fast and performs a huge number of functions and best of all it is free for personal use, but please do support the author by giving a donation because it is a truly fantastic program. The program you use is a personal choice and as long as you are comfortable with it and it satisfies your needs then there is no need to change. Managing Images Once you start collecting digital images you will soon find that you are struggling to find a particular image. This is where image management software steps in to assist. As with viewer software, the image management software should support all major image formats and make it easy for you to manage and locate images. Here is a list of features and functions we believe are most important when choosing an image management program: Support all major image formats Catalog images quickly and efficiently Provide a method to categorise your images Enable you to locate images easily and quickly Support removable media such as CDs and DVDs We initially chose and used IMatch because it met all our requirements and is extremely flexible and allows you to manage your images no matter where they are stored. What made IMatch so good is you can manage you images on disk (move, rename, delete etc.) and it will automatically update its database with these changes. IMatch also has a scripting language which allows you to program new functionality that is not built in. IMatch comes with excellent documentation and best of all it is NOT expensive and is very well supported by the author. We have now started using Photo Mechanic to manage our photos as it is very quick and has some incredible features for copying images from camera cards and managing metadata. There is a new version in development which will give similar Digital Assest Management functionality to iMatch or Lightroom Editing Images A good editing program is essential to get the most out of your images. Most digital cameras come with some simple software to adjust images for colour, brightness and contrast. These programs are usually very simple but easy to use and adequate if all you want to do is make simple adjustments. For more advanced editing you will need more advanced software. There are plenty of programs available and many of them are free and others are hugely expensive and designed for the professional graphic artist. Most people have heard of PhotoShop and think this is the ultimate program for image editing but there are alternatives which are as good and sometimes better for the digital photographer. Let's take a brief look at some of the options available. Free Software Probably the best known free software is GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). This program is very similar to PhotoShop and runs on most platforms with Linux and Windows being the most popular. This is a full-featured program but we have found it to be rather slow. Another free program is Paint.NET . This program is very good and is relatively small and runs only on Windows. If you have no other program then this is a good program to start with. Then of course there is Picasa from Google which is more an image management program than an editor but has many simple editing features including an option to load albums onto the web. There are other programs so search the web and you will uncover many more. Picture Window Pro is another excellent photo editor and was our editor of choice before we started using Lightroom. This program was originally commercial software but has now been discontinued. Fortunately, the developers have made version 7 (the latest version) freely available without any conditions for use. This program is designed specifically for the digital photographer and fully handles 48-bit images. Picture Window Pro is incredibly small and provides functionality I have not seen in any other program. Picture Windows had a standard version and a Pro version but now only the Pro version is available. The home page for Picture Windows has lots of tutorials and white papers and an incredibly useful Support Message Board. Commercial Software PhotoShop is the most well known software but it is big and very expensive although cut-down versions are available with a smaller price tag. PhotoShop is the benchmark program and is now only available on a subscription basis. A very good alternative to PhotoShop is ACDSee Photo Studio 2018. There are 3 versions to choose from: Standard, Professional and Ultimate. The Ultimate version provides layered editing and has most of the tools a photographer would need. We also use Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Xara Designer Pro for graphics and layouts as well as some simple photo editing. Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Xara Designer Pro are great vector graphics editors with a full suite of bitmap functionality which allows you to do some amasing things including building full websites like this one! Developing Images We predominantly take photos in the RAW format which allows far greater scope for post-processing. Think of RAW images as your negative which can be developed in many different ways for easy viewing or printing. RAW images contain all the raw data from the sensor without processing in the camera. What this means is you can adjust white balance, exposure, contrast and sharpening among many other options. If you are serious about your photography then always use RAW. The software we used for many years to develop our RAW images was Lightroom from Adobe. This program is extremely powerful and relatively inexpensive given its functionality. As a bonus you can Geocode your photos and version 6 now has HDR and simple Panorama Stitching built-in, both producing DNG raw files. As the newest version of Lightroom is now only available as a subscription, we have decided to use an alternative as we feel a subscription is not appropriate for our needs as enthusiasts. After many weeks of evaluating alternative software we decided to purchase ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate . Unfortunately we found this software to be a little slow so we started hunting for more alternatives and we are very glad to say that we have finally found our ultimate RAW processor - DxO PhotoLab 2 . PhotoLab has the best lens correction facilities available thanks to DXOMARK who scientifically assess image quality of smartphones, lenses and cameras and produce independent benchmarks. The benchmarks are then used to create lens correction modules used in DxO PhotoLab 2. What sets this apart from other lens correction solutions is that the modules produced are for a combination of lens and camera and includes sharpness correction. There are two versions of this software with the Elite version having a number of additional features such as Prime Denoise and Customisable Palettes. Local adjustments is extremely good and negates the need to PhotoShop. DxO PhotoLab 2 produces the sharpest images I have ever seen with my lens and camera combinations. If you are after an open source RAW converter then you can use RawTherapee or Darktable which are both very good programs. High Dynamic Range (HDR) High Dynamic Range (HDR) describes images with very dark and very light areas. Modern cameras cannot easily capture true HDR images with a single exposure. Many cameras provide an HDR function where the camera