Software suggestions for Newbee

Started Nov 19, 2012 | Discussions
Brian
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Software suggestions for Newbee
Nov 19, 2012

I am considering ordering some software for the first time, my photos are basically just family; I would like something simple not too sophisticated.  My only experience is using IrFanView.  I have heard Lightroom thrown around, are there others I should consider and if Lightroom,  are there different levels for different prices?

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Brian Miller
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(Used to own: Nikon D40 and Canon S30)

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Conchita
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 19, 2012

I would start with picasa.

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MurryG
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 19, 2012

Sometimes cameras (and maybe phones?) come with editing software so you might want to check in your box and see what is there.  Most editing software comes with free 30-90 day trials so that is another way you can try what is available (after Googling beginner photo editing software).  Photoshop Elements probably will do everything you'll need but it has a learning curve so you'll need to be paitient.  Editing photos can become addictive just like shooting photos :0)

Murry

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Allen Gerdes
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 19, 2012

Give the free trial of PaintShopPro X5 a try.  It is very powerful and one of the best commercial photo-editing softwares around dollar for dollar.  It too has a learning curve, so you will need to take some time to learn how to use it.

Regards....Allen

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Dannno
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Allen Gerdes, Nov 19, 2012

Try this:

http://www.getpaint.net/download.html#download

I ususally us Photoline, but Paint is free.

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gwlaw99
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 19, 2012

The new Photoshop Elements 11  has a lot of hand holding walk-throughs for beginners and a more advanced mode once you become more comfortable.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 20, 2012

Brian wrote:

I am considering ordering some software for the first time, my photos are basically just family; I would like something simple not too sophisticated. My only experience is using IrFanView. I have heard Lightroom thrown around, are there others I should consider and if Lightroom, are there different levels for different prices?

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Brian Miller
Nikon D3100 (sold and looking to replace) and Canon S100
(Used to own: Nikon D40 and Canon S30)

You don't say but my guess is that you are shooting JPGs only. My guess is also that your biggest problems are that you need to correct exposures and make some color adjustments. In that case you don't need to buy any software.

Get a copy of the free FastStone image viewer and editor. It will allow you to make exposure changes, color corrections, crop, and several other things.

http://www.faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm

If you want to get more serious at photography then you will want to change to shooting in the RAW image format and you will want more advanced software. In that case you should look at the Adobe Elements and Bridge package as a good starting place. Beyond that you get into Lightroom and Photoshop.

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Brian
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Sailor Blue, Nov 20, 2012

Thank you for the reply Sailor.  I was actually planning on setting my camera to RAW.  Near the end of use with my D3100 I was shooting with RAW and my plan for the new camera was to shoot in RAW and keep my files in that format and if I want to post any pictures anywhere I will convert them.

A question I have wondered is, if I shoot in RAW and then convert to jpeg, will the converted file be better than if I shot in jpeg with the camera?  Also, are all converters from RAW to jpeg the same, that is, will give the same result?

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Brian Miller
Nikon D3100 (sold and looking to replace) and Canon S100
(Used to own: Nikon D40 and Canon S30)

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Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 20, 2012

Brian wrote:

A question I have wondered is, if I shoot in RAW and then convert to jpeg, will the converted file be better than if I shot in jpeg with the camera? Also, are all converters from RAW to jpeg the same, that is, will give the same result?

In answer to your first question - it will give you more flexibility in what you can do with an image when processing because there is more information in a raw image than in a jpg.

You will have a better chance to get details from your shadow areas, to get details from your bright areas and a better chance to get the colors the way you want them to be. As to whether it will produce better images than jpg, that depends upon how you process them but it will give you the chance to get better images; especially if you have made mistakes when you shoot. It can be easier to rescue an image from a raw file than from a jpg.

In answer to your second question - absolutely not.

If you are going to shoot in raw you are going to have to think seriously about what tool to use to edit your photos. Some raw converters are just bad. One example, in my opinion, is PaintShotPro X5. Some are very good. Some examples:

1) Adobe (Lightroom and Photoshop),

2) Dxo Optics,

3) PhotoNinja (a new photo editor) from PictureCode,

4) Capture One from PhaseOne,

5) Canon's DPP (for Canon cameras only)

There are others, but these are the ones I have had personal experience with. Any of them would do a very good job on adjusting your raw images and then the choice comes down to how much you want to adjust them, how you work and what else you might want to do. My personal summary:

a) Lightroom is very, very good software that will do an excellent job in converting your images and allowing you to adjust them as you wish. Once you get used to the usage issues (importing, exporting, Library, Develop, etc) the software is simplicity itself to use and it provides much more functionality than you would want to use when you start, but which you can grow into,

b) Dxo is very, very good software and, like Lightroom, gives you the ability to work through a lot of images quickly. Dxo is more automatic than Lightroom and will attempt to set all adjustments for you. I personally think it sometimes "over-cooks" images, but that is only my personal opinion,

c) PhotoNinja is very, very good, but more simplified, software. It has an excellent raw converter and has a very simple interface that allows you to adjust images, but using a much more restricted set of functionality. Learning PhotoNinja is initially very simple and it takes a while to realize that there is more there than you might see at first. I personally really like this software,

d) CaptureOne is very good software and includes what you might think of as both Lightroom and Photoshop functionality. Although I have played with it I have not had much experience with it because I personally think the Pro version is too expensive for what it provides and the express version does not provide enough functionality. But that is a very personal opinion,

e) Canon's DPP is pretty good and free for Canon DSLR owners It does not do as much as these other products, but what it does it does well,

f) Photoshop is very, very good software but probably has more functionality that you would want to begin with. It is sort of a Swiss Army knife of software tools - it has everything in it. But I find processing photos with it to be time consuming since it is not oriented toward processing a lot of images. I am sure others will disagree with that statement.

As with all opinions, your mileage may differ, but you can download trial versions of any of these to get a feel for them and I would recommend doing exactly that before you buy. Find something that you feel comfortable using and that you feel gives your images the right look And remember that in a year you will want more functionality than you want now because you will want to do more with your images.

One other comment. It has been my experience that no one tool does everything you want to do "the best" of any of them. Because of that I use different products for different images. Usually my main processing software is Lightroom or PhotoNinja. They are both easy to use and do most of what I want. But sometimes I find myself using PhotoShop or Sagelight (another editor I did not list) because they have functionality I need for that image. Image processing, like life, is a learning experience, at least for me, and my needs change from image to image.

Hope this helps.

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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to MurryG, Nov 20, 2012

MurryG wrote:

Editing photos can become addictive just like shooting photos :0)

Indeed!

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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 20, 2012

One other thing to think about when shooting raw. Raw images are basically files containing sensor data from the camera and so each specific raw format is proprietary. The Canon raw image format is not the same as the Nikon raw image format and, in fact, the raw image format from a Canon 7D is not the same as that from a Canon 600D and that is different from a Canon 5D. The camera sensors vary and hence so do the raw image formats.

The reason this is important is because not all software contain converters for all cameras and you will want to be sure that any software you buy will process your raw images. It is easy to check (most software web sites will contain information about which cameras they support), but  it is important to remember to check. Jpgs are basically the same from camera to camera, but raws are different.

As a practical matter this probably isn't important since most common software will process raw images from most common (or at least popular) cameras, but you should think about what camera you will want to use and whether or not its raw format is supported. If your camera is a common Canon or Nikon all of the software I listed will probably process the raw images. If you have something less common you may find that some software will not handle the raw images from that camera.

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lpGrumpy
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to MikeFromMesa, Nov 20, 2012

My 2 cents.

I agree with MikeFromMesa. He has written a great summary of some very good software.

But I would suggest that you really consider Lightroom!

My reasons are these.

  1. Although you can download all (most?) the mentioned packages for a free trial (and Picasa is free), the amount of time that it would take to acclimates, understand, and evaluate all the packages would take forever.
  2. Once you start with one of the applications and start getting familiar with it, you may find another application awkward, feels unfamiliar, and not give it a fair shake. I know a lot of folks that just feel more comfortable with an application even though  it may not be the best tool available.
  3. Take a consensus! (You have started that here.) But do some more research and read, read, and then read some more. Understand that some folks just love their application so much, any discussion that something else might be better can start a religious war! Flame On! And ​my​ favorite is... "Lightroom"!
  4. Find an application that will offer multiple functionality. Photoshop is the ultimate (again, my opinion) is image editing but it is only an editor and makes changes at the pixel level. Other applications will help in organizing, printing, publishing, etc.
  5. If you start with some of the applications and later find that they fall short, it will cost more to start with another.

My reasons for suggesting Lightroom:

  1. It is a bargain at half the price that it has been. It was introduced at $300 in 2006/2007. This year Adobe cut the price in half! And you should be able to find it for much cheaper this Friday or next Monday.
  2. It is a ​non-destructive editor​. Changes you make are not permanent and can be reversed at anytime. They are saved as a set of instructions in Lightroom's database and/or a side-car file (.XMP)
  3. Lightroom has a Library, Development, Map, Book, SlideShow, Print, and Web modules. It is a Workflow application from cradle to grave. If you need to do some more advanced work, you can ​Edit in ... ​the editor of your choice: Photoshop, PSP, etc.

One further caveat: If you start with an application such as Lightroom, do everything from Lightroom. It is a databased organizer and it will not capture any changes to files (move, delete, edit) if done outside of the application.

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Lp

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keeponkeepingon
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to lpGrumpy, Nov 20, 2012

Maybe aftershot pro? It has a free version of the "perfectly clear" plugin which in theory does the "one click" fixes so lacking in lightroom....

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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to lpGrumpy, Nov 20, 2012

lpGrumpy wrote:

One further caveat: If you start with an application such as Lightroom, do everything from Lightroom. It is a databased organizer and it will not capture any changes to files (move, delete, edit) if done outside of the application.

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Lp

My first comment is that Lightroom is a first class application and you would not go wrong if you bought it. It not only does almost everything you will probably want, it does stuff you won't need for another 6 months, but will probably need then. In addition it is a Digital Asset Managerment (DAM) tool and can help you find photos through keywords, ratings, colors and so forth. In general I cannot say enough good about it. It is true that I use other editors from time to time but Lightroom is one of my first choices (along with PhotoNinja which, in my opinion, does a slightly better job at noise reduction due to its built-in version of NoiseNinja 3.0. Since I take a lot of high  ISO images that is very important to me).

My second comment is that the last caveat stated above is not quite correct. Lightroom can be set to automatically import new images that were moved into "watched" folders by an outside application. I did not know this until I read Lightroom 4 Made Easy by Dave Kelly. I got it for my Kindle (the book can be "borrowed" for free on a Kindle device, but not on a PC or iPad running the Kindle software) and that book has told me an enormous amount that I did not know about Lightroom.

Reading the book has let me know that there are more hidden gems of functionality in Lightroom than I expected. It would be a very good choice.

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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to keeponkeepingon, Nov 20, 2012

keeponkeepingon wrote:

Maybe aftershot pro? It has a free version of the "perfectly clear" plugin which in theory does the "one click" fixes so lacking in lightroom....

Also a good choice although I do not think that its raw converter is on a par with some others.

I bought it when it was first introduced and before I really started using Lightroom. It has some big advantages - a large selection of plugins to provide for missing functionality, non-destructive editing, built-in NoiseNinja 2.0 all wrapped up in an easy-to-use application. But I personally don't like "Perfectly Clear" as I think that the images it produces do not look very good. I realize that is a personal opinion and others like it a lot, but the way the final images look is the reason I don't use it more and why I did not put it on my list. Of course it might be that I am using it incorrectly ...

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Brian
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 20, 2012

A lot of excellent information, thank you all!

The camera will most likely be the Nikon D5100.  Looking at the DPR reviews it appears Nikon loses more information than other brands in their jpeg photos, but the RAW files are much better.

I compared a couple photos shot in RAW from my D3100 to a converted jpeg via ViewNX 2, the supplied software from Nikon, and I couldn't tell any difference.  Maybe it is the software or maybe there was a difference but I wasn't looking in the right area or the right kind of photo...

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Brian Miller
Nikon D3100 (sold and looking to replace) and Canon S100
(Used to own: Nikon D40 and Canon S30)

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Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
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MikeFromMesa
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to Brian, Nov 20, 2012

Brian wrote:

A lot of excellent information, thank you all!

The camera will most likely be the Nikon D5100. Looking at the DPR reviews it appears Nikon loses more information than other brands in their jpeg photos, but the RAW files are much better.

I compared a couple photos shot in RAW from my D3100 to a converted jpeg via ViewNX 2, the supplied software from Nikon, and I couldn't tell any difference. Maybe it is the software or maybe there was a difference but I wasn't looking in the right area or the right kind of photo...

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Brian Miller
Nikon D3100 (sold and looking to replace) and Canon S100
(Used to own: Nikon D40 and Canon S30)

The jpgs are typically pre-processed in the camera and what you are seeing are the images with that processing. Raws are not pre-processed but when they are loaded into the image software it (the software) typically applies whatever preset values it uses. For example Canon typically applies extra sharpening to the raw image when it is viewed. So you are comparing camera pre-processed jpgs with software pre-processed raws. In addition jpgs have (I think) 8 bits of color where raws have 12 or 14 bits (I am not sure of the color depth of raws so that may be wrong. It may be higher). What that means is that there is greater color variation in raws as well as more information of all sorts. You may or may not be able to see that when you look at them but when you start processing you will find quite a difference.

When working with raw images you have a greater ability to pull details out of the shadows because there is more information in the shadows to extract and the same is true in the highlights. There are more color variations (8 bits gives you 256 shades, more information gives you more color detail) and your raw processing software will make more adjustments available for you to use. For example PhotoNinja provides for color recovery, but only with raw images. And, if you adjusting colors there are more tones to play with with raw than with jpgs.

In the end you will decide what is best for you. Play around with raw images, take some poorly exposed images and see what you can do with them both with raw images and with jpgs, and see what works best for you. Take some photos with both strong highlights and shadows and play with those using both raw and jpgs and see what works best for you with those. I suggest that because, you are like me, when you are taking images for real you probably will end up with some poorly exposed images or some requiring a high dynamic range. I know I do.

Once you know what works best for you, you are off and running ... But do what seems best for you, not because others tell you what is best. Only you can judge what works best for you.

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jmac698
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Re: Software suggestions for Newbee
In reply to MikeFromMesa, Nov 20, 2012

I'm sure Lightroom is excellent, but make sure it supports your camera and lens for raw processing.  I could also mention Raw Therapee.  This is a free program, and has been said to produce results comparable to Lightroom, especially the upcoming noise reduction feature.  I have to say there is a learning curve, but the quality is excellent.  It supports Adobe lens profiles as well. XMP sidecar files from Lightroom will be released in the next version, soon.

I just can't let such a discussion go by without at least mentioning an open-source alternative Open-source is software created by volunteers for free.

http://rawtherapee.com/blog/rawtherapee-4.0.9-released

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