Best photo editing software?

Started Mar 4, 2014 | Discussions thread
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
How much learning curve you up for?

I can't say too much about Aperture, other than, when I switched my travel shooting system from Windows to Mac, I signed up for an Aperture class as a way to evaluate it.  Two professional photographers (one wedding shooter, one more generalist portraits/weddings/events shooter) were teaching.  When I asked what was on their work computers, they said Lightroom and Photoshop.  That, plus the differences I found in workflow between Aperture and Lightroom, and differences in the quality of conversions from my D800E, led me to stick with Lightroom. YMMV.

Because Apple's user community is smaller, and the developer team is smaller than Lightroom, Aperture can take much, much longer to get updates to handle new cameras.  There are a lot of in-processing-software capabilities that are performed on files from mirror less cameras, so speed of new camera profiles can become an issue.

If you're a really serious fine art photographer or wedding shooter or or or, both Aperture and Lightroom are really more front end packages.  Final image optimization ends up in Photoshop, because of the huge array of tools, layer management capabilities, etc.  If you're willing to put in the learning time, the most powerful workflow is Lightroom or Aperture, then final optimization in Photoshop.

If you do print pictures, but don't shoot hundreds or thousands of images a week, a workflow with a front end and back end just plain doesn't make sense.  Adobe Bridge (which comes with Photoshop) plus Photoshop works incredibly well for low volume photographers who want to do pretty sophisticated image tweaks before printing.  I know a number of fine art photographers who have never used Lightroom or Aperture.

But, if you don't want to have a huge learning curve, and won't be shooting hundreds or thousands of images a week, Adobe Elements has all of the most frequently used image tweaking capabilities of Photoshop, without the other 80% of things that Photoshop can do.  Seriously, 80%, maybe 90% of features in Photoshop are highly specialized tools that are hardly used... but when you need them, they rock.  If you get more serious, what you learned in Elements readily transfers up to Photoshop.  Again, I know a number of "serious but not pro" photographers who never left Elements, and who make it into juried shows, win photo competitions, etc.

There are open source applications like GIMP, which is awesome powerful but has a lot of weaknesses, and are much harder to learn well enough to really take advantage.  There's also the Corel packages, but I've just seen so few users over the years, and not a single professional user.

So, easiest to learn with the broadest application: Adobe Elements.  A bit tougher to learn, and not really designed for end to end sophisticated workflow and high volume: Lightroom, and Aperture.  (I know a lot of people will argue one or the other is all you need, but that's not borne out by the professional shooters I know.)  Highly sophisticated low volume: Just Photoshop.

Teaching workshops over the years, I've seen people decide to take different paths, and a year or two later, end up in line with what I lay out above.

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