Hints, Tips and Recommendations:
Image Editing Software

General Image Editing Software

Depending on your interests you might only want to use a general purpose image editor such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic or a cheaper option (see below).  However you might also value plugins such as the DxO Nik collection for easier processing in your editor, although these are far from essential.

Although there are a very large number of general purpose and specialist image editing apps, most expertise in our club involves Adobe apps.


Specialist Post-Processing Software

More specialized software for particular types of processing  is also very useful.  These include focus stacking apps (see the stacking tips on another page)  

Image enlargement or upscaling  for making larger prints can now be done with a newer range of programs that exceed the capabilities of Photoshop. However one of the best, Topaz Gigapixel AI, is very slow because of the gigantic number of calculations it does per pixel to ‘invent’ detail.

Noise reduction software that preserves desired image detail is available in general packages and works reasonably well when used carefully. However, club member Norman McNab recommends Topaz Denoise AI  and particularly for scans of films. 

A lesser used category are apps that create painting and drawing effects from images such as SnapArt.

 

Digital art effect using the SnapArt plugin and lots of tricks in Photoshop, which included taking away the more boring middle green section of the image to bring the flowers closer together.

 

Money

Why would you spend thousands of pounds on equipment and not produce the best images you can from the initial capture using good software?

I feel strongly that it is a great mistake to purchase high end gear and lenses and use inferior software.  For me it also no makes no sense financially, especially when there is good relatively cheap software available. 

Using top quality photography equipment and poor or very out-of-date software is like driving an expensive high performance car on a very rutted dirt track in 3rd gear.  You might get there but it will certainly be slower, bumpier, more tiring and you will much prefer a shorter route on a fast well maintained road. By using up-to-date software, which does the job you want,  you will be more relaxed, and have more time to do other things, like take pictures!


Free Software

If you want to use free software try what came with your phone or camera and then move on quickly, if it does not do what you want and with ease. ( also see the tips page on phone apps.)

For some purposes there are great pieces of free of very cheap software (see below).   For example, some members of our club  who have Adobe software, such as Margaret Campbell, use the free Faststone Image Viewer for Windows.

There are a very large number of images editing apps. There are comparative reviews /lists of free image editing (post processing) applications:

https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/uk/buying-guides/best-free-photo-editing-software

https://www.techradar.com/uk/best/free-photo-editor

https://www.wix.com/blog/photography/2019/04/11/best-free-photo-editing-software


The Latest Trend in Commercial Imaging Software Involves Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The newest trend in image processing is to use artificial intelligence at the core of the interface and have the user tweak the effect. Luminar AI is impressively different! It can also be used as a plugin. For another review see the video by Anthony Turnham.

Adobe vs The Rest

Adobe is the market leader in general purpose non-scientific and non-medical image processing software. Professional software comparison reviews usually describe the Adobe photography suite as the most powerful.  Although it does have some AI features, like the fabulous Sky Changing, it is not the market leader in this area.

The  best way to buy Adobe imaging software is through a subscription to the  Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. Adobe also have a reduced functionality program called Photoshop Elements available as a one off purchase.  The internet abounds with good learning materials about Adobe products. Two members of our club currently use the online photography portfolio hosting that come with the subscription: Margaret Campbell and Ian Tully.

Image enlargement or upscaling can be done better using AI approaches used in programs other than Photoshop.

Commercial Alternatives  to Adobe 
(not recommended by this particular tipster due to ignorance)

Capture One  (more expensive than Adobe!)

DXO Photolab

Affinity Photo  is recommended and used by club member Rueben Mclean.  It is very cheap in comparison with Photoshop!

Skylum Luminar AI  The latest version is now heavily dependant on Templates and  Machine Learning(  or Artificial Intelligence, AI). The developers claim that it is fast and easy to use and this view is supported by reviewers.  This program can also be used as as a Plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop.

Comparative Reviews and Listings of Commercial Software

https://www.digitalcameraworldcom/uk/buying-guides/the-best-photo-editing-software

https://uk.pcmag.com/photo-editing/8546/the-best-photo-editing-software

https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/best-photo-editor


Initial Processing with Adobe Software: Use Lightroom or ACR and Bridge

Do NOT jump straight into Photoshop when editing. This is a route to wasting time since there are capabilities in simpler and easier to use Adobe programs that are absent from Photoshop. RAW files do not, in any case, open directly into Photoshop. They also have the advantage that all of the edits are non-destructive and can be stored in an external XMP file and so edits can be modified, deleted or added to very easily. 

Do all initial image processing using either

a)   The Develop Module in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. (You can also Browse an organise images in the Library Module. Adobe provide a comprehensive user guide to Lightroom.) 

       or 

b) Browse your images in Adobe’s very sophisticated image browser, Bridge, then open them from there into Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), see the videos below.  This is equivalent  of using the Lightroom Library and Develop Modules. Adobe have a User Guide to Bridge.

One advantage of Lightroom over the RAW converter is that you can use plugins directly without opening up Photoshop.


Both RAW files and JPEGs can be Edited by Either Route and have the same Processing Power

Both routes give you the same processing power.  People in our club use both routes. Competitions Secretary David Ritchie and Chairman Duncan MacCallum use the Bridge and ACR.  Club Secretary, Malcom Boddie, uses Lightroom. Some members like Norman McNab use both. I like to copy and move files around using the operating system and backup software and do not want to rely on a central Catalog (database) used by Lightroom.

After initial processing open the image directly into Photoshop if that is required. For many purposes Photoshop is no longer needed and even undesirable. Even when in Photoshop you can return to processing in the RAW converter to apply gradient filters, for example. Even when in Photoshop you can return to processing in the RAW converter.

The Adobe Bridge interface and preferences are highly customisable. I use a personalised ‘Workspace‘ and the slower ‘screen size’ previews generation option. When I then hit the spacebar and the arrow keys good full screen displays are provided.
The Adobe Bridge Downloader is an application than can be called from Bridge, can be pinned to the Windows task bar, or set to run automatically when a storage card is connected to the PC. Use in Advanced Mode.

Introduction to Traditional Processing

If you like leaning through videos here is a short but excellent polished video on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from a young Scot, Stewart Carrol, which also explains important facets of what can be done with many good image processing programs. It explains the ‘why?’ as well as the ‘how’ and is therefore of more general interest than just for Lightroom users.

A beautifully produced introductory video to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom that also explains what can be done in Adobe Camera RAW because of the shared functionality. ( Also nice to hear a refined Scottish Accent!)

Teaching videos are well supplemented by the Adobe User Guide to Lightroom.

Look for Tips videos like that above

 There is the official YouTube Lightroom Channel by Adobe https://www.youtube.com/c/Lightroom/videos


Introduction to Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and The Bridge Image Browser

ACR  has the same image processing functionality as the Lightroom Develop module. 

This video explains the program preferences and the main interface features. There is also a second part to this guide.

A Detailed Introduction to  the Adobe Bridge Image Browser

Adobe Bridge is equivalent to the Photoshop Lightroom Classic Library Module.

This is an introduction to the powerful and highly customisable Adobe Bridge image browser and organiser.
There is also a second part this guide.

Learning to Edit  with Adobe Photoshop

I like to keep my screen uncluttered and without  superfluous editing palette windows, which I do not need.

A very simple uncluttered workspace

Remember that if you are doing complex edits in a Photoshop document you can now save various versions using the Version History window and saving as a Cloud document rather than on to your computer. Bookmarks are required to save for longer than 30 days.

In the past it was not possible to save version history. Now your Adobe Cloud storage will store versions.

Adobe Has Instructional Material

The obvious place to start learning about Adobe products, like Photoshop, is on the Adobe Tutorial Pages


Learning from YouTube Channels

One of the obvious ways to develop Photoshop or Lightroom skills is by following YouTube Channels with large subscriber numbers. These channels have large such numbers of subscribers because the hosts give excellent free advice.  

Aaron Nace’s Youtube chanel, PHLERAN, has 1.96 million subscribers at the time of writing.
Unmesh Dinda, who hosts, PiXimperfect has more than 2.7 million YouTube subscribers

You Cannot Learn Everything at Once

With every richly featured piece of software there is a learning curve where we make a slow start then speed up as we know more.  Often our learning is never quite complete if we don’t need  to use all of the features that are available. Those considerations definitely apply to Photoshop. Learn about what you need and use more of the features as time goes on. 

Some features are so complex that you will probably never need to learn them fully. One example of that in Photoshop is the 27 different ‘layer blending modes‘ . It takes Umesh Dinda, a real expert, more than 42 mins to begin to explain them all.  I have chosen the last one he illustrates in the clip below, which shows how to change luminosity without changing colour saturation or how to use luminosity blending on a black white adjustment layer.

Luminosity Blending for a Curves Adjustment Layer in this video clip shows just one good reason for beginning to learn about Layer Blending.

Once you have done that you could start learn the logic behind the ‘Blend If’ functions. ‘Blend If ‘can be used to add clouds to a landscape scene for example, without using any form of artificial intelligence.


Most Tips by: Steve Campbell

Next: Global Editing of an Entire Image >