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Author Topic: software selection for newbie workflow  (Read 2679 times)
chapmandu
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« on: January 01, 2006, 04:07:16 PM »
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I'm pretty new to the world of digital image processing, I've always tried to avoid it in the past figuring that I'd get better pictures by concentrating on my improving my understanding of photographic techniques rather than learning photoshop.  However, over the course of the holiday period I've convinced myself that I do really need to learn this stuff properly now and stop being lazy.

So, my question is: what software do I need?  Now this is a more complex question than it first appears, because I'm looking for recommendations of pieces of software I need for RAW processing, photo organisation, and post-processing - ie a workflow appropriate for someone of my current knowledge, ability and budget.

To give you a bit more background, I am using a PowerMac G5 1.6GHz with 1.25GB RAM.  I use the canon software Digital Photo Professional for converting my RAWs from an EOS 350D into JPEGs and doing some minimal exposure correction etc, and then import to iPhoto.  I keep the RAWs organised as they're imported from the camera pretty much.  The benefit of this setup is that it's free!  The downside is, of course, that it's pretty limited in terms of functionality. plus iPhoto can begin to get unreliable when you get to larger libraries and I'm up to about 5000 now.  I tend to take photos sporadically, generally at events like friends weddings, parties, or when on holiday or visiting somewere.  So I'm hardly prolific but am generating images at a reasonable rate.  I thought Apple's Aperture might be just the ticket but it seems to be having teething problems plus it doesn't support the EOS 350D (although it does support the Rebel XT, go figure...).

So, what I want to do is to improve how I organise my photos, perhaps using something like iView Media Pro (as Michael described in his latest article), possibly improve my RAW converter, and begin to take advantage of some more advanced manipulation techniques like unsharpen mask etc etc.  I don't, however, want to spend a vast amount of money on software, certainly not an amount exceeding that of my camera!!  It seems to me like you could spend 1000s of s/$s/s on bits of software quite easily...  Photoshop seems like overkill for what I want, would a combination of other tools be better?  Or am I better off just going with the standard?  If I did go with just photoshop, what holes would be left in my workflow?

Suggestions much appreciated.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2006, 04:26:50 PM »
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The great thing about photoshop is that just about every tutorial on the planet pretty much assumes you'll be using it.

I'd get photoshop.  You spend too much time trying to figure out how to adapt a tutorial to the product you're using.

I use windows and I think all my other suggestions are windows based so I'll leave it with that.
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oldcsar
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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2006, 05:11:37 PM »
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if there are "holes in a workflow", then are you under the presumption that a workflow is a finite, universally idealized thing? I'm not sure if there's a one-size-fits-all requirement for all photographers, but I suppose there are some bare essentials that everyone relies on, regardless of what sort of photographic process requirements they have.

I think that Photoshop is a reasonable place to start. I've personally found it extremely valuable, and its RAW conversion is easy and produces good results. Another cheaper option is Paint Shop Pro, which (arguably) has more intuitive menu organization for photographers than photoshop. Although it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Photoshop, you can nonetheless produce excellent results with the program, and it accepts a large portion of Photoshop plugins. Photoshop plugins and Automated commands are essential to me, because many of them surpass the related Photoshop tools... Focalblade, Focus Magic, and Pk Sharpener blow Photoshop's Unsharp Mask out of the water in terms of performance, and the latter is a "complete sharpening workflow". Plugin programs such as Neatimage or Noise Ninja beat Photoshop's noise reduction, hands down. Interpolation programs for outputting large prints, such as Genuine Fractals or S-Spline (photozoom pro) provide greater quality enlargements than Photoshop's bicubic interpolation.

And that's only the beginning. What you first need is something like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. Learn the essential tools... do some research, and figure out what sort of plugins you might require to improve your results. Whatever works best for you, is your "workflow". In my personal opinion, after the necessity of the photo application itself, always have a recently updated RAW converter (Adobe Camera Raw is free, and well updated), a noise reduction program such as Neat Image to subtract sensor noise after RAW conversion, a filter plugin pack which offers high quality Polarization, B&W conversion if desired, etc.(such as nik Color Efex Pro 2 or Power Retouche Pro 6), and an effective sharpening plugin for final output, such as Focus Magic and/or PK sharpener. This might all seem overwhelming, but this is my sort of "workflow"... none of this is required, but the most important thing is to begin with a program such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop. As soon as you become familiar with the program, and you have a desire to keep on improving your craft, you'll learn  what you require for your workflow.

And... do you really think you need to jump into a photo organization program, such as iView media pro? If you're not a photojournalist or professional photographer, cranking out thousands of photos a month, do you think shelling out the extra bones is worth it? Why not begin with organising your photos manually in folders? It'll cost you nothing, and it's no difficult task when you're a hobbyist photographer. If I were you, I would prioritize the image editing program over a photo organization program, and then decide if you truly need a program like iView.
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chapmandu
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2006, 07:02:28 AM »
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Thanks very much for the insightful comments.

Regarding 'workflow', I think I might have had a poor choice of words there.  What I'm getting at is that I want the software that will allow me to complete the process of RAW conversion, post processing, and organisation.  There are all manner of different possible combinations of software to do this, so I'm trying to figure out where to start and to reduce overlap!  And as you say, there is certainly no universal workflow, mine will be different to a more experienced photographer, and is likely to change as I get more experienced myself.

Anyhoo, what seems to come out of this is that Photoshop should really be my first port of call because tutorials tend to be based on it plus there are all manner of plug ins and so on that I can call on in due course.  The reality check on organisational software was really useful too - as you say I could just organise in folders for now with the sorts of volumes I am generating.  In addition, the Spotlight search feature in OSX allows you to search on EXIF metadata so this will give me some measure of search functionality anyway.

Thanks again.  Phil
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DaveLon
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2006, 01:55:59 PM »
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For the Mac

Photoshop with the RAW converter

but have a look at

Capture One  too.

http://www.phaseone.com

Of course Capture One doesn't do what Photoshop does after conversion but the workflow might be better for some.

Dave S
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Paulo Bizarro
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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2006, 12:22:18 AM »
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I have just upgraded to PS Elements 4 from and I am quite happy, but I have been using Elements since it came with my Nikon scanner 3 1/2 years ago, so I may be biased.

I shoot slide film, scan it, and post-process it in PS. I have to be careful to make sure the histogram in the scanner looks fine in terms of range. Then, in PS, Levels and Shadows/Highlights take care of most things very quickly.

I also have Raw files from my Powershot Pro 1 and (more recently) from my Lumix LX1. I am still learning how ACR works, since I was used to the Canon (not too bad actually) software.

I would recommend Elements 4, it looks like it would fit all your requirements.
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jdemott
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2006, 11:03:20 AM »
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For someone who is just getting started, I suggest that you not get overwhelmed with a lot of different software programs.  Start with Adobe Photoshop only.  It is the industry standard editing program, has a very good RAW converter (Adobe Camera Raw) and a serviceable file organization and retrieval program (Bridge).  Photoshop also has powerful tools for sharpening and noise reduction (and much more).  After you have worked with Photoshop for a time, perhaps taken some courses and read some books, then you will be able to evaluate Photoshop's strengths and weaknesses and decide how they relate to your particular needs.  If you decide you need a better RAW converter or a different sharpening program or a heavy duty file organizer, you can always add it at a later date and your investment in Photoshop will not be wasted, as it will still form the core of your editing routine.  And the time you spend learning Photoshop will be well spent also.

The biggest advantage Photoshop has over its competitors is that Photoshop is the industry standard.  It may not be an exageration to say that there are a hundred times more resources available to learn and use Photoshop than its competitors.  Believe me, those learning resources count for a lot.  There is no way anyone could learn to use more than a fraction of the capabilities of Photoshop without tutorials, seminars, books, online resources or something.  The biggest drawback of Photoshop of course is the cost.   One way to save on the cost is the educational discount.  When I first learned Photoshop, I took a course at the local community college.  Not only did I get a good introduction to the program, but as an enrolled student I qualified for a price of about one-third the regular retail price.
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John DeMott
chapmandu
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2006, 01:23:53 PM »
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Thanks for the suggestions.  Jdemott, your suggestion about enrolling in a course is genius, I was thinking of doing this anyway and, as you say, I would potentially then qualify for an academic discount if I found a suitable one.  I assume my being in full employment won't count against me, doesn't say anything here - http://www.adobe.co.uk/education/purchasing/qualify.html.  In the UK the academic price is 200 as opposed to 450 retail, so much more paletable!

Your argument for photoshop is also very convincing - I'd be able to do everything I need to do using its features, and then upgrade some aspects of it if I so choose at a later date.  Not getting overwhelmed with lots of different software was the reason for starting the topic, so the information that photoshop will cover all of my basic needs is valuable - initially I wasn't sure if Camera Raw and Bridge were additional or included.

Regards and many thanks.
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jdemott
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2006, 03:17:17 PM »
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I believe there are very few restrictions on the educational discount.  When I took the Photoshop course, it was the only course for which I was enrolled.  The instructor gave each student a letter on college stationary for the purpose of verifying enrollment in order to qualify for the Photoshop discount.  

The license for the educational version of Photoshop states that the program should not be used for commercial purposes, but the program itself is identical to the commercial version.  I have subsequently upgraded to later versions of Photoshop as they have become available for the regular upgrade price (about $150 I think)--the upgraded version is fully licensed (i.e., may be used for commercial purposes).
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John DeMott
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