Photography / Buying Guide

Photo Software of the Year, 2017

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Arguably as important as the cameras and lenses you are using, the photo software component of your workflow is what allows you to bring your digital files to life. Different programs allow you to do a range of necessary tasks, from processing raw files to simple image enhancements to managing your whole library of images. Depending on your needs, there are options available for the most complex routines and editing requirements, down to more simplified tools to just spruce up your pictures a bit before posting online. Here is a look at some of the most popular current options available.

Adobe Photoshop CC

So well-known and recognizable that its name has transcended into a verb, Adobe Photoshop has been the de facto standard in photo editing for ages, and for good reason. Currently available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, or as part of a general subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop is an incredibly well-rounded application that covers anything from making slight brightness and contrast adjustments, processing raw files, or retouching images all the way up to producing multi-layered, stitched image composites rife with selections and masks. Working in concert with Photoshop itself, secondary “sub-apps” Bridge and Camera Raw further benefit the editing maestro with the ability to manage and organize file libraries and convert raw files.

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan with 1TB Cloud Storage

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

With a controversial move to the cloud, Adobe has graduated Lightroom out of its numbered, stand-alone days into a fully fledged member of its cloud-based ecosystem. The pluses for this? Lightroom will now receive consistent upgrades and, more importantly, Lightroom can now be with you everywhere. Lightroom CC has been completely rebuilt from its predecessors and now allows you to work with the same files and synced edits across devices, whether it’s your home computer, your smartphone on the go, or even a secondary computer where you can work from a web-browser-based Lightroom. And regardless of the device, the user interface stays the same.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Doing its best to keep legacy users happy, however, Adobe has also released a Lightroom Classic CC iteration of this application, which is the more desktop-focused version, well suited for local storage. Regardless of the version you prefer, the updated Lightroom continues with its strong feature set tailored for digital photographers making raw conversions, enhancing files, and managing libraries of photos.

Phase One Capture One Pro 10

Best known as the premier tethering software, Capture One has been gaining traction over the years as an incredibly sophisticated raw processing and file management tool, as well. The most recent release of Capture One Pro 10 follows up on recent feature additions with a complete software rewrite designed to make this version notably faster with regard to caching of images and adjustment latency. Besides the performance updates, Pro 10 is a version with a lot of attention given to sharpening, especially with the inclusion of three distinct sharpening modes and a Halo Suppression feature to aid over-sharpened imagery. Beyond the updates, Capture One Pro 10 remains one of the most efficient applications you can use for file management and is well known for the range of color-management tools it has for fine-tuning your imagery.

Phase One Capture One Pro 10

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

A popular option specifically for Windows users, Corel PaintShop Pro is a versatile software suite with a longstanding history. PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate contains three separate programs, in addition to the photo editor itself—Painter Essentials 5, Perfectly Clear 3 SE, and AfterShot 3—to give you a well-rounded range of tools for editing raw files, retouching, and producing creative, painterly effects. PaintShop Pro 2018 itself has been upgraded over the past year and now has a customizable user-interface design, improved performance speeds, and expanded tool functionality.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate

DxO OpticsPro 11 Elite Edition

Also offering a versatile set of post-production capabilities, DxO’s OpticsPro 11 Elite Edition provides a range of photo-editing controls, as well as file management and exporting functions to suit a variety of applications. Differing from many other applications, though, OpticsPro benefits from DxO’s extensive testing and research on various cameras and lenses to generate specific profiles for more accurate optical corrections, as well as enhanced denoising for improved clarity. Smart Lighting, Spot Weighted, and ClearView are a trio of additional modes that also help to improve brightness and contrast for more accurate image rendition and greater detail. Beyond DxO’s flagship software, the company also offers the unique FilmPack 5 Elite Edition app, which serves a specific purpose to simulate the look of numerous black-and-white and color film types, as well as ViewPoint 3, which is used to correct perspective distortions and other deformed proportions in images often taken with wide-angle lenses.

DxO OpticsPro 11 Elite Edition

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018

Geared more for the photography hobbyist than the working professional, Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 2018 is a slightly pared-down, friendlier version of its flagship editing applications. While not encompassing the range of Photoshop itself, Elements 2018 is by no means a slouch when it comes to abilities for adjusting the look and feel of your imagery and for organizing all your photos in an easy-to-navigate library. Perhaps what Elements 2018 does best, though, is include a slew of tools and templates for making your own scrapbooks, photo collages, slideshows, and other creative means for sharing your photos.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018

Helicon Soft Helicon Focus Pro

A more specialized application, Helicon Focus Pro is a dedicated focus-stacking software used to composite several shots to achieve greater depth of field. Especially useful for macro applications, as well as tabletop, product, and even landscape shooting, this program allows you to merge several exposures with different focus positions together seamlessly to produce a single image with a wide area of focus. The key feature of Focus Pro is its unique Raw-in-DNG-out process that maintains the editing capabilities of a raw file even after all the individual exposures have been merged.

Helicon Soft Helicon Focus Pro

Hdrsoft Photomatix Pro 6.0

Another niche application, Photomatix Pro 6.0 is a dedicated high dynamic range (HDR) processor, used to composite several images together to achieve a greater effective dynamic range. Compared to in-camera and simulated processes, by using a software-based workflow you can have more control over how your HDR images look and achieve more realistic results using tools such as the Tone Balancer for fine-tuned tonal rendering, and an interactive brush for making selective blending.

Hdrsoft Photomatix Pro 6.0

Kolor Autopano Giga 4

Finally, the third specialized software this time composites image files to produce stitched panoramic compositions. Autopano Giga 4 is an intelligent stitching software that uses automated processes along with the ability to control the process of combining individual images together to make one wide-field composition.

Kolor Autopano Giga 4

What photo-editing software is your favorite? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

3 Comments

one of my favorties and EASY TO USE is "Smart Photo Editor" by Anthropics,  packed with features! I love it!

What about Afinity Photo?

Affinity does look to be a nice solution for editing and a tremendous value, however B&H does not currently carry this application.

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