A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Which Photoshop is the best software for photographers

November 23 2011

by Philip Northeast

An overview of three Photoshop products from Adobe looking at where they fit into a photographer’s needs. Everybody has heard of Adobe Photoshop software program that  has become a generic term for manipulating digital photographs.

While there is common general impression of Photoshop, the reality is that Adobe produce number of applications for photographers, all with Photoshop in their name. They range in price and capability but with  confusion from the degree of overlap in the things they can do for photographers.

Professional photographers and web developers  or graphic designers often have more than one Photoshop application on their computers to perform a range of operations, I have three.

Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 

This the most powerful of the three Adobe applications with the widest range of the most powerful tools.

Adobe Creative Suite goes beyond the basic needs of a photographer and is an excellent application for fine art photography, photo restoration, graphic artists and designers.

Photoshop Creative Suite screen shot

Photoshop Creative Suite screen shot

The power of CS means it is large and sometimes complex to use. The  size and complexity can make CS slow to load and it needs a substantial computer to run it properly. This also means the program is expensive to buy and then run due to the demands on the computer hardware, particularly memory and storage.  There are a number of  different Adobe Creative Suite software programs that contain even more power but the Photoshop version is aimed at primarily at photographers.

Adorama have Adobe Photoshop CS5 12.0 Image Editing Software for Macintosh  available for $US699.95

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

For photographers this is the first software program that they turn to when they load memory cards into their computer.  Lightroom is more than photo editing software, it has powerful digital photo management capabilities.

Lightroom imports the digital photos from the camera’s memory cards into the photographer’s library structure on their hard disks. Part of the Lightroom import process is the option of attaching keywords to the images. Keywords are one of the items Lightroom uses when searching for digital photographs.

Using Lightroom 3 presets allow photographers to more than manage their digital photos.  Photographers specify a range of standard adjustments and these are saved in a preset which can be applied to all the images selected for importing in a batch, or singly.  This can simplify and speed up processing of large numbers of digital photos.  For example I use a different Lightroom 3 preset for high ISO photos that require more noise reduction than low ISO digital photos.

Photoshop Lightroom 3

Photoshop Lightroom 3 showing a keyword search for “river”

On advantage of Lightroom is all the editing adjustments are only applied to the copies of the original digital photo. Even the digital photo shown in Lightroom during the editing process is a copy of the original. All the adjustments and setting as are saved separately from the original digital photo information.  Exporting creates a digital photo with the changes applied and can be in a range of file formats and sizes.

Lightroom also allows photographers to save a number of standard export settings.   Included in my settings are one for a full size high quality JPEG configuration and another for a smaller lower quality version for my email folder.

Adorama have Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V3 Software  available  for $US269.99

Adobe Photoshop Elements

This Photoshop Elements is a stripped back version of Photoshop Creative Suite with fewer tools and they are less powerful than its big brother. It does offer a good range of essential photo editing tools to for selective editing and Photoshop Elements uses layers.

Photoshop Elements

Editing a picture with Photoshop Elements

One of Photoshop Elements biggest drawbacks is the restricted support for 16 bit colour depth  in digital photos. In Adobe Photoshop Elements digital photos must be converted to 8 bit colour depth for some editing operations.  For small prints or web usage of the digital photos for this often more than adequate.

The bonus is Photoshop Elements loads faster, is simpler to use and costs much less. Adorama have it available for  $US89.99.


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