I had to chuckle at the recent furor over Adobe’s new Photoshop pricing model. You see, I use no Adobe products at all to process my photos. Yes, and I do shoot in RAW and post-process every single photograph I post. I just have a completely non-Adobe workflow. I have nothing against Adobe, other than Photoshop and their Creative Suite is damned expensive. But I’m not angry with them. These are pro level tools and they should be priced accordingly. I just choose not to use them. Perhaps because I’m cheap.
My friend and photographer, Mike, was astonished at how little I spend on processing software. That’s good because, I own an embarrassing number of cameras, that I need to pay for. Actually, I do have a couple of Adobe products but I just don’t use them. I bought an heavily discounted copy of Lightroom 3 once. I tested it and my verdict, meh. My wife bought Photoshop Elements 8 for $50 and I used it on rare occasions to run Topaz plugins. Since I got Topaz photoFXlab, I don’t even need Elements anymore.
I use just one package for 99% of my non-HDR photographs, Aperture 3 from Apple. It costs $79.99 from the App Store. Unfortunately for PC people, this package is not available under Windows. I use Aperture to do RAW conversions which are done transparently. There is no goofy “Develop” module or “Library” module. Just one seamless non-modal environment. My 45,000+ photographs are also managed by Aperture and I also upload my photos to Smugmug and watermark them automatically too.
For the other 1%, I use Topaz plugins, Topaz DeNoise 5 and Topaz BW Effects. I now use Topaz photoFXlab to run Topaz plugins without using Photoshop Elements. The photoFXlab also allows me to work in layers if I want to edit and make changes with the plugins. The program is inexpensive and starts up a lot faster than Elements. Also, Topaz usually has some holiday specials where they’ve offered 50% off.
For my HDRs, I use a cocktail of up to 3 applications. I use Photomatix Pro, the granddaddy and some say it’s still the best for HDR creation. With discount coupons out there, you can get if for about $85. I sometimes use Pixelmator for layer blending after I do my initial HDR merging with Photomatix. This is where the real artistry of HDR comes in. This program has a beautiful interface and is another Mac only program, available on the App Store for an amazing $14.99. You can use Photoshop to do layer blending too but I prefer to spend only $15. The downside of Pixelmator, it doesn’t run Photoshop plugins. Finally, I use Aperture 3 to sharpen, tweak colors, increase saturation and of course, store and catalog my HDR photos.
So that’s it. The full extent of my post-processing software. So if you don’t do HDRs and don’t need the Topaz plugins, your total software outlay, $79.99. By the way, the RAW software updates on the Mac are free via Software update built right into the Operating System. That means that I don’t have to keep on re-buying Aperture when I buy a new camera with a new RAW format.
Click on the photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure detail.