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I'm excited about some of the pictures I have recently taken! This site has helped me explore the camera settings, and the practice is really where I'm able to hone the craft of photography.

I'm looking to enhance the photos some, clean them up, etc. Any recommendations for photo editing software? I've heard a lot about Photoshop, but I'm wondering if there are pros/cons to the program, as well as a possible cost effective solution for different software.

Thanks for your insights!


  • edited September 3
    I think most persons who do this a lot prefer Lightroom, which is very powerful and versatile, and can read your raw files.

    I have not gotten around to trying this, and generally for basic Raw alteration stick to the View NX2 or Capture NXD programs Nikon uses, which have the small advantage that they default to the JPG settings you set in the camera, and read such things as D-lighting and noise settings correctly.

    There is also an open source program called Raw Therapee, which has a lot of potential, but takes some practice in using, as it has many capabilities, some of which are redundant. It does include a number of rather interesting plugin filters if you like that sort of thing...edit to add...I may be confusing things here, as some of the filters are the NIK set, which I used at the same time, but forgot where they came from....., and it does do the basic operations on a Raw file such as exposure compensation, white balance, and Picture Control, which you can't alter so easily in a JPG file. It saves to JPG, and uses a sidecar file to preserve settings to your NEF files, so like Capture NX-D it does not alter the NEF file when it's read by other programs. View NX-2 actually changes the NEF, and though it can always be returned to its original, other programs that read NEF files will read the modified version. Depending on what you're doing this can be a great advantage or a nuisance.

    Both Capture NX-D and View NX-2 are rather slow and utterly glacial on a low-powered computer. On my traveling Netbook which I use on trips, it's so slow as to be nearly useless. Decent enough on a modern laptop. The modifications to a NEF made by one may not be readable by the other. Capture NX-D has better noise reduction and sharpening features, and a wider range of exposure correction. View NX-2 which should have come with the camera, does decently and is simple to use.

    If your desire is to do basic cleanup and color correction and a few things of that ilk, the freeware program Faststone Image Viewer has surprisingly good facility for correcting. It's pretty easy to use, and includes some decent noise reduction, sharpening, shadow recovery and the like, though not nearly as sophisticated as Lightroom. It's what I generally use for resizing and minor cleaning up of files that get posted as JPG on forums and the like. One minor glitch here is that it does not always read Raw files at the brightness and exposure levels you've chosen. It varies with the computer. On some it's right on, while on some it's rather poor. You would need to try it. On my older laptop, which has died, it was spot on. On my current laptop, it tends sometimes to blow highlights and sometimes to go darker, so for best results it can be better to convert a Nef file to JPG first in another program, and then process the JPG, which Faststone does well.

    For just resizing and type change, such as Nef to JPG, and for very quick bulk operations, as well as just for viewing, it's hard to beat the freeware Irfanview. It is very simple, fast and reasonably accurate, but has only the most basic enhancement capabilities, though it can be made to read Photoshop plugins. I use this one for viewing, and for a free perspective control plugin that works well in it. The crop feature is not terribly well presented, and works only in freehand mode, while that in View NX-2 and Faststone can be set to preserve the original aspect ratio. Irfanview works fast, provides a very simple interface as a default viewer, has an easy to use facility to add text to an image, and it's small and portable, so you can put it on a USB drive and carry it from one computer to another, very handy if you're traveling or borrowing someone else's machine.

    e.t.a. my change above reminds me that you can get the "NIK" set of filters, which work, I think, in Photoshop and Lightroom, and to a limited degree in Irfan and other programs, free from Google. You can also use them alone, dragging a single image to the executable file. Some work better than others, but some are very nice indeed. Worth a look. One of these will apply an effect such as lightening shadows only within a preset area, very handy when trying to correct a dark face or the like.
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