Thursday, 23 April 2009

Software recommendations for nature photographers

I am often asked what software I use in the digital darkroom and the answer is loads. I use a bunch of different tools to get the job done, using whatever tool will best do the job. Much like lenses. You wouldn't just use one lens for every shooting possibility though with fantastic super zoom lenses like the 18-200 we are getting closer! What follows is a list of what I use to get he job done...

Digital Pro
This is my program of choice for reviewing, editing (deleting) and filing my images. I need to quickly store hundreds of images from a shoot with the ability to easily find them again when clients need them. DP is the best program I have found so far that does this. It is fast, has an auto renaming function that cannot be beaten and can talk directly with other editing applications to speed up the workflow.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
This is where I spend most of my time optimising my images. For the majority of my images I just apply contrast, colour and tonal edits and LR does a great job. It is fast, efficient and user friendly. It is non-destructive, has some database functions and great printing and web gallery options. It cannot do direct pixels editing but does 90% of what I need to do to all of my images.

Adobe Photoshop CS4
When there is something I cannot do in Lightroom then I reach for Photoshop. Image blending and panoramic stitching PS has the power to do far more than LR will ever be able to manage. I am using PS less and less but it is still a valuable tool for image editing. The new adjustments panel, GPU acceleration and the new mask panel make the upgrade worth it. Even better is the native 64 bit version allowing for loads more RAM for PS to access. Stitching and working with huge images just got faster.

Photoshop Plugins
I prefer to spend my time in the field shooting rather than in front of the computer and that is why if I can find something to help speed up my workflow and make things easier I am all over it. That is why I use a few plugins (filters) to speed things up.

Nik Sharpener Pro 3
No more trying to work out radius, amount and threshold, NSP does all the thinking for me and works out the optimum amount of sharpening for my images. It is expensive and is a little slower than the sharpening tools in PS but it is definitely worth it for the great results.

Nik Define
Now I am shooting with the D3 noise is all but a thing of the past but I have a lot of images that were taken with earlier model cameras that still show signs of noise. To fix this I use Nik Dfine, it like NSP, scans the image and automatically applies noise reduction in various amounts to to different parts of the images as needed.

Nik Colour Efex

While wildlife photography is a pretty straight art landscape photography is pretty free range when it comes to image enhancements. I use Nik Colour Efex to add creative enhancements and effects. While not used on every image I do like a few of the filters offered in this package to add a little extra. My favourites are tonal contrast, bleach bypass and skylight.

While Photoshop and Lightroom are obvious choices hopefully this list has shown you a couple of other options to help share your photographic vision.

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