Greetings, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam Douglas and this is Episode 200. So, for today’s episode, I wanted to do something special for the 200th Episode of the show so today’s episode is all about photo editors.
As a new photographer there are a number of things you will need, in addition to buying your camera gear, you will also need to choose what software you will use to edit your images. This can one somewhat over whelming as there are so many out there to choose from. Your camera manufacturer probably includes some free software for handling the RAW files from their cameras but the software is quite lacking in flexibility and utility.
When considering editing software, there are a few things to consider such as price, learning curve to become proficient with the software and how often the software is updated to accommodate new cameras and lenses. So let’s look at some of the best photo editors out there and give you some details on each one.
Adobe Photoshop is probably the oldest photo editor on the market and the first version was released in 1988. Photoshop has become the industry standard and is used by millions of photographers and artists around the world. Although Photoshop is the oldest and industry standard it is extremely complex and difficult to learn and become proficient with. Photoshop can easily handle your RAW files with its partner utility Adobe Camera RAW. All you need to do is copy your camera’s RAW files onto your hard drive and then open Photoshop, then go to the File Menu and select Open and browse to the RAW file you want to edit and select it.
Upon opening the Adobe Camera RAW will launch and give you access to some powerful controls for your image. It shows a Histogram at the top right hand side of your image in the Adjustment Panel. You can select the color profile you want to use as well as White Balance. Moving down the panel you have access to sliders to adjust Temperature, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. Moving on down the Adjustment panel you have sliders for Texture, Clarity, Dehaze, Vibrance, and Saturation. Below all of these sliders you have sections for Curves, Detail, Color Mixer, Color Grading, Optics, Geometry, Effects and Calibration.
Now you probably understand why Photoshop can be so hard to learn and master with all of those items just within the Camera RAW utility. Once you make any selections here and you are ready to dive into Photoshop itself you click Open at the very bottom of the Adjustment Panel and your photo opens in Photoshop. Once you are in the main Photoshop window you have tons more tools for working with your photo. There are Layers, Masks, and tons of selection and editing tools down the left hand edge of the Photoshop Editing Window and tons more in the File Menu across the top. You also have another Adjustment Panel on the right hand side of the main Photoshop Workspace window.
I am not going to go through all of the tools in Photoshop as it would take hours if not days to do that and I don’t want your eyes to glaze over. Hopefully I can get a guest on the show soon who is an actual expert on Photoshop and they can help explain all that it can do. In the show notes I have a screen shot of what the Photoshop Workspace looks like along with the Adobe Camera RAW window as well. If you look at the screenshots, you’ll get a pretty good idea of why it takes a LOT of time to become proficient in Photoshop. For pricing, you are in luck as Adobe now does subscription based pricing so you can get both Photoshop and the next program I am going to talk about, Adobe Lightroom for $10 a month. That is significant as back when I first started using Photoshop it was $800+ to buy a copy of the software!!! The last thing I want to mention about Photoshop is that you can only edit one image at a time. You can open multiple images at once in Photoshop, but each loads into their own separate editing Workspace window. One more thing to keep in mind is that Photoshop is known as a destructive editor, or in other words, when you edit in Photoshop you are permanently changing your original image file.
The next photo editor I wanted to talk about in this episode is Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is quite different from Photoshop, but can do some of the same things with the same tools. Lightroom is mainly a photo database program and when you launch it for the first time it will ask you to create a Catalog, which is what Lightroom calls its databases. I recommend creating a main Catalog for the calendar year, such as Master 2021, or 2022, etc. If you are say a wedding photographer, then you might want to create Catalogs for each wedding you shoot so you can keep them separated and name the Catalogs after the wedding the images are for such as Todd and Mary Smith or whatever the case may be.
Once you have your Catalog created you can then Import your actual photos using the Import button on the bottom left had side of the main Catalog window. You then browse to your hard drive where the photos you want to work on are stored and select the folder the photos are in. During the Import process you can add items to your RAW files such as Develop Settings, Metadata, and Keywords to tag the images with such as Todd and Mary Smith Wedding, Sat Jan 31, 2022. There is also a File Handling on Import option and both of these options will be in the Import Panel on the right hand side of the Import Window. Once you have done all you need to here just click the Import button on the bottom of the Import panel and your images will open in the main Lightroom Workspace window known as the Library Module. Here you images will all be available in a multi tile view and it had a “Filmstrip” view panel along the bottom of the window. If you click on a single image in the Filmstrip panel it will be highlighted in the main tile window, and if you double click that image in the Filmstrip it will open that single image in the Library Module Window.
Lightroom has tons of options and capabilities for working on your images, but it’s not as overwhelming as Photoshop. Lightroom breaks things down into Modules, which are found at the upper right hand side of the main window and are as follows: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web. Again I am not going to deep dive into all of these Modules as it would take too much time, but other than the Library Module, the other main one I wanted to talk about is the Develop Module. This module in Lightroom has all the same options as the Adobe Camera RAW window does. You have all the same sets of sliders and the Histogram at the top but Lightroom adds a few extra categories such as Transform and Lens Correction. Lightroom also has some basic editing tools such as the Crop tool, Spot Removal tool, Red Eye correction, Gradient tool, Radial filter tool and Adjustment Brush tool. Aside from being more minimal compared to Photoshop Lightroom’s other big advantage is the ability to keep your images organized and the fact that Lightroom is a non-destructive editor. All the change you make to your images in Lightroom are saved in a separate XML file and applied to the RAW file when you export them, keeping the original RAW file itself untouched.
Because of its simplicity compared to Photoshop and its organizational abilities, Lightroom is extremely popular with photographers and comes as part of the Adobe Photography subscription plan for $10 a month. Back when it was a stand alone program Lightroom cost around $150 to buy.
The third photo editor I wanted to talk about in this episode is called CaptureOne Pro and it is software created by PhaseOne, which is a company that makes Medium Format cameras. CaptureOne is not limited to only being used for the RAW files for the PhaseOne cameras, it is universal in nature and can process the RAW files from all major camera brands. PhaseOne does make streamlined versions of their software for Sony and Fujifilm cameras, but I personally buy the Universal version so I can use it for both my Canon and Fujifilm RAW files.
CaptureOne is very similar to Adobe Lightroom in that you create a “catalog” or database of your images and then import them into CaptureOne for editing. Once your images are in CaptureOne you have a similar Catalog view as you would in Lightroom, but the “Filmstrip” runs down the right hand side of the viewer window. The various “Modules” are on the left hand side of the main Workspace window and include, Library, Exposure Evaluation, Lens Correction, Basics, Styles, Navigator, Presets and Information. CaptureOne is also like Lightroom in that it is a non-destructive editor, all of your changes are saved as “Recipes” so when you export you can export your modified version of your images or the original RAW files either one.
As I mentioned a moment ago CaptureOne is very similar to Lightroom and can do almost all of the same things that Lightroom can do with three exceptions. It cannot copy GPS Metadata from one RAW file to another, which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and I cannot do Panorama Stitching or HDR merging. Now the good news is when CaptureOne Pro 22 releases sometime in December of 2021 it will gain the Panorama Stitching and HDR Merge capabilities but as far as I know still will NOT have the GPS Metadata syncing function.
Another reason to consider CaptureOne is they have a very close relationship with both Fujifilm and Sony and as such their software does a better job of handling and rendering Fujifilm and Sony’s RAW files versus Lightroom. You can also as I mentioned before, buy the Fujifilm Sony, or Nikon camera specific version of CaptureOne for a much lower price than the Universal version I use. CaptureOne offers two pricing options for their software, you can get a subscription like you can with Adobe products which costs $20 a month or your can prepay for the year or you can get a perpetual license key for $199 for the Fujifilm, Sony or Nikon specific versions or $299 for the Universal version. If you already have a version of CaptureOne then you can save quite a bit by paying the upgrade price, which for the Universal version is $199.
I personally have been using both Lightroom and CaptureOne for quite a few years now and honestly I prefer CaptureOne. If they get to the point where they add the GPS Metadata syncing functionality that I need then I could finally dump Lightroom and Photoshop and only use CaptureOne. As it stands right now I have to still use Lightroom at least anytime I need to sync GPS data as my GFX 50R does not have native GPS capabilities nor a GPS add-on like my Canon cameras do so when I shoot and need GPS tagging of my RAW files I have to get that data by shooting an image with my Canon R6 or iPhone and then sync the data to the Fujifilm RAW files in Lightroom.
ON1 Photo RAW:
ON1 Photo RAW is another great photo editing program and it actually combines the capabilities of both Photoshop and Lightroom into a single image editor. Photo RAW is also a non-destructive editor so it preserves your original RAW files. Like Lightroom and CaptureOne Once you import your RAW files into a Catalog, you can make all the edits you want without losing the original RAW file or data, even when you create Layers or Masking like you can in Photoshop.
Like both CaptureOne and Lightroom you can add Keywords and Tags to your images as you import them to help keep your images organized and easier to manage. Photo RAW has all of its Catalog options down the left hand side of the main editing window and it has the Layers and other editing options down the right hand side of the main window. Also like CaptureOne and Lightroom you can apply custom made editing Presets to give your images a specific look or of course do all of your own image editing.
With the fact that ON1 Photo RAW combines the power of both Photoshop and Lightroom in a single image editor, there are a large number of photographers that love this software and use it everyday as part of their post processing workflow. It makes things so much easier when you have both abilities in a single program and don’t have to switch back and forth when using Layers or Masks for your images. When using Lightroom you can choose the option to make edits to your images in Photoshop if you need Layers and Masking or other Photoshop specific edits but it then launches Photoshop and when done you have to save the changes back into Lightroom for exporting, which is more work and hassle.
One last thing I should mention before wrapping up this episode by talking about the last photo editor in this list is the fact that Lightroom, CaptureOne and ON1 Photo RAW are ALL able to do what’s known is Tethered Capture, which means you can hook your camera up to your computer and then launch any of these three editors and you can live shoot or capture your images by using the Tethered Capture controls in the software. A large number of studio photographers love having this option as once the shot is taken the image shows up immediately in the editing software so that a client can see it right away and edits can happen on the fly. Using Tethered Capture you can also adjust the settings on your camera using the software so that you don’t need to move back and forth between the camera and the computer. ON1 Photo RAW is available as either a Subscription for $90 paid annually, $99 of a perpetual license or $79 for a perpetual license upgrade from a previous version.
The final photo editor I wanted to talk about in this episode is Skylum’s Luminar AI, which is a newer photo editor that hasn’t been around as long as the others but has made massive strides in capabilities. Over the years Skylum has added most all of the major functionality to their software that the other have. It can do Cataloging like Lightroom, CaptureOne and ON1 Photo RAW and it can do Layers and Masking as well like Photoshop.
An additional option that makes Luminar AI very handy and powerful to have as part of your post processing workflow is its ability to be used as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop and Apple Photos app. So, if you want to have more powerful editing abilities without all the messy hassle of learning everything there is in Photoshop you can short cut by using Luminar AI as a plug-in.
Besides having the Catalog functionality like Lightroom, CaptureOne and ON1 Photo RAW, Luminar also has “presets” or as they call them, Templates which allows you to make quick and easy edits to your RAW files. Luminar AI also keeps your original RAW files safe, which makes it a nondestructive photo editor as well, which is always nice. Skylum has won numerous awards over the last several years for being the most innovative photo editor on the market and Skylum is always adding new features and functionality. One of their biggest advancements was their Sky Replacement sub-module. Anyone who has been shooting for any amount of time knows that Mother Nature doesn’t always co-operate and give us beautiful skies for our landscape or travel photos. With Luminar AI you can quickly and easily replace the dull, dreary sky in your images with a beautiful, colorful sky instead. You can add a nice blue sky with white, fluffy clouds or a colorful sunrise or sunset sky to your images and they even give you the option of adding in Milky Way skies to really make your images look fantastic. Luminar AI comes with quite a few Sky Replacement templates and you can even buy more “sky packs” with the click of a button in the Sky Replacement sub-panel.
Sky Replacement and all other manual editing options are located under the Edit Tab at the top of the main photo window. Once in the Edit section of the software you have tons of capabilities, most of which are similar to the ones you would find in Photoshop. With all of the power that Skylum has added to Luminar over the years and now with this latest version, Luminar AI, you have the same capabilities you do in ON1 Photo RAW where you basically have the combined power of both Lightroom and Photoshop in a single program. As far as pricing is concerned, Luminar is by far the least expensive as you can buy a perpetual license for only $79 and as of this episode you can get it for $47. If you want it for two computers you can get it for $59 on sale or $99 for its regular price. Skylum has a new photo editor coming later this winter called Luminar Neo which will be completely separate from Luminar AI.
Wrapping up this episode I talked about five of the most popular photo editing programs on the market today. I know there are many others out there but these are the five most popular and the ones I have personally used myself. At the bottom of the show notes for this episode you can find links to all of these program’s websites and all of them offer a free trial period so you can try them all and then decide which one would be best for your needs.
Luminar Neo – https://skylum.grsm.io/liamdouglas2269
Luminar AI – skylum.evyy.net/kjZW60
ON1 Photo RAW – https://www.on1.com/products/photo-raw/
CaptureOne – https://www.captureone.com/en
Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop and Lightroom) – https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography/compare-plans.html
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