While some photographers prefer to do most of their processing in a single application, others opt for choosing a specific app to do a specific job. No matter which method suits your workflow best, here’s an overview of software tools to help you get organized and be more creative.
Lightroom CC, available in Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription or as a standalone version, has continued to be updated since the 6.0 version was released in April 2015. A feature that has had professionals raving is its faster performance by taking advantage of compatible graphics processors to boost its overall speed, especially when you’re enhancing images in the Develop module. It also offers new ways to create HDR images and panoramas, and now you can easily decrease or increase the amount of haze or fog in a photograph. Other additions include Facial Recognition and a new Tone Curve adjustment tool. List Price: $9.99/month subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, which includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC; $149 for Lightroom 6 as a standalone program.
ALIEN SKIN SOFTWARE
Instill your images with the subtle nuances and analog beauty of film photography with Exposure 7. With over 470 presets that emulate creative focus effects and the warmth of film, Exposure offers a wide range of starting points for developing your look, such as Kodachrome, TRI-X, Polaroid, Portra, Neopan, Panatomic-X and GAF 500. Then, save your new look as a preset with a name, category and notes. Later, you can apply your custom look to a photo (or batches of photos). Exposure 7 now features the creative focus effects of Bokeh, plus a slew of new film presets and textures. Purchase Exposure 7 and receive a free upgrade to Exposure 8 when it’s released in winter 2015. List Price: $149.
For fast and easy portrait retouching, PortraitPro offers a suite of tools with intelligent auto correction. It gives users the ability to adjust the lighting on the subject’s face, enhance skin and hair, fix blemishes and reduce/remove wrinkles, slim and sculpt the face, detect gender and age and, in the newest v15 update, offers full makeup control, wide-angle lens distortion correction and more. List Price: From $80.
Perfectly Clear Plug-Ins 2.0 for Photoshop and Lightroom offers more comprehensive editing than ever while utilizing reengineered algorithms to cut postprocessing time in half. Upgraded features include a new noise engine to remove noise more effectively, full-resolution zoom, opacity sliders for image blending, split view for visualizing edits and Import/Export presets. Due to its popularity on the mobile app, Plug-Ins also includes the Beautify feature, which provides 10 automatic corrections at once—Perfectly Smooth, Blemish Removal, Dark Circle Removal, Shine Removal, Face Slimming, Catchlight, Eye Enhance, Eye Enlarge, Teeth Whitening and Skin Tone. List Price: $149 (individual package); $199 (bundle); $75 (individual user upgrade); $99 (bundle upgrade).
FotoMagico 4 helps you mix photos and videos to create multimedia slideshows. It automatically adjusts for frame rates, aspect ratios and resolution, letting you focus on creating a story through transitions, audio and layers. FotoMagico also provides a teleprompter setting to aid in formal presentations. The 4.5 version update supports 4K video with export settings and is optimized for Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite operating systems. List Price: $99; free update for existing users.
A full-featured photo organizer/editor, PaintShop Pro X8 lets you do the basics such as crop, straighten, retouch and remove red eye, plus you can create web, print and photo projects with brushes, textures, drawing and painting tools, and more. The latest version offers creative text wrapping and content-aware Magic Move, in addition to enhanced Batch Mode processing and brushes, selections and layers. List Price: $79/$59 (PaintShop Pro X8); $99/$79 (PaintShop Pro X8 Ultimate).
Having newly optimized its algorithm, DxO OpticsPro’s PRIME technology provides even better rendering of gradients and more natural-looking images. Regardless of shooting conditions, OpticsPro 10 can bring out the best in your RAW and JPEG photos by correcting optical defects of your equipment, removing digital noise even at high sensitivities, recovering fine details and textures in dark or burnt areas with DxO Smart Lighting, and bringing out color subtleties in your images. The new ClearView feature automatically eliminates haze from landscape photos and smog from urban photos. The latest v10.4 interface offers a new Reset button that lets users cancel all of the manual corrections made to an image in just one click and return to the default preset corrections. List Price: $129 (Essential Edition); $199 (Elite Edition).
GOOGLE NIK COLLECTION
The Google Nik Collection contains all of Nik’s powerful plug-ins bundled together for Photoshop or Lightroom. The collection includes Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Viveza, Sharpener Pro and Dfine. Nik’s U Point® technology makes it easy to selectively edit just the parts of your photos that need touching up without complex masks and selections by dropping control points on an image. List Price: $149.
The Professional Plugin Suite, available for Photoshop, comes with Noiseware, Portraiture and Realgrain, which can be used together to achieve better portrait output. Noiseware performs photo noise reduction as a plug-in or standalone software. Portraiture offers automatic skin smoothing, healing and enhancing effects. Realgrain allows you to apply toning, film and grain effects to your images. List Price: From $299 (Suite); $99 (Realgrain); $79 plugin/from $29 standalone (Noiseware); $199 (Portraiture).
Noiseless is an app that provides a one-click solution for eliminating the pixelated/grainy patterns generated by nearly every camera when shooting in dimly lit situations. With advanced algorithms, Noiseless automatically detects and corrects for this “noise” in an image, and is able to detect if the image is from a smartphone, action cam or DSLR in order to apply the most optimal correction. The Adjust Panel provides even more det
ail preservation and selective reduction tools. Noiseless comes configured in a standard version available on the Mac App Store and a Pro version sold on Macphun’s website. The Pro version adds a powerful, proprietary RAW noise-reduction technology, support for additional color space models, extra detail controls and the ability to run as a plug-in within Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. List Price: $17 (Standard version); $49 (Pro version).
Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 provides the necessary tools for editing your photos, improving portraits, adding popular looks in color or black-and-white, and resizing for large-format printing. This full-featured photo editor works either as a plug-in editor to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, or as a standalone application. Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 is up to two times faster than previous versions, and its Perfect Browse preview mode lets you quickly sort, select and edit photos so you can delete the bad ones, rate the good ones and add keywords. Then, filter only the photos you want and easily send them to Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. It also features a new Line Mask tool for making complex selections and Luminosity Masking. List Price: $149; $99 (upgrade for current users).
PINNACLE IMAGING SYSTEMS
HDR Express 3 brings professional tools to an easy-to-use application. While maintaining the software’s clean design, the upgrade provides photographers with increased speed and additional features. HDR Express 3’s merge processing takes half the time to create a merged image when compared to HDR Express 2. The 32-bit color-editing tools are now more responsive. The Adaptive Tone Mapping algorithms have been improved with the addition of a gamma slider for control of midtones. The software also includes new alignment and de-ghosting algorithms that were released with the HDR Expose 3 professional software. RAW file support is included for over 600 cameras. List Price: $79 (new license); $49 (upgrade).
Pixelmator for Mac 3.3 is a full-featured image-editing app that lets you touch up and enhance images, draw or paint, apply effects or create advanced compositions at a price vastly below anything else this powerful. Images can be accessed anywhere with iCloud, sent to iPhoto, emailed, printed, shared or saved to popular image formats—all right from the app. It now includes support for the new Photos app and the new Force Touch trackpad on the MacBook and MacBook Pro. It has also redefined the performance of the Repair tool, allowing you to wipe away unwanted elements from your photos up to five times faster. List Price: $29.
Available as a standalone app for Mac and Windows, or as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom, the Dfx v4 digital filter suite simulates 2,000-plus popular Tiffen glass filters, specialized lenses, optical lab processes, film grain and exacting color correction, as well as natural light and photographic effects. The new version offers enhanced multi-processor acceleration for faster interaction and rendering of images, new filters for optical effects, interface improvements and more. List Price: $129/$49 (upgrade).
This collection of film emulations was created from analyzing 22 rare film stocks sourced from around the world. The new Replichrome III: Archive contains a Tweak Kit to customize grain, tone and sharpening, and includes multiple versions of each film, scanned using both Noritsu and Frontier scanners, to give photographers unlimited control over their photos. List Price: $99.