Image Processing – Which processing software to begin with…

I have heard many of my friends which became interested in photography, asking the big question: “What software should I use for processing my images?”
Similarly, I have heard many people saying “What? Photoshop?! I do not photoshop my images!!”. If you fall in the latter category, you are either not all that serious about photography or missing the whole reasoning behind digital photography, or you are just simply ill-informed.
The answer is actually very simply and straight forward (as I have already hinted above)… GET PHOTOSHOP! No, I am not getting any kickbacks from Adobe, the creators of the Photoshop line of products and I am not a Photoshop retailer) – I am just trying to save you money and a lot of frustrations!
I personally made use of various image editing software in the beginning which include some fancy products of Coral (which are awesome for people whose main aim is not the photography part of it all), just to realize at the end that it was not what I needed and wanted…
Yes, there are other great image processing software out there, but ask any professional or serious amateur which software to use and chances are that 99% (if not all) will confirm that Photoshop is the way to go.
What is Photoshop? The Oxford dictionary says the following:
     “Definition of Photoshop
      verb (Photoshops, Photoshopping, Photoshopped)
      alter (a photographic image) digitally using Photoshop image-editing software:
      the pictures have obviously been Photoshopped
      Origin: 1990s: from Photoshop, the proprietary name of a software package for the digital
      editing of photographic images”
Yip, it is in the Oxford and any processing software that found a spot there, is worth buying… Don’t you think?

Why do you need Photoshop? Let me give you an example:-To make this…


… look like this…


… or to convert this…


… into this…


As a wildlife photographer you always need to be true to your subject and its natural environment, but it does not mean that you must be satisfied with the unprocessed RAW-image your camera captured. The whole RAW vs JPEG topic is a whole new issue and I will not venture there for purposes of this blog post. Even the biggest international photographic competitions allow images to be processed (photoshopped) to enhance their inherent qualities!

Look at it this way: In the good old days of film your film camera captured the negatives and you gave those negatives in at your nearest lab to be developed (and hoped for the best, knowing that some labs even charged for images that did not develop properly). In the modern day and age you still capture those “negatives” with your camera, but you have the huge advantage to develop those “negatives” digitally and you have the freedom to keep and print only those that you want.

Yes, you do get extreme examples of “photoshopped” images, but everyone has seen those around!

The flag ship products of Photoshop is without a doubt Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6.

Lightroom 4 is a powerful platform to organize, view and make primary adjustments to your images with the build-in camera raw software. You can read more about Lightroom 4 on ADOBE’S WEBSITE BY CLICKING THIS LINK. The price? US$149.00 at present (about ZAR 1,200.00).
Photoshop CS6 is the “mother” of them all and includes all the professional tools you will ever need (and a lot of those you will never need). CS6 are (very) expensive at present at US$849.00 (approximately ZAR6,792.00), unless you upgraded from CS5 for $245.00 (approximately ZAR2,000.00). You can read more about CS6 on ADOBE’S WEBSITE BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
An alternative to the “expensive” Lightroom 4 and CS6 is Photoshop Elements 10. Photoshop Elements is the “smaller brother” of CS6 which embodies an organizer similar than Lightroom 4 and most of the other developing tools that you will ever need. Do not make a mistake – Photoshop Elements is a very powerful tool and I know many excellent photograhers that uses only this product! You can read more about Photoshop Elements 10 on ADOBE’S WEBSITE BY CLICKING THIS LINK. You will be glad to know that it is also much more affordable at US$158.00 (about ZAR1,300.00) and then it includes Photoshop Premiere Elements for video editing. I have used Elements myself until recently.
So, which product in the Photoshop family should you get? I suppose only your needs and wallet will determine that! I have however found that there are much more tutorials and help online for CS6 than for Elements.
I trust that this post was helpful to everyone out there getting started with photography and image processing.
Please remember that the views expressed above are very subjective and based on my personal experiences. There are plenty of other image editing software products out there, but how does the metaphor read…? Oh, yes… If you want to run with the big dogs…
  • GerrySeptember 19, 2012 - 06:44 - I do about 90% of my work in Lightroom 4. The new version is amazingly powerful and the control over clipped highlights and shadows is incredible.

    The rest of my work, especially commercial work, is done in CS6 but for wildlife photography I try not to get carried away.

    Elements – never used it. Between CS6 and LR4 there really is no need.

    If I were to recommend a program for a rank beginner I would suggest Lightroom. Easy to use, a lot of online videos and ebooks and incredible value for money! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Rudi van den HeeverSeptember 19, 2012 - 08:17 - Thanks for the reply Gerry! Yes, Lightroom 4 is a very powerful tool and a must have!ReplyCancel