Sunday, May 27, 2007

Software for Photographers - Last Part

In looking at other software, The main interest has been in finding something that will do what photographers need while costing very little. Assumed that if you can afford it, you will buy Photoshop for the reasons stated previously.

Most photographers will not need to buy any software. If you have a scanner, it will almost certainly have come with some suitable image manipulation software, and some may also have been bundled with your printer. Many scanners include a cut down version of Photoshop, known as Photoshop LE (Limited Edition). A similar piece of software is now sold by Adobe as Photoshop Elements, at around a quarter of the price of Photoshop itself.
These programs have virtually all the functions that most ordinary photographers will need - including the ability to use Photoshop plugins should you want to. Unless you are involved with the publishing industry they will do most of what you need, although the latest version of Photoshop does include some useful web-related tools. Another Adobe product often bundled is PhotoDeluxe, and hidden underneath its interface this too has much of what you need.

Other software suites such as Corel Draw also include reasonably usable image editors. The version of Corel Draw comes with Corel Photopaint, and this will also do much if not all of what is needed. Never found its interface anything like as intuitive as that of Photoshop, although others tells it is easy to use.

Another good graphics package that never really got to grips with is Picture Publisher from Micrographix, which again I've had supplied as bundled software.

One of the best-known shareware packages is Paint Shop Pro. This gained its place in the market by providing a low cost alternative to Photoshop for people who didn't need all of Photoshop's features. Over the years, Paint Shop Pro once a small, neat and simple graphics editor that has now developed into a very capable program, but lost some of its ease of use as well as increased in price. From it was able to use Photoshop plugins. There are now many alternatives, some of which may offer better value, but the large user base for this program that has grown over the years means there is quite a range of tutorial material and tips available on line and in print.

Of particular interest to anyone with a digital camera is the free Digital Camera Enhancer(DCE) from Mediachance, which makes a good job of noise reduction and improving colour and tonal balance of digital images. This is available both as a free standalone program and as a part of their impressive Photo-Brush software. DCE runs significantly faster here as part of Photo-Brush than on its own. Photo-Brush lacks the selection tools that make Photoshop essential for photographers, but has some impressive features, particularly its retouching tools and noise/dust removal, which makes it worth considering for this purpose alone at its low price. The other missing feature in this and most of the cheaper (or free) software is the lack of support for images at higher than 24bit depth, vital for the best results from scanners.

There are free graphics programs that look to be of interest for those whose needs are basic. IrfanView32, written by Irfan Skiljan, a student at the Vienna University of Technology, allows you to carry out some basic image manipulations. More sophisticated free programs include Serif's PhotoPlus (requires free registration), Satori PhotoXL, Ultimate FX (which supports Adobe plugins) and Vicman's Photo Editor, but I've not actually used any of these these.

The Gimp, first developed on Linux, also runs on almost any platform you can think of, though you may need to compile it yourself from the source code. You can download the Windows version as a normal program and it has some interesting features. It does however give the impression of being developed by a committee that can't quite make up its mind what it should be, and there are many rough edges to be smoothed before this is a serious contender on PC. If you run a Linux system, you will almost certainly make it your choice, though still found it very slow to handle large files.

As mentioned previously, Picture Window is a tool made by programmers who are also photographers and with their needs in mind, while Photoshop seems more a publisher's image processing package written by programmers, which many photographers find useful. If you are an experienced colour printer you may find Picture Window's ability to specify filters in CC units and other similar touches useful. If you like the look of this program, the more expensive Pro version (still very cheap compared to Photoshop) is recommended because of its support for ICC profiles and other useful features.

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