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Favorite Software for Photographers


Like most photographers, you may have the basic software to get the job done. Typically some version of Photoshop and possibly software that came with your camera for importing and processing files. But what about software for a very specific purpose? Or better yet, what software is worth even getting? I can honestly say that I have tested and tried many of the most popular plug-in’s and programs made for photographers and image processing. Most are decent in their own way, some are a waste of money but here is my short list of those that make the cut as my favorites and/or most used programs (excluding Photoshop which is a given).

Nik Viveza 2 Screenshot

Nik Viveza 2:
Viveza is a program for making very quick and easy color changes or corrections. With the Nik “U Point Technology”, it allows you to make precise adjustments to specific areas of an image in minimal time and with little experience. The latest version (Viveza 2) includes upgrades internally for performance and better output. It also adds the “Structure” slider which is a little bit like the Clarity slider in Lightroom but with the precision of the U Point control points. (You can do some very interesting psudo-HDR effects to skies by dialing up the Structure slider.) Viveza 2 also adds an easy global image control so you can quickly apply adjustments across an entire image, the “Shadows” slider to help recover detail in dark shadows. With the extra speed and great new features, Viveza 2 is one of my favorite programs so far this year.

OnOne PhotoFrame 4.5 Professional Edition:
What could be more easy to add embellishments, backgrounds and frames around images than PhotoFrame 4.5 from OnOne. The software is simply everything you could want to enhance images in one box. It includes hundreds of textures, backgrounds, embellishments and hundreds of original frame effects and overlays that can be used in multiple ways depending on your level of creativity. The latest version has also added a large number of presets making it nearly a 1 click job to add a frame to an image or composite.

Totally Rad Software - Dirty Pictures Screenshot

Totally Rad Dirty Pictures:
No no, Totally Rad Dirty Pictures isn’t something you’ll get in trouble with the boss at work for using. Instead, Totally Rad Software has made a program just for people like me who enjoy collecting and using random textures as image overlays. The software simplifies the process by showing small previews of each texture (from the included texture library or your own custom texture library) and allows you to set things like the blending mode and level of the effect right in the software. When you are satisfied, it builds the layer stack in Photoshop and preps the layer masks to allow the color to show through but mask the texture over the subjects. It takes the work out of it for you but in my opinion the best part is the quick previews. Sure you can do this yourself but this really takes the trial and error out of it with the easy previews.

Adobe Lightroom 3:
Ok, so it’s not even available yet but I have spent some time working with the Lightroom 3 beta and so far the extra features, upgraded processing and improved performance have made it a very promising upgrade when it is released later this year. The improvements in the sharpening controls alone will make Lightroom 3 really worth the upgrade (or purchase for those who don’t already use it) not to mention improved noise handling, the new film grain simulator, image watermarking and improved import and print modules. Although the software is still incomplete and some controls and functions are not active yet, I suspect those modules are still undergoing improvements and I expect some secret features may still be missing from the beta.
Videos from NAPP about Lightroom 3
Lightroom 3 beta information and download from Adobe Labs

HDRsoft Photomatix Pro 3:
Photomatix Pro is a HDR processing software that I have been using for many of my HDR images. Although the learning curve is a little steep, the software has many advanced features and controls making it very powerful for advanced users but still easy to use if you just want to play with the controls. The effects from Photomatix can result in very photo realistic images through very surreal scenes depending on the level of processing and the original captures being processed. Although Photoshop now has a built-in HDR function, Photomatix is really want you want for doing more artistic blends. (However I do find that I can get slightly more photo realistic results in Photoshop with the built in HDR features.) The current version has been available for some time now so I do hope a major update is coming, though the latest version did add some new controls and change up the interface slightly for the better.

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  1. February 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    U-Points are amazing.
    Though I think Viveza is crippled.
    Unless they let me export the Mask I can create with U-Points I find it to be crippled.

    • modifiedphoto
      February 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      I believe Viveza 2 now has some masking functions as well as supporting smart filters in Photoshop. I’ve only tried it for a short time so I can’t really say for sure as I haven’t tried them yet.

  2. February 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Niiiice.. I’ve not paid much attention to the LR3 talks, but just checked out the NAPP videos and it looks sweet! Can’t wait to grab that. I assume there has been no mention of a solid release date yet, right?

    Also.. Viveza and the Totally Rad Dirty Pictures tools look very nice too. I’ve never seen either of those. Is it easy to integrate Viveza into a LR->Photoshop->Print type workflow?

    Great blog, btw.

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