In case you are wondering what tools I use to produce my pictures and why I use those tools, the following article is for you…
1. Photoshop CS4 – This is the daddy of them all and for good reason. Without question it is standard. For years I used Nikon’s NX2 as well as Paint Shop Pro X and was generally happy with the results I got. Then one fateful day I picked up a copy of CS4 relatively cheap (around $200). Without going into all the reasons/features, lets just say that the ability to handle RAW files, the ability for many 3rd party programs to hook into it, and the **FREE** inclusion of Adobe Bridge were enough of a reason to make me switch. Actually, Bridge alone was an ENOURMOUS boost to my productivity and made file management much simpler.
2. Topaz Adjust – A wonderful program that produces some very cool effects that you will not find elsewhere AND it hooks right into CS4. It takes a simple shot and gives it some serious pop. It does not add to what exists but rather it accentuates what is there. I really enjoy using this for portraits but often the effect is too strong and needs to be tone down. To address this issue I normally I take the original photo and copy it to another layer. Then I make the adjustment to the top layer. When I am finished I simply decreasing the opacity of the top layer until I get only the amount of effect I want. It is unbelievable how much time and effort this one program saves
3. Photomatix Pro – If you want to produce High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, this is the program for you. Multiple options and sliders makes it possible to customize how crazy you want to go with the effect. The program hooks into Lightroom in a very sweet way. While program does take a bit of playing around with to get used to, it is VERY rewarding in its results. Often I will further modify these pictures in Lighroom or CS4. Most often the modification is only curve adjustments.
4. Lightroom 3 – the program is currently in beta and will be released in the near future. When I first started playing around with the beta, I wasn’t impressed. The lack of speed was the main concern, plus I didn’t see the benefit over using Adobe Bridge. Well, after the last update to the beta my opinion completely changed. Completely. If you are serious about your photography and deal with lots and lots of photos, this program is for you.. Most of the important functions that once were reserved for Photoshop are available in this easy to use package reducing the need to go to an outside program, like CS4.
This was just a quick overview. At some later date I will go into more details on each tool separately.