The Photo Editing Toolbox

Beano (RIP), Mastermind

Beano (RIP 2011), Master Mouse Handler

As new software gets released and upgraded and digital processes (and hardware) improve, the virtual toolbox of software grows. My workflow is constantly changing to speed up the process and achieve the look that I want. This is what I use, currently, in general order from RAW file to the final JPG that goes to the client:

  1. Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits is the fastest application for managing RAW files, especially at the selection stage; once I download a card, I view all RAW files first in Photo Mechanic and send to other programs from there;
  2. Nikon Capture NX2.3: native RAW file editor for Nikon’s NEF RAW files (best for exposure and colour edits, much better than Adobe Camera Raw); convert file to TIF;
  3. TIF files are edited in Photoshop, the industry standard; I’m still using CS3 (Photoshop 10); all detail work and fine-tuning happens here;
  4. Within PS, I use Rad Lab by Get Totally Rad for their filters, which I tweak for each shoot (can also create a PS action that includes Rad Lab);
  5. Within PS, I use Pro Retouch 2 actions (for skin work), also by Get Totally Rad;
  6. I use Photo Ninja by Picture Code for those noisy images that need help;
  7. Edited image is opened in Lightroom (I’m on LR4), where I may do some final tweaking, but I use LR mainly as a catalogue/library and exporter to various end points such as Flickr, web galleries on my server, or print sharpening. I never let LR manage the native RAW files, only TIFs and JPGs. First of all, it’s slow with the NEFs, it doesn’t preview them properly, nor does LR handle major exposure or colour correction fixes well. There’s a reason why Lightroom is cheaper than Photoshop.

That’s seven different pieces of software. I don’t always need to use Noise Ninja or Pro Retouch 2, but I use the other five programs on nearly every image. Two of those programs belong to Adobe, which really dominates this industry between Creative Suite (which Photoshop is part of) and Lightroom.