As with most new and intermediate photographers, we wonder which photo editing application is right for us. The decision hinges on the amount of time you are willing to devote to learning the full features and potential of the respective application.
The decision on selecting the right editing application is compounded by the many applications available. Over the past year, I have purchased many of these applications and have discovered the strengths and weaknesses of each one. All of these application continue to evolve with the newest and greatest features. Each company competing for your hard earned money.
I have listed below some of these applications which new and intermediate photographers are considering or currently using:
- MacPhun – provides a number of photo editing applications which can be used as a standalone or as a plug-in within Adobe Elements, Lightroom and/or Photoshop CS6. The MacPhun applications include: Noiseless Pro, Tonality Pro, Focus Pro, Intensify Pro, Snapheal and FX Photo Studio. Applications can be purchased individually or as a bundle package. These applications are only available for Mac computers.
SPECIAL NOTE: New Creative Kit 2016 is available right now for only $119.99 (Canadian) and this special represents a saving over $500. – Check out the details on pre-ordering the Creative Kit 2016 here.
MY COMMENT: This application is ideal for new photographers who want to quickly edit a single or small group of images. These applications are relatively easy to learn and use. There are many good free Youtube tutorials on each of the MacPhun applications.
Once a user has become proficient with the MacPhun applications, user would then migrate to either Photoshop Elements or Lightroom or On1 Photo.
- Google Nik Collections (Version 1.2.11 – July 16, 2015) – Google purchased this suite of applications from Nik software in September 2012. Cost of this Collection is $169.00 Canadian. This application contains several applications which include: Analog Efex Pro; Silver Efex Pro; Colour Efex Pro; Viveca; HDR Efex Pro; Sharpener Pro and Dfine. To view more details about this suite of applications check out their website here;
The Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex have been recognized as some of the top features within this collection.
Nik Collections can operate with Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop CS6 as as plugin.
MY COMMENT: This suite of applications has been around for sometime and is popular with the more established photographers. There are suggestions that software engineers from Nik Software were hired by MacPhun.
It appears that Nik’s competitor is Topaz Labs which has a wider selection of applications. The Nik Collection hasn’t been expanded since being taken over by Google. However, the existing applications in the Collections continue to be updated.
- Topaz Labs – also provide a number of photo editing applications which can operate as a plugin for Adobe Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop. You can purchase their entire suite of applications or individual applications.
Their applications include:
Adjust; InFocus; DeNoise; DeJPEG; B&W Effects; Adjust; Clarity; Lens Effect; Clean; Simplify; Star Effects; Remask; Details; Glow and Impressions.
Cost for the complete suite of Topaz applications is $469.99 (US). However, they occasionally have a special sale of 40 to 60% off. You can also purchase individual applications. Check out the prices of individual applications here.
The key benefit of the Topaz Labs applications is that the upgrades are free of charge.
A few of the Topaz applications are rated quite high and are recommended: B&W Effects; DeNoise; DeMask (Version 5); and Detail. You can read reviews of the Topaz Labs here.
MY COMMENT: For most new photographers, the Adjust application will address the majority of our editing needs. This application contains sharpening, editing and many other features. Remaining Topaz applications build upon the Adjust application. Check out this video on the Adjust application here.
Each Topaz Labs applications contain a number of presets which provides the user with quick editing options which they can refine to further enhance the image. These presets greatly speeds up the editing process.
Their most recent upgrade for Remask 5 is most impressive and is one that individuals who do detailed masking should examine and consider.
Many intermediate and high level photographs use specific Topaz applications as a plugin for Photoshop CS6.
- NEW – Adobe Elements 14 – earlier this week, Adobe announced the release of version 14 of Elements. Cost $119 (US) or upgrade for $89.59 (US). Application can be used on both Windows based computers and Apple computers.
To some proficient photographers, the Elements program appears to be quite simplistic. However, the application contains many features found in Photoshop CS6 but Elements have a different interface to these features. Elements is designed for a wide range of photographs from the new to advanced users.
This upgrade includes several interesting features:
Auto Haze Removal & Manual Adjustments of Haze Removal;
New Tutorial features; and
eLife Examples to enhance photo editing.
Check out more details about this new application here.
MY COMMENT: Yesterday, I purchased an upgrade to Element 14. In reviewing the new features, I must say that I am most impressed. The most interesting new component is the Haze Removal. This feature is only included in the Lightroom 6 on the Adobe’s Creative Cloud monthly subscription and not in the Lightroom 6 standalone version.
Element 14 is designed to be a photo editing application for a wide range of individuals: new photographers, intermediate and experts. For the new photographers, there are the guided features and the Quick menus. For the more advanced editing, you can use the Expert menu with or without layers.
In my view, Elements 14 is a good means of learning about photo editing and a transition to Photoshop CS6.
It would appear that Adobe Element will continue to be sold as a standalone application and an introduction application to the Adobe Creative Cloud applications.
As noted above, third party plugins such as: Nik Collections, Topaz Labs, On1 Photo, MacPhun can be accessed within Elements and Lightroom.
- On1 Photo – Version 10 – is an application firm based in Portland Oregon and supported by many notable photographers. At present, their Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 is their current suite of applications but is being upgraded in late October 2015.
SPECIAL NOTE: You can pre-order this new application for only $99.00 US now. Check out the details here.
MY COMMENT: This suite of application continues to evolve and impress many. Each year, the firm strives to significantly increase the application’s features and presets. Their presets are quite amazing and a key component in the popularity of this application. I would encourage you to examine some of their Youtube videos.
From my perspective, this application could be viewed as an alternative to Adobe Elements 14 with the future potential of competing with Photoshop CS6. However, On1 Photo can be used as a plugin for Elements, Lightroom and Photoshop CS6.
This application is a bit more powerful that MacPhun but does have a bit more of a learning curve. However, there are many Youtube videos to assist with learning this application.
This application would be more appropriate for an intermediate photograph with some experience with photo editing. The use of presets in Topaz Labs are similar to what is found in On1 Photo.
- RELATIVELY NEW – Affinity Photo Version 1 – has been released recently and is available for only $57.99 (US) and is only available on Apple computers.
This application is quite impressive but does have a steep learning curve. Clearly, the developers of this application are targeting at going head-to-head with Adobe Photoshop CS6.
MY COMMENT: My first impression of this application was that it contained many interesting and unique features. Some reviews of this application are critical of the features it is lacking. One must realize is that the current application is only in version 1 and it is amazing what they have included. I am confident that further versions will make significant enhancements which will impress all.
This application is more appropriate for individuals who are intermediate and more advanced photographers with some previous editing experience. However, if you are curious about explore some of these creative features, check out their website here.
- Lightroom 6 – Lightroom continues to be the standard for photo editing. Version 6 contains basically the same features of Lightroom 5. Many third party photo editing firms have plugins which provide features not available within Lightroom or take edited image to the next left or have a more innovative editing feature. These third party editing firms are listed above.
Adobe is heavily promoting their Creative Cloud for current and future users with a monthly cost of $9.99 (US) per month. The Creative Cloud version for Lightroom 6 has features not available in the standalone version. Check out the different features between versions 5, 6 and Creative Cloud here.
Check out the different Creative Cloud application options here.
It would appear that standalone versions of Lightroom will be terminated in the near future. You can purchase an upgrade to Lightroom 6 as a standalone version by following the instructions found here. Alternatively, you can purchase a new version of Lightroom 6 at London Drugs for $199.99.
I hope that the above information has been of some benefit to you.
Regardless of the editing application(s) or package you select, you must devote the time to use and comprehend the full potential of the application(s). Only through your dedicated efforts and prolonged usage will you realize your true potential in photo editing abilities.