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April 7, 2011 / arthill

Photo editing

I’d like to cover what I know about photo editing software.  Not sure if I’ll get it all covered in one post so this may take a few days.

Let me start out with my number one recommendation

“Just say NO to Photoshop”

Apologies to all of my good friends who use Photoshop and think it is the ONLY photo editing program around – a must have, if you will.

I just plain disagree for several reasons.  First, it’s WAY too expensive.  You can buy a camera or a very good lens for the price of Photoshop and either will help you produce better pictures way more than Photoshop will.

Photoshop is way too hard to master.  Here’s a clue: if there is a whole industry revolving around offering classes on how to use a software program, you don’t want it.  And, of course, that drives up the ultimate cost even more.

It’s a resource hog that isn’t very friendly to your computer and operating system.  I’ve lost count of the number of people who have complained about crashes, how slow it gets and on and on.

Most of the people who own Photoshop don’t use most of the features and functionality built in to the program.  It is an 800 pound gorilla that got to be popular with graphic artists when there really was no other adequate tool.  That was a long time ago and there are now plenty of better solutions FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS.

Lastly it doesn’t really do anything that you need to do to photographs that you can’t do with a much cheaper, much easier to learn program.  Even Adobe knows this.  It is why they brought out Photoshop Elements and continue to add features to it.

If you’ve already plunked down the money and know how to use Photoshop there is some good news.

  • There are classes
  • Most of the books and tutorials out there are for Photoshop.
  • There are plug-ins by the dozens if not hundreds.  (If Photoshop is so great, why do you have to keep spending more money to add things to it?)
  • Your friends, including me, will be impressed that you have mastered Photoshop and you obviously have extra disposable income.  (I’m also impressed if you drive a Lexus.)

Okay so you probably fall into one of these categories

  1. You already own Photoshop and you don’t need some putz telling you that it isn’t the greatest.  It’s widely acknowledged by everyone else to be the ultimate tool, right?  It’s even a verb – “Did you photoshop this?”.  It’s the gold standard – what you save up for and aspire too.  (I’m not going to change your mind but I do urge to read the classic “The Emperor has no Clothes”.)
  2. You want to someday own Photoshop and enroll in classes so you too can become a master at manipulating your photos.  I can’t help you.
  3. I’ve got your interest.  You’d be happy to spend $650 on something you could actually use.

So what do I use (and what have I used)?  My favorite photo editing program for years and years was PhotoImpact by ulead systems.  This gem was produced by a little company in Hong Kong that really knew how to manipulate photographs.  I was with them from version 1.0 till about version 13.  Alas, Corel bought the company and deep-sixed the product.  They didn’t keep up with adding RAW support, instead pushing you toward Corel’s sluggish PaintShop Pro.  I still have PhotoImpact X3 (Version 13) and use it on JPEG’s.

Another program that I used quite a bit and recommended to a lot of people was Microsoft’s Digital Image Pro.  Alas, they dropped the product in 2006.  If you ever find a cheap copy, grab it.

I started using Photoshop Elements around Version 3, I think.  I’m currently running version 9.  It’s a pretty good program that will do most everything you need for photography.  It will run you about $90 or $100.  Adobe does not give you much of a break on upgrades.  Every time they come out with a new version they want around $79.  If you read comments around the web you’ll find that most people think every other upgrade is more than enough.

I have Corel’s Paintshop Pro and I want to like it but I just can’t.  It’s a bit of a pig (and I’m running a pretty fast quad processor box with 8 gig of ram and a 64 bit operating system).  But don’t overlook it.  A lot of people really like it and it’s a contender.

I’m real happy with Digital Image Pro, the software from Canon that came with my camera.  Years ago I advised everyone to avoid the camera supplied software because it was so lame. That situation has changed dramatically and at least Canon and Nikon provide good software.  I can do things with my Canon software that you cannot do with Photoshop.

I also use Capture One Express 6 from  This is a pretty powerful program for processing RAW files but they got pricing lessons from Adobe. They want $400 for the Pro version.

And let’s not forget the free programs that I’ve written about before Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery.  Both of these belong in your toolbox!  WLPG gallery won’t help you with RAW files but between these two programs you can accomplish what you want most of the time in less time that it takes to start Photoshop.

There’s another little free gem that I’ve not written about before.  Paint.Net is a pretty full featured photo editor that started out as a college project and took off from there.  You’ll be amazed at what this free program can do.

Well, that’s it for today.  I’m going to do a more complete review of Photoshop Elements and tease you a little with Paint.Net.

And all you Photoshop lovers/defenders – don’t write.  I’m too old to change my mind and now that I’m retired I’m even less likely to shell out over $600 bucks for software that I can’t learn to use on my own.


Leave a Comment
  1. Maryann Goldman / Apr 7 2011 6:16 pm

    Great writep-up, Art! I like how you tell us like it is;-) Can you tell me why I might want to go from PSE7 to PSE9? You know my photos and style. Would it buy me anything?

    I was CS5 now for two reasons I can think of…better job of removing things like power lines and poles of various types from shots. I want to run Pixel Bender. I thought that was the coolest program.

    Seems instead of getting CS5 I keep getting more add-ons for PSE. Color Efex Pro is on the list and on sale right now. I liked it better than Lightroom when I trialed them both.

  2. Ed Spadoni / Apr 8 2011 7:28 am

    Art, tell us what you really think about PhotoShop!! I agree with the point that there’s a lot more in CS5 than most photogs will ever use. I also agree about Corel PSP: it’s very capable but is a system hog and not well organized.

    I might jump ship to PSE but will wait for your upcoming review.

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