Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 Post Processing Tools List

Commercial Post Processing Tools

      - Lightroom is a fantastic application that does exactly what it is designed for, purely for the workflow of categorizing, editing and proofing raw photos.
It does not have all the fancy animation, drawing and compositing abilities of PS.
All of the edits performed in Lightroom are non-destructive, in PS after a certain number of changes to the photo you can't step back through the version history to it's original state.

Multi-Exposure HD-R is a compositing ability and Lightroom does not do this natively.

A skilled adobe technician can certainly do the some of the tone mapping effects typically seen in HD-R in Lightroom without any third party tools. Full HD-R conversions can be performed in Lightroom through third party plug-ins, it does not handle this as a native raw file, they are converted to an uncompressed Tiff file usually. PS is the only Adobe product that can handle this type of activity internally as a native camera raw file.
Lightroom (currently version 5.3) can't work with PSD files or edit files that have multiple layers in the image.

Tone Mapped Image
     - Photoshop (64 bit) is a full blown suite of tools for advanced compositing, light masks, blending layers & transparencies, image manipulation, drawing, image retouching in addition to working with massive multi-layered projects (4-16 gigabyte images).
Unlike Lightroom many of the plug-ins that work in Lightroom as a pseudo plug-in, behave like real plug-ins inside PS rather than having to temporarily export the image then re-import the result losing all of your version history in between steps.
All 3 Adobe tools mentioned here are available on Mac and Windows.
For those times when realize your model grew hair in the
wrong places or got drunk the night before the shoot;
 the obligatory tattoo(s) magically appear the next morning..
This is why Photoshop exists!

  2. Adobe Photoshop Elements
      - This is the pacifier and training wheels version of the full PS tool set, the diaper is sold separately. In all seriousness it's a decent tool for hit and run style photo touch ups, and probably more beneficial to those who are not running on the latest hardware that don't work with photos much. I have tried doing the no holds barred edits that I normally do in something more geared towards it, and the program crashed several times. 2+ gigs of imagery in one edit is apparently too much.

  3.  Arcsoft Photostudio
     - It is overpriced if you buy it through the App store, but it seems OK. It is available as a Mac or Windows product. This and other products from Arcsoft are available as demo downloads directly from the vendors website.

  4. Aperture by Apple
    - A Mac only product that is widely regarded by many Mac aficionados that work do their photography post production workflow using OSX. I don't own this product and Apple does not allow you to download a copy to test out prior to buying. Considering it's 80 dollars, I guess that's not too bad of a deal compared to the 100+ typical of Lightroom, although Adobe does allow you to use a copy for testing purposes for 30 days.
Apple has not updated Aperture's code base with the exception of compatibility patches and bug fixes, since 2010 when they released Aperture V3.
Rumors abound regarding Version 4's potential release this year.

   5. DXO Optics Pro
     - Considered by many to be the best all around photo editor out there, DXO maintains a huge database of lenses and camera bodies that it tests in various combinations every year. The results of these tests are available to the public through their website. Their lense & camera database as well as their camera correction abilities go well beyond even Nikon's native Capture NX.
The editing program pulls lense and camera profiles from the database each it detects a new profile in the photos you are reviewing.
This program won't necessarily replace Lightroom, or some of the more specialized tools but it does easily take over for programs like Viveza, and Nikon's Capture NX.

(DXO Screen Grab)
It effortlessly removed any vignette or color cast issues from this photo.
   6. Nik Software Suite
     - Nik Software is a not a standalone product although many of it's functions sometimes behave as if it were a self contained product. All the modules here allow effects within each module to be applied as layers and the finished job is exported as a composite back into Lightroom or Photoshop. These edits are destructive so be sure to keep copies of the steps in the process you want preserved.
PS allows you to do this in a non-destructive fashion using smart objects, when these are encapsulated into a smart object you can revert through every step of your edits back to the original. There are some steps that can't be done this way but not many.
   - Analog Efex
     This module is dedicated to analog film camera emulation.
   - Color Efex
     Color effects and various filters. 

   - Dfine
     A noise removal tool.

   - HDR Efex
     HDR compositing tool, it does not handle raw files natively, it will convert
     them to another format prior to importing.

   - Silver Efex
     Emulates black and white photography effects. 
     It's a product tailored for black and white photography.

   - Sharpener Pro
     The exact opposite of Dfine.

   - Viveza
      Photo Editing Software, I am not sure how it's any better than other competing solutions.
      I don't use this module very much.

Created with Lightroom and Nik Software.

   5. Capture NX by Nikon
     - This is a very respectable program does exactly what you'd expect from a no nonsense photo editor, however it is in my opinion overpriced. It is one of the few software offerings from Nikon that is half way decent, it's just not worth 100+ dollars to me.
Capture NX Screen Shot.

   6. Photomatix HDR
     - This is a stand alone tone mapping and multi-image compositing program that will work directly with camera raw files. The Pro version includes all the plug-ins for PS, Lightroom and other supported applications allowing you to export directly from your favorite supported software directly into Photomatix. This does support the import of 32 bit color files from PS.
So far, PS and Photomatix are the only programs I know of that can handle that much color data.
(available in Mac and Windows)
Photomatix Composite

   8. Photoshop touch
     - This exclusively for aOS and iOS devices (Droid & Apple), a simplified touch screen based version of PS for portable devices. Sold on app stores for approximately 10 dollars.

   9. Snapseed
     - I was not going to cover portable options this time around however since I already included PS Touch I'll toss this one in there also. Snapseed is a Google creation for aOS, iOS devices and desktops. A web version of snapseed has been integrated into the G+ photo interface.


    This works as both standalone and plug-in for: LR, PS, DXO Optics, Aperture & PS Elements
    It provides film camera Emulation similar to other applications mentioned in this article.

    Hot Pixel
    Dedicated plug-in for removing those pesky hot pixels in PS.

    LR/PS plug-in emulates film and various other effects of retro film equipment.

    This companies product line up is a little puzzling in the sense that I can't
    distinguish one from the other at a glance or what each of them do.
    All I can figure out is they offer you a plug-in that specializes film camera emulations.

    Plug-in for Lightroom and PS,  it helps remove power lines from your
    images, I am not sure how well it works but it seemed worth mentioning.
    This guy has a lot of other plug-ins worth a look on that site as well.
    They are all free.

    Film Stocks
    As the name implies it's a mega-pack of retro film cameras for digital images.
    288 filters are offered, almost every Adobe editing and compositing
    software currently made is supported in addition to Aperture.
    They feature other plug-ins options also.

Shareware, GPL & BSD Tools
If you are not familiar with the acronym's GPL and BSD, I'll sum it up this way..
GPL is totally free, BSD is usually free but preserves the author's rights to 
commercially distribute or otherwise restrict the usage of their code. 

Some of these may suffer the bane of not being able to work with high bit depth images and mainstream commercial raw formats such as .DNG and .NEF, and can be plagued with stability problems. I have been reading some of the posts in the developer blogs, I am pleased to see that some of these issues are actively being worked on.

   1. Cinepaint
     - Cinepaint is a code fork of the Gimp project with a tighter focus on high bit depth images and visual effects work for image compositing in cinematography. Some may have felt that gimp was too diluted and being pulled in too many different directions much to get on the HD\U-HD bandwagon so code forks like this happen. Pre-compiled binaries for Mac and Windows exist.
Mac versioning is at version .25, the development stage appears to have reached a milestone of 1.0 .
Cinepaint is very young project and is suffering from all the issues that go along with being a new project but I am confident that given time it will mature into an interesting project. Due to it's Gimp roots, Cinepaint is virtually indistinguishable from Gimp. The interface is very plain and unassuming but don't let that fool you, there is a lot hiding underneath the hood.
It does support a relatively new cutting edge format called OpenEXR, it is in the early stages so it may not be fully implemented.

   2. Darktable
     - The Yin to Lightroom's Yang, and some claim it is the stronger half of the two. This is a community supported editing tool that is available to Mac, Windows, and Linux variants. I tried it briefly and I liked it but it seems to be very unstable on 10.9.1 OSX.
The G+ community for Darktable can be found Here.

(click to enlarge)
Dark Table Screenshot
   3. Gimp
     - A very mature open source product that has been developed constantly for over a decade, some may already be familiar with while others may not. Binaries exist for most OS's out there.
It is an excellent  illustration and editing tool, considering it costs you nothing it's quite powerful. Extensible through plug-ins, totally available to tinker with it at the code level. In the early years of digital art and photo editing there were many different commercial products in existence that all did similar things, some were better than others. The number of name brand products today in my opinion is much smaller than it used to be and they are much more specialized than they were in the past. Gimp was built as a free alternative to graphics giants like Adobe that were charging huge sums of money for their products. I'm fairly certain this distribution still has not acquired the ability to work natively with (.NEF & .DNG) raw files. It does support a relatively new cutting edge format called OpenEXR, it is in the early stages so it may not be fully implemented.


   4. Luminance HDR

GPL HDR & tone mapping program.Pre-compiled binaries exist for Win & Mac.
Luminance Screenshot

6. RawStudio
I don't know much about this one.
Linux only and self compiled. Mac may work if you recompile
 under XQuartz/Macports or XDarwin.
RawStudio Screenshot

7. RawTherapee
  - This has pre-compiled binaries for Windows, Mac & packages for Linux variants. I tested this on the macbook with a Nikon raw image I made a few days ago, seems to work fine.

RawTherapee Screenshot

8. UFRaw
  UFRaw functions as a standalone or pseudo plug-in for gimp and other programs allowing it to import camera raw files for a wide variety of cameras. There may be some compatibility problems and or data loss from importing images using UFRaw but I can't confirm this.


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(I am not a web developer or an English major, I will not spend a lot of time obsessing over formatting and diction so if I make mistakes.. just deal with it!)