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Customer Discussions > Photography forum

Best photo enhancement software for beginners

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Showing 1-25 of 123 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 10, 2011, 5:48:31 PM PDT
relbeis says:
I recently got a Canon Rebel and I'm interested in purchasing photo enhancement software, but I've never used it before. I'm looking for something that's easy to use and not too expensive. I've seen photos online that were edited with Lightroom 3 & NIK Software and they look amazing - but I think these are too advanced for me (not to mention WAY too expensive). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 6:59:52 PM PDT
T. Campbell says:
Adobe's prices are always insanely high. If you have a Mac, get Aperture ($79) -- it's Lightroom's main competition. One of the things I like about it is that, as a photographer, it "speaks my language" (uses terminology for all the adjustments that a photographer would use... rather than forcing you to learn some terminology invented just for the software.)

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 7:27:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011, 4:24:24 AM PDT
Bobby Dunn says:
Photoshop Elements is reasonable and you will already have the basics if you ever want to move up to Photoshop. It comes free with a lot of cameras, or at least it used to.

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 7:28:43 PM PDT
Bobby Dunn says:
Forgot to mention GIMP, it is open source, pretty good, and the price is right- FREE!!!! Also Scarab Labs has a free RAW converter that is nice.

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 7:58:47 PM PDT
Neo Lee says:
Lightroom does have a kinda steep learning curve IMO, but once you get the hang of it, especially with the presets done, it's really convenient. Lightroom workflow has saved me hours upon hours. Earning $30 from one productive hour here. For just a couple hours alone, the software pays for itself.

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 8:39:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2011, 8:54:46 PM PDT
Floored says:
You might also want to get a membership to lynda dot com for a month or two. They have some of the best / in-depth tutorials on the Internet. You can learn any pretty much any imaging software.

While I love Aperture, were I a beginner I would avoid it. The same goes for Lightroom. Yes, you can do most of the tweaks you need there, but both programs are geered more towards the beginning steps in the the overall workflow. For example: I use Aperture for image selection and tweaking color, then I import into Photoshop for retouching (and outright manipulation), then I use filters (like Nik) for fine tuning, at which point I either bring the image back into Aperture to organize, label and store it, or if it is something I'm actually using, send a version to InDesign or Dreamweaver for more work.

Instead were I you I would get Adobe Elements or maybe Gimp. Elements is a simplified version of Photoshop for everyday users. Gimp is open source software. Both are well thought of, but I've never used either so I can't help you.

Posted on Jul 10, 2011, 11:02:06 PM PDT
CW says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2011, 11:18:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011, 10:28:35 PM PDT
®ichard says:
"but I think these are too advanced for me (not to mention WAY too expensive).


"Best photo enhancement software"
I find your two statements as an oxymoron and some what perplexing. If you don't want to try and figure new techniques you won't get enhanced photos. If you think the great photos you see from great photographer weren't greatly enhanced in Photoshop (PS) or some editor with some thought and time (the pro can do things faster then normal people) then your reality isn't obtainable. If you want an easy fix for most images, then use the software that came with your rebel. I use Nikon ViewNX (I believe Nik is the developer, but I could be wrong) for quick fixes, bump the contrast, sharpness an maybe vibrant a little and most pictures will be a tad nicer. For effects, PS is the something you might like to play with. Google it up or watch some youtube for techniques. Free tips and knowledge online.

example is an image I altered in PS. The normal pictures was just a few delorens rolling down the street as any other photographer would have done, but I had to make mine looked different from the rest of the photographer with me:
and no that is not from a lensbaby.

here is a fellow photographer in my group with the same shot:
What software:
I have Photoshop for a longtime and is my standard software I used since 1997. Adobe lightroom is for workflow, so you can edit a bunch of pictures really fast, but doesn't have advanced graphic designer features like PS. Adobe Element is a hybrid nuder version of both PS and Lightroom. It is user friendly with a preview of images that for PS you have to open up bridge to do. If anyone recommends paint.net, just disregard it. It is like using your window paint. I have Corel PHOTO-PAINT too, which is part of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 Education Edition, that has 3/4 of the basic PS features. I never used Nik orginal software, but am impressed with the ghostly skin tone plug-in it offers.

So Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (Win/Mac) or Photopaint are solid editors to start with. I do know there are a few of good photo editors under a $100 from other makers, but I haven't used them so I can't speak for them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011, 5:26:12 AM PDT
relbeis says:
It's not really an oxymoron when you include my complete subject - which is "Best photo enhancement software FOR BEGINNERS." I'm not asking for the best software available. I'm asking for the best software for someone who hasn't used it before. Also, I mentioned the "Lightroom 3 & NIK software" to show what I'm not looking for. I think it would be great to be able to use some sort of fancy software once I get the hang of it, but not right now. I do this as a hobby and I can't justify dropping $300 on a program that I may have trouble using or may only use a couple times a month.

I very much appreciate everyone's feedback and I will definitely look into to all of the programs you mentioned!

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 6:04:36 AM PDT
Neo Lee says:
You probably want something 100% automatic. I swear I saw quite a few programs that do cool photo effects under a few clicks, but that ain't like the results done with LR. The category you should be looking for is "Photo Effects" not "Photo Enhancement".

Try these websites:

LR is as simple as it gets to photo enhancement. I couldn't think of a way to simplify its workflow. Yeah it is pretty expensive ($240) for an app though.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 7:41:38 AM PDT
Ah yeah! Windows Live Photo Gallery. Super easy and simple...it's free, just download it from Microsoft. I'm not a pro by far and this gets me by just fine. Most of my pics are taken in the snow. Contrast is usually blown out and brightness and shadows have to be adjusted. Also I find that adjusting the detail helps too. Examples:


In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011, 8:29:21 AM PDT
®ichard says:
that why I recommended adobe PS element for you. You can try the other free software, but overtime you get what you paid for in advance features. The point is there are no easy buttons or a few click instant result. I see a lot of great photos on flickr from beginner to advance. They used the same software I do, but makes thing look different then how I would do it (personal style). Also playing with the software, it becomes cake after awhile. Adobe software are ver popular so there are a lots of tutorials online. Plus once you master element then movkin onto LR3 and PS is much easlier later on.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011, 9:43:39 AM PDT
Maybe I have been doing this stuff too long, but I don't see lightroom as "too advanced". My perspective is that lightroom handles the basic tasks very well, and especially so for doing those basic tasks with a lot of images. Lightroom is where I start processing images, and only rarely do I pull up a more specialized program to do more work on an image. Lightroom also does some very fancy RAW manipulation, but it does it in a way that should be pretty accessable for a beginner, or can just be ignored. I think that all too often, beginners look at specific aspects of photography and say "that's too advanced for me" when it isn't. It may be a bigger task to figure out, or it may expose some fundamental concept you aren't clear on, but that's not the end of the world (so long as you aren't under time pressure on a paid assignment). Lightroom is not too advanced, and each control or option you don't understand is just a tool to help you figure out some aspect of photography you currently don't understand.

When you say "enhancement", what do you mean? How are you looking to change the image? I guess that's a huge question.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 10:19:30 AM PDT
relbeis says:
When I say "too advanced," I have to admit that this is an assumption on my part. When I see the amazing photos processed by Lightroom plus the price tag, I assume that it is too advanced for someone like me. The most I've done in regards to photo enhancement/editing/effects would be the free program IrfanView (which doesn't have too many options and the edited photos always seem to end up grainy).

Coming from a point and shoot to a DSLR, the photos really look great without any editing at all. But I'd like to have the option to make a photo more vibrant and smooth. I'd like to be able to adjust colors, brightness, etc without the photo coming out grainy. I also LOVE the HDR effect, although I think I should master basic photo processing before I tackle that. I saw few posts mentioning RAW conversion - I'm not even sure what that is. Is that something I should be sure the software I purchase has?

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 10:57:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011, 2:34:45 PM PDT
Floored says:
It really depends on what you are doing. Both Aperture and Lightroom have taken about 85% of the most frequently used tools that pros use for image processing and put them into a nice, very streamlined package, leaving out everything else. If your goal is to do color correction (fix white balance, exposure, levels etc...) do quick retouching and apply a few basic filters, you might as well start here.

The problem is this. Do you know that this is all you want to do?

Most people who are new to image "enhancement" like to play. They don't know curves from a hole in a wall, but they do know that the lasso tool is really fun. Or maybe they shot a photograph where the background is crooked, and what they really want to do is fix things so everything is straight. Or Aunt Mavis is ruining the picture and you would like replace her with a potted plant. Or more than likely they just want to play with some fun filters and turn a few pictures into ungodly messes. If this describes you, your best bet would be to start with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

When you find you cannot live without Layer Masking, blending modes, CMYK, clipping paths and 16 bit image processing, then you should definitely think about Photoshop. Or if you get to the point that when you look through your camera's viewfinder and have the talent to compose/expose everything perfectly or start thinking "that's just the right lens for this picture" you are probably ready for Aperture or Lightroom.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 1:27:11 PM PDT
Try Corel Paint Shop Pro X3. Have been using since it was share ware 15 years ago. It is a mature product that can do a everything you will need and the price is great. They are offering it at a great price right now at: http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1184951547051?tkid=NASEMGglDM#versionTabview=tab1&tabview=tab0

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 2:20:04 PM PDT
JCUKNZ says:
I have been using Paint Shop Pro since v.7AE and it does all I want in a relatively easy and user freindly manner. However when I bought it it was it or Photoshop v7 and I couldn't afford that [$1400 v. $300 in my local market]. However if a programme is going to be any good and useful to you it is inevitable that it will be complex becuase there are so many editing options avaiilable in a good and useful programme to help you turn out those wonderful pictures.
For the first month I was pretty well willing to throw in the towel but I stuck with it and now I cannot imagine being a photographer without it.
Another free but a bit clunky compared to PSP is Paint Net ... it has the essentials for somebody not wishing to spend ... well worth downloading and playing with.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 3:11:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011, 3:23:35 PM PDT
Les Schmader says:
If you have a PC, just download Picasa/Google and try playing with jpegs to start. Picasa is free and works nice for a beginner. It's real easy to use and can give you a good idea what you need or don't need. You can sharpen and enhance photos pretty nicely, but there is no actual "noise" control that I'm aware of.

Be careful though, it does want to switch all systems to Google as default.

If you check, there are often 10-30 day free trials for some of the more advanced programs.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011, 3:46:33 PM PDT
EdM says:
I'm guessing that you don't have a Mac. If you did, iPhoto is included and that is very good photo-editing software for beginners; you would have probably already tried it with good results.

Some of the best photos are quite good because they were shot well in the camera in the first place. Some of the best photo-editing can be when the photo-editing is not apparent at all. Then there are the flashy kinds of shots. Neither is better or worse, it's a matter of style.

Do not think that all anyone has to do is a little photo-editing to make a great picture. A great photo first comes from a great photographer [or luck, rarely - being in the right place at the right time]. Photo-editing is really for touching up things like contrast, color temperature, saturation, exposure, etc. BUT, those things are something that a beginner doesn't really understand.

To do photo-editing well, you must invest the time and effort to learn how to do it, which will generally take you beyond the ranks of beginners. Photo-editing is not a magic bullet to substitute for poor shooting, but it can help improve photos when you know what to do. The automatic adjustments can work well for some photos, but not for others. I agree with the suggestion of Photoshop Elements as not too expensive but capable software.

Really, you need to try it, preferably with a teacher, to get a handle on what it can do and how to do it. Best results do not come from a magic button; they come from a well shot original and skillful use of photo-editing software [even inexpensive software] only as needed. You don't get something for nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2011, 7:26:34 PM PDT
jlstx3500 says:
Paint.net was my first program and it hooked me. I use coral paintshop photo pro x3 now but to get from not knowing how to do anything to learning basic photoshoping. paint.net is a free download and will teach you the basics n get you ready for when do take the leap n spend the money on an expensive program. just my opinion.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 9:43:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011, 9:45:19 PM PDT
P. Strong says:
If you have a PC with Windows 7 try the free and very basic Windows Live Photo Gallery, just as James said. It's free and it will allow to do some basic editing like cropping, retouching, color enhancements, and noise reduction. It's easy and intuituve to use. Most other software programs offer free trials for about 30 days. Download for thirty and see how you like, then buy or not. YOu may find that Windows Live Photo Gallery is all that you need for now.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011, 11:26:38 PM PDT
GaryL says:
I started out with Picasa. It is free and works. You can learn a lot just using it to add fill light, shadows, highlights, saturation, and most of the other things that come with the high price stuff. I did break down and buy Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, $90 at the local WalMart. So far I am NOT impressed with it. In fact, I have found that importing from the camera, sorting and filing, cropping and printing are all easier and faster with Picasa. Best of luck and good shooting.

Posted on Jul 12, 2011, 12:33:07 AM PDT
Les Schmader says:
"I saw few posts mentioning RAW conversion - I'm not even sure what that is. Is that something I should be sure the software I purchase has? "

That could be what's confusing you. Most of the advanced software and editing is biased toward using RAW files to start. For jpegs, which is what you normally have been using, Picasa will probably do everything you need.

If you want to get serious about "editing", you'll want to shoot in RAW. Someone more knowledgeable will need to explain that to you.

I think everyone overlooked that comment.

Posted on Jul 12, 2011, 2:02:07 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 12, 2011, 2:04:33 AM PDT
JCUKNZ says:
RAW is a can of worms for a newbie, it is sold as a magic bullet to solve all your problems but unless you learn to use it you might as well stick with shooting jpgs. Though, and this is very important, once you have opened it in whatever programme you get you must save what you did in a 'lossless' system such as tiff, bmp, or the proprietary system that your programme supports [ psd for Adobe's Elements and Photoshop and pspimage for Corel's Paint Shop Pro ]

jpg is a camera and preparing for the web system but not for editing and 'normally' each time you save the image it throw away some of the information in a process called 'compression' which makes the file smaller. However it is worth noting that copying and moving a file does not involve this. So when I copy my jpeg camera files to my 'archive' folder and then move the jpg files off my camera card into my 'working' hard drive there is no loss involved. Once opened the file is either closed without saving it, again no loss, or if I want to save any modifications then it becomes a pspimage file. [or psd if I'm working in Photoshop, a rare event]

There is a simple rule which will keep you out of trouble ... this is never to use the SAVE command which automatically writes over the original file with what you have done to the picture on the computer screen but ALWAYS use SAVE AS which prompts you for a filing system ... it may take a few clicks more to work this way but it is SO SO much safer. [ I would admit when I am working on a pspimage or psd file I may use SAVE because it is already a lossless file .... but very rarely. ]

Posted on Jul 12, 2011, 8:24:59 AM PDT
Mike Jim says:
To add my one cent, I would get GIMP for free, and purchase a good book for $30 to get the best out of it. After you have tried that without spending money, and feel confident about photo editing, then you can decide if you want to spend $200 or for times that on a professional software. It might be that GIMP is what you need, and you don´t need more, or you might want go PRO and pay the big bucks.

The point is to not invest much money at this point, because there are excellent free tools that with the help of a good book will give you most of what us beginner will need (I am a beginner and would have made the same question as you, and would have gone to GIMP, because I have good references about it). Then, if you still want something more, then you will have enough experience to decide and make a smart decision on the software to purchase. Because in my opinion, the cost of a good software ($400 at least), is almost the cost of a good lens. Too much money!!!
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Initial post:  Jul 10, 2011
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