The first thing I should address is that I am just getting started into photo-software. This doesn’t mean I’m blind and totally new to editing my photos online. It’s just that up until recently I left the vast majority of my photos either completely untouched or only did extremely minimal touch-ups. I would say nearly 90% of my photos have absolutely no editing done to them – not even cropping. Maybe 7% have very mild editing – barely noticeable. The rest were some random forays into playing with deeper enhancement tools – hue, saturation and color-balance mostly.
I also use Windows, for those wanting to know specifically if I’m a Mac-man or not. I have absolutely nothing against any operating system. I simply have grown up on Windows, it’s what I currently know, and it’s what I still use.
What I Own
A big pre-review warning: Paint.net doesn’t handle RAW files out of the starting gate. But you can get the RAW file importer plugin here.
You may have been hoping for more, but this is what I used for years. It’s all I used on my PC. The end (Or, to-be-continued in my “What I Want) section below). (As of August 11th, 2015, I’ve obtained Lightroom and Photoshop that I’ll be learning and growing with from here on).
With only a few less-refined abilities, Paint.net is actually a solid (and FREE) alternative to Photoshop. Sure I’d prefer Photoshop – and I’ll likely be getting it, but Paint.net is pretty darn good. If you don’t have the money, get Paint.net. You’ll have to deal with some workarounds and shortcomings that Photoshop wins-out on, but for most stuff, Paint.net will serve you as a good photo touch-up and enhancing software. There’s also tons of tips and tutorials as Paint.net has a large community of users. You’ll not only find plenty of photo-tutorials aimed directly at Paint.net users, you’ll find lots that are geared towards achieving work-around Photoshop abilities that aren’t built-in.
It can’t natively handle RAW files. It’s an ideal file-type a digital camera can take a picture in that stores more information/data. It’s really good to work with in an editor, before outputting to JPEG. That’s a big turn-off for many photographers, but there is a plugin I mentioned above that will give Paint.net the ability to import RAW. I just rarely use it myself. I’ve done such mild photo editing in the past that I’m confident just slightly touching-up JPEG files.
This is the software I’ve been waiting to get my hands on! In many ways, it’s considered a staple, must-have and end-all-be-all for exposure. I’m sure that statement will get me in a lot of trouble, but it’s basically true, right? At the very least, I think we can agree it’s high-up on any list of “top editing software packages to own” – and for good reason.
Lightroom will give me an incredible range of tools and features to play with editing my photos. I basically try to edit lighting, color and exposure already through Paint.net and I want to extend that ability for myself with Lightroom. I see it as going from cobbling together two tin-cans and a string to buying the latest iPhone. Sure, I can eek out a lot of terrific ability from Paint.net, but it will be a lot more searching for tutorials, installing plugins, and learning more tools for more work-arounds. Again. Paint.net is really great. It’s pretty powerful, but Lightroom will just open up the fast lane for me.
Plus I don’t really see Lightroom as an advanced Paint.net or Photoshop. It’s actually a bit different. Photoshop is more like an advanced Paint.net. Lightroom is what it sounds like – you’re playing with lights and colors mainly, but with lots of subtle degrees and slick features and the ability to accept a host of plugins from other software packages.
Yep. I’d like to move on from Paint.net. Paint.net can’t be beat, for free, but Photoshop does win-out with refined tools, more one-touch features and overall a few more, slick abilities that are also easier to implement.
Plus, I can synch or bridge Photoshop with Lightroom for importing, exporting, organizational and converting advantages.
Adobe has a “Creative Cloud” suite that can be purchased at different price-tiers. I’ll likely get the $9.99/month tier as that bags me both Lightroom and Photoshop.
What I Want
Photomatix Pro 5(Standalone + Lightroom Plugin)
I both want to get into HDR(High Dynamic Range) photography and want to stay put a lot as well. High Dynamic Range photographs combine multiple, identical scenes taken at different exposure levels and combines them to drastically boost the range of perceived colors and levels you can see. There’s a lot I love about HDR photography and I definitely want to try some.
I don’t need Photomatix to create HDR photographs, but it will help a lot. It also will sync with lightroom for greater ease and control.