11 Top Photo Software Packages
Photo software has become a large factor in photography in recent years from image manipulation packages, such as Adobe Photoshop to the latest driver software for digital cameras.
But not being limited to just image manipulation, there’s now software to organize your photo collection, stitch separate images togther into a single panorama, software to make using the RAW datafiles used by digital cameras easier to work with, photo software for nature and landscape photographers to help in planning early morning or evening shoots and so on. The list of photo software applications grows continuously.
Since what we’re all interested in is landscapes, light is an important factor in any of our pictures. Shooting at the hour around sunrise and sunset gives the best opportunities. The light is much warmer in tone, which lends it the name “golden hour”, and makes the scene more inviting. The low angle of light gives a wonderful relief to detail in your images as well.
So, how do you find out when and where sunrise and sunset occur in your neck of the woods so you can make the most of these opportunities? You can certainly find sunrise/set tables on the web but these are usually for major cities rather than specific locations. And few, if any, will provide the compass directions of the rising and setting sun to aid you in planning a shoot.
Now, before I tell you about the piece of photo software that will give you this information, let me say that I’ve written this photo software so this is a shameless plug by me for it! If you’re wondering about the quality of the software check out the reviews for the Pro version or what users have had to say about it and me(!).
Ok, the software’s called LunarPhase Lite and what it does is give you the current phase of the moon (you can shoot night-time landscapes under a full moon), times of moon rise and set, times of sun rise and set, times of twilight (i.e. the golden hours lie in here), compass directions for the rising and setting sun and images showing those positions.
It also shows the positions of the sun and moon throughout the day. An inbuilt calendar (monthly calendars can be printed out) lets you select whatever date you want. All this information is calculated for your exact location, or the location of your shoot. All you need to do is enter your latitude and longitude.
Using this photo software, I know how long twilight lasts and when it starts and ends so I can factor that into travel time and setup time at a location and know how much time I’ll actually have to shoot. It takes the uncertainty out of going on location in the hopes I’ll have enough time to take photos with good quality light.
What it won’t do is predict the weather! But, while you can check the weather on the web (see the Weather Page for examples and weather resources), there is also software available that can make predictions for you, or at least show you your local weather. WeatherScreen is site that provides weather information for several hundred cities around the world, all updated over the web. It provides a selection of weather and forecast maps so you should be able to find out what the weather is like in your part of the world.
Below you’ll find a list of photo software packages that should be of some use to you:
1. Adobe Photoshop Elements
This photo software provides powerful photo editing functionality plus intuitive organizing and sharing capabilities. Make quick fixes when you need to or use advanced editing options when you want more control. Organize the way you want and show off your creativity with new dynamic slide shows, themed photo e-mail, etc. Pretty much a must-have if you like tinkering with your digital images to get the most out of them.
2. Adobe PhotoShop
More sophisticated than PhotoShop Elements, this package does it all. It used to be software you’d install on your PC. Now it’s a web-based app that requires a monthly fee.
If you’re serious about getting the most out of your images, this is the photo software package for you. Major points of interest include a new healing brush that removes facial wrinkles and other surface blemishes with incredible ease, effortlessly removes dust, scratches, blemishes, wrinkles, and other flaws; a long-awaited file browser that allows you to view image thumbnails and metadata; the ability to stitch photos into panoramas; support for RAW and HDR images, enhanced Web features, automatic color correction, and even a spell checker. Create original images or modify photos using a full assortment of painting, drawing, and retouching tools. Shadow/Highlight correction allows you to quickly improve the contrast of over- or under-exposed areas of an image while preserving the overall balance of the photo.
GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the most powerful free photo editing software for GNU/Linux, OS X and Microsoft Windows. It’s comparable to PhotoShop in many respects. It lets you correct colors, brightness, contrast and more, blur or sharpen an image, you can also remove red-eye, fix perspective problems and special lighting effects. There are many additional tools such as being able to turn a photo into an oil painting and create an animation.
4. Google Nik Collection
Google made this set of plugins free in May 2016. It is a collection of free professional quality filters that help you give a new and professional look to your photographs. Seven desktop plugins provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities – improving color correction, retouching and creative effects, image sharpening that brings out hidden details to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.
This free plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Elements and Paint Shop Pro lets you instantly apply high-quality, professional styles to your images with just one click and includes over 50 presets that automatically apply combinations of film grain,color modification, high contrast, etc. The plug-in can also provide some image manipulation. Only works on PCs though.
A separate fee Windows application called virtualStudio can be used to run virtualPhotographer if you don’t have Adobe Photoshop. It’s available from the above link too.
6. StudioLine Photo Basic
A free download that offers a complete photo management solution. Add descriptions to your images, send photos per email in just the right size, print high-quality copies, display slide-shows, publish web-galleries, safe- keep your images on CD or DVD. You’ll get dual-monitor support and smart updates. There’s also an option to upgrade to StudioLine Photo 2.8 (for a fee).
A fully automatic 2D image stitcher. Capable of stitching full view panoramas without any user input whatsoever, AutoStitch is a breakthrough technology for panoramic photography, VR and visualisation applications. AutoStitch is built using cutting edge research from the AI lab at UBC, but is incredibly simple to use. Just select a set of photos, and AutoStitch does the rest: digital photos in, panoramas out. Read about taking panoramic photos.
8. LunarPhase Lite
LunarPhase Lite is a simple application that provides basic information about the Moon and Sun such as current moon phase, the rise and set times for the sun and moon, times of twilight and a daily phase diagram which shows the positions of the moon and sun in the sky for the selected day. This software is ideal for finding the best morning and evening times for landscape photography.
Earn a 50% commission on sales of this software!
9. Google Photos
Picasa was an app you could download from Google to help you instantly find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. It has now been retired and replaced with Google Photos which essentially does the same thing, but now the user interface is accessed through a webpage so it can be accessed from any device that has a browser, not just your PC.
Photomatix is a stand-alone program running on Windows and Mac OS X.
If you’ve ever photographed a high contrast scene you know that even the best exposure gives you blown out highlights, or flat shadows, or both. The solution is High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing: take multiple photographs at varying exposure levels (bracketing exposures), merge the photos into a single HDR image, and adjust the settings to get the look you want – from natural-looking with Exposure Fusion to painterly or surreal with Tone Mapping.
Paint.Net is another the free photo editing software for windows. It has many tools which lets you edit your image. Like PhotoShop and Elements, you can edit layers so you’re only working on a part of the image at any one time. There are many other plugins for editing your photo so you can extended the software’s capabilities. It is very easy to use with a simple interface.
RawShooter Essentials 2006 [No Longer Available]
This photo software enables digital photographers of all abilities to import, view, edit and convert large batches of RAW files. Version 1.2 now supports 15 additional dSLRs and also includes support for the RawShooter Color Engine add-on, user-selectable Thumbnail appearances and image magnifier.
A Smaller Image 2.0 SE [Free – No Longer Available]
Digital photos from scanners, digital cameras, and Picture CDs are too big for emailing or publishing on the Web. With the intuitive, visual, one-screen interface of ASI 2.0 SE, reducing digital photos is a snap. Select the output size and pick just the right part of a picture to keep. Simplicity and convenience are the keys. No scrolling. No multiple windows.
Paper PhotoCube 1.1 SE [Free – No Longer Available]
With Paper PhotoCube 1.1, making photo cubes is fun and easy. Using the visual, single-screen interface – just drag selected images onto the template and click print! Or, save a JPEG version for emailing or publishing on the Web. In the SE, version the top face of the cube is locked to a branding image provided by the photo software authors.