aNewDomain.net – Digital photography is sheer bliss for the avid photographer. But what are most folks willing to pay to support their hobby? Adobe Photoshop CS 6 currently retails for about $600 (let’s ignore the teacher/student pricing of $240 in the US). When you look at your family’s monthly budget: photo-editing software doesn’t even rate in the top 100. We’re not talking about an impulse buy here.
The good news, of course, is that there are a lot of alternatives to Adobe Photoshop’s current monster application because most hobbyists aren’t going to be doing vector graphics, complex compositing, commercial retouching, or professional design work. They just want my photos to look cool and better than straight out of the camera.
Here are some great options to sinking significant funds into a pro photo editing program:
1. Snapseed (Nik software): $19 for desktop
Snapseed is pretty basic but has some well-rounded dramatic customizable editing tools a la instamatic/iPhone-style tricks. So for those who want that retro look without having to buy a smartphone, Snapseed nails it. Blur/tilt-shift, vintage filters, B&W filters, frames and textures and a feature that lets you create your own preset combos and save them.
Snapseed can convert and process RAW files, but it’s not straight-forward (forcing you to maintain and upgrade ACR updates).
2. Adobe Premiere Elements: $99 for desktop
Adobe Elements has only risen in popularity over the years, hugely popular long before the rise of momtographers and avid hobbyists because it’s always been priced at a sliver of the price of full Photoshop. Far more customizable and possessing many more powerful tools than Snapseed is worth the plunge if you care about creating amazing photographs, but don’t necessarily need the commercial grade features of the one and only original PS. You can manage layers, enjoy magic selection and cloning tools, HDR creation, control image size and a toolshed’s worth of features that Snapseed doesn’t come close to offering. Adobe updates let you theoretically get Camera Raw updates so RAW file processing shouldn’t be an issue but again there’s no guarantee that your upgrades will be as current as your camera model or even work smoothly.
Another bonus is that Elements can run Photoshop Actions (essentially a one click preset to smoothly run within your editing software) –of course you’ll need an add-on.
3. Perfect Photo Suite 7: On-One Software:
Pricing varies depending on your purchase:
$299.95: Premium Edition (only $149.95 if you upgraded from the Lightroom and Aperture Edition)
$149.95: Lightroom and Aperture Edition (only $79.95 if you upgraded from the Standard Edition)
$79.95: Standard Edition
If you’re familiar with Adobe’s Lightroom Product, then jumping in can be quite intuitive.
The full suite is a cruise-line buffet of goodies: tweakable film and vintage emulation presets, customizable focal point/blur tools, sharpening gear, frames, textures, filters, monochrome tools, and warping. It’s fun and powerful, running best on a 64-bit processor (as most graphics heavy applications will).
Another big selling point is that On-One’s customer service is superb. You will always reach real people who know their product and make it easy to fix, troubleshoot and upgrade. Anyone who’s had to deal with Adobe’s Help Forums and phone services would find this a huge plus.
4. Nik Software Complete Collection Ultimate Edition: $499.95 (A Lightroom/Aperture Version is available for $299.95).
Nik’s claim to fame, aside from Snapseed, has long been its excellent photo-sharpening application, Sharpener Pro 3, which is part of this stunning package of six software packages (HDR, Black & White, Color, Noise Reduction, and Lighting applications). Having them all in one place packs a punch. More for the serious photo editor and used by pro’s, you won’t get cutesy, quaint or gimmicky presets. Any of these stand alone products are often found loaded on the desktops of avid Photoshop users. Combining this collection with something like Snapseed is still cheaper than a full blown Photoshop.
You can test drive these products by downloading the trial versions and playing with the same photo to see what results you like best. Nik’s customer service has proven very responsive. You can contact them before even downloading the trial.
Viki Reed is a writer and photographer with experience in New York , Los Angeles and now her home state of New Jersey. Visit her online at www.vikireedphotography.com, or on Facebook at viki reed photography, and twitter at vikireed.