+/- of different photo editing software packages?

Back in a previous life (late 70’s/early 80’s) I was very into photography, especially custom darkroom work. Both color and B&W. I did a lot of printing from slides, as well as negatives, and got quite adept at adjusting color balance, dodging & burning, etc. while exposing the print, plus a bit of hand retouching to get the necessary (high quality) results. Even did it professionally for a few years while working my way through college. Then I got a “real” job, got married, etc. and sold off all my old darkroom equipment.

So here lately, I’ve been thinking about getting back into it again, but it’s all gone digital now. If I wanted to teach myself to be a professional caliber photo retoucher/restorer in the digital age, what software would it be best to master? What are the +/- of Photoshop versus whatever else would be in use commercially? Any other tips from you current pros in this area would also be greatly appreciated.


I don’t know what platform you’re on (so I can’t suggest specific programs) …but you may wish to look into Photoshop Elements. It has most if not all of the features you might need at a fraction of the full Photoshop.

Sorry for that omission - I’m currently running Windows 2000 Pro and have no plans to upgrade to XP any time soon.

Could you elaborate on the differences between Photoshop Elements & the full blown version? If I get fairly proficient at Elements and then went to work somewhere using Photoshop, would the transition be fairly straight forward?


Or you could get The Gimp, which is 100% free, yetstill has a ton of features, almost as much ias photoshop, if not the same. And what it is missing you probably are’nt likely to need. It still can crop, resize, eliminate red eye, apply a ton of filters, has hundreds of brushes, layer support, etc…

One thing the Gimp does NOT have right now (last I heard) is CMYK support, which is pretty important if you’re doing prints and want colors to match. You could have it just the way you want it in RGB onscreen but a printed version might never be able to match that–there are certain shades only available in CMYK and vice versa. If you’re doing photos and want professional results, I think Photoshop is the only way to go. The switch from elements to full photoshop should be easy, but if you can afford you may as well get the full photoshop from the start (IMHO).

This is a semi hijack, but not really since the OP will still get information on the software types he’s asking about. :slight_smile:

I’ve always used Corel Photopaint instead of Adobe Photoshop. Obviously Adobe is “the” program, but I honestly prefer working with Corel instead (I find it more intuitive). Anyone here who’s used both and can comment on the differences between the two? (I’m using Photopaint 11/ Graphics Suite 11 [not that I’ve used much other than the Photopaint]).

Oh, and I first started when Photopaint/Draw was only on version 6, so I’m rather entrenched in the franchise. :wink:

I’m happy with Elements. Although I primary use only levels and cloning to adjust pictures.

What’s CMYK?

CMYK is Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black, the inks used to produce 4 color printed pieces (like most of the stuff that comes out of color printers). This is opposed to RGB (Red/Green/Blue), which is how colors are displayed on the screen. When you use CMYK color in a image editing program, assuming your monitor is calibrated OK, what you see on the screen will be almost exactly what you get printed. If you create an image in RGB color and print it out, there is a risk of color shift; printers don’t produce the same range of colors that RGB display can, so you may have a nice blue sky shown on your screen that’s noticably darker or greener when printed. Not an issue for many casual users, but a huge issue for good photography and print work.

Anyone can (obviously) correct me if I’m wrong but CMYK are the inks used in printing.

BlacK (heh)

If the graphic you’re making in Photoshop etc is going to be printed, convert it to CMYK; this will guarantee that the colors are exactly as they should be.

RGB (Red Green Blue) is used for monitors and digital displays, so use this if you’re making web graphics, etc.

I have tried to get to grips with PhotoShop, but I just never got to the point where I knew what I was doing; this is unusual for me, as I usually pick up software quite intuitively (I taught myself to use 3D Studio entirely by trial and error with no manuals or online help).

For photo editing (which at the moment, includes the occasional Fark Photoshop entry, like this one - warning - perhaps Not Entirely Safe For Work), I use Ulead PhotoImpact 8 - I got this free on some magazine cover and I really like it - it does layers/objects with ease and it has a wide range of nifty brushes, tools, filters and effects etc.

Not true. If your going to do serious color conversions in Photoshop then first and foremost set up and define the Color Management workflow in Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite. Color Management for displaying web graphics is a severely limited color space compared to Adobe RGB or other color spaces defined for full sized prints, etc. Don’t even go there unless all you are doing is web based graphics. Secondly, you may well want to look at working in LAB as Dan Margulis has been touting for all these years. Even if you don’t want to work in LAB then stay in RGB all the way to the end and then convert to CMYK only if your output device requires CMYK. Also FYI, most inkjet printers now work off of the RGB color space and you should not use a CMYK conversion.

As far as the OP original question is concerned - if you are wanting to work professionally in the field then there is only one answer - period - and it is Photoshop. Like it or hate it but it is, hands down, the industry standard.

Also, Photoshop Elements could be regarded as “Photoshop Light” but it is my understanding that what you learn in Elements won’t hurt you it will just be expanded when you move up to Photoshop.

I agree. Photoshop takes longer to master, but it is absolutely worth it. I sometimes use Corel PhotoPaint, simply because at work I’m confined to CorelDraw, but I finally installed Photoshop also because the capabilities are so much greater.

After 12+ years of using it, I sort of know my way around Photoshop, and I’ve always been considered the resident “expert” at work! I’m sure it has possibilities that I’ve not even explored, yet.

I second this as well. IF you are looking to do PROFESSIONAL work, not just tweaking your own images, then Photoshop is THE standard. No exceptions. I know of people who work in design and film industry, and it is the only tool they use.
It is worthwhile to take a class. I flailed for a couple years and managed to get pretty good at the the majority of the things I needed to do. But there were still some things that were elusive. I finally took a fairly inexpensive “adult ed” intro type class, and he pretty much covered all that I knew in the first night ! So I gained a lot from the successive nights. The instructor, who was a photographer for a local newspaper, did discuss Elements. And he pointed out the limitations of the adjustment controls of Elements. Although more complex, he felt (regular) Photoshop was the better way to go.
Coming from a film background, you’ll see a number of parallels (intentional) between Photoshop and darkroom techniques (for example, there is a dodging and burning tool named that).

I dunno; the professional art/graphics world is notoriously resistant to change and can be rather insular and self-obsessed; If something better than Photoshop came along, most of them would not even notice it, because Photoshop Is The Standard, No Exceptions.
That’s not to say I underestimate the power or functionality of Photoshop, or even that I think there is anything better in terms of breadth of function and quality of performance (if there is, I don’t know of it), but popularity isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of what is best at doing the job.

Pardon me, but your post is confusing - you state: [ol]
[li]Graphics world is resistant to change[/li][li]Photoshop is the standard and if something else came along no one would notice[/li][li]You don’t underestimate the power and functionality of Photoshop[/li][li]You’re not aware of anything better[/li][li]But popularity isn’t a reliable indicator of what is best at doing the job[/li][/ol]
Perhaps I’m being dense, but points #1 through #4 echo what has already been said and your last entry seemingly contradicts everything else you’ve said.

What I’m trying to say is that, having settled on an industry standard, it’s unlikely that the art/graphics world will abandon it; the standard upon which they have settled happens to be a highly competent one (perhaps ‘happens’ is the wrong word), but if a better one should arise (which I don’t think has actually happened), the significant majority may still not abandon that with which they are familiar and they may still argue that the established standard is the best.

In summary; software solutions should be judged on their merits, not their popularity - their popularity can be one of their merits, but it shouldn’t (IMO) be the defining criterion.

Thanks everyone. That’s pretty much what I had assumed, given the way Photoshop has become a generic verb used to describe any digital photo manipulation, but I was curious if there was a lesser known product of similar utility. I may download and take a look at GIMP, since it IS free and all, but I think I’ll bite the bullet and buy a copy of Photoshop.

Thanks again,

I disagree. InDesign has made great inroads into the territory once owned by Quark XPress. It works well and has been adopted into the workflow. Even before that, Quark itself muscled out the inferior PageMangler.