Photo Editing - What's best?

I do a fair bit of photo retouching (mostly JPGs) and have tried JASC PaintShop Pro 5, Microsoft Digital Image Suite 10, Corel PhotoPaint 10, and (most recently) Adobe Photoshop 7. I find that each one has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and have not yet settled on any one of them as being my photo editor of choice.

Mostly I want to retouch blemishes (moles, pimples) but occasionally I want to straighten/even teeth, reduce bulges in inappropriate (or undesirable) areas, move hair and the like. I’m not doing major recomposition à la Anne Geddes (placing babies heads into sunflowers), although sometimes I want to de-emphasize or blur backgrounds.

So what recommendations do Dopers have on this front? Is there another package I should be considering? Anybody have particular reasons for choosing one of these over the others?

Download the demo to Paintshop Pro 9, it will run for 60 days which is a pretty generous evaluation period. I have been using 8 for a while and have loved it so I’m going to upgrade to 9 as it adds raw file support for my camera.

I haven’t sampled all the programs you have. While Photoshop has the most functionality of the ones I have tried, I actually like the interface on Macromedia Fireworks MX better.

By the way, Corel has recently JASC, so they control both Paintshop and Photopaint.

Currently, they are saying that they intend to keep selling both products, as they are targeted at different types of customers. (They say Paintshop is the low-end product, for regular people who just want to do some basic photo manipulations. Photopaint is the high-end product, aimed at professionals.)

To your existing list I’d add The GIMP, which is powerful, easy to use, and free.

My own personal favorite is still Photoshop 3.0 though.

Why Photoshop 3? Don’t the later editions add any features you find useful?

I’m not doing major recomposition à la Anne Geddes (placing babies heads into sunflowers)

That would be easier than what you want to do. Fixing teeth, moving hair, removing bulges… you need skills to do this stuff, there is no magic program that will make these types of operations simple. It always seems you eventually end up painting pixel by pixel. Proper photo retouching is an art. That art is 95% skill of the artist and 5% tools used. So the best program to use will be the one that you are going to commit to learning.

That having been said, my choice is Paint Shop Pro 9. I think the user interface is much more intuitive than Photoshop which, for me, makes it faster and easier to use. It has several built in features for photo processing that will also speed up the process.

As an aside, I would say that having a high resolution scan in the first place will do more to help you with retouching than any other single issue.

      • Whatever’s best is all of them. Depending on what you are doing. I have PSP 7 and Photoshop 7, but PSP is set up as the default edotir because it starts up way faster than PS does, and because the most-common operations I do to photos are very easy to do in it. And I like the painting tool in Paint Shop Pro because it is raster-based; when I try to use the vector-based Photoshop one I always get “bands” of color, I can’t ever get smooth graduations by hand.
  • In terms of absolute results, in my opinion PSP does not do quite as well as Photoshop does, with respect to dithering and antialiasing details and so forth. The Photoshop results tend to look just a bit better. One example was at one point, I had to make website navigation buttons that used lettering that was only about 20 pixels high. So it was done in 24-bit color, but then had to be flattened to 256 colors (for other reasons). Both PSP and PS will do this, but the Photoshop results always looked a bit smoother to the eye.

It’s not nicknamed “BloatoShop” without reason.

Seriously, PS 7 is chock full of features, some of which are admirable improvements over what’s available in 3 (especially text-handling capabilities), but IMHO it suffers from featuritis, klunky implementations, and from thinking it’s smarter than me. I hate software that thinks it’s smarter than me. e.g., if I paste from the clipboard I don’t want the damn sw to create a new layer unless I explicitly tell it to. PS 3 didn’t, PS 7 does. And PS 7 makes it hard to type in text and then just treat it as a bunch of pixels like anything else without performing a major #$!@ ceremony.

PS 7 really slows me down, so much so that I prefer to launch Classic and run PS 3 in the Classic environment instead.

I think Picture Window, by Digital Light & Color, is wonderful.

For the price Photoshop had better be the best program of the four…it costs several hundred dollars more than the others.

Me, I prefer Paint Shop Pro 8. All of the photo manipulations were done by me using PSP 8. My skills are middling, though, and there are people who get even better results. I haven’t upgraded to version nine yet since there’s only one great improvement to it (the digital restoration feature) that interests me much so I’ll put that off until at least after the holidays…I’m sure by spring I’ll figure out other improvements they made as well.