What do you use?


Graeme Harvey

I've already put a toe in the water about this elsewhere on the forum, but it thought I'd start the ball rolling here.

As you may know, my main operating system is Linux, although on the odd occasion I do boot into Windows.

So, nowadays, the majority of my manipulations are done with the GIMP (stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is pronounced "Jimp"). I've been very satisfied with the results I get from it and it works very well, is really stable even with large images and there is a lot of information freely available on the web to provide help and advice. It's free to download, has versions that run on Linux, Windows and Mac and is available from here:


In Windows, I have used Serif PhotoPlus in various versions. Although it's a program you pay for, there is a free download version which is available as a taster. It's called Photoplus SE and I know the free version WAS based on Photoplus 6, but I'm a bit out-of-date with that now. The paid version is much more up-to-date and feature-rich and again I found it to be quite stable under Windows. It's not perhaps got the following of many of the other manipulation programs out there, but I always found operating it to be quite intuitive (which only means that you'll find it the same if you think like I do!) and I always thought it was good value for money. Serif will also do good deals when upgrading time comes around! The Serif website is here:


and if you check the menu bar on the right hand side of the screen the free trial downloads are available from there - just follow the links.

I've never really had the money to spend on top-of-the-range camera and computer gear, and people may pass these products off as being cheap and cheerful. I've never used any other packages than these, so I can't really make a comparison. However, I can recommend either of them, because I'm sure that if I can make a decent fist of using them, anyone can.

So what have you used, do you use, and how do you find them?
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Photoshop Extended (also do 3D modeling and rendering) and just upgraded to CS5 which is the most significant upgrade ever in my experience. I also use Corel Paint Shop Pro(PSP). Photoshop is my digital darkroom application, while everything else graphical tends to be done in PSP. If I am doing a tutorial on Photoshop on my web-site, I am doing the screen shots and annotations in PSP. PSP can be used as a digital darkroom, but leaves a lot to be desired specially for processing RAW, when compared to Photoshop. The extended version of Photoshop offers little to people using it for photography alone, and the standard version pretty much does everything.

With the huge numbers of scans, renders and digital photographs on my drives, I use ACDSee Pro for organization and search. It is the Swiss Army Knife of media management applications and goes far beyond just organization and search. I discovered that I could configure the export to HTML to almost perfectly match the style of my web-site. This automates generation of web-portfolios and cuts hours of work down to mere minutes.
I tend to use LR3 these days for basic 'developing' and sorting but open the images into PS (CS5) for anything more demanding plus crops etc. I'm a big fan of Nik Software's tools and use them all in one way or another. The control points are superb and SilverFX is IMO the best of the monochrome converters (I've tried pretty well all of them now). I'll just be pleased when they've finished converting them to 64 bit so I don't have to switch to CS4 to use them (or restart PS/LR in 32 bit mode). I also make use of the tone burn / dodge plugin from Pixel Genius and their cross-processing filters are probably the most authentic out there. However, I always use CaptureOne for my PhaseOne backs, especially when tethered. Organisation falls to Portfolio but I'm keen to see what PhaseOne do with Expressions Media now they have bought it off of Microsoft. I started using it way but stopped once the evil empire had their hands on it (and seem to have done nothing with it - which is probably a good thing). I have a copy of ACDSee Pro but didn't really explore it enough. Maybe I should look further into it.
Lr3 here too ... I haven't even used Photoshop for about 6 months ... The odd bit of paint.net for simple things
Lightroom is just ideal for me, I can chuck 800 wedding photos into it and have them processed and dealt with using my predefined settings etc all within a few days ... It's the stuff of genius as far as I am concerned!
I agree with you there Pete on Nik Software I have them installed in photoshop and love SilverFX for converting, Im going to have to fire up my LR again and have a good look at it I find the workflow really strange on it, so end up back in Photoshop :/ I need to play around with it I reckon to get used to it.
I am the odd one out, never really bought photoshop or lightroom.

I still use a Photoshop elements 2 that was supllied for free with a Canon DSLR yeras ago...

I also use stuff from BreezeSystems

Breezebrowser pro
for broswing my images, Raw conversion and resizing 'proofs' for Flickr and forum etc.

I also have DSLR remote pro for tethered shooting.


I occasionally use this for focus stacking, never really use it much though:
very cool when your camera automatocally takes 30 photos at different focus points and then combines the images on your laptop.

Hi Mark,

Thanks, I've never come across Breeze Systems before. They look interesting. I use image stacking a lot professionally (Helicon Focus) for increasing DoF in micrographs and remote shooting software for both microscopes and certain macro setups. It certainly looks like a better interface than Nikon's control software and I think I'll give it a try although no Mac version for Nikon, damn :-(

Actually, having looked a bit closer, I think the stacking is restricted to HDR isn't it, not DoF control?

Still, we use PC's on some of the microscopes so I will have a look and if I ever find myself owning 120 EOS 30D's I know what to use!!
Hello Pete,

I have only ever used the Canon version.
It certatinly does focus stacking for massive depth of field with the extra things installed such as autohotkey, focus stacking.ahk and combineZm ( all free extras)

The page about Nikon is here and it has the same examples, look at the train.

I originally had a problem getting a good images as the stacked images did not look right.

The problem was that the tripod was a bit lightwieght and while the laptop was taking the 30 or so images I must have been walking around the room and the floor/tripod moved a little bit between shots.

I now make sure everything is rock solid and do not move while the pictures are being taken.
Not used this for a while but I must get back into it as I enjoy product photography.

Ah, I see now. The Breeze software lets you take the images and focus step and then you use another programme, such as Helicon Focus, to stack them. You can do the same with Helicon Remote (http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconremote.html). Stability is not usually a problem for us as the microscopes are set up on optical isolation benches (the tops alone weigh 1/4 ton) and the specialised macro lens I use is a pretty substantial beast (though not terribly portable! - a bit like this one http://www.microscopen-specialist.be/fs_opvallend.html?=opvallend.html). Two of these were shot on it and stacked using Helicon Focus (20 layer stacks as I recall) - they aren't supposed to be on this site (this is for non-technical stuff) but our web developer parked them there while working on the database feed to the real imsl-imaging site which in turn will link into our main site (http://www.imsl-uk.com) and our data sites.

The other nice thing that you can do with Helicon Focus is to build virtual 3D renders using the parallax shift that occurs during stacking - there's some examples on their site. These can be really useful when explaining what people are looking at. Never tried it for non-macro images though - could be interesting.
heliconsoft looks great :) I only ever tried with combineZM ( free)

What we need now is an App that can be installed on our phones that can connect to our cameras and automatically take a series of focus stepped images to be combined when we get home, no need to carry a laptop around then.

Would be excellent for landscapes :)

Photoshop CS4 for me, been using Photoshop since version 2 back in the last Century.

Chuck stuff into iPhoto after processing to organize and post online - it takes PSD files, no problem.

Also have a color spyder with software for screen calibration - essential!

I use color print profiles from Dry Creek Photo, and print on a Noritsu with Fuji Crystal paper (which just happens to be at my local Costco). Who knew Costco had pro printers worth hundreds of thousands each!
I have Photoshop Elements 8. However recently I've learned how to make the best of Canon's free Digital Photo Professional software, which is very good for RAW manipulations including making the same change to multiple photos. PSE is still good for the Organiser, and for more complex editing of individual shots, but when I got home from holiday with 250 shots, DPP worked well..

Disclaimer: I'm quite new to DSLR and haven't felt inclined to stump up for full Photoshop or Lightroom so I've never tried those. I'm sure they are better, but much more expensive; the software I use was free or, for PSE, less than £60. If you are a relative newbie, I'd not look beyond these.

Can't speak for Nikon owners, of course.
No idea if it is available in the UK, but here in Canada and the US, Adobe is running a very reasonable upgrade from Elements to Photoshop Standard CS5 at the moment. A call to Adobe's UK office would get you the information. CS5 is by far the most significant upgrade to Photoshop ever. If I could not afford it, I would willingly go on a diet of raw potatoes until I had saved enough money for it.
Sadly, the upgrade via that route is £550 in the UK. That's a hell of a lot of potatoes!! ;) But I agree, CS5 is a good upgrade and good value from previous full versions of PS and at the moment there is a deal on LR (great for us as we have 6 licenses!). For basic edits though Elements is useful especially if you can batch process raw files satisfactorily.
Personally I find Elements to be a fairly complex product , with a huge variety of tools available, many of which I've not got to grips with. What does the full Photoshop provide that relegates Elements to just "basic" edits?