Digital Imaging Software For Processing Aquarium Photographs
I’ve gotten a number of questions about the best software to use to manage and process digital images. Although I can’t necessarily tell you what the ‘best’ software is for your particular needs, I can tell you that I have used all of these software packages that I’ve listed below and can say you can’t go wrong with any of them.
This is not (by any means) a complete list of digital imaging software. It is simply my thoughts on a number of programs that I have utilized and can recommend from personal experience.
I will eventually have a number of tutorials here explaining the work-flow, techniques and steps that you can use for post-producing your aquarium photographs.
Photoshop is hands-down, the undisputed king of the digital imaging world. If there is anything that you want/need to do to an image Photoshop will most likely be able to do it. I used Photoshop for many years, many years ago (What am I using now? Read on…). It is an awesome program that makes complex digital image work possible (although not necessarily always simple). There is nothing else on the market that comes even remotely close to the image editing & processing power of Photoshop and its family of integrated software applications (Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Premiere, AfterEffects, the list goes on…). But, and this’s a big BUT for most people. The standard, no frills, bells or whistles, full version of Photoshop CS5 will run you about $700. With some bells and whistles, into the thousands. That’s a lot of money for the normally pretty simple images editing that you’d be doing on your fish photos. Photoshop is really geared to imaging professionals who are doing very involved image manipulations, graphic design work and / mating their images with computer animations or 3d renderings.
Although Photoshop Elements is a stripped-down version of Photoshop, it will still do absolutely everything an average photographer will need to do with their photos. I currently use Photoshop Elements almost exclusively for photo editing and image manipulation. I used Photoshop exclusively up until version CS2 when I got a demo of Elements with a camera I bought. I gave it a try and found that it actually did pretty-much everything I was using Photoshop for (I was running an photo studio at the time) for and it’s interface and functions were close enough to the same that there was almost no learning curve. Elements is significantly easier to use than it’s big brother, Photoshop. Therefore I think you’ll find that learning the software is a much simpler task. I cannot recommend Photoshop Elements highly enough for any photographer from beginner to advanced hobbyists and even some professionals.
ACDSee is a photo management system. It will do basic image manipulation/corrections but it’s main purpose is to organize your digital photo files and manage your work-flow.
I use ACDSee extensively when I’m editing, sorting and searching for images. It’s really intuitive to use, has way more databasing options than I’ve had the opportunity to use. PhotoShop Elements now includes (what looks like) a photo organizer which does some of the basic editing functions which ACDSee would do.
Google, the leader in functional, free software applications is the developer of Picasa. I have Picasa installed on my computer but have to admit I have only used it a few times. So, to be fair, it probably has more functions than I’ve explored. Picassa works really well for basic image corrections and has a decent digital photo file management capabilities, organization and databasing. Picasa integrates seamlessly with Picasa Web Albums which makes sharing photos online a breeze. I know a couple of people that use Picasa strictly for it’s online photo sharing capabilities. And, did I mention… it’s free.
Another free photo imaging program that I have on my computer which I haven’t have much of an opportunity to explore is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). I have heard really good things about GIMP. GIMP is a community developed application that does many of the standard functions that you’d find in the full version of Adobe’s Photoshop. I do find GIMP more clunky to use though. I have tried to use GIMP a number of times for photo processing projects but have to admit as soon as I run into a task that isn’t immediately clear how to do it, I revert to using the simpler and more intuitive, Photoshop Elements. I’m not saying that I’m running into things that GIMP can’t do, I’m saying that it it’s always clear how to do things. I think GIMP is a very capable program but it’s user interface is lacking and I think it’s a more frustrating program to use than any of the Adobe products. But, the price is right!!
There are a ton of video tutorials on YouTube on how to use GIMP and the GIMP.org website has some good community generated documentation and tutorials available.