A bit about the software I use

Shag Rock – 15 sec exposure with 10 stop Big Stopper – processed in LR 5 – click to embiggen

Since I started taking part in the One Four Challenge and recently the AB Challenge I have been exposed to many different variations on how people edit and process their images.

It surprised me the sheer range of stuff I had never heard of so I thought I would share the main software programs I use with some examples of what they do.  Note I only work on a traditional PC with dual monitor setup.

First up is LIGHTROOM by Adobe.  Been using this for years as my main photo processing program, until recently it was my only software.

Lightroom has vastly improved in its capability and V5 has some really powerful tools like the Radial tool which I use a lot, and the ND Grad gets used in my skies frequently. In fact its used on the image above to bring back the blue and give the clouds some more texture.

Its also useful because as you import your images you can save metadata and catalog them so they can be found again, sometimes a challenge when you have years of files to sort thru like I do now.

Lightroom does 95% of what I need done to process my images – for some annoying things like removing items or fixing some fiddly bits I now use Photoshop.  LR is vastly more affordable than PS and I recommend it as a good place to start if you are serious about managing your files and editing them.

It has been around for a while now and there are tons of free resources, forums, websites and videos to help you learn.  It does have a fairly steep learning curve but much less than PS.

Next up is NIK Suite now owned by Google – this is not standalone software but extra plugin functionality – you need LR or PS or similar to use these.

Several programs come in the suite but the two I use most are

Nik Silver Efex for doing my black and white conversions

Nik Color Efex for fancy colour variations

Old horse shoes processed in LR then Nik Silver Efex – click to embiggen

Image processed in LR then using the Midnight preset in Nik Color Efex – click to embiggen

The Nik programs are really easy to use, there are lots of presets already there to choose from, and they are all completely adjustable or you could start from scratch if you wanted to.  I find it fun just to twiddle and experiment and see what comes out.

Finally the last program I have started to use seriously in the last month is Photoshop.  Everyone knows the name and it has a reputation as being incredibly flexible and powerful.  Also expensive and hard to learn.  All these things are true!

Got a student copy, the only way I could afford it LOL

Since I started my PS Grunge course it has taught me absolutely HEAPS about how to best use PS and has blown my mind at its capabilities.  I recommend a good training course otherwise you flail around trying to understand things with no context and really dislike the experience.  Understanding how to use tools means I have been having so much fun 🙂

Entry for the AB Monthly Challenge – base image of the cars edited in LR and then transferred to PS, where the map was imported, colour adjusted and then a texture was added and the two layers blended together with a mask – click to embiggen

PS for me is the final stage, when I want to work with layers, blend modes and masks.  All the things you can’t do in LR.  PS does have Camera Raw built into it, which is the same post processing steps and technology thats in LR, just not as pretty or as easy to use, so you could do everything in PS if you wanted to, I know many people do.

So my basic process is this:

1.   Import all images into LR, delete unwanted images, and select the best ones for editing

2.   Edit chosen image for upload to Flickr page and blog usually – usually thats as far as I go

3.   For a BW conversion, process image in Nik Silver Efex

4.   If Im working on something creative then I might use Colour Efex for a variation

5.   If Im going all out and doing layers and textures then I will work on the final image in Photoshop.

What software do you use?  What do you like about it?

Anything fun you would recommend I try?


About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in LR & Photoshop, Photo Challenges, Waffle and Burbling and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to A bit about the software I use

  1. Firstly you are way ahead of me in what you are doing here and secondly I am trying to catch up madly. Use Lightroom for most adjustments but now have PS to jump over there and do bigger editing. Very much on the steep learning curve. PS love the horseshoe shot, MM 🍀

    • lensaddiction says:

      Everyone is at different stages, and thats ok ,its not a competition. My skills improved the most when I invested in some proper formal training aimed at photographers, it was the only way I was going to figure out PS for sure!

      Learning the hard way is good and what I did for years but getting *better* required more focused learning for me anyway

  2. Robyn G says:

    This is a great post Stacey and very helpful. Thanks heaps! 😃

  3. sariscorner says:

    Love the idea behind this post! I heard of the Nik Programs before but never knew what they are and what you can do with them or that you need LR or PS for it to run. Thanks for shading some light into this. I will see if I will add them to the programs I am using. At the moment this is mainly LR with the PhotoSketcher added for the One Four Challenge, but I am really interested in the blending of images and would love to try PS but without some training I don’t think I will be able to use it. We will see… 🙂

    • lensaddiction says:

      I really enjoy the Nik programs and they are lots of fun and allow you to be quite creative. Google bought the price down for all the programs – i think 7 of them – to USD $149 which made it much more affordable.

      PS is amazing but you ABSOLUTELY have to have training to be able to have a hope of understanding it!

  4. I use Lightroom and Photoshop pretty much as you, although more 80/10%. I think with the photographers subscription with Creative Cloud Photoshop and Lightroom have become much more affordable.
    I also use Nik Soft, Topaz Labs, Alien Skin.

    • lensaddiction says:

      As my PS skills increase the ratio might change a bit but I try and do as much as I can in LR. I looked at the subscription but over time it adds up to a LOT of money.

      I am looking forward to LR6 sounds like it will have some interesting features. I hope its available for standalone licences like mine and not just on CC, its not clear as yet.

      • Nic says:

        My husband told me that Windows 10 might be a subscription model too. Ugh. I’m not looking forward to the day when Windows 7 and PS CS6 are no longer supported.

      • lensaddiction says:

        I hadn’t heard that about Win 10, that would suck indeed. I hope not. On an Adobe forum where LR6 was announced, several people asked about the subscription query but there were no responses from Adobe, so I guess we wait and see.

      • They are gonna lose customers doing that, including myself. I can’t guarantee monthly income to subscribe to things.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Yes its another added cost that no one really needs, same reason why I didn’t go with Adobe cc for photoshop

  5. Great post, Stacey! And you’ve hit on my workflow precisely. LR5 is my workhorse. And currently I seem to almost automatically then edit in Color Efex and Silver Efex. Even when I want a B&W conversion, I use Color Efex first,mot get the best base image I can. I also will use Dfine when better noise reduction is needed (like when I forget to reduce my ISO…) Photoshop I use for pixel editing – mostly healing and cloning that LR can’t completely deal with. Lovely image, by the way! Isn’t the gradient filter grand?

    • lensaddiction says:

      I have heard of people using Colour Efex before Silver but would have to experiment to see if it works for, perhaps Viveza instead. I havent tried the other programs in the Nik suite much, I should do something about that.

      Yes Im a big fan of the grad filter, its REALLY useful 🙂

  6. Carrie says:

    Great post, I really learned a lot. I appreciate you clarifying these programs, it is true, it gets confusing hearing about everyone’s programs that I have rarely, if ever, heard of. I use LR5 exclusively, mostly because I just started jumping into the beautiful world of photo editing. But, I have my sights set on the NIK Suite, especially the silver efex, I see such great results from others with this program, and I love black and white images. I have used FotoSketcher quite a bit for the One Four Challenges and really enjoyed the results.
    Your old cars with the map layer is very creative, I love it. Thank you again for writing all this out, it was very educational!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Carrie, I was really just waffling for the sake of a post so I am glad it had some educational value 🙂 I was so surprised that so many people were using programs and apps I had never heard of.

    • lensaddiction says:

      I forgot to mention, I purchased this course last year http://www.eyevoyage.com/understanding-pp/ and it taught me LOTS of really useful things about editing images and how powerful the radial filter it, its not for beginners but opened my eyes to a new way of looking at an image and the power to be add in lots of little local adjustments, rather than the really big “changes everything in the image” style which is all I had known how to do before this course.

  7. I love this edit the best!!! Beautiful!!! It has a touch of mystery and looks like it’s possible to walk on water!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks, the water is actually due to the long exposure by using the 10 stop filter, there is no software involved in creating that effect, all I really did was brighten the image a tad, adjust the WB and fix the sky being too bright.

  8. Nic says:

    Until recently my workflow was similar to yours… I upload my images in LR5, I love that I can change the name of my raw files to the date (150129_NAT_004 – would be the fourth nature photo taken today)… it is so great to be able to find your image again later because it tells you exactly where to find it. LR also puts these in neat little folders… I haven’t found a better program for this function yet. Next I would go to Bridge and star my images (I like that I get a full screen view of my image in Bridge as apposed to the smaller area in LR)… my 3+ star images get a closer look, my 1 star images get deleted (not rejected, deleted), 2 star means maybe, if I work on it a bit (if 3+ are not the same image only better)… anyway then I open it up in Camera Raw (adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, etc.) and that’s usually all I do to the image. I have made some scripts in PS to reduce the size of my image for my blog and to apply a high-pass filter and then add my watermark. The big stuff with layers and masks are mainly for extra oomph and playing around. The raw edits and database stuff that I do in LR and PS I haven’t really found a better program for (still looking)… but the layers and masks stuff I am having fun trying in GIMP with much success. I learned a lot of my PS and LR knowledge in school (I took a 2-year course for photography) and then expanded on that knowledge with books and online tutorials. I can imagine how daunting it must be to try PS and LR right out of the box without someone there to show you the basics.
    I’m trying to decide if I will use the NIK software enough to warrant the costs. I know it’s only $149, but will I use it $149 worth, is the question… i.e. how much can I do manually already? I do like the effects of the B&W in Silver Efex, but I don’t know how much I’d use the rest… I’m still thinking about it. 😀

    • lensaddiction says:

      Hey Nic, thanks for taking me thru your process, its interesting to see what other people do. Im curious as to why you prefer Camera Raw over LR for you basic editing, as far as I was aware they mostly did the same thing. Also why bridge for the star functionality? I use the flag and colour system in LR to highlight my images, flags for the stand out images and then if there are similar shots I use colours to rank my preferences.

      I didnt know you could do scripts to do things like change the image size for posting elsewhere, thats a nifty trick. I guess I get around that by outputting everything at 1200 pixels longest side and if I need a bigger version I can go to LR and output it. I very rarely do cos I hardly ever print anything, which is usually the only reason why I would need a bigger file.

      You can do BW in PS, I had a go at doing a comparison, I found there were subtle differences but NIK was much easier and quicker to get an outcome and had some settings like structure that affects the fine detail that I couldnt obviously see in PS.

      Everyone works in different ways cos our brains are different and thats OK 🙂 I wish I had time to do a course in photography and learn all the other fun stuff that PS can do, I envy you that opportunity!

    • Nic says:

      Ooops… I have LR4..
      I bought LR3 and PS CS5 when I started my course and then CS6 and LR4 came out so I upgraded. Oddly my LR3 is not the student edition, but the other three are. Weird.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Just lucky, I would recommend LR5 but with LR6 about to come out in March might be worth hanging out for the new version 🙂

  9. Nic says:

    I think it’s because I learned PS/Bridge/Camera Raw first. It was my original workflow… in later classes one of my instructors introduced me to the database of Lightroom and the ablility to change the names of my files as they were imported in. Lightroom is a database to me, first… then and editor second… which I kinda fumble around in because I learned the Camerea Raw first. Also since I like to create multiple layers of folders (jpg folder, psd folder, jpg 500 folder – longest side is 500px – for the blog, watermark folder – these images have my watermark on them, etc.) I don’t like how in LR it displays everything below a certain folder and it’s hard to tell (at a glance) which file is which (jpg, raw, reduced size)… in Bridge the image is actually smaller so I get a good idea of what it will look like on my blog before I upload it. I do like LR for it’s colored flags… I have some colors set up for images that make it into the store so I can access them easily. Also I like that I can make a template of 13×19 with two 8×12 boxes so that I can print out my images easily… I then go to PS to print them… because that’s where I learned how to do it (with different types of paper settings). So it really is true that what you learn first you will use most. There were several classmates in my classes that would say, I do this *thing* in LR and the teacher would kind of imply that it was great but in that class we were learning PS. I guess it was to keep the number of programs down to one common program. Plus we were learning other stuff in PS and with Camera Raw and Bridge built in, it just made since to ask us to only buy PS. I see other people using LR for the same edits I do in Camera Raw and I will probably figure it out one day, but I have a flow that I’ve done for years and sometimes you just want things to be easy, ya know? 😀

    In PS there is a little icon that looks like a play button… you can ‘record’ a set of tasks and then later you can call on that same set of tasks so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. In Bridge you can select several images and then call that recorded task to do it’s *thing* on all the selected images. It saves a ton of time. I like to edit all my raw files then select them, resize them to 500px longest side, add a high-pass filter, change them to sRGB, and save them as jpg (which it then puts them in it’s own folder labeled JPG)… I can do that super fast and easy since I created one of those ‘scripts’. 😀

    • Nic says:

      And in Bridge I “Convert files with the Image Processor”… https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/processing-batch-files.html

    • lensaddiction says:

      OMG I hate how LR shows its folders, you say Bridge does a better job? I will have to check it out, I usually end up opening Explorer and trying to find what folder Im after there LOL that bit of LR is clunky for sure!

      As you say once you learn something you are familiar with it and its easy for you then, so you tend to go with whats easy. That makes sense to me, its a shame that you have to go thru 3 programs – LR Bridge and PS to get everything done you want to do!

      I will have to research this action thing more, I had heard of it but didn’t realise how much scope you had with it, YAY I learnt something new about PS today too 🙂

      Appreciate your detailed comments, its helped me understand a lot more about the capabilities of these programs, obviously Im only scratching the surface of PS but it feels like im in the deep end compared to what I was failing to grasp just playing around LOL

      • Nic says:

        It does sound excessive… hmmm… well like I said I originally learned everything in PS and it wasn’t until I’d been in school about a year before I had an instructor explain the benefits of LR and then she only mentioned the database stuff (imports and changing the names to be able to find later), she also mentioned tagging photos so that you could find certain subjects later (flowers, waterdrops, Mom, pup, etc.). So I just continued with my original workflow but added LR for imports. Which is why I don’t really go there first to do any edits.

        So you know how in LR the folders are in a vertical tree like formation? Well it is the same with Bridge, except that when you click on the top level of the tree it only shows you the images there and then folder icons for the lower levels… whereas in LR when you click on the top level of the tree it shows you EVERYTHING from that level down. That is useful when you want to peruse say a certain year and aren’t quite sure when you took an image, but it is a pain when you know what you are looking for and want to work more micro-ly (I just made up that word 😛 ).

        So once I import my photos, I only go to LR to tell it to sync with what I have done in Bridge, so that the database is always up to date. I’m also not a fan of it automatically making another copy of the image when I’m editing it and then the weirdness to import it into PS… with Bridge I can open the raw image, it goes to Camera Raw where I can edit it or not, then I can ‘open’ it and then it goes to PS where I can then play with layers and masks. What I did in Camera Raw is saved in an .xmp file so it’s not a destructive edit, and in PS I save my work as a psd or as a flattened image (no layers saved) as a jpg. Like I said I feel like I’m fumbling around in LR, but it’s easy peasy for me to use Camera Raw. I know that it is pretty much the same raw editor with just a different GUI, but for some reason I’m just not proficient with LR.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Sounds like you have a system that works for you, no matter how many moving parts. And yet we all seem to end up with several either way LOL

        I will spend some time in the weekend if I get my computer back from its last go with the engineer to get my final issues sorted!

  10. Your work is amazing. I love them all. I use presets a lot.

    • lensaddiction says:

      I use presets a lot too, I have several for LR but it varies when I use them, but I use vignette presets most of the time 🙂

      Presets save us time!

      • Absolutely. Would you be interested in doing a challenge for 5 days – Black and White photos and nominate another blogger each day? I know you don’t want awards but this is more of a challenge. I look at it as a way to improve my black and white work. I love black and white but never really do enough of it. I have been nominated for this challenge and need to nominate another blogger each day.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Possibly, I have to send my computer away for its last lot of fixing and not sure how long that will take. If it comes back over the weekend I can do it for next week, I have enuf BW images I can harvest in the archives as I won’t be able to do new ones most likely.

      • I will add you the last day then.

  11. leecleland says:

    Great post Stacey. I have all the same software that you use, but never used Nik Silver Efex for B&W for some reason but I love the effect on the horseshoes so will have to try it sometime. There is so much to learn even in Lightroom and little hidden things you would never (well I wouldn’t ) find by yourself. I also agree doing a formal type of course for Photoshop helps with the learning curve heaps.

    • lensaddiction says:

      I spent AGES on the horseshoes image trying to make sure I got the spiderweb detail included in the image 🙂

      Yes LR is quite powerful but it is sometimes hard to learn some techniques from a book, I found purchasing videos a really valuable investment.

      Im a huge fan of Nik, its quite easy to figure your way thru but also has a lot of flexibility with global and local editing as well. It has a slightly bizarre way of applying its local adjustments but once you understand it, its easy to use 🙂

      • leecleland says:

        The people (professional photographers) I have done a few tours with recently give a few half day workshops on their tours in Lightroom. I have found this really great as they use it all the time and know the ins and outs. They also give time to looking at a few of your shots and suggesting how they might have done it differently and you can ask them general camera or Lightroom questions any time. I’ve learnt so much this way, just need to be able to afford more tours :0

      • lensaddiction says:

        Yes I have done some workshops run by a local pro photog here which was useful, didnt teach me as much as I would have liked about using the program. The important thing is that you find the best learning method that suits you 🙂

        I really want to do one of Trey Ratcliffs week long courses, but at $5499 USD its VERY EXPENSIVE!!

      • leecleland says:

        That is expensive in USD too! The Freeman Patterson one I’m doing is close to A$4000 everything paid for including flights to & from the island except lunch, for a week. But again so difficult to compare and what suits one may not suit the other. Also I’m retired and have decided to enjoy doing the things I enjoy 🙂

  12. svtakeiteasy says:

    Hi Stacey, thanks for the heads up on Lightroom and Nik. I’m about to take the plunge and get these… Have been working with Photoshop Elements 9. Big learning curve ahead. By the way, I love that image of the rock & water.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Good luck! I can recommend the Scott Kelby books for LR, they cover the basics really well and are easy to follow given they are written by a photographer for photographers 🙂

      For Nik I recommend the Robin Whalley books on Amazon, ridiculously cheap ebooks but very detailed about how the Nik programs work, I have two on Silver Efex and one on Colour.

      Chris for both of them there are TONS of youtube videos online as well don’t forget 🙂

      The Shag Rock long exposure seems to be fairly popular, I really like it as well 🙂 Can’t decide between the colour or BW one tho!

  13. svtakeiteasy says:

    Hey Stacey one more question. I heard somewhere that you could download LR as a standalone version, rather than the monthly subscription. I can’t remember where I saw that discussed, and it’s nowhere obvious on the Adobe site. Have you got a view on the merit of standalone VS subscription and do you know where to find the standalone version for download?

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thats a good question Chris, I do have a view on standalone vs cloud as I read a really good post about it recently

      This link looks like it covers off the important points


      This page is optimised for NZ but if you scroll ALL the way to the bottom, on the RH corner they have a box to buy LR standalone.


      I have standalone versions of LR and PS, I started out with LR way before CC existed so I stuck with it.

      I have the CD for loading both, easy as (so long as you have the key!) I only pay once, if the net goes down I can still access everything and if my situation changes financially I still have access to the full program AND the catalog which is the important bit for LR.

      Adobe has said they will continue to support LR as a standalone app and update it, LR6 will be released in March and they are still saying it for that from what I could see.

      If you were intending to get LR and PS then financially the subscription is a better deal and you get all the PS updates which is important.

      For just LR if it was me I would go with standalone, financially it makes much more sense, its about the same price for the first year but then you keep paying and paying and paying LOL – the other benefit of subscription is LR mobile so on your ipad but I would never use that so not an issue for me either.

      Its a hard call, best of luck!

  14. Good to read all of this…I’m really green about all of it. I have PS CS3 because it was gifted to me and can’t even afford Lightroom right now but I’m pretty happy still learning and able to have PS as long as it lasts! Thanks for sharing this info!

  15. Pingback: One Four Challenge – February – Week 2 | Sari's Corner

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