What's Your Go To Tools in 2023?

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
As we near the end of 2023, I was curious as to what everyone's go to Processing tools are?

I am still a real basic processor with using Adobe Bridge and ACR for processing the raw files and then using Photoshop to finish up the processing. I will use Topaz Clarity sometimes, and I am using Noiseware for my sharpening.

With my Deep Space Astro I will often take the image into Bridge so that I can "Enhance" it in ACR and double the resolution which is so helpful with the small galaxies and nebulas. But... at least 50% of the time I click the Enhance menu? It causes ACR to hang up. And I have to reboot Bridge, which often isn't actually closing but is running in the background so I have to go into Task Manager to close Bridge, so I can open it back up to try the Enhance mode again.

Which, has caused me to look at and consider other options outside of Adobe.

So what Processing Tools do you use, and Why do you use that tool?
 

Trent Watts

Well-Known Member
Thanks for this thread Jim..Should be interesting. I use Lightroom for all initial processing, storing data and organizing my files. Topas DeNoise and Sharpen AI are often in the mix to get a better visual. I use Photoshop for a couple of things that are not available in LR. eg. Some removal of branches or other objects, putting two pictures into one, changing sky and using perspective crop on something like a picture of a 2 dimensional object when I can't get exactly in the center. I use LR because I started with it years ago, have a large database, and have found it to do all I need plus a few hundred things I don't even know about I expect!
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
I have a pretty wide toolbox anymore and how I approach any given image in post is entirely dependent on which camera I used as well as the lighting conditions I encountered. All captures no matter the source are imported to Adobe Lightroom as it has been my primary cataloging app since LR 1.0 in 2007. All images get keywords assigned in the metadata before any other processing to aid future searches. I often peruse the captures and may do some quick adjustments to decide what gets further processing and what will just be set aside.

For most captures without extreme DR from either my drones or my DSLR I will run the image through DxO PureRAW before any other adjustments. PureRAW works off of the RAW files to clean up noise, fringing and make lens/sensor corrections and then returns the image as a new DNG so you can continue to make adjustments still in RAW. If the original RAW capture has a DR that is too wide I will skip running the image through PureRAW and will use DxO PhotoLab 7 first. It also works directly from the original RAW capture and will output a DNG. PhotoLab has PureRAW built into the app but also has some very nice ways of dealing with a very wide DR with a tool called Smart Lighting that allows you to set up targets for light that needs to be reconciled and then vary the intensity of the adjustments. The resulting DNG dropped back into LR leaves the LR/ACR sliders set to zero with the wide DR already taken care of. I typically do most all of my color work in LR before moving the RAW file into PS for final touchups.

I have a totally separate workflow for iPhone outputs since you can't use DxO applications for the computed outputs of an iPhone. I handle most lighting and color work inside of LR before exporting to PS. Once the iPhone capture is in PS I use Topaz Denoise AI to clean things up a bit and then do final touchups.

For final touchup work on all photos in PS I typically use the History Brush for adjusting the light along Tony Kuyper's TK9 tools for both light and color.

I additionally own Topaz Sharpen AI, Topaz Gigapixel AI, and Photo AI although each of these has a more limited role in my processing. I haven't been terribly impressed with Photo AI so far.
 

Jameel Hyder

Moderator
Staff member
My toolset is similar to Alan's except that I use PS/ACR and not LR. I have not tried Photolab yet. I find the masking tools in ACR quite powerful and deal with most corrections there after DXO Pure RAW. I stopped using any luminosity masks since the ACR masking gives me adequate ways to deal with DR. I often use Linear Profiles when there are lots of highlights to tame.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for this thread Jim..Should be interesting. I use Lightroom for all initial processing, storing data and organizing my files. Topas DeNoise and Sharpen AI are often in the mix to get a better visual. I use Photoshop for a couple of things that are not available in LR. eg. Some removal of branches or other objects, putting two pictures into one, changing sky and using perspective crop on something like a picture of a 2 dimensional object when I can't get exactly in the center. I use LR because I started with it years ago, have a large database, and have found it to do all I need plus a few hundred things I don't even know about I expect!
That's a good sounding workflow. I have never used Lightroom. I can see where the organizing it provides would be good, though I had already been organizing my photos in Subdirectory's that are named with Date and Location. So that's been good for me.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
I have a pretty wide toolbox anymore and how I approach any given image in post is entirely dependent on which camera I used as well as the lighting conditions I encountered. All captures no matter the source are imported to Adobe Lightroom as it has been my primary cataloging app since LR 1.0 in 2007. All images get keywords assigned in the metadata before any other processing to aid future searches. I often peruse the captures and may do some quick adjustments to decide what gets further processing and what will just be set aside.

For most captures without extreme DR from either my drones or my DSLR I will run the image through DxO PureRAW before any other adjustments. PureRAW works off of the RAW files to clean up noise, fringing and make lens/sensor corrections and then returns the image as a new DNG so you can continue to make adjustments still in RAW. If the original RAW capture has a DR that is too wide I will skip running the image through PureRAW and will use DxO PhotoLab 7 first. It also works directly from the original RAW capture and will output a DNG. PhotoLab has PureRAW built into the app but also has some very nice ways of dealing with a very wide DR with a tool called Smart Lighting that allows you to set up targets for light that needs to be reconciled and then vary the intensity of the adjustments. The resulting DNG dropped back into LR leaves the LR/ACR sliders set to zero with the wide DR already taken care of. I typically do most all of my color work in LR before moving the RAW file into PS for final touchups.

I have a totally separate workflow for iPhone outputs since you can't use DxO applications for the computed outputs of an iPhone. I handle most lighting and color work inside of LR before exporting to PS. Once the iPhone capture is in PS I use Topaz Denoise AI to clean things up a bit and then do final touchups.

For final touchup work on all photos in PS I typically use the History Brush for adjusting the light along Tony Kuyper's TK9 tools for both light and color.

I additionally own Topaz Sharpen AI, Topaz Gigapixel AI, and Photo AI although each of these has a more limited role in my processing. I haven't been terribly impressed with Photo AI so far.
I like your workflow Alan. I have been wondering if I should upgrade my old version of PureRaw, though I have rarely used it. But after running some of my night photos through the Enhance mode for noise it's gotten me thinking that maybe I should get PureRaw going again.

If PhotoLab has PureRaw built into it, why don't you only use PhotoLab? I am trying to figure out which I should upgrade to use. I don't want to do both.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
My toolset is similar to Alan's except that I use PS/ACR and not LR. I have not tried Photolab yet. I find the masking tools in ACR quite powerful and deal with most corrections there after DXO Pure RAW. I stopped using any luminosity masks since the ACR masking gives me adequate ways to deal with DR. I often use Linear Profiles when there are lots of highlights to tame.
I really haven't touched the masks in ACR yet, I always have just used my layer masks in Photoshop, but I should look into the masks in ACR.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
I like your workflow Alan. I have been wondering if I should upgrade my old version of PureRaw, though I have rarely used it. But after running some of my night photos through the Enhance mode for noise it's gotten me thinking that maybe I should get PureRaw going again.

If PhotoLab has PureRaw built into it, why don't you only use PhotoLab? I am trying to figure out which I should upgrade to use. I don't want to do both.
The standalone PureRAW has a few more controls and options that Photolab 7 is missing. Photolabs tabs for PureRAW offer the main versions but not the tweaks for how much sharpening to apply. I like Photolab's tools for playing with color but have been having issues with how their color space imports back into Adobe's. If I can handle the light in ACR/LR I don't use Photolab. The newer versions of PureRAW do a much better job than the older versions.
 

Alex Vasile

Well-Known Member
I use Capture One 23 to do all of my crop, perspective, color correction, etc. My only real problem with Capture One is that it leaks memory and gets slow very quickly. Supposedly the newest version fixes this, but I am unwilling to pay them more money to fix something that should have worked in the first place.

I also do Basic panoramas in it, but if I want/need more control I use PTGui. Capture One has DNG output while PTGui is limited to tiff, both produce massive files because the output is demosaiced.

I’m still stuck using Sigma Photo Pro for my Merrill cameras, and it is by far the worst editing experience out of any software I’ve used. I’ve tried replacing it with Iridient Developer, but Iridient is only marginally faster while not being able to correct the (massive) color casts.

For my focus stacking I use Helicon Focus. It works great on my little m1 MacBook, though touching up any of the images is in is again a chore because it becomes very sluggish. Stacking speed is not a problem.

For denoising (and HDR) I use BurstPhoto (which I develop, so I’m a little biased). I prefer stacking + Capture One over another denoising software since it makes the processing pipeline much simpler. I’ve also tried Capture One for HDR (results are massive and often makes ugly artefacts), Aurora HDR (don’t like the tiff outputs) and SND-HDR (tone mapping controls are nice) and Luminance HDR (I haven’t figured out how to get good images out of it).
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
The standalone PureRAW has a few more controls and options that Photolab 7 is missing. Photolabs tabs for PureRAW offer the main versions but not the tweaks for how much sharpening to apply. I like Photolab's tools for playing with color but have been having issues with how their color space imports back into Adobe's. If I can handle the light in ACR/LR I don't use Photolab. The newer versions of PureRAW do a much better job than the older versions.
Interesting. Do either version work with groups of photos to process in batches?
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
I use Capture One 23 to do all of my crop, perspective, color correction, etc. My only real problem with Capture One is that it leaks memory and gets slow very quickly. Supposedly the newest version fixes this, but I am unwilling to pay them more money to fix something that should have worked in the first place.

I also do Basic panoramas in it, but if I want/need more control I use PTGui. Capture One has DNG output while PTGui is limited to tiff, both produce massive files because the output is demosaiced.

I’m still stuck using Sigma Photo Pro for my Merrill cameras, and it is by far the worst editing experience out of any software I’ve used. I’ve tried replacing it with Iridient Developer, but Iridient is only marginally faster while not being able to correct the (massive) color casts.

For my focus stacking I use Helicon Focus. It works great on my little m1 MacBook, though touching up any of the images is in is again a chore because it becomes very sluggish. Stacking speed is not a problem.

For denoising (and HDR) I use BurstPhoto (which I develop, so I’m a little biased). I prefer stacking + Capture One over another denoising software since it makes the processing pipeline much simpler. I’ve also tried Capture One for HDR (results are massive and often makes ugly artefacts), Aurora HDR (don’t like the tiff outputs) and SND-HDR (tone mapping controls are nice) and Luminance HDR (I haven’t figured out how to get good images out of it).
Capture One is probably #3 in usage behind Photoshop and Lightroom for editing? So there are lots that use Capture One. I know of others that use it too.

PTGui is what I used to use back in the day. I still recall having to click and select points on each of the photos being used so PTGui knew how to align each photo into a pano.

Helicon Focus was one of the pioneers of Focus Stacking I believe. I never used it as I never really did any focus stacking.

BurstPhoto sure sounds good! I remember when you posted about it.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
Interesting. Do either version work with groups of photos to process in batches?
Yes - and DxO's applications know how to exploit multiple CPUs when running in batch mode by processing images in parallel.

Back in the day when 12 CPU cores were hot stuff with my old 2010 Mac Pro I was shocked one day when I fed a pile of images into an early version of their RAW conversions and my machine stopped responding to my mouse inputs. The monitor app showed that DxO had commandeered all of the CPUs with one image being processed on each of them and all 48GB of RAM was in use. It turned out there was a box you could check that would temper how much of your machine got utilized for more graceful processing.
 

Michael Liskay

Well-Known Member
For Wildfife, Lightroom for organizing cropping and initial tweaks. Next, Topaz Photo AI for a quick and easy denoising and sharpening. This program recognizes the subject and does an amazing job. If the image is really noisy or OOF, the results can be funky. But as they say "garbage in, garbage out". Seriously I shot some of my recent posted images in Ecuador at 3200 iso on and Olympus OM-1 (not the greatest for low noise but great otherwise) and I was pleased with 90%+ of the final products.

For Landscapes I use Nik plugins especially Color Efex. I hardly ever use Photoshop any more except when a content aware brush up with LR fails to satisfy.
 

Kyle Jones

Moderator
I copy my images onto my computer into folders by date. I then import them into Lightroom for an initial screen. Lightroom (essentially camera RAW) is my default RAW processor, either using a built-in profile or a linear profile depending on the DR. These days I'll process maybe 25% of my RAWs (through LR) in PureRAW. I go by gut for this or if I don't like an initial result.

Once I've done what I want with the RAW I bring it into PhotoShop as a smart object. I'll apply topaz denoise and sharpen AI on that smart object if it came from lightroom, I don't use them if I used PureRAW. The rest takes place in Photoshop...
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
Yes - and DxO's applications know how to exploit multiple CPUs when running in batch mode by processing images in parallel.

Back in the day when 12 CPU cores were hot stuff with my old 2010 Mac Pro I was shocked one day when I fed a pile of images into an early version of their RAW conversions and my machine stopped responding to my mouse inputs. The monitor app showed that DxO had commandeered all of the CPUs with one image being processed on each of them and all 48GB of RAM was in use. It turned out there was a box you could check that would temper how much of your machine got utilized for more graceful processing.
Thanks for the info!

That must have been crazy!
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
Thanks for the info!

That must have been crazy!
It was humbling in its day - I had just built an Oracle server cluster for Clark County using the same processors and had been gloating over having almost as much CPU horsepower at home. I didn't think anyone had taken parallel processing with consumer software to that level yet.
 

Alex Vasile

Well-Known Member
Capture One is probably #3 in usage behind Photoshop and Lightroom for editing? So there are lots that use Capture One. I know of others that use it too.

PTGui is what I used to use back in the day. I still recall having to click and select points on each of the photos being used so PTGui knew how to align each photo into a pano.

Helicon Focus was one of the pioneers of Focus Stacking I believe. I never used it as I never really did any focus stacking.

BurstPhoto sure sounds good! I remember when you posted about it.
I’ve tried Lightroom, I personally like the feel and results I get out of Capture One. That being said, I find it pretty easy to open DxO and get a much more filmic look out of the same raws. But it does funky stuff with DNG handling.

I can get away with 99% of my editing and image manipulation (eg remove power lines, blemishes, etc) in capture one. If I need that last little bit I’ll open Affinity.

PTGUI has been pretty good for me, even handheld I can get it to automatically align perfectly 80% of the time.

I mostly use Helicon for macro, but I have used it for extending dof of regular image before.

I’m a pretty spoiled with a FF Sony In term of noise, so I generally have to really push it before Capture One’s noise reduction can’t quietly keep up. If I had the noise profile of an X-Trans camera, like the ones I’ve been recently testing with, it’d be using BurstPhoto way more often. Same goes for the HDR po
 

Ken Rennie

Well-Known Member
Firstly I should own up to liking post processing. Raw processing using ACR and then into Photoshop. If I have used high ISO for bird photography I will probably use Pure Raw2. I used to use luminosity masks on many of my images but find that the masking in ACR is good enough for almost all of my images. I still use Nik collection plug ins especially Viveza for colour and Color Efex 5 for Black and White processing, perverse or what? I use lightroom for HDR blending of bracketed shots and find that it produces believable files. On the occasions that lightroom doesn’t produce a good result I mask and blend using photoshop. On occasions I use topaz denoise AI or topaz sharpen AI and whisper it quietly I sometimes use generative fill AI to remove small problems. I always use Smart Objects and save my files with all of the layers intact, this allows me to go back and change aspects of a file without total reprocessing but leads to enormous file sizes and huge hard disc arrays (66TB in total but I have 3 versions of every file just to be on the safe side). I print using lightroom finding its resizing and sharpening excellent. In the past I used capture one for processing but never got totally used to it although the quality of the output was v good especially with Fuji files. Ken
 

David S

Well-Known Member
I use Lightroom for easily organizing, deleting, copying, etc... of pics after shoots or outings... I end up doing 99% of my editing also in Lightroom mostly the next day or two days later.. Ive tried other stuff, but the ability to sort, catalog, make virtual copies, bring in film emulatioms as presets.. I cant touch that anywhere else. I just wish I could buy the 2022 version for 100$ and have that for 6-7 years instead of paying 8$ a month or whatever.
 
Top Bottom