The Software Dilema

You've worked hard and saved your money to the best of your ability. You have a nice camera and good lenses. But before you upload them to Dreamstime or even show them to your friends, you want to make some small corrections for color, contrast, cropping etc. But photo software can bust an already strained budget. What's the poor but dedicated photographer to do?

Photoshop, the incredibly powerful and useful software package, is really expensive and now, if you want it, you have to subscribe to it. It will cost you around $240US a year. And you may wind up with "upgrades" you don't want or like.

You can go with Corel software, lower in price and not quite as powerful as Photoshop, but useful none the less. There are some basic tools available in Picassa, but maybe not enough to get the job done or to really let you experiment.

You can get the Photoshop Elements packages for a much lower price and do almost everything you will need. But what if even these relatively reasonable packages are out of your reach? You're eating cereal two meals a day to save money as it is.

Is there any hope for the budding Ansel Adams?

Yes, there actually is.

If you use a Canon, you an get their software called Digital Photo Professional (4.0 version at this time) and do a whole slew of adjustments. Some will actually make you look like you know what you are doing!

If you a Nikon user, you are not left out. Just get Capture NX-D by Nikon and you are on your way.

The cost? They are both free. I've used the Canon software for about three days now and I am quite impressed at it's flexibility. It won't do absolutely everything the full blown packages will do, but what I wouldn't have given to have this software when I was starting out. I would have loved to have either of these tools available to me when I first got into digital.

And they both do movies also, but I haven't tried that part of the programs yet, so I can't vouch for their flexibility.

As I stated, they are not full blown, pro level packages, but if you are low on funds and still need the ability to convert from RAW to JPEG or TIFFs etc, and want to learn about gamma adjustments and the such, you can hardly go wrong for free.

Who knows, maybe you will sell one of your photos for enough to buy one of the really big programs.

In the meantime, you can get your feet wet and try editing your photos and videos for free.

That's hard to beat in my book.


Photo credits: Larry Spisak.

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Thank you for the kind words. I shot those down in the Florida Keys and happened to walk to the end of a dead end road and the scene just opened up before me.


hi thank you for your comment on my blog. I found my pictures all by accident but its so exciting when you see where your pictures land even if you think they are silly pictures! But as for your photoshoots i wanted to comment on your beach pictures....THEY ARE AMAZING! I'm sure they landed on the covers of every single travel magazine or billboard they truly are stunning pictures keep up your awesome work and keep travelling to find the next beach you capture the scene perfectly!


Thank you. Many photographers over process their photos in the quest to get bright colors and higher contrast. A bad choice in my opinion as the photos look unnatural.

I was told by the way that the bird's eye turns that color on the male during mating season.


I'm using PT Photo Editor which is free and good enough for my editing skills at the moment. Interesting article and very good photo Larry!


I read your piece on night photography which is interesting. But it doesn't show up in the Blog list.
Here is my reply in case you missed it: Persistence pays. So many challenges and some hidden rewards.

This may help you some:


I was going to reply here but ended up doing a blog about the night shoot, as it turned out longer than I'd planned.


Why not, indeed. I tend not to gout at night as I tend to walk into things. And there might be ghosts out there. Ever notice how ghosts only come out at night? I am 69 years old and still haven't figured that one out. :)
Have fun and let me know how it goes.


Yes, the almost instant results give way more flexibility. One of my aims is to get to the 1 to 10 standard you mentioned but have no real idea what my ratio would be right now. Will definitely be covering up tonight, as I'm going to try a little night photography. It's almost the weekend, so, why not?


Very true about covering up at night. Lots of things would like t take a nip of your bare skin
As for the number of 'bad' photos. A pretty accepted ratio is 1 to 10. For every 10 photos you take, only one will really be worthwhile. Much easier to swallow now with digital cameras as opposed to when we had to pay for film and processing and wait a week for the pix to be developed. We shot far less than people today as we quite literally couldn't afford to to jus fire off shots and hope for the best.


Thanks for your comments, very much appreciated. I've taken quite a few photos and there's been a lot of disappointing ones but I try and learn from it and make the next ones better but that's easier said than done. I've also learnt that when going out to take photos at night, it's a good idea to change out of shorts and a t-shirt and into something that covers your arms and legs.


I'm glad you found something that works for you which I believe is one of the most important points.
Of course the most important thing overall is to go out and shoot.
I started out when we would spend hours in lab developing film, ( all black and white) in the beginning, and to see what can be done with software now a days is quite remarkable.
Enjoy your shooting.
And like we used to say 20 years ago, "We can always fix it in Photoshop."
You have some nice shots in your portfolio and a good eye for composition.


Interesting blog Larry and useful to know the pitfalls with other software. I'm pretty new to photography and even newer to photo editing but I did make use of a trial for "Affinity Photo". I'm not sure if a trial version is still available but for me, it was very straightforward and had lots of tutorial videos to help me go from no idea to something a little bit more. So, as I got used to using it, I couldn't really see any point moving from it and so bought the software package for the photo element, which was a pretty good price.


Thank you, Cathconvey. Much appreciated. Hopefully more photos coming next week.


Very interesting article, thanks for sharing! Happy shooting and editing, your portfolio is so beautiful!


Thank you, Maria.


Woww..You made such a good, sharp and beautiful colors on your portfolio. Thanks for the info anyway. Good luck on sales..


Many thanks Larry!
I find the subscription model that Adobe uses both extremely annoying and sometimes great. I work as a graphic designer so I also use Indesign and sometimes illustrator extensively. I really don't bother that much for all the new features, but the convinient thing is that all pros has become compatible - no matter where in the world etc. There are other groups who have the same issue - journalists and writers who need a full version of Acrobat... Many retired people who wants to continue working ”on the side”...
Adobe should rethink on this!
And by the way also Microsoft...


Thank you Perstock. You have a great portfolio. I had gotten away from photos to shoot videos and now I am torn between the two as I can't carry all my gear by myself.

I like PS myself, but the subscription model bothers me because they push changes which I may or may not like. I don't like being dictated to by someone who doesn't know how I work and I have seen so many comments about features that people liked that just disappeared. I'd like the freedom to pick if and when I upgrade.

But I have friends who subscribe and they just roll along. So maybe it's me.

Thanks for your comments.


I understand, Xianghong. I agree that I like to know how to use the software. I spent a lot of time leaning various packages over the years. I like to shoot and then process them and then get back out.

I voted 5 stars on each of yours. Best of luck. your shots are amazing.


Interresting blog! Yeah, its expensive to subscribe! But I am still working with PS every day so I will keep on...
Larry, your images are really nice, you should upload many, many more :-)


Very insightful and useful! No matter what software, I only like what I can use it skillfully. By the way, it's time to vote for assignment now. Would you please help me someway? Thank you, Larry.

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