Monday, September 9, 2013

"Other" Software and Tech I Use

It's pretty much a given that, as a working photographer, your either using some kind of Adobe product or Apple Aperture for your post processing needs.  I know of very few that use others.

Today, I thought I would go into a little bit more of a "deep dive" and discuss some of the other software and tech that I use and why.

Before we proceed,  just know that I am just telling you what I use and why.   I'm not providing them the best,  I don't get paid to hock them or for click throughs of any kind.

Just to set the base of the playing field my core workflow as of this article is as follows:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5
Adobe Photoshop CS6

My work platform is PC based.   My current machine is a Dell Studio XPS 9100 tower.
It is an Intel i7 CPU 960 running at 3.2 GHz, 12GB RAM and 2 TB HDD.
OS is Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium
Video Card is a Radeon 6600 with 1GB of dedicated video memory.

Before using Lightroom,  I was using ACDSee Photo Manager as my cataloging tool.   It was good for me as a starter,  and at the time I got it,  there was no such 
thing as Lightroom.   I switched away from it because of Lightroom's non destructive editing and the ability for the catalog to handle large image volumes. 
It's integration with PhotoShop CS didn't hurt either. 

Lightroom Plug-Ins/Add Ons

Topaz Labs Bundle - the bundle at the time I purchased it included Adjust, Clean, Detail, Remask, DeJPG, DeNoise.  Of which I often use all of them except DeJPG.  The have since added some additional plug ins like B&W, Lens Effects,  and Refocus. 
This is similar to other bundles out there like Nik, onOne, etc.  I chose Topaz initially because their price point was great and the Noise plug in was doing a much better job than the supplied functions in either of the 2 Adobe products I had at the time. Their website has demos and tutorials, so check out our for yourself.   The other great thing is that they will give you a full functional trial of any plug on for 30 days. 

onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 7 - I originally only purchased the B&W plug in from them because Topaz did not have one at the time.   I really like their posts as a good starting point. After many delays in  rolling out the version 2 of the plug in I purchased, onOne upgrade my single plug in purchase to the bundle.   That was really awesome!

Other PC Software - Photo Specific
Photomatix Pro 4.1 - one of the oldest HDR programs out there and it works really well.   Lots of options for tweaking your exposure and does a great job at lining up the image layers.   Works with RAW and JPG files. 

ProShow Gold - I don't make species often,  but when I do,  I love using this.   Way better than Windows Movie Maker because it gives you tighter control and more options. 

Colorvision Spyder2Express - monitor calibration is a must have of you are serious about your post processing.   I chose this because it works on LCD and CRT displays.   At the time I had both.

Other PC Software - Not Photo Specific
Filezilla FTP Client - a free,  but feature packed FTP client.   The are times when clients want images delivered to their server or you need to get files from somewhere else.   Good gives you a quick and easy interface to get where you need and get/put your files. 

Dropbox - I just recently converted all my clients from CD based image deliverables to a Dropbox shared folder.   It was quick and easy to do.   I put the images there and the client can pull them down add they need them.   Have not yet run or of space on the free account.

CDBurnerXP - when I still delivered images on CD/DVD I found this little gem of a program.   Completely free to use and has great features.   Even though I've gone all cloud delivery,  the optical drive is still used for backups. 

Non Computer Related Tech

Samsung Galaxy Note 8  - I know a lot of people out there that think that if you are a photographer and in the industry that you should be using iPads and Macbooks.  I don't believe in that.  Apple products do not do it for me and there are plenty of Android options out there that will get you what you want.  For instance the Galaxy Note 8.  Big enough to be useful and easy to see, small enough that you can take it everywhere with you.   The note series come with the stylus and believe me it is well worth it.  You can take meeting notes in your own hand writing, proof images, and you still benefit from the full range of Android apps.  I have had a 10 inch Xoom and a Nexus 7 - and they are great tablets.  I found though that I actually like using the stylus from the Galaxy Note 8.
The other bonus of this tablet is that with the purchase of a $2 OTG(on-the-go) cable, I can hook my camera/memory stick directly to it and download images on the go for clients or social media!

S Note - The note taking app that comes with the Galaxy Note 8.  Just because it is stock don't think it inferior.  Samsung has put a lot of work into this app and it shows.  Plenty of templates to shoose from, keywording, sharing options, cloud syncing.  It's all there.  Different writing implements like, pen, pencil, art brush and highlighter are easy to get to and use.  Probably my #1 reason for getting this tablet.

Samsung Gallery App - This is my #2 reason for getting the Note 8.  From the outset, it looks like your standard gallery app, but then you get into the menu and you see the "photo note" option.  This allows you to virtually flip the image over and write notes on the back of the images in the gallery!   When I used to proof images on my old tablets with clients, I would need to keep a separate notebook with notes on print sizes, number of prints and any a additional information.  Now I can do it all in one place.  It really smooths out the process.

Vignette - This is an Android camera app which I love.  It has great control placement, allows you to take an image just by touching the screen and it has a lot of post processing options.   I love the Illford B&W simulation  in it.

Sun Surveyor - an ephermeris app that allows you to find the exact sun and moon location any time of day in any place in the world.  The paid version has an augmented reality mode that overlays longitude and latitude lines and allows you to follow the timelines with the real environment around you.

Shot Designer - if you do any kind of flash photography then you've probably setup lighting diagrams to determine how you want your scene to be setup with model, lighting, background and props.  IF you have not, i highly recommend doing it.  Shot Designer was built originally for setup of motion picture scenes, but I find all the tools in the app 100% compatible with still photography.

Square Register - This is great because there are no ongoing fees.  You only pay when you use it.  The card reader is free as is the app.  I run it on my tablets and my phone with no issues.  Super convenient when cash is not an option

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