Hey Everyone! This week I thought I would talk about what’s in my photography editing toolbox. If you have someone build you a house, the contractor has more than just a hammer in his toolbox. He has saws, drills, levels, and all sorts of tools at his disposal, each with a unique task to perform. Much like the contractor, as photographers we should have more than one tool in our photo editing toolbox because, like the contractor with the hammer, we cannot edit our photos with just one tool and expect great photos. I’m going to break this down into hardware and software. I’m assuming that we all have a lot invested in both, and I’m going to show you what I have in my toolbox.
Hardware is easy to explain. It's your computer or computers. But it can go much further than that. It can extend to your tablet of choice and even your phone. My main editing computer is a 2015 27-inch IMac, and I just upgraded the mechanical hard drive to a Solid State Drive. It’s maxed out on RAM and is still pretty snappy to be five years old. This is the computer that I really do all of my editing on unless I’m traveling somewhere. Attached to it I have external hard drives: one for miscellaneous stuff and one for photo archives that my software accesses. I use a temporary 250 GB SSD drive that I use as a buffer. I was doing this when I just had a mechanical drive to make the process quicker. I really don’t need to do this anymore now that I have the SSD hard drive, but it's just part of my process. I leave photos on this temp SSD drive until I’ve finished editing to make it quicker. Then I send the photos to the archive. My mobile computer is a 2017 MacBook Air, and I recently upgraded the hard drive in it also. I went from a smaller SSD to a quicker and larger 1TB NVME SSD drive that is twice the speed as the old one. It has brought new life into this computer and made it very snappy. I still only have 8GB RAM, but it seems to run the programs that I have on here pretty well. Like I said, this computer is only used for editing when I’m mobile. It's used mostly for browsing the web and stuff like that. I have a 250 GB SSD that I keep all of my photos on for my mobile computing as a buffer also. After I arrive home, I transfer all of my photos to my main computer. I have an IPad Pro that I tried on my last big outing for my mobile computer, and it worked but was a little cumbersome to use. With keyboard cover I have on it, it seems just as heavy as my MacBook Air. And of course there is my IPhone. I do occasionally edit iPhone photos on it and can access my photos from my main computer. I do have an older MacBook Pro, a 2011 model that has been souped up and is my backup in case my main computer dies. It is strong enough to run all my programs on it that I would need. But it's older and newer software doesn’t like to run on it, so it stays put away most of the time. As you can tell, I am pretty invested into the Apple/Mac ecosystem and have been for quite a while. For me the durability of these machines and how they interact with each other is a great asset. My main computer is backed up to a cloud service Backblaze. All of my external hard drives that are hooked to it are also backed up. The other machines are backed up using Time Machine. Please back up your computers so if something happens you can restore a new computer and everything is as it was.
I use lots of different software to edit my photos, but my main software is Lightroom. Lightroom is the hub where everything takes place. It’s where I import my photos, do basic editing, and can send photos to different software to have specific things done. Then the photo comes back to Lightroom where I can export it to the web or print. It is the heart of all of my photo editing. I have over 50,000 images in its catalog, and I will stay a Lightroom user. Now there are two flavors of Lightroom. There is Lightroom Classic, which is what I use the most, and then there is Lightroom CC (mobile) where I can sync photos to other computers like my mobile computer, IPad, and IPhone. I only sync rated photos. I can edit from a mobile device, and it automatically syncs to the main computer Lightroom Classic. The mobile flavor of Lightroom is a stripped down version, but it still does a lot.
Photoshop is another software that I use and is the industry standard in photo editing and graphic design. It is a monster of a program and will do almost anything. It can be very frustrating to use, and I only use it on occasion when I need to do something specific like add text or something creative like I mentioned in my last blog doing composite photography. It uses a layering system of editing your photographs. Like I said before, it can be complicated to use, and I usually have to watch a tutorial somewhere to relearn how to do something in Photoshop. Photoshop to me is very time consuming because of all of the re-learning going on, but still it comes in handy and can handle any job you throw at it.
Luminar 4 is a recent addition to my toolbox and is also a very powerful tool. It uses AI (artificial inteligence) to do some of its work. It can do things like sky replacement where you just pick a sky and it puts it in the right place in your photo. Or sky enhancement where you just slide a slider and it knows where the sky is and only adjusts it. It has some portrait AI also that I haven’t gotten time to play with yet but will. It’s a vey cool software, and I had Luminar 3 which was great. But when Luminar 4 came out, the user interface was changed quite a bit and it freaked me out, so it took a while before I switched to Luminar 4. I can send a photo from Lightroom, and it will go to Luminar. I make my corrections, hit apply, and it sends the photo back to Lightroom so I can do what I want with it.
The Nik Collection of tools is an older software that has tools like HDR, Color, Sharpening, B/W tools in it. You can export to one of these tools, and after you save it, it brings it back to Lightroom. The tool that I used the most is Silver Effects Pro that lets you edit black and white photographs and make them look like some of the old films. It can emulate lots of different films from the day and really make your photos pop!
Photo Editing Accessories.
Yes, just a couple of accessories. One is a Color Monitor Calibrator. I use one from Exrite, a company that specializes in color calibration from monitors to printers to projectors. I calibrate all of my computers once a month to make sure all of my colors are the same with all of my computers. So red looks like red on my IMac and MacBook. I am a mouse guy. There, I’ve said it. I’m not a trackpad person. I love using a mouse, and my mouse of preference is the Magic Mouse used with IMac and MacBooks. It’s nothing special, but it's made especially for Mac. The last accessory is a Wacom Pen and Tablet. I’m a late adopter into the Wacom world, but I really like the way I can control my brushes when I’m burning and dodging. It seems to work better than the mouse. I don’t use it all the time, but when I’ve got to use the brush tool for any amount of time, this is the tool of choice for me.
So that’s what’s in my toolbox. Seems like a lot, but most of this was purchased over time and learned over time, so it wasn’t such a big impact. What are your tools of editing? Let me know. Until next time, keep shooting and get outside!