Best Raw Photo Editing Software
- Wed, 8 Sep 2010
When shooting, capturing Raw files ensures that you can maintain greater control of your final images. Raw doesn't just permit a greater scope for post-production due to the higher amount of data in the file, but permits sharpness and image noise control that, if shooting in JPEG-only mode for example, may otherwise be compromised given the camera's often limited internal processing.
Contrary to belief, processing Raw files needn't be time-consuming. As files can be dealt with in batches it's possible to apply the same basic processing and then make localised adjustments to single images at a later date. The best part is that all work on Raw files is non-destructive because the original file never vanishes and can always be restored back to its ‘as shot', unprocessed status.
Once you've started shooting Raw its benefit is immediate, and the workflow process becomes second nature - assuming you have the right software installed.
Current programs allow for import, batch processing, keyword application and, often, significant levels of post-production control without the need to venture into a separate image editor, including ‘auto' processing to produce the best results at the click of a button.
To speed things up further the option to quickly ‘earmark' best images, reject and even quick-preview images full screen, at 100% without leaving the program, is a prominent feature that makes browsing potential shots for approval all the speedier. Powerful computer setups with a lot of RAM and a fast processor will make such previews seemingly immediate, whatever the image's size, making the investment of good gear all the more important to run software to its best ability.
Round Up: Best Raw Photo Editing Software
Many programs now have the ability to process Raw files, allowing them to be both viewed and converted. The real benefit of Raw is the versatility of the file, allowing a large number of changes to be made due to the significant amount of data in the file. There are several programs dedicated to quick adjustments of files rather than in-depth editing.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 (Mac & PC) £233
The latest incarnation of Adobe's Raw software sees full 64-bit use on Mac or PC with speedy imports of a variety of image formats, including a huge array of Raw files (updated frequently for new camera compatibility). Improved Adobe Camera Raw 6 means better noise reduction, and quite a few post-production tools feature - including spot/heal brush, lens correction, post-crop vignetting and many more.
Apple Aperture 3 (Mac only) £169
Almost like an ‘iPhoto Pro', Aperture 3 adds ‘Faces' and ‘Places' features for face recognition and GPS data mapping. Brushes, adjustments and a full screen browser also feature, with a Photobook design module also coming up trumps. Not the fastest at dealing with batch files, though the inclusion of video importing (with some editing) is a feature not seen to the same extent elsewhere.
DxO Optics Pro 6 (Mac & PC) £135 (Standard) / £269 (Elite)
Somewhat similar to Lightroom in terms of functionality, DxO Optics Pro 6 adds optical correction, exposure optimisation and a variety of presets to your controls. An excellent customisable user interface where panels can be moved at your leisure makes for great use. However, the noise reduction is perhaps a bit more over-zealous than the competition, resulting in marginally softer images, and adjustments can be slow to apply.
Bibble 5 Pro (Mac, PC & Linux) £133 ($199)
A lesser-known program, though one not to be overlooked. Compatible with Mac, PC and even Linux, any operating system can handle Bibble. An alliance with Noise Ninja means that Bibble's image noise reduction capabilities are exceptional, though other more complex post-production features are lacking when compared to the competition. The interface, too, feels a little distant and less intuitive than other software.
Phase One Capture One Pro 5 (Mac & PC) £280
A long-standing favourite with studio photographers thanks to its tethered shooting capability, Capture One Pro is often aassociated with medium format users. As pro as it is, however, there are many features for easy organisation and top-notch post-processing. An individual colour channel adjustment capability also sees colour control escalated to heady heights, though presets and output does tend to rest on the ‘flat' side.