I am starting to invest a little more money into my photography business. I've gone from a hobbyist to being asked to take professional shots, so I have the lights and other equipment. I'm upgrading to a new camera soon and was wondering about the differences in the photo editing programs everyone suggests - Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, Piknic, or even the software that comes with a new camera?
If you have to ask, then Photoshop is NOT worth the money.
Only if you need Photoshop, will it ever be worth the money. It is expensive because people who use it find that it pays them back easily.
If you do not know what you need, then you do not need Photoshop.
Photoshop is a tool that can help you solve problems and create creative solutions in your photography business. It is not required for a photography business and Photoshop will NOT make you a 'professional' photographer. Photoshop is complex, powerful, non-intuitive, and flexible.
So then the question is, How do I know I need Photoshop?:
If you need to crop, adjust curves, sharpen etc, then Lightroom is a much better choice.
This depends of what do you want. I mean, Photoshop is more complex and offers a wide range of tools and techniques for photo editing, giving more control over the photo.
If your purpose is only to edit photos quickly, easily, maintaining the complete history of the changes applied without altering the original file, I recommend you Ligthroom. These are some advantages of using Ligthroom over Photoshop:
For beginners Lightroom is the best choice with the best results.
Photoshop is probably not worth the money, try Artweaver first.
Artweaver is another free package - but out of all the free ones I've tried, its the one that feels most like Photoshop ...
It supports the PSD format and if you pay the $29 for the 'plus' version it will allow you to Photoshop filters.
The actually is a version of Photoshop that IS worth the money and that is Photoshop Elements. It has most of the features that Photoshop has, but not all, to a fraction of the price. Check it out before you decide.
Good luck! /B
If you don't have it, I'd recommend Adobe Lightroom and then use Gimp for the occasional 'advanced' edit. Most of the reasons are already outlined in this question. Photoshop is nice, but its not meant to deal with the huge number of photographs you can do from a real shoot. Its a workflow thing.
I find 90%+ of the basic tweaks I need can be done in Lightroom. Its a faster, more efficient workflow. Lightroom is designed for you to make all the small tweaks to your photos fast and efficiently without worrying about changing files around, 'saving' new copies, or changing your mindset for every picture. It saves your changes in metadata and then reconstructs the changes from the metadata instead of saving an altered photo. You 'run' from photo to photo in Lightroom, making the changes quickly or even applying batch changes for whole sets of photos. Its much faster. For the every 'blue moon' edit that I need that Lightroom can't do, you can set the Gimp to be an editor in Lightroom.
It (the Gimp) may lack some of the really advanced features of Photoshop, but in general its pretty suitable. There are plugins for many features (like the content aware fill is provided somewhat by the resynthesizer plugin). We have another question on the differences of Gimp vs Photoshop already. The UI is often a big complaint and can take some getting used to, but after some usage - its acceptable to me.
As Sean points out in a comment above, Adobe Elements is also an option. Its got many of the features of Photoshop, at a fraction of the price.
Piknic and any online editor just isn't in the same class. They're far, far too slow to work with at any real scale.
As far as 'worth it' goes - that's something only you can decide given the benefits and differences above.
At the very least, download a trial of Lightroom and Photoshop. And download an actual copy of Gimp. Start your workflow in Lightroom and see how often you think you need to even go to another editor.