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I have done some senior pictures and am shooting my first wedding next weekend and am looking for suggestions on a photo editing program that is simple and easy to use. I bought Photo Explosion Deluxe and did not like it. I downloaded a free trial of Photoshop CC and find it too complicated for what I'm looking for. I have looked at reviews for most softwares at Best Buy and looking at the 1 star reviews, I then get turned away. Not sure what direction to go.

closed as off-topic by mattdm, Philip Kendall, MikeW, Hugo, TFuto Jun 29 '15 at 14:56

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  • gimp.org – Count Iblis Jun 26 '15 at 19:39
  • I couldn't get gimp to open on my computer after I downloaded it. It loaded half way when opening and then stopped responding. I also was looking into it and from what I understood, I could not open RAW photos easily in it. Maybe I was wrong tho. – Katie Jun 26 '15 at 19:57
  • what is your camera model is? – hsawires Jun 26 '15 at 20:06
  • I have Canon Rebel T3 – Katie Jun 26 '15 at 20:08
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    You may want to reword this question so it's not closed as seeking a product recommendation. Possibly asking what features to look for, or how to judge photo processing programs might do it, since you aren't explicitly asking what to buy. :) – inkista Jun 26 '15 at 22:32
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Since you are shooting with a Canon DSLR, you already have a program that does at least 95% of what Lightroom does and won't cost you anything more than what you have already spent on the camera: Canon's Digital Photo Professional. It is included on the software disc that came with your camera and can be updated free via download from Canon's support sites.

I own Lr and use it for some things. But I do almost all of my raw conversion using DPP. Just as with Lightroom, it will take a while to learn it, but Canon also provides downloadable instruction manuals for their software. I think overall it is a little easier to use while learning all that it is capable of than Lr. And only the Canon software uses the full knowledge of the hardware and firmware of their cameras when converting the raw data to an image. Adobe, DxO, Corel, etc. do not (for a variety of reasons) use the Canon demosaicing algorithms but instead use their own.

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The main problem here is that the simpler and easier to use a software package is, the less control it typically gives you over your final images. You could use Picasa or iPhoto, but are liable to end up being frustrated at the lack of editing choices it allows you. OTOH, something like the Gimp or Photoshop requires time and skill to learn to use effectively, but will give you the widest range of features and options--which, if you're a professional--is probably well worth the investment. I would consider that perhaps money might be better spent on books or taking a class in Photoshop or the Gimp.

However, the middle-range of control vs. complexity that a lot of people seem to find useful is a RAW conversion program. Something like Lightroom, Capture One, Aftershot Pro, Dark Table, or RAW Therapee. You can run the gamut here from open source to commercial packages. But probably the largest number of recommendations will be to grab the trial version of Adobe Lightroom, and consider the photographer's CC subscription that will get you both Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC.

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Unfortunately, all of the programs that are powerful enough to be actually worth using have one thing in common: their user interface assumes that you already know how to use them. Every good RAW processor or image management program is at least as seemingly expert-oriented as Lightroom; every good pixel-pusher is at least as baffling as Photoshop. If you'd started back in the early '90s like you were supposed to, you would have started with a much simpler interface, and would only have to have learned a handful of features with each new release.

Yes, there are friendlier programs, but they all run out of steam when you need them most. If cost is an issue, there are several relatively competent alternatives to Photoshop (Gimp, Paint Shop Pro for Windows, Pixelmator for Mac). None is easier; they're just a little different (and often more difficult for some processes that are more-or-less considered basic tools for retouching). Darktable is a reasonable alternative to Lightroom, but it's no friendlier. Photoshop Elements covers all of the basics, but is restricted in what you can do both in the pixel editor and in its version of Adobe Camera Raw, so if you're shooting an event that can't be reshot, trusting in it may mean that you can't rescue the one picture that matters - you know, that really, really important moment when Uncle Bob's flash went off while your shutter was open. If you weren't shooting events and didn't have to worry about irreplaceable shots, it might be all you need.

If you're considering Lightroom, but are intimidated by it, I'd suggest watching the seminars that Tim Grey did at B&H Photo's Event Space, starting with "Getting Started with Lightroom 5". Tim's a pretty good teacher. There are several others by Tim and by Robert Rodriguez, Jr. on B&H's YouTube channel, and in a couple-three-four hours, you'll be up to speed (before you purchase, if you want). Of course, it takes much longer to learn all of the ins and outs of a program that size, but getting to the point where you can comfortably use it for routine tasks is easier than you might think, and you'll know what to look for when you need help with bigger problems.

Similarly, Photoshop is mostly intimidating because there are so very many ways to do just about anything you want to do. There are a relative handful of tools that you'll use all of the time, and a slightly larger number that you'll use once in a while. There are also a whole bunch of tools that are of interest to illustrators, but pretty much have nothing to offer to photographers. Aaron Nace at Phlearn has put together a pretty decent quick start guide, and while you probably don't want Phlearn to be your only source of information, Phlearn's YouTube channel a great jumping-off point. Again, a couple of evenings of watching videos and trying things out will give you what might have taken a semester's evening classes to learn only a handful of years ago.

The big thing to keep in mind is that it's not rocket surgery. If you have backups of your files and work non-destructively, you can't ruin anything except maybe your evening when you make mistakes. Relax and let yourself learn to make magic happen. It's easier than it seems. (Well, most of the time. Keep an empty swear jar handy for those "special" moments.)

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