My software setup is a little complex, but let me step you through it. Here's the basic workflow:
- Select/Ingest/Browse: PhotoMechanic. There isn't a better choice for pros on the market, and even some Lightroom lovers have discovered that there are reasons to use PhotoMechanic at the front end, especially if time is of the essence. If you're doing sports coverage, for instance, you'll find there isn't a faster way to chose your selects, get them tagged/commented properly, and get them off to your photo editor. That's the reason most of us working pros use it: the ability to go from camera to news or stock bureau as quickly as possible. Drawback: Photo Mechanic could use a real do-over by a UI fanatic. The whole tag/selection mechanism is a mishmash of menu commands that are illogical (you can't untag separate from selection, either).
- Raw Conversion: Varies with need. For quick and dirty conversions, I use Adobe Converter Raw, with many tweaks for the camera I’m shooting. For problem images or specific situations, I'll sometimes use RPP (Mac), CaptureOne, or DxO. I’m currently experimenting with Luminar and ON1 Photo RAW. My use can also vary depending upon which camera I'm shooting, as different raw converters tend to do better jobs with different cameras. Drawback: nothing is "perfect." Every program I use has things about it that are better than others, other things that are worse.
- Edit/Modify: Photoshop CC 2017. I've been using Photoshop since version 1, so it's a no-brainer. I've grown with the program. I just know how to do what I need to do in Photoshop through years of doing it. Drawback: the whole Creative Cloud thing means a monthly tithe and Adobe’s updating leaves a lot to be desired. I also use some additional tools within Photoshop:
- Nik Color Effects 4, Nik Sharpener, Nik Silver Efex Pro, and Nik Dfine. While I can generally do the things that these products do via lots of Photoshop chicanery, it's usually just faster and easier to use these Nik tools.
- Topaz Suite. A lot of duplication with the other suites I use, but some of the Topaz tools simply do unique things that I can’t do other ways.
- Macphun Creative Kit. Again, a lot of duplication with the other suites, but again some of the Macphun tools accomplish things better and faster than the others.
- Piccure+. I’ve taken to this deconvolution sharpener (as opposed to unsharp mask sharpeners) for low level detail, even though it is slow compared to the other solutions.
- Browse/Output: Lightroom. Huh? Yep, I sometimes use Lightroom as the last program my images touch. Lightroom is a great outgester, delivering JPEGs, Web pages, Slide Shows, books, and yes, prints from your personal printer. Yes, I believe Lightroom prints better than Photoshop. And it delivers JPEGs the size and shape I want them faster than any other batch tool, too. Drawback: I'm only using a small part of Lightroom's abilities. Plus I’m essentially ingesting images again at the end of my workflow.
What am I running these on? A maxed out MacBook Pro 15” Touch Bar Retina, and an iMac 27” Retina 5K that's also been tricked out. Suggestion: maximum RAM and SDD drives increase performance for image processing more than CPU/GPU. Also make sure you have a fast (minimum USB 3.0) card reader.