Adobe’s new pricing/licensing structure for Photoshop has many photographers re-considering their use and need for this product. I have always been skeptical of this and have never used it in my photography. This could be a good time to share that experience for those who don’t want the more expensive monthly package.
My current and past workflows
I currently use Lightroom, the Nik-Google Suite, and Picture Window Pro to handle most of my processing. There are a few other smaller independent programs I use as well for specialized functions such as exposure and focus blending. I started out with Picture Window Pro for processing and iMatch for management. I do also have Elements and Gimp, but I use them for graphic design work and not photography. They are good tools and I do teach introductory classes in these programs for photographers. I avoid them in photography because of no 16 bit support, but that may not be needed by everyone. GIMP also has sketchy color management. More details will follow in future articles.
I am writing from the perspective of a photographer who strives for the best capture possible in the field and editing that stays close to the original scene. I have never swapped skies in a photo or added an object that was not in front of the camera when the shutter snapped. If you create a lot of original artwork digitally or heavily alter a photograph, the full PS may still be your best choice. Also if you work in the graphics arts industry you will likely need to stay with and know the full PS.
The REAL problem with alternatives
Really, the worst aspect of this is that you are bucking the herd mentality. You are not doing what everyone else is doing. Too many people now confuse photography with spending money. In particular, they confuse photography with using PS. The instant you get a result that is not outstanding, they will blame you for not doing what everyone else is doing. The truth is difficult to accept, but I will admit it: If I didn’t get an outstanding result, it is because my skill with the camera was less than outstanding. You can’t ruin a good exposure by using the “wrong” program. You can only ruin it by doing the wrong thing with any program. If you are working on a copy, you haven’t ruined anything, you have learned something.
I will follow this with articles addressing specific technical details and a final one listing the alternative choices.