I Tested 10+ Photoshop Alternatives to See How They Stack Up

To Adobe or not to Adobe. That is the question many photographers are asking with the spate of new image processing programs vying to “kill Photoshop.” I tested more than ten contenders as alternatives to Adobe’s image processing software, evaluating them for the specialized task of editing demanding nightscape images taken under the Milky Way, both for single still images and for time-lapses of the moving sky.

If you are hoping there’s a clear winner in the battle against Adobe, one software suite I can say does it all and for less cost and commitment, there isn’t one. Sorry!

However, a number of contenders offer excellent features and might replace at least one member of Adobe’s image processing suite.

For example, only four of these programs can truly serve as a layer-based editing program replacing Photoshop.

The others are better described as Adobe Lightroom competitors – programs that can catalog image libraries and develop raw image files, with some offering adjustment layers for correcting color, contrast, etc. But layering of images – to stack, composite, and mask them – is beyond their ability.

For processing time-lapse sequences, however, we don’t need, nor can we use, the ability to layer and mask several images into one composite. What we need for time-lapses is to:

  • Develop a single key raw file, then …
  • Copy its settings to the hundreds of other raw files in the time-lapse set, then …
  • Export that folder of raw images to “intermediate JPGs” for assembly into a movie.

Even so, not all these contenders are up to the task.

The Competitors

Here are the image processing programs I looked at. Costs are in U.S. dollars. Most have free trial copies available.

The Champion from Adobe

Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, Bridge, and Lightroom — the standards to measure others by

Cost: $10 a month by subscription, includes ACR, Photoshop, Bridge, and Lightroom
OS: Windows and Mac

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is the raw development plug-in that comes with Photoshop and Adobe Bridge, Adobe’s image browsing application that accompanies Photoshop. Camera Raw is equivalent to the Develop module in Lightroom, Adobe’s cataloguing and raw processing software. Camera Raw and Lightroom have identical processing functions and can produce identical results.

Photoshop and Lightroom complement each other and are now available together, but only by monthly subscription through Adobe’s Creative Cloud service, at $10/month. Though $120 for a year is not far off the cost of purchasing many of these other programs and perhaps upgrading them annually, many photographers prefer to purchase their software and not subscribe to it.

Thus the popularity of these alternative programs. Most offered major updates in late 2017.

My question is, how well do they work? Are any serious contenders to replace Photoshop or Lightroom?

Lightroom Contenders: Five Raw Developers

ACDSee Photo Studio (current as of late 2017)

Cost: $60 to $100, depending on version, upgrades $40 to $60.
OS: Windows and Mac

I tested the single MacOS version. Windows users have a choice of either a Standard or Professional version. Only the Pro version offers the full suite of raw development features, in addition to cataloging functions. The MacOS version resembles the Windows Pro version.

Capture One v11 (late 2017 release)

Cost: $299, and $120 for major upgrades, or by subscription for $180/year
OS: Windows and Mac

As of version 11 this powerful raw developer and cataloguing program offers “Layers.” But these are only for applying local adjustments to masked areas of an image. You cannot layer different images. So Capture One cannot be used like Photoshop, to stack and composite images. It is a Lightroom replacement only, but a very good one indeed.

Corel Aftershot Pro v3 (late 2017)

Cost: $80, and $60 for upgrades
OS: Windows, Mac, and Linux

Here’s a low cost Lightroom replacement for image management and raw processing abilities. Noise reduction is “Perfectly Clear” from Athentech and works well.

DxO PhotoLab ELITE v1 (late 2017)

Cost: $199
OS: Windows and Mac

The ELITE version of what DxO now calls “PhotoLab” offers DxO’s superb PRIME noise reduction and excellent ClearView contrast enhancement feature. While it has an image browser, PhotoLab does not create a catalog, so this isn’t a full Lightroom replacement, but it is a superb raw developer. DxO also recently acquired the excellent Nik Collection of image processing plug-ins, so we can expect some interesting additions and features.

Raw Therapee v5.3 (mid-2017 release)

Cost: Free
OS: Windows, Mac, and Linux

This free open source program has been created and is supported by a loyal community of programmers. It offers a bewildering blizzard of panels and controls, among them the ability to apply dark frames and flat field images, features unique among any raw developer and aimed specifically at astrophotographers. Yes, it’s free, but the learning curve is precipitous.

Photoshop Contenders: Four Raw Developers with Layering/Compositing

These programs can not only develop at least single raw images, if not many, but also offer some degree of image layering, compositing, and masking like Photoshop.

However, only ON1 Photo RAW can do that and also catalog/browse images as Lightroom can. Neither Affinity, Luminar, or Pixelmator offer a library catalog like Lightroom, nor even a file browsing function such as Adobe Bridge, serious deficiencies I feel.

Affinity Photo v1.6 (late 2017)

Cost: $50
OS: Windows and Mac

This is the lowest cost raw developer and layer-based program on offer here, and has some impressive features, such as stacking images, HDR blending, and panorama stitching. However, it lacks any library or cataloguing function, so this is not a Lightroom replacement, but it could replace Photoshop.

Luminar 2018

Cost: $80, and $40 for major upgrades
OS: Windows and Mac

Macphun has changed their name to Skylum and now makes their fine Luminar program for both Mac and Windows. While adding special effects is its forte, Luminar does work well both as a raw developer and layer-based editor. But like Affinity, it has no cataloguing feature. It cannot replace Lightroom.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Cost: $120, and $100 for major upgrades
OS: Windows and Mac

Of all the contenders tested here, this is the only program that can truly replace both Lightroom and Photoshop, in that ON1 has cataloguing, raw developing, and image layering and masking abilities. In fact, ON1 allows you to migrate your Lightroom catalog into its format. However, ON1’s cost to buy and maintain is similar to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photo subscription plan. It’s just that ON1’s license is “perpetual.”

NOTE: Windows users might find Corel’s Paintshop Pro 2018 a good “do-it-all” solution – I tested only Corel’s raw developer program Aftershot Pro, which Paintshop Pro uses.

Pixelmator Pro v1 (late 2017 release)

Cost: $60
OS: MacOS only

The “Pro” version of Pixelmator was introduced in November 2017. It has an innovative interface and many fine features, and it allows layering and masking of multiple images. However, it lacks some of the key functions (listed below) needed for nightscape and time-lapse work. Touted as a Photoshop replacement, it isn’t there yet.

The Challenge

This is the image I threw at all the programs, a 2-minute exposure of the Milky Way taken at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta in late July 2017.

Note: Click/tap on any of the screen shots to bring them up full screen so you can inspect and save them.

Original Raw Image Out of the Camera, BEFORE Development

The lens was the Sigma 20mm Art lens at f/2 and the camera the Nikon D750 at ISO 1600. The camera was on a tracking unit (a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini) to keep stars pinpoints.

Thus the ground is blurred. Keep that in mind, as it will always look fuzzy in the comparison images. But it does show up noise well, including hot pixels. This image of the sky is designed to be composited with one taken without the tracker turning, to keep the ground sharp.

Raw Image AFTER Development in Adobe Camera Raw

Above is the image after development in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), using sliders under its Basic, Tone Curve, Detail, HSL, Lens Corrections, and Effects tabs. Plus I added a “local adjustment” gradient to darken the sky at the top of the frame. I judged programs on how well they could match or beat this result.

Same Image Developed in Adobe Lightroom

Above is the same image developed in Adobe Lightroom, to demonstrate how it can achieve identical results to Camera Raw, because at heart it is Camera Raw.

Feature Focus

I have assumed a workflow that starts with raw image files from the camera, not JPGs, for high-quality results.

And I have assumed the goal of making that raw image look as good as possible at the raw stage, before it goes to Photoshop or some other bit-mapped editor. That’s an essential workflow for time-lapse shooting, if not still-image nightscapes.

However, I made no attempt to evaluate all these programs for a wide range of photo applications. That would be a monumental task!

Nor, in the few programs capable of the task, did I test image layering. My focus was on developing a raw image. As such, I did not test the popular free program GIMP, as it does not open raw files. GIMP users must turn to one of the raw developers here as a first stage.

If you are curious how a program might perform for your purposes and on your photos, then why not test drive a trial copy?

Instead, my focus was on these programs’ abilities to produce great looking results when processing one type of image: my typical Milky Way nightscape, below.

TIFF Exported from DxO PhotoLab … then Imported into Photoshop

Such an image is a challenge because…

  • The subject is inherently low in contrast, with the sky often much brighter than the ground. The sky needs much more contrast applied, but without blocking up the shadows in the ground.
  • The sky is often plagued by off-color tints from artificial and natural sky glows.
  • The ground is dark, perhaps lit only by starlight. Bringing out landscape details requires excellent shadow recovery.
  • Key to success is superb noise reduction. Images are shot at high ISOs and are rife with noise in the shadows. We need to reduce noise without losing stars or sharpness in the landscape.

I focused on being able to make one image look as good as possible as a raw file, before bringing it into Photoshop or a layer-based editor – though that’s where it will usually end up, for stacking and compositing, as per the final result shown at the end.

I then looked at each program’s ability to transfer that one key image’s settings over to what could be hundreds of other images taken that night, either for stacking into star trails or for assembling into a time-lapse movie.

Summary Conclusions

Results of 8 Programs compared to ACR (at left)

None of the programs I tested ticked all the boxes in providing all the functions and image quality of the Adobe products.

But here’s a summary of my recommendations:

For Advanced Time-Lapse

None of the non-Adobe programs will work with the third-party software LRTimelapse. It is an essential tool for advanced time-lapse processing. LRTimelapse works with Lightroom or ACR/Bridge to gradually shift processing settings over a sequence, and smooth annoying image flickering.

If serious and professional time-lapse shooting is your goal, none of the Adobe contenders will work. Period. Subscribe to Creative Cloud. And buy LRTimelapse.

For Basic Time-Lapse

However, for less-demanding time-lapse shooting, when the same settings can be applied to all the images in a sequence, then I feel the best non-Adobe choices are, in alphabetical order:

  • ACDSee
  • Capture One
  • Corel Aftershot Pro
  • DxO PhotoLab
  • ON1 Photo RAW

… With, in my opinion, DxO and Capture One having the edge for image quality and features. But all five have a Library or Browser mode with easy-to-use Copy & Paste and Batch Export functions needed for time-lapse preparation.

For Still Image Nightscapes

If you are processing just individual still images, perhaps needing only to stack or composite a few exposures, and want to do all the raw development and subsequent layering of images within one non-Adobe program, then look at (again alphabetically):

  • Affinity Photo
  • Luminar 2018
  • ON1 Photo RAW 2018

… With Affinity Photo having the edge in offering a readily-available function off its File menu for stacking images, either for noise smoothing (Mean) or creating star trails (Maximum).

However, I found its raw development module did not produce as good a result as most competitors due to Affinity’s poorer noise reduction and less effective shadow and highlight controls. Using Affinity’s “Develop Persona” module, I could not make my test image look as good as with other programs.

Luminar 2018 has better noise reduction but it demands more manual work to stack and blend images.

While ON1 Photo Raw has some fine features and good masking tools, it exhibits odd de-Bayering artifacts, giving images a cross-hatched appearance at the pixel-peeping level. Sky backgrounds just aren’t smooth, even after noise reduction.

To go into more detail, these are the key factors I used to compare programs.

Noise Reduction

Absolutely essential is effective noise reduction, of luminance noise and chrominance color speckles and splotches.

Ideally, programs should also have a function for suppressing bright “hot” pixels and dark “dead” pixels.

Here’s what I consider to be the “gold standard” for noise reduction, Adobe Camera Raw’s result using the latest processing engine in ACR v10/Photoshop CC 2018.

BEFORE and AFTER Noise Reduction with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

I judged other programs on their ability to produce results as good as this, if not better, using their noise reduction sliders. Some programs did better than others in providing smooth, noiseless skies and ground, while retaining detail.

BEFORE and AFTER Noise Reduction and Other Adjustments with DxO PhotoLab

For example, one of the best was DxO PhotoLab, above. It has excellent options for reducing noise without being overwhelming in its choices, the case with a couple of other programs. For example, DxO has a mostly effective dead/hot pixel removal slider.

ACR does apply such a hot pixel removal “under the hood” as a default, but often still leaves many glaring hot specks that must be fixed later in Photoshop.

Comparing Noise Reduction

300% Close-Ups to Compare Noise Reduction

Above are 8 of the contender programs compared to Camera Raw for noise reduction.

Missing from this group is the brand new Pixelmator Pro, for MacOS only. It does not yet have any noise reduction in its v1 release, a serious deficiency in imaging software marketed as “Pro.” For that reason alone, I cannot recommend it. I describe its other deficiencies below.

Lens Corrections

The wide-angle lenses we typically use in nightscape and time-lapse imaging suffer from vignetting and lens distortions. Having software that can automatically detect the lens used and apply bespoke corrections is wonderful.

Lens Corrections in Capture One

Only a few programs, such as Capture One (above), have a library of camera and lens data to draw upon to apply accurate corrections with one click. With others you have to dial in corrections manually by eye, which is crude and inaccurate.

Shadows and Highlights

All programs have exposure and contrast adjustments, but the key to making a Milky Way nightscape look good is being able to boost the shadows (the dark ground) while preventing the sky from becoming overly bright, yet while still applying good contrast to the sky.

Shadows and Highlight and other Enhancements in DxO PhotoLab

Of the contenders, I liked DxO PhotoLab best (shown above), not only for its good shadow and highlight recovery, but also excellent “Smart Lighting” and “ClearView” functions which served as effective clarity and dehaze controls to snap up the otherwise low-contrast sky. With most other programs it was tough to boost the shadows without also flattening the contrast.

On the other hand, Capture One’s excellent layering and local adjustments did make it easier to brush in adjustments just to the sky or ground.

However, any local adjustments like those will be feasible only for still images or time-lapses where the camera does not move. In any motion control sequences the horizon will be shifting from frame to frame, making precise masking impractical over a sequence of hundreds of images.

Therefore, I didn’t place too much weight on the presence of good local adjustments. But they are nice to have. Capture One, DxO PhotoLab, and ON1 win here.

Selective Color Adjustments

All programs allow tweaking the white balance and overall tint.

But it’s beneficial to also adjust individual colors selectively, to enhance red nebulas, enhance or suppress green airglow, bring out green grass, or suppress yellow or orange light pollution.

Some programs have an HSL panel (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) or an equalizer-style control for boosting or dialing back specific colors.

Color Adjustments in Capture One

Capture One (above) has the most control over color correction, with an impressive array of color wheels and sliders that can be set to tweak a broad or narrow range of colors.

And yet, despite this, I was still unable to make my test image look quite the way I wanted for color balance. ACR and DxO PhotoLab still won out for the best looking final result.

Copy and Paste Settings

Even when shooting nightscape stills we often take several images to stack later. It’s desirable to be able to process just one image, then copy and paste its settings to all the others in one fell swoop. And then to be able to inspect those images in thumbnails to be sure they all look good.

Some programs (Affinity Photo, Luminar, Pixelmator Pro) lack any library function for viewing or browsing a folder of thumbnail images. Yes, you can export a bunch of images with your settings applied as a user preset, but that’s not nearly as good as actually seeing those images displayed in a Browser mode.

Copy and Paste Settings in ON1 Photo RAW

What’s ideal is a function such as ON1 Photo RAW displays here, and that some other programs have: the ability to inspect a folder of images, work on one, then copy and paste its settings to all the others in the set.

This is absolutely essential for time-lapse work, and nice to have even when working on a small set to be stacked into a still image.

Batch Export

Once you develop a folder of raw images with “Copy and Paste,” you now have to export them with all those settings “baked into” the exported files.

This step is to create an intermediate set of JPGs to assemble into a movie. Or perhaps to stack into a star trail composite using third party software such as StarStaX, or to work on the images in another layer-based program of your choice.

Batch Export in ON1 Photo RAW

As ON1 Photo RAW shows above, this is best done using a Library or Browser mode to visually select the images, then call up an Export panel or menu to choose the image size, format, quality, and location for the exports.

Click Export and go for coffee – or a leisurely dinner – while the program works through your folder. All programs took an hour or more to export hundreds of images.


Those functions were the key features I looked for when evaluating the programs for nightscape and time-lapse work.

Every program had other attractive features, often ones I wished were in Adobe Camera Raw. But if the program lacked any of the above features, I judged it unsuitable.

Yes, the new contenders to the Photoshop crown have the benefit of starting from a blank slate for interface design.

Luminar 2018’s Clean User Interface

Many, such as Luminar 2018 above, have a clean, attractive design, with less reliance on menus than Photoshop.

Photoshop has grown haphazardly over 25 years, resulting in complex menus. Just finding key functions can take many tutorial courses!

But Adobe dares to “improve” Photoshop’s design and menu structure at its peril, as Photoshop fans would scream if any menus they know and love were to be reorganized!

The new mobile-oriented Lightroom CC is Adobe’s chance to start afresh with a new interface.

Summary Table of Key Features

Click or tap to view and save full screen version.

Fair: Feature is present but doesn’t work as easily or produce as good a result

Partial: Program has lens correction but failed to fully apply settings automatically / DxO has a Browse function but not Cataloging

Manual: Program has only a manually-applied lens correction

: Program is missing that feature altogether

Program-by-Program Results

I could end the review here, but I feel it’s important to present the evidence, in the form of screen shots of all the programs, showing both the whole image, and a close-up to show the all-important noise reduction.

ACDSee Photo Studio

ACDSee Full Screen
ACDSee Enlargement

Pros: This capable cataloging program has good selective color and highlight/shadow recovery, and pretty smooth noise reduction. It can copy and paste settings and batch export images, for time-lapses. It is certainly affordable, making it a low-cost Lightroom contender.

Cons: It lacks any gradient or local adjustments, or even spot removal brushes. Lens corrections are just manual. There is no dehaze control, which can be useful for snapping up even clear night skies. You cannot layer images to create composites or image stacks. This is not a Photoshop replacement.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo Full Screen
Affinity Photo Enlargement

Pros: Affinity supports image layers, masking with precise selection tools, non-destructive “live” filters (like Photoshop’s Smart Filters), and many other Photoshop-like functions. It has a command for image stacking with a choice of stack modes for averaging and adding images.

It’s a very powerful but low cost alternative to Photoshop, but not Lightroom. It works fine when restricted to working on just a handful of images.

Cons: Affinity has no lens correction database, and I found it hard to snap up contrast in the sky and ground without washing them out, or having them block up. Raw noise reduction was acceptable but not up to the best for smoothness. It produced a blocky appearance. There are no selective color adjustments.

Nor is there any library or browse function. You can batch export images, but only through an unfriendly dialog box that lists images only by file name – you cannot see them. Nor can you copy and paste settings visually, but only apply a user-defined “macro” to develop images en masse upon export.

This is not a program for time-lapse work.

Capture One 11

Capture One 11 Full Screen
Capture One 11 Enlargement

Pros: With version 11 Capture One became one of the most powerful raw developers, using multiple layers to allow brushing in local adjustments, a far better method than Adobe Camera Raw’s local adjustment “pins.” It can create a catalog from imported images, or images can be opened directly for quick editing. Its noise reduction was good, with hot pixel removal lacking in Camera Raw.

Its color correction options were many!

It can batch export images. And it can export files in the raw DNG format, though in tests only Adobe Camera Raw was able to read the DNG file with settings more or less intact.

Cons: It’s costly to purchase, and more expensive than Creative Cloud to subscribe to. Despite all its options I could never quite get as good looking an image using Capture One, compared to DxO PhotoLab for example.

It is just a Lightroom replacement; it can’t layer images.

Corel Aftershot Pro 3

Corel Aftershot Pro Full Screen
Corel Aftershot Pro Enlargement

Pros: This low-cost option has good noise reduction using Athentech’s Perfectly Clear process, with good hot pixel or “impulse” noise removal. It has good selective color and offers adjustment layers for brushing in local corrections. And its library mode can be used to copy and paste settings and batch export images.

Again, it’s solely a Lightroom alternative.

Cons: While it has a database of lenses, and identified my lens, it failed to apply any automatic corrections. Its shadow and highlight recovery never produced a satisfactory image with good contrast. Its local adjustment brush is very basic, with no edge detection.

DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab Full Screen
DxO PhotoLab Enlargement

Pros: I found DxO produced the best looking image, better perhaps than Camera Raw, because of its DxO ClearView and Smart Lighting options. It has downloadable camera and lens modules for automatic lens corrections. Its noise reduction was excellent, with its PRIME option producing by far the best results of all the programs, better perhaps than Camera Raw, plus with hot pixel suppression.

DxO has good selective color adjustments, and its copy and paste and batch export work fine.

Cons: There are no adjustment layers as such. Local adjustments and repairing are done through the unique U-Point interface which works something like ACR’s “pins,” but isn’t as visually intuitive as masks and layers. Plus, DxO is just a raw developer; there is no image layering or compositing. Nor does it create a catalog as such.

So it is not a full replacement for either Lightroom or Photoshop. But it does produce great looking raw files for export (even as raw DNGs) to other programs.

Luminar 2018

Luminar 2018 Full Screen
Luminar 2018 Enlargement

Pros: Luminar has good selective color adjustments, a dehaze control, and good contrast adjustments for highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Adjustments can be added in layers, making them easier to edit. Noise reduction was smooth and artifact-free, but adjustments were basic. Many filters can be painted on locally with a brush, or with a radial or gradient mask.

Cons: It has no lens correction database; all adjustments are manual. The preview was slow to refresh and display results when adjusting filters. The interface is clean but always requires adding filters to the filter panel to use them when creating new layers. Its batch export is crude, with only a dialog box and no visual browser to inspect or select images.

Settings are applied as a user preset on export, not through a visual copy-and-paste function. I don’t consider that method practical for time-lapses.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

ON1 Photo RAW Full Screen
ON1 Photo RAW Enlargement

Pros: ON1 is the only program of the bunch that can: catalog images, develop raw files, and then layer and stack images, performing all that Lightroom and Photoshop can do. It is fast to render previews in its “Fast” mode, but in its “Accurate” mode ON1 is no faster than Lightroom. It has good layering and masking functions, both in its Develop mode and in its Photoshop-like Layers mode.

Selective color and contrast adjustments were good, as was noise reduction. Developing, then exporting a time-lapse set worked very well, but still took as long as with Lightroom or Photoshop.

Cons: Despite promising automatic lens detection and correction, ON1 failed to apply any vignetting correction for my 20mm Sigma lens. Stars exhibited dark haloes, even with no sharpening, dehaze, or noise reduction applied. Its de-Bayering algorithm produced a cross-hatched pattern at the pixel level, an effect not seen on other programs.

Noise reduction did not smooth this. Thus, image quality simply wasn’t as good.

Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro Full Screen
Pixelmator Pro Enlargement

Pros: It is low cost. And it has an attractive interface.

Cons: As of version 1 released in November 2017 Pixelmator Pro lacks: any noise reduction (it’s on their list to add!), any library mode or copy and paste function, nor even the ability to open several images at once displayed together.

It is simply not a contender for “Photoshop killer” for any photo application, despite what click-bait “reviews” promise, ones that only re-write press releases and don’t actually test the product.

Raw Therapee v5.3

Raw Therapee Full Screen
Raw Therapee Enlargement – With and Without Noise Reduction

Pros: It’s free! It offers an immense number of controls and sliders. You can even change the debayering method. It detects and applies lens corrections (though in my case only distortion, not vignetting). It has good selective color with equalizer-style sliders. It has acceptable (sort of!) noise reduction and sharpening with a choice of methods, and with hot and dead pixel removal.

It can load and apply dark frames and flat fields, the only raw developer software that can. This is immensely useful for deep-sky photography.

Cons: It offers an immense number of controls and sliders! Too many! It is open source software by committee, with no one in charge of design or user friendliness. Yes, there is documentation, but it, too, is a lot to wade through to understand, especially with its broken English translations. This is software for digital signal processing geeks.

But worst of all, as shown above, its noise reduction left lots of noisy patches in shadows, no matter what combination of settings I applied. Despite all its hundreds of sliders, results just didn’t look as good.

Even More Options

Not enough choices for you? How about …

Alien Skin Exposure x3

Alien Skin Exposure x3 at work on the the image

Available for Mac and Windows for $150, this Lightroom competitor offers a good browser function, with the ability to “copy-from-one and paste-to-many” images (unlike some of the programs below), and a good batch export function for time-lapse work. It has good selective color controls and very good noise reduction providing a smooth background without artifacts like blockiness or haloes. Local adjustments, either through brushed-on adjustments or through gradients, are applied via handy and easy to understand (I think!) layers.

While it has auto lens corrections, its database seemed limited — it did not have my Sigma 20mm lens despite it being on the market for 18 months. Manual vignetting correction produced a poor result with just a washed out look.

The main issue was that its shadow, highlight, and clarity adjustments just did not produce the snap and contrast I was looking for, but that other programs could add to raw files. Still, it looks promising, and is worth a try with the trial copy. You might find you like it. I did not. For similar cost, other programs did a better job, notably DxO PhotoLab.


In the same ilk as Raw Therapee, I also tested out another free, open-source raw developer, one simply called “darktable,” with v2.2.5 shown below. While it has some nice functions and produced a decent result, it took a lot of time and work to use.

darktable RAW Developer

The MacOS version I tried (on a brand new 5K iMac) ran so sluggishly, taking so long to re-render screen previews, that I judged it impractical to use. Sliders were slow to move and when I made any adjustments often many seconds would pass before I would see the result. Pretty frustrating, even for free.

Iridient Developer

Iridient Developer

A similar crowd-developed raw processing program, Iridient Developer (above), sells for $99 US. I tested a trial copy of v3.2. While it worked OK, I was never able to produce a great looking image with it. It had no redeeming features over the competition that made its price worthwhile.

Paintshop Pro

Being a Mac user, I did not test this popular Windows-only program from Corel. It uses Corel’s Aftershot Pro (which I did test) to provide its raw developing “engine,” which is what I am focusing on here in all programs. So for the purposes I am showing, you can consider my review of Aftershot a review of Paintshop, with the proviso that Paintshop Pro can also do further layering of images, as per Photoshop. Indeed, it is promoted as a low-cost Photoshop replacement.

As such, Windows users may find Paintshop’s features attractive. However, Aftershot Pro (along with Picktorial below) did the poorest job making my test image look good. So I wouldn’t use it.

Picktorial v3

MacOS-only Picktorial v3, with its clean interface

This little-known MacOS-only program (only $40 on sale) for developing raw images looks very attractive, with good selective color, lots of local adjustments, and good masking tools, the features promoted on the website. It does have a browse function and can batch export a set of developed files.

However … its noise reduction was poor, introducing glowing haloes around stars when turned up to any useful level. Its shadows, highlights, and contrast adjustments were also poor – it was tough to make the test image look good without flattening contrast or blocking up shadows. Boosting clarity even a little added awful dark haloes to stars, making this a useless function. It has no lens correction, either automatic or manual. Like Topaz Studio, below, it cannot copy and paste settings to a batch of images, only to one image at a time, so it isn’t useful for time-lapse processing.

I cannot recommend this program, no matter how affordable it might be.

Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio at work on the test image

While Topaz Labs previously offered only plug-ins for Photoshop and other programs (their Topaz DeNoise 6 is very good), their Topaz Studio stand-alone program now offers full raw processing abilities.

It is for Mac and Windows. While it did a decent job developing my test Milky Way image (above), with good color and contrast adjustments, it cannot copy and paste settings from one image to a folder of images, only to one other image. Nor can it batch export a folder of images. Both deficiencies make it useless for time-lapse work.

In addition, while the base program is free, adding the “Pro Adjustments” modules I needed to process my test image (Noise Reduction, Dehaze, Precision Contrast, etc.) would cost $160 – each Adjustment is bought separately. Some users might like it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Adobe Photoshop Elements v18 (late 2017 release)

What about Adobe’s own Photoshop “Lite?” Elements is available for $99 as a boxed or downloadable one-time purchase, but with annual updates costing about $50. While it offers image and adjustment layers, it cannot do much with 16-bit images, and has very limited functions for developing raw files.

And its Lightroom-like Organizer module does not have any copy-and-paste settings or batch export functions, making it unsuitable for time-lapse production.

Photoshop Elements v18 – Showing its Version of Camera Raw Lite

Elements is for processing photos for the snapshot family album. Like Apple’s Photos and other free photo apps, I don’t consider Elements to be a serious option for nightscape and time-lapse work. But it can be pressed into service for raw editing and layering single images, especially by beginners.

However, a Creative Cloud Photo subscription doesn’t cost much more than buying, then upgrading Elements outright, yet gets you far, far more in professional-level software.

What Would I Buy?

Except for Capture One, which I tested as a trial copy, I did buy all the software in question, for testing for my Nightscapes eBook.

However, as I’ve described, none of the programs tick all the boxes. Each has strengths, but also weaknesses, if not outright deficiencies. I don’t feel any can fully replace Adobe products for features and image quality.

A possible non-Adobe combination for the best image quality might be DxO PhotoLab for raw developing and basic time-lapse processing, and Affinity Photo for stacking and compositing still images, from finished TIFF files exported out of DxO and opened and layered with Affinity.

But that combo lacks any cataloging option. For that you’d have to add ACDSee or Aftershot for a budget option. It’s hardly a convenient workflow I’d want to use.

ON1 De-Bayer Artifacts (Right) Compared to DxO PhotoLab (Left), at 400%

I’d love to recommend ON1 Photo RAW more highly as a single solution, if only it had better raw processing results, and didn’t suffer from de-Bayering artifacts (shown in a 400% close-up above, compared to DxO PhotoLab). These add the star haloes and a subtle blocky pattern to the sky, most obvious at right.

To Adobe or Not to Adobe

I’m just not anxious, as others are, to “avoid Adobe.”

I’ve been a satisfied Creative Cloud subscriber for several years, and view the monthly fee as the cost of doing business. It’s much cheaper than the annual updates that boxed Photoshop versions used to cost. Nor am I worried about Adobe suddenly jacking up the fees or holding us hostage with demands.

LRTimelapse at Work on a Time-Lapse Sequence

For me, the need to use LRTimelapse (shown above) for about 80 percent of all the time-lapse sequences I shoot means the question is settled. LRTimelapse works only with Adobe software, and the combination works great. Sold.

I feel Camera Raw/Lightroom produces results that others can only just match, if that.

Only DxO PhotoLab beat Adobe for its excellent contrast enhancements and PRIME noise reduction.

Yes, other programs certainly have some fine features I wish Camera Raw or Lightroom had, such as:

  • Hot and dead pixel removal
  • Dark frame subtraction and flat field division
  • Better options for contrast enhancement
  • And adding local adjustments to raw files via layers, with more precise masking tools
  • Among others!

But those aren’t “must haves.”

Using ACR or Lightroom makes it easy to export raw files for time-lapse assembly, or to open them into Photoshop for layering and compositing, usually as “smart objects” for non-destructive editing, as shown below.

Final Layered Photoshop Image

Above is the final layered image, consisting of:

  • A stack of 4 tracked exposures for the sky (the test image is one of those exposures)
  • And 4 untracked exposures for the ground.

The mean stacking smooths noise even more. The masking reveals just the sky on the tracked set. Every adjustment layer, mask, and “smart filter” is non-destructive and can be adjusted later.

I’ll work on recreating this same image with the three non-Adobe programs capable of doing so – Affinity, Luminar, and ON1 Photo RAW – to see how well they do. But that’s the topic of a future blog.

Making the Switch?

The issue with switching from Adobe to any new program is compatibility.

While making a switch will be fine when working on all new images, reading the terabytes of old images I have processed with Adobe software (and being able to re-adjust their raw settings and layered adjustments) will always require that Adobe software.

If you let your Creative Cloud subscription lapse, as I understand it the only thing that will continue to work is Lightroom’s Library module, allowing you to review images only. You can’t do anything to them.

None of the contender programs will read Adobe’s XMP metadata files to display raw images with Adobe’s settings intact.

Conversely, nor can Adobe read the proprietary files and metadata other programs create.

With final layered Photoshop files, while some programs can read .PSD files, they usually open them just as flattened images, as ON1 warns it will do above. It flattened all of the non-destructive editing elements created in Photoshop. Luminar did the same.

A Layered Photoshop PSB File Opened in Affinity Photo

Only Affinity Photo (above) successfully read a complex and very large Photoshop .PSB file correctly, honoring at least its adjustment and image layers. So, if backwards compatibility with your legacy Photoshop images is important, choose Affinity Photo.

However, Affinity flattened Photoshop’s smart object image layers and their smart filters. Even Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements doesn’t honor smart objects.

Lest you think that’s a “walled garden” created by “evil Adobe,” keep in mind that the same will be true of the image formats and catalogs that all the contender programs produce.

To read the adjustments, layers, and “live filters” you create using any another program, you will need to use that program.

Will Affinity, DxO, Luminar, ON1, etc. be around in ten years?

Yes, you can save out flattened TIFFs that any program can read in the future, but that rules out using those other programs to re-work any of the image’s original settings.

In Conclusion!

U-Point Local Adjustments in DxO PhotoLab

I can see using DxO PhotoLab (above) or Raw Therapee for some specific images that benefit from their unique features.

Or using ACDSee as a handy image browser.

Luminar 2018 as a Plug-In Within Photoshop

And ON1 and Luminar have some lovely effects that can be applied by calling them up as plug-ins from within Photoshop, and applied as smart filters. Above, I show Luminar working as a plug-in, applying its “Soft & Airy” filter.

In the case of Capture One and DxO PhotoLab, their ability to save images back as raw DNG files (the only contender programs of the bunch that can), means that any raw processing program in the future should be able to read the raw image.

DNG Raw File Created by Capture One Opened in ACR

However, only Capture One’s Export to DNG option produced a raw file readable and editable by Adobe Camera Raw with its settings from Capture One (mostly) intact (as shown above).

Even so, I won’t be switching away from Adobe anytime soon.

But I hope my survey has given you useful information to judge whether you should make the switch. And if so, to what program.

P.S. As I stated earlier, this review expands upon and updates mini-reviews I included in my Nightscapes and Time-Lapses eBook.

About the author: Alan Dyer is an astronomy photography and author. You can find more of his work and writing at his website, The Amazing Sky. This article was also published here.

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Meet the Photographer Who Hiked the Entire Colorado River

Photographer Pete McBride has traveled around the world with his camera for over 20 years, but one of his most incredible achievements has been hiking the entire Colorado River, including through the Grand Canyon. Here’s a great 10-minute profile of McBride by Adorama Spotlight.

McBride’s career was born from a passion for adventure photography in his home state of Colorado, USA.

He soon realized that most of his work involved water in some way, and wherever he went he would meet people involved somehow with the precious commodity, whether that would be a family struggling to get enough water, or someone back-flipping into it.

“Water is just that one common resource that we all share,” says McBride.

Walking the length of the park is an arduous challenge — often leaving before dark to enable enough time to find water since much of the time the hikers traversed through cliff bands thousands of feet above the river.
Havasupai Tribal members perform traditional dances and songs in protest of the Canyon Uranium Mine on the south rim of Grand Canyon. “We are on the fronts lines of contamination if this mine leaks. It will contaminate our water and kill our people,” says Carletta Tulusi, a former tribal council member attending the gathering below Red Butte, the Havasupai sacred peak.

Inspired by his father’s encouragement, McBride undertook a 2-year-long project to document the Colorado River from source to sea. Except the river doesn’t go to the sea. It’s been “used up” that it just ends in the sprawl of a delta.

During his project, there was an attempt to revive the river by flushing water into it. McBride was the last person to kayak the Colorado River from source to sea, finding himself paddling through thick slush.

Jon Waterman, who paddled the entire 1450 miles of the Colorado, comes to the river’s unnatural end, two miles into Mexico, trapped in tamarisk and a cess pool of plastic, fertilizers, and mud. (He completed his journey on foot accompanied by the photographer). By the time the Colorado River reaches its delta, its water has been re-used eight times.

“I wanted to do these stories to make people think,” says McBride.

The Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon, the section itself is 277 miles long and makes up just a part of the entire stretch. Even so, the Grand Canyon is facing challenges of its own from people who want to “make money from this iconic [place].”

Soaking up a sunrise on a the diving board platform — an eight day walk to reach this unique overlook. Access exits throughout Grand Canyon ranging in varying ability levels today but many see the landscape as a opportunity to turn its beauty into quick cash. As commercial tourism proposals continue, many fear this open-aired cathedral will lose one of its greatest attributes — its silence.

McBride has had a fantastic career working for the likes of National Geographic. His one piece of advice to those who want to work for the magazine: “You need to find a story that you care about. You need to find a story that resonates with you.”

(via Adorama via Fstoppers)

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You Can Run Nik Collection Plugins as Standalone Apps — Here’s How

DxO recently announced that it has acquired the Nik Collection suite of popular photo tools after Google abandoned development in May. The Collection is still available as a free download and can be run as standalone programs independent of Photoshop and Lightroom. Here’s how.

Because the old Nik Collection is no longer maintained, some users have voiced concern that the classic plugins will not work with future versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. By running the Nik Collection programs standalone, this is no longer a problem.

If you haven’t already, you can download the Nik Collection for free by entering your email address at DxO’s website. You will receive an email address confirmation, and then a link to download the Collection.

Optionally install as a plugin for Photoshop here

Run through the installation process as usual. When it asks you to add Nik Collection to host applications, you can either select them or ignore them — this trick will work either way.

Take note of the install location

Take note of the install location. On macOS this will default to /Applications/Nik Collection. On Windows, this should be \Program Files\Google\Nik Collection\

Now that the Collection is installed, navigate to the directory from before in your file browser. Here you’ll see a list of all of the programs included in the Collection. You can open them directly by double-clicking on them, but there will be no way to actually import images.

Executables on a Mac
Executables on Windows; Screenshot by Ed Knepley

To actually open an image with one of the programs, simply drag your image and drop it on the executable file. On macOS, the executable files are the ones in the directory you used as the install location (/Applications/Nik Collection). On Windows, look for the .exe inside the directory of the program you want to use (\Program Files\Google\Nik Collection\Color Efex Pro 4\Color Efex Pro 4.exe).

Note that you cannot process RAWs using these programs, so make sure you drag and drop a JPEG or TIFF file. Once opened, edit your file as usual but be warned that clicking save will overwrite the original file. You may want to create a duplicate file before editing with the Nik Collection.

If you are using a Mac, you can also open files with Nik Collection programs by right-clicking the image file and selecting Open With…. You’ll find the Nik Collection programs in the pop-up dialog. This also works in Apple’s Photos app if you right-click an image and select Edit In….

DxO has not announced whether or not they will keep the old versions of Nik Collection available for free once they announce their new version in the middle of 2018. Regardless, using this technique, you can continue to enjoy the classic plugins standalone without worrying about your Photoshop and Lightroom versions.

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Disney to Buy National Geographic in $52 Billion Deal for Fox

National Geographic photographers will likely soon find themselves under the same parent company as Disneyland photographers. Disney is set to take ownership of the famous yellow-bordered magazine as part of its $52 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox.

The acquisition was announced by Disney yesterday and include 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV businesses as well as a large number of assets. One of these assets is Fox’s stake in National Geographic Partners.

Back in September 2015, 21st Century Fox inked a deal with the National Geographic Society that gave Fox a 73% controlling interest in the magazine in exchange for $725 million, an agreement that turned National Geographic into a for-profit company.

Two months later, National Geographic laid off 9% (about 180) of its 2,000 employees as it prepared for its new life as a Fox company. It was the largest headcount reduction in the 127-year history of the National Geographic Society.

National Geographic Society continues to own the remaining 27% of the partnership, called National Geographic Partners. As part of its new deal with Disney, Fox is including its 73% stake in National Geographic Partners.

National Geographic magazine currently has 40 local-language editions, ~3.5 subscribers in the US, ~6.5 million subscribers total, and a total reach of over 30 million adults around the world.

If the $52 billion deal gets US regulator approval — it will be closely scrutinized for anti-trust issues — National Geographic will be joining Disney’s ever-growing stable of well-known brands — assets that include Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and ABC.

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Hasselblad X1D and Zeiss Otus 85mm: The Ultimate in Image Quality?

What camera and lens combination on the market delivers the “ultimate in image quality”? Photographer Matt Granger has been trying out the $8,000 Hasselblad X1D with the $4,500 Zeiss Otus 85mm — both of which are cream of the crop when it comes to cameras and lenses This 11-minute video looks at what this beastly combo can do.

The well-known equipment testing lab DxOMark recently awarded the Hasselblad X1D a score of 102, a mark that’s still the highest ever awarded to any type of camera.

The Otus 85mm has a leaf shutter in the lens, meaning that you can sync your flash speed at something like 1/1000th of a second, rather than 1/250th. Additionally, the Otus 85mm is a 35mm full frame lens that throws a circle of light that fully covers the bigger sensor of the medium format X1D. These two features make the Otus alongside an X1D a very interesting duo.

“The Otus is so d*mn good,” says Granger.

With such a large circle of light there is corner-to-corner sharpness and no vignetting, Granger says.

Using the focus peaking function of the X1D, you can accurately see where focus is at any given time. When peaking shows up on the eye, the eye is actually in focus. Granger says that his experiences with other lenses have shown this not to be the case all the time.

The depth of field is so shallow with the wide f/1.4 aperture of the Otus lens that details in the background just fall away. This is a great choice of lens for those who want smooth skin tones and blemishes to disappear.

Here’s a look at what the combo can do:

You can also download high-res versions of these sample photos from Granger’s website

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These Closeup Photos of Jupiter Look Like Works of Art

NASA’s Juno space probe has been orbiting Jupiter and dazzling us with photos of the giant gas planet for over a year now. In recent days, Juno has captured a number of gorgeous close-up photos that look strangely like impressionist art.

The photo above, captured by Juno from a distance of just 11,747 miles (the distance between New York City in the US and Perth in Australia), shows a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

“Because of the Juno-Jupiter-Sun angle when the spacecraft captured this image, the higher-altitude clouds can be seen casting shadows on their surroundings,” NASA writes. “The behavior is most easily observable in the whitest regions in the image.”

Here are some more colorful close-ups beamed back to our planet by Juno recently:

You can stay up-to-date with Juno’s photos of Jupiter in the NASA Juno Image Gallery.

(via NASA via Colossal)

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Want a Fully Loaded iMac Pro? That’ll Be $13,199, Please

When Apple’s new iMac Pro arrived on the scene yesterday, there was one crazy detail that jumped out at a lot of people: if you choose to include all the optional upgrades, the computer will cost a staggering $13,199. Here’s a closer look at how you get to that price.

Base Price: $4,999

First off, the base configuration of the iMac Pro already costs $4,999. By comparison, the lowest-end Mac Pro you can purchase costs $2,999.

What you get for $4,999 is a 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM, a 1TB SSD, and Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics with 8GB of HBM2 memory.

+$2,400 to Max Out the Processor: $7,399

Instead of a measly 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, you can upgrade to a 2.3GHz 18-core one.

“Up to 18 cores in an iMac,” Apple says. “No, that’s not a typo […] [Y]ou can render images, edit up to 8K video, manipulate photos, create real-time audio effects, or compile your next five-star app — all at lightning speed.”

+$2,400 to Max Out the Memory: $9,799

Why settle for 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory when you can have 128GB of RAM? You know, for if you’d like to keep your entire photo shoot open in separate tabs in Photoshop…

+$2,800 to Max Out the Storage: $12,599

Instead of a 1 terabyte SSD, you can quadruple the storage by upgrading to a 4TB one.

“iMac Pro storage is not user accessible,” Apple warns. “If you think you may need more storage capacity in the future, consider upgrading at the time of purchase.”

+$600 to Max Out the Graphics: $13,199

You can go from a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card with 8GB of HBM2 memory to a 16GB Vega 64 for an extra $600.

Final Price: $13,199

Select all the max upgrades above, and your computer will have a ginormous price tag of $13,199, about the same price as a base model 2018 Chevrolet Spark LS car.

And by comparison, the fully loaded Mac Pro costs $7,128, or about 54% the cost of the fully upgraded iMac Pro.

(via Apple via DPReview)

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A creative approach: three photographers reflect on their use of social media

The emergence of image-led social media has opened up a whole new realm of display for photographers. Unlike in a gallery or print publication, photographic work published on these platforms reaches a much larger audience. But, in the absence of a curator or editor, photographers are tasked with making a selection of their own work and the choice of how to organise and caption their images is entirely up to them.

With the recent launch of Cinnac, a Tinder-style app allowing photographers to rate one another’s photographs before posting on social media, British Journal of Photography spoke to three different practitioners about the processes and motives behind their social media presence.

London-based photographer Maisie Cousins, renowned for her visceral shots of subject matter that is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, began sharing her work with the internet aged just 15. Since then, Cousins has gone from success to success, with features in Petra Collins’ Babe, Charlotte Jansen’s photo book Girl on Girl, and a recent solo show at TJ Boulting Gallery.

Dead cat in a ‘Western Family’ plastic bag. Orderville, Utah, USA. March 2017. (From ‘Good Morning America’) © Mark Power

Magnum photographer Mark Power was late to the party. He had been making work for 30 years before finally joining Instagram in October 2015. Focused on long-term, self-initiated projects, to date, Power has published eight books exploring a range of subjects, most recently Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment (2016), an exploration of pre-Brexit Britain in collaboration with the poet Daniel Cockrill. 

Photojournalist Adam Ferguson first gained recognition in 2009 for a long-term survey of the US-led war in Afghanistan. Three years later he joined Instagram, posting personal work and commissions for a range of clients, including TIME Magazine, The New York Times and Human Rights Watch. Ferguson is currently also working on two monographs: a war diary of his time in Afghanistan and a critique of contemporary regional Australian identity.

Nigel Brannan and Rumi, at my apartmen in Williamsburg, NY © Adam Ferguson

At what point in your career did you start using image-led social media and how did you approach it – was it a case of experimenting with what worked, or did you begin with a clear vision of how you would present your work?

Mark Power: I was pushed, pressed, and pummelled towards using Instagram by my daughter Chilli. She kept telling me how much I’d enjoy it, but to me it just seemed like a total waste of time. Of course, in the end, I reluctantly gave in, but only after Chilli offered to manage the account.

Another reason I’d always shied away from Instagram was because I use an extremely high-end camera in my work and I knew this inherent quality would be lost if the picture was viewed on a tiny screen. But in hindsight it’s been interesting to see which pictures work, for me at least, without relying on technical quality. I know I’m guilty of over-obsessing about this sometimes, so it’s good to get back to basics and recognise other, more fundamental reasons why a picture works, or not.

Myvatn, Iceland. August 1996. (Reject from ’The Shipping Forecast’) © Mark Power

Maisie Cousins: It was entirely trial and error, and very experimental. I’ve played around with most platforms – blogger, Tumblr and Instagram – and each makes you view your work differently.

Adam Ferguson: I started using Instagram in 2012. Initially it was an intuitive play, I would post photos from my downtime – personal moments at home or images from assignments that didn’t relate specifically to the subject I was assigned to photograph. I didn’t have a clear vision, it was mostly reactive and free.

© Maisie Cousins

As you’ve continued to use image-led social media, has your approach to it evolved?

MP: Chilli was right of course. I’ve grown to love Instagram and between us we make sure I post at least one picture every day. I also use social media to draw attention to any books I might publish. In particular I’ve been posting regularly from my long-term, on-going project Good Morning America. Instead of keeping the work close to my chest, I’ve been very open with it, showing all the best pictures. It’s also a way of keeping those who are interested in my work up to date with what I’m currently doing.

Chilli manages the images from my archive. There’s 35 years of work to get through. It’s a way of bringing back to life work that would otherwise be resigned to history at best, or a box under my bed at worst. 

MC: I post a lot less of my actual physical self.

AF: I think my process has become more deliberate and I have aligned social media with my professional vision and goals. Instagram has become a platform for me to increase the audience that sees my work. When a commission is used or published I post about it and I think clients expect that these days. It’s also an opportunity to post outtakes, which allows me to have a voice beyond the decisions a client makes about an edit.

T Mag The Greats Party, Met Breuer, New York, USA © Adam Ferguson

Is it challenging making an edit of your work for image-led social media platforms or exciting being able to experiment with curating your own images?How do you select what you post?

MP: When I post work-in-progress, I’m using Instagram to try out pictures for myself. In any case, I don’t really understand what gets some pictures more ‘likes’ than others.  

Originally I thought that posts needed to be simple, bold, perhaps even graphic in nature to ‘do well’. But my most popular picture ever (below), which I posted during a recent trip to the Rustbelt, is complex. Then again, yesterday, I posted something from the same trip which I really thought would do well because of its simplicity and direct political content, but it’s really struggled to gain those little hearts. So what do I know? 

Genoa, Illinois, USA. November 2017 (From ‘Good Morning America’) © Mark Power

MC: For me that’s part of the process, selecting and marrying images together. I approach image-making playfully, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. There’s no set projects, its ongoing and the images are tangible.

With things like Instagram I just post when I feel like it, whenever I’ve made something. It’s more of a scrapbook. It’s like picture vomiting.

AF: It’s liberating to be self determining when it comes to edits and curating your work through social media. It enables a photographer to have a higher degree of autonomy and increase their authorship. Using social media challenges me to discover my own voice and execute it independently.

What I post influences the type of work I am commissioned to produce, allowing me to steer my own career more so than I could have previously.

I try to be intuitive and true to the integrity of my work and vision. I think being authentic is the only currency a storyteller has, so I try to let that come through in my posts.

© Maisie Cousins

From your experience of posting work on image-led social media platforms, what advice can you offer to other photographers?

MP: Take Instagram seriously, certainly, and think about what you post, but don’t imagine you’re going to build a career on the back of it. And please don’t stop looking at books or visiting exhibitions or attending lectures. There are more ways to see good photography than on a tiny screen.

MC: It’s essentially your gallery without paying heaps of printing costs. Try not to compare yourself to others. It may look like everyone is being really productive and successful, but, like you, they are probably all just endlessly scrolling and sobbing on Instagram in bed,so don’t be hard on yourself.

AF: Use it as a diary, as a way to develop and be yourself. Post the pictures you want to be paid to create.

Curating social media is a highly personal process, offering a space for photographers to discover and develop their own visual voice. From showcasing new work to reviving photographs from one’s archive, these platforms provide a place for creative experimentation. Cinnac offers a unique opportunity to select the best of your work before posting it on social media. Try out the app for free now.

© Adam Ferguson

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Ep. 237: Well Ain’t That a Kick in the Head – and more


Episode 237 of the PetaPixel Photography Podcast.
Download MP3 –  Subscribe via iTunesGoogle Playemail or RSS!

Featured: Photographer and educator, Joe Edelman

In This Episode

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Show Opener:
Photographer and educator, Joe Edelman opens the show. Thanks Joe!

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A rockstar kicks a photographer in the face…and may pay the price. (#)

Lumoid closes its doors despite Best Buy deal as others merge. (#)

Worthwhile updates to Adobe’s line of Lightroom products. (#)

Instagram rolls out hashtag following and story highlighting. (#)

Toshiba unveils a 14TB hard drive with newer technology. (#)

One of the world’s top rooftoppers pays the ultimate price for fame. (#)


My other podcast with Brian Matiash, the No Name Photo Show.

Connect With Us

Thank you for listening to the PetaPixel Photography Podcast! Connect with me, Sharky James on TwitterInstagram and Facebook (all @LensShark) as we build this community.

We’d love to answer your question on the show. Leave us an audio question through our voicemail widget, comment below or via social media. But audio questions are awesome!

You can also cut a show opener for us to play on the show! As an example: “Hi, this is Matt Smith with Double Heart Photography in Chicago, Illinois, and you’re listening to the PetaPixel Photography Podcast with Sharky James!”

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New magazine Clove puts the spotlight on South Asian creativity

Launched on 11 December, a brand new biannual, Clove, has a refreshing take on art and culture. Founded by London-based, British-Indian journalist Debika Ray, the magazine focuses on creative work from South Asia and its global diaspora.

“My impression was always that, in Western media, there was a narrow frame of reference when it came to covering parts of the world beyond North America and Europe,” says Ray, who until recently was senior editor at the architecture and design magazine Icon. “Stories from South Asia or the Middle East are often handled in a distant way, focusing on problems or crises and how people battle against odds to overcome things. I wanted to tell stories from those parts of the world in a way that were instead built on their own merit.”

Ray has put together a team that includes art director Simon Kühn (who has worked on titles such as Icon and The Calvert Journal) and design consultant Anja Wohlstrom (who has also worked on Icon, as well as New Statesman and New Humanist Journal), and the first issue features both clean design and a strong photographic element. There are written essays about Himalayan cuisine, post-colonial education, tea, and the sari, for example, but, titled Shifting The Lens, issue 1 also includes images from The Nepal Picture Library, photographs of Bangladeshi architecture by Randhir Singh, photographs of Kashmir by Bharat Sikka, and an article by Kasha Vande, the founder of the Pondi Photo festival in Pondicherry.

A feature in Clove about The Nepal Picture Library

Bangladeshi architecture in Clove, with images by Randhir Singh

A photography feature in Clove about the region of Kashmir, with images by Bharat Sikka and words by Mirza Waheed

Ray has good working relationships with various photo festivals in the area, such as Kathmandu Photo and Just Another Photo Festival in Delhi, and plans to use her connections to find South Asian photographers to shoot portraits, reportage and conceptual images for the magazine. She’s already earmarked Prarthna Singh from India, Jannatul Mawa from Bangladesh, and Prasiit Sthapit from Nepal as people she’d like to commission in future.

The cover for issue 1 is taken from The Nepal Picture Library, an archive started by the people behind Kathmandu Photo which now features over 52,000 images. Taken from peoples’ family albums, this collection aims to create a visual history of the country that also documents its photographic evolution. Clove focuses in on the evolution of studio photography for its article, with the cover image showing a Nepalese soldier posing in a makeshift studio in the 1960s.

“It’s such a stylish and contemporary photo,” says Ray. “Going decade by decade through the photographs you start with the early studio photographers who photographed in royal households and see it changing then to those who went out and set up their own private studios.”

Issue 1 also includes images of Kolkata shot by German-born, London-based photographer Juergen Teller, which are run alongside an interview with him by Kolkata-based architecture writer Shumi Bose. “It was important that for such a major feature in the first issue that it not just be perspective of a European photographer on South Asia,” she says. “This added a dimension to it where they had a conversation about the photos, their wider work and the city. There was an interesting news-worthy angle too where Juergen had featured Shumi in a shoot for the current issue of British Vogue.”

An interview with Juergen Teller by Shumi Bose in Clove – plus images of Kolkata by the German-born, London-based photographer

Ray was born and brought up in Delhi before moving to London with her family when she was 12, where she joined the three million people of South Asian origin living in the UK. She’s keen to work with the South Asian diaspora as well as creatives based in South Asia – a huge region which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In the lead-up to the first print issue Clove, she ran an interview with British-Pakistani photographer Mahtab Hussain on its website, focusing on his book You Get Me – a series of portraits of British Muslims taken over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham, and London, and previously featured on bjp-online. “We’ve had a discussion with him and will hopefully will be working with him in future,” says Ray.

“The culture of South Asia is a global culture now,” she adds. “I wanted to talk about its manifestations in other parts of the world. London is a great place to do that because it’s where lots of these cultures converge, for better or worse historical reasons.”

Ray is also determined to highlight the ways in which South Asian culture interacts with other countries, emphasising bridges and crossovers between countries and creatives. She points to the Mumbai fashion brand Obataimu, for example, which blends Indian techniques with Japanese ones. “Stories that draw on multiple cultures are particularly interesting to me,” she says. “I want to be fluid about it.”

Clove issue 01 – Shifting the Lens is available now from the Clove website, priced £10 http://ift.tt/2BsyNRa

An interview with designer Seetal Solanki by Riya Patel in Clove


from British Journal of Photography http://ift.tt/2AuEydE