Some of these applications are paid, some of these are free (or fremium), but all of them are programs that photographers can't do without.
I'm sure that some folks would disagree or have a different list, but these are the top 5 apps that photographer's would need in order to run their businesses.
These are all PC or Mac applications, and I'll be making another post on mobile apps soon.
Also, I'm not affiliated with or endorsed by any of the companies or individuals that develop these apps. All logos and trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
1. For Image editing and/or retouching: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Well, duh. This had to be in here. Before Adobe launched its subscription-based business model (i.e. Creative Cloud), many photographers would understandably look for cheap or free alternatives: Photoshop was priced completely out of reach for a lot of beginners. However, none of the cheaper or free alternatives provided the power and versatility of Photoshop/Lightroom. Adobe's been leading the pack for a reason: both products are excellent.
Some paid apps (On1, Capture One Pro) come close to the feature-richness, but none really match it in my opinion.
Moreover, due to its quarter-century-old legacy, there are reams upon reams of tutorials and tips on the web. There are several excellent channels on YouTube.
Besides, with Photoshop and Lightroom now bundled together for the meagre price of Rs. 499/- (or $9.99 in other regions -haha, we Indians always get a bargain), it's now also affordable. Gone are the days where it would cost hundreds of dollars, or tens of thousands of rupees.
The advantages and features are too numerous to list or describe in a single blog post, but whether you're an amateur landscape photographer or a seasoned professional portrait photographer, this is one absolute must-have combo. Adobe allows you to install both applications on up to 2 computers for a single purchase; helpful if you have an office computer and a home computer, or a laptop and a desktop.
Just bear in mind that image editing and retouching have their own learning curve. It's all a tad overwhelming at first, but you'll get into the groove soon enough.
Technically, these are actually two apps, but since they're sold bundled together, I'm also bundling them together in the list.
2. For making digital notes: Evernote
A note-making app that syncs across any phone or computer you want to use it on? Check.
Can add photos, videos or hand-written notes? Check.
Rich text editor if you need it? Check.
Free? BIG OLE CHECK.
'nuff said. Get it here.
The paid version allows you to share notes with others, annotate PDFs, discover text in images, etc. If you need to. I haven't found the need to purchase a premium license yet, but I know several people who can't do without the paid features.
I use Evernote for the following, among many other things:
- Recording lighting diagrams for/from shoots.
- Blog ideas (this post was one of them, ha!).
- Noting down conceptual ideas, or "aha!" moments.
- Digitising business meeting notes
- "Penning down" stray thoughts that need to be recorded.
- Saving web page snippets as reference material.
Some folks even use Evernote to create blog posts.
3. For Cloud Storage: Dropbox or Google Drive
I'm still sometimes taken aback when people say that they don't use (or worse, haven't heard of) either of these cloud-based storage applications. They've made life so much easier, especially when it comes to delivering and sharing images to clients and business associates.
There's no clear winner here, although I prefer Drive because it integrates well with my email and makes sharing easier. Still, there's little that you can do with Google Drive that you can't do with Dropbox. I've even found that larger files upload to Dropbox quicker.
The tipping point for me towards Drive? Price. While both services are free for around 15 GB (Google gives you 15, to attain that with Dropbox you have to refer friends etc.), only Google Drive has the option of 100 GB for $1.99/month.
You can purchase 1 TB of cloud storage for $9.99 on either, but I really don't need that much space. It's not quite enough as a cloud backup option and way too much if you're just going to use it to share or deliver files via email. I keep a backup of some of my latest work in some Drive folders, but my backup is mostly unclouded.
4. For tethered shooting: sofortbild (Nikon, Mac only) and digiCamControl (Nikon or Canon, PCs, tablets and smartphones)
Admittedly, "sofortbild" sounds like some Norse monster or something. "Look, the sofortbild just devoured a bilgesnipe!"
But no, rest assured that it is, in fact, an application for Mac OS. If you're unfamiliar with tethered shooting, there's a great primer on DIYPhotography.
Sofortbild currently only supports Nikon cameras, but since I'm a Nikon user, I'm hardly complaining. It's quick to launch, intuitive, and has a very low memory footprint.
I use it for every catalog shoot, wherein I set up the camera on a tripod and subsequently have an assistant change products while I use my Macbook to trigger the shutter. The app also has a few other cool features: interval-based shooting for creating time-lapse, and the ability to change exposure, metering, and image format from the computer. Beats having to get up and mess with camera dials every time a change is needed.
digiCamControl is a great PC and smartphone or tablet option, and it also triggers Canon cameras. I'd only installed it on my PC and haven't used it much, but it's the best alternative. It also has additional features: an astronomy module, and time-lapse videos right out of the box. So to speak.
I should probably state that LIghtroom also allows you to shoot tethered, but I've found it to be a tad slower, and it doesn't have the features that either of the other programs here offer. Perhaps it's because tethered shooting isn't Lightroom's primary purpose. Moreover, that's all the Lightroom module does: if you want to change settings, you'll have to do it in-camera.
5. For outdoor shoot planning: The Photographer's Ephemeris.
Originally an iOS-only app, this program is now available on Android, PC and Mac. The Web app is free, but the apps on the phone (where it really comes in handy) cost around Rs. 300/-.
What does it do? Well, among other features, it gives you a time and direction of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, phase of the moon and % of illumination it provides, automatic detection of elevation above sea level and time zones, and you can even determine what time the sun or moon will be visible over a hill or mountain.
There are quite a few other features, so check it out. I use the web app for any outdoorsy types of shoots, even if they're casual trips to Mumbai's national park.
What's your list? Would you add more? Remove any? Let me know in the comments!