A couple of days ago the FedEx guy brought my Photoshop CS5 update. While I was loading the update I was thinking about the fact that the day is fast approaching that applications like Lightroom and Aperture are are going to take over post processing for real estate photographers. I get every Photoshop update as soon as it's released because I'm addicted to Photoshop. I admit it, I need an intervention and a 12 step program. Once you have a copy of Photoshop, it's easy to talk yourself into upgrading when features like content aware fill come along. However, I'm real clear that having CS5 is not essential for real estate post processing. CS5 has some really cool new features that can save you a lot of time and I love it but it's NOT a necessity for real estate.
Here are the basic necessities that real estate photographers need to do to post process images:
- Tone Map or Exposure Fuse bracketed images: I haven't even tried the new HDR features in CS5 yet but you don't need a $699 application to do either tone mapping or EF. Photomatix is still the best bang for your buck for tone mapping and also has Exposure fusion. It's worth noting that the majority of real estate photographers these days use EF rather than HDR.
- Adjust images: Adjust exposure, white balance, saturation, presence and the tonal curve.
- Straighten the image: Remove converging verticals, rotate so key horizontals so the look horizontal.
- Lens correction: Remove barrel distortion and chromatic aberration.
- Hand blend windows: In some situations to get the very best view out windows, you will need to use layering to enhance the view out windows.
- Re-size images: Downsize images from the original out of camera size to delivery size.
- Sharpening: After doing any or all of #1 through #6 most images need some sharpening to look their best.
There are three far less expensive alternatives to a full version of Photoshop CS5 do these:
- Lightroom 3 (still in beta2 right now): Tom Hogarty demos in his recent sneek peak video suggests that the Lightroom 3 release will be able to do everything. Brushes go a long way to allowing you to do #5.
- Photoshop Elements 8: PSE 8 will do everything on the list above and has a list price of $99 USD. I've seen the Windows version at Costco for $69 and it is currently $69.99 at Adobe store through 5/10/2010 (a mothers day special).
- Aperture 3: This alternative is pretty good at doing everything above except for #3 and the barrel distortion part of #4. The PTlens application works well to handle #3 and #4 but it takes a round-trip to an outside application. I'll be comparing Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 in more detail when Lightroom 3 ships.
I think PSE 8 is the biggest bang for your post processing buck for those wanting to get started at the lowest possible price. As all around best solution for real estate post processing I lean towards Lightroom. If you are a long time Photoshop user and you can get to CS5 with a upgrade this is probably the best version of Photoshop that I've seen in many years.