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What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for a Beginning Real Estate Photographer?

Published: 03/07/2018
By: larry

Paul asks:

I'm an amateur photographer and retired real estate agent. I am thinking of starting a real estate photography business. Can you tell me what is a good starter editing software, but not a monthly subscription? Cyberlink, Photodirector, and Lightroom were recommended.

I think Lightroom is the best way to edit for any beginning real estate photographer. You can still get a non-subscription version of Lightroom 6, although the subscription version of Lightroom has many more important features.

The reason that Lightroom is better for real estate photographers than the huge number of other options out there is Lightroom's superior lens correction features. Lightroom has lens profiles for most lenses that real estate photographers use and can remove vignetting, barrel distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as straighten verticals quickly and easily. All these fixes are a big part of what real estate photographers do in post-processing. Many of the other photo editors don't have lens correction or lens profiles (like Photodirector) for all lenses.

Another big reason to use Lightroom is the huge amount of online training both on YouTube and training that you can pay for at places like

For those ideologically opposed to subscription software, Luminar has much of the functionality of Lightroom and can be used as a Lightroom plugin to do layer blending and quick adjustments.

I like to end with an argument for the $9.99/mo Creative Cloud Photography plan. I've been a Photoshop user since the 90's and I'm totally convinced that both Lightroom and Photoshop are the best you can get for professional photo editing. So if you are going to be a professional real estate photographer, you are eventually going to want to use both Lightroom and Photoshop. There are tons of other alternatives these days but they don't come close to Lightroom and Photoshop.

12 comments on “What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for a Beginning Real Estate Photographer?”

  1. The smart way to build your business is not to edit yourself. It takes more time to edit that the shoot itself. Therefore you are better off concentrating on getting more shoots and filling your day with shoots than doing edits. Outsourcing is the only way to go nowadays and smart business people that want to build a business are doing it that way, Ive been doing it 9 years and have never ever even shot a property myself but I do have guys that do that part too.

  2. I would recommend Photomatix Pro 6.0 which is geared to real estate photography. It used to be for HDRs (high dynamic range) imagery which is multiple images shot at differing exposures. However, the latest version has a lot of added features. You can process single images quickly and effectively with the optimizer details enhancer. You can open up dark areas and add luminance to your photos as well as make minor adjustments such as sharpen, contrast, and horizontal/vertical corrections.

  3. I have been using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Most photos only take a few seconds in Lightroom and that is it. Occasionally I will use Photoshop to edit but usually, it is for resizing the images which only take a few seconds a photo because I have it automated.

  4. While outsourcing editing has advantages, the major disadvantage is that it doesn't develop skill. I can assume that if having to ask the question, then skill is an area that needs to be developed and there is no better opportunity than actual workflow as "getting to it" on the side never happens. $9.99/mo for Photoshop and Lightroom is an excellent value as is the $49/mo for the full Cloud if doing video (Premiere + AE), brochures and e-books (In Design, Illustrator) web (Dreamweaver or the much easier Muse) and the list goes on. While you could assemble alternate programs, with the exception of Apple's FCPX, cost is about the same when you consider the annual "new version" upgrades of the alternate programs - but you can defer them, skipping a version or two. Biggest downside is actually Adobe's self serving policy. With subscription you agree to a year, however, you never go month to month as "auto-renew" locks you in for another year with a 50% penalty if want to terminate during that year.

    While I began this journey several decades ago, started with one of the original "must have" shareware programs alternative to newly developed Photoshop, "Paint Shop (later adding Pro to the name)" that made the successful transition from shareware to commercial owned by JASC and now Corel. Excellent program but as I transitioned from advanced amateur to Pro rationalized that needed to know Photoshop and made the transition, later adding Lightroom. I can't see doing Lightroom only with it's lack of layering which invariable have one or two shots per shoot masking out lighting reflections. As I am heading for retirement, I do have to wonder is the $49/mo subscription will be beneficial with decreased RE but transitioning to more travel. wildlife and landscape photography - but that is a whole different issue.

  5. When you are starting out, you have a couple of choices.

    You can start to learn all the ways to fix your lighting problems in the field. This can take you years to learn. 85% of the time you use a flash there is going to be some reflection or hotspot, so it is going to take a LOT of time learning to place MULTIPLE lights in a frame without having any problems.

    The other choice is to learn Photoshop and compositing. It sounds complicated, but you could learn what you need to know for interiors work in Photoshop in an afternoon, and be on your way. And at that point, your problem solving abilities become limitless, as Larry was just pointing out. Who needs unbounded problem solving potential?... beginners, or people who have shot for years? Beginners are the ones who need to be able to solve common problems without making themselves look unknowledgeable in the field while fumbling with their lights.

    Get Photoshop, whatever the cost. Get Adobe Bridge, which is free.

  6. I would agree with Larry completely. Just one caveat. I would also add in either Photomatix or AuroraPro (sibling of Luminar). Even if you only use HDR for exteriors, it is very useful for those high contrast situations with trees, sun, shade, swimming pools half in sun and half out, fronts of houses that the sun never hits but it hits the front yards and driveways.

    Having said that, I am finding with using a Sony A 6500, that the images coming out of it, if you expose for the highlights, have amazing depth of information in the darks that a simple slider use in LR, Bridge, Photoshop, Luminar will bring up to excellent exposure with very little in the way of clumping pixels. So I am doing most but not all of my processing using Bridge, Photoshop and Luminar as a PS plug in. Really speeds the processing. I will be moving to LR soon which will make it go even faster, or I expect it to. So for photographers new to RE, the new generation of camera sensors, also really help with reducing both the software needed as well as the time needed to process, and I don't use flash but still find my time much reduced on processing.

  7. This discussion comes up from time to time and reminds me of kids getting into the pool... Some kids slowly stick their toe in to check the water, then agonizingly go deeper and deeper until they are all in. While the other kids just suck it up and dive in the deep end and although they get a instant rush, they acclimate to the temperature in a few seconds.

    Boil it down, If you decide to get into this business, then get the right tools. Would you buy a point and shoot camera to start your business? Then you go out and get a dslr later? Now you have spent more than you should have. Just like a band aid, take it off hurts less.

  8. Paul, whatever you decide to do, DO NOT get the modified version of Photoshop which is PS Elements. I made the mistake of buying PS Elements 2018 as an alternative to Photomatix Pro and after one month a glitch in the software made it impossible to save JPG images. A window pops up saying insufficient memory (RAM). The fix involves going into the registry and making changes that I'm not about to attempt. So, I'm out $105 that I paid for a program I can't use.
    Adobe has turned a deaf ear to the problem. So, I'm not a fan. In fact, from what I've heard they have become very Trumpian in their methodology.
    I like the results I'm getting with Photomatix Pro 6.0.3, I just need to re-save the images in Digital Photo Professional at a lower KB for agents to upload to the MLS.

  9. Paul,

    I have been using Capture One Pro for over 3 years now. It works perfectly for Real Estate photography when you need to add masks, and you will, to the photo for window treatments.
    It is not expensive and does not require a subscription though it is offered.
    If you own a newer Sony camera, a get started version of the software is included and it you want to upgrade to the pro version, the cost is $30.00, at least the last time i checked.
    Keep in mind thing thing about Capture One, it is not a replacement for Photoshop. It is an alternative to Light Room which is part of Photoshop. In my view, you really can't ignore Photoshop but at this stage learning how to use it is enormously difficult. Capture One is far easier.
    You can try Capture One out for 30 day for free to see if it is accomplishing your goals. I have stuck with it since i get so many compliments on the quality of the shots. It also helps that my version of Capture One is called Capture One Pro for Sony. This means that it works in harmony with the cameras chip and processor. That harmony is not available with Cannon, Nikon and any other camera.
    Give it a try and also google Capture One VS Light Room on the web to see how they are different.
    Hope this helps


  10. Paul, as much as I hate having to be stuck with the subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop, I feel that the $10 per month is truly not a bad deal. My issue is that while on assignments out of state, where I had no internet connection, I was unable to sign out of my 2 home computers and sign into my Laptop to edit while on assignment, or vacation. I also started using Capture 1 Pro, which I used for sky replacement, but it is a great program and no subscription is needed.

    You will also find that once you start editing your own images, you will become a better photographer as you will be spending a lot of time correcting your exposures, cropping, color balancing, and learning from your mistakes. Learn your software and it will make your life easier.

  11. Adobe is the 800lb gorilla when it comes to photo processing. At $120/year it's a great value over what it used to cost to purchase, although if I were to get out of photography, I would hate to have to subscribe again to be able to edit any images. This makes Lightroom and Photoshop a good choice for constant use and, perhaps, another package better for occasional use.

    I recommend the LR and PS combination. Part of that is due to having used it for years and built a workflow around both products. I remember the days when it was a contest between Apple's Aperture and Lightroom with each application adding a new killer feature until Apple just thew in the towel (without telling anybody). If another company were to come out with an photo editing suite that had all of the tools I always use and new features that would cut my editing time significantly, I would consider switching. The problem is that I know LR and PS so well that I can get things done really fast. I would have to learn a new package and then drag my back catalog into its domain since I use LR's catalog features extensively. That would take a lot of time. I wouldn't bring in all of my RE work but that's only a portion of what I photograph. If I were strictly an RE photographer, I could just import this year's work and my portfolio picks and move on from there, but there is lots more going back over a decade and beyond.

    If you don't want to use Adobe software, you have to be prepared to do a lot of learning on your own. As Larry points out, and many other professional tutoring companies have scores of classes on Lightroom and Photoshop. There are also loads of less than professional tutorials available on YouTube. If you have an editing question and pose it in an online forum, unless the forum is for an alternate software package, the responses are most likely to be for LR or PS. That can be a problem if you want to do something like a day to dusk conversion that can be fairly specific to RE/Arch work. Having access to local help can also be a factor. I went with Canon as I had two friends, one pro and one an advanced amateur, that both used Canon gear. This gave me an instant support group. In the beginning, this was a huge factor. I could switch brands now as I'm way past having to figure out the basics and those two friends are miles away so I can't borrow gear from them anymore as easily. Like LR and PS, I have a significant investment in Canon (time in the case of the software and gear in the case of lenses and bodies). I haven't seen a Meetup group for Capture One Pro in my area, but there are a couple of photo groups that cover PS and LR even if their "focus" is on a particular genre of photography.

    Sony is a big temptation now since they do have many killer features that would make switching (if I could afford it) a good move. I don't see the same thing in the editing software world.

    If you are getting started, go with Adobe. Once you have mastered LR and PS, if there is a good reason to switch, it will be much easier.

  12. Larry is right about the importance of correcting lens distortion, but be aware that Lightroom and Photoshop Abobe Camera Raw may not correct lens distortion for JPEG's. They do just fine with RAW images. I have tried to correct lens distortion for JPEG's using images from several different Nikon cameras and lenses. LR says it can not find a profile. But, the same image shot as RAW is corrected no problem no matter what camera and lens I use.

    I have read, on an Adobe forum, that LR supports some camera's JPEG's for lens distortion correction.

    The only program (to the best of my knowledge) that will correct JPEG lens distortion for pretty much any camera's JPEG's is DxO Photolab (formerly DxO Optics Pro).

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