Thank you so much! A few Tumblr/Twitter folks took the time to come up and say hello at the show or send me a message afterword, and your thoughtful compliments are the most flattering and fulfilling thing I could ask for. I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation.
I try to use a light touch when it comes to software but I think some of my treatments veer into heavy-handed territory accidentally. I don’t really touch my film scans beyond a bit of contrast/curves, but my digital captures go through this process:
Organizing: I use Apple’s Aperture software to sort and manage my photo library. Between the scans I’ve been working on for the last year and all the digital files I’ve captured since the early 2000s I’ve got 50,000+ images to juggle. Even though only a relatively small percentage of all that is “good”, storage is cheap and I’m a packrat. I never delete anything, because you never know.
Aperture is very good at keeping an unruly photo collection under control but I’m running it on older hardware (a 2007 MacBook Pro) and my Aperture library is starting to feel a little sluggish. I’m due for an upgrade.
(If you’re a PC user, Adobe’s Lightroom is designed for the same task, and it has a reputation for being even better)
General Editing: I use Aperture to do very simple edits, like crops or dust removal, but for general colour/contrast treatments I export the RAW files to Nik’s collection of plug-ins. Nik’s Complete Collection includes hundreds of practical filters and treatments. The vast majority are totally goofy, but I absolutely depend on a handful of their tools. I’m often asked about a particular “look” in some of my photos, and it’s the product of a gentle “tonal contrast” technique I apply using one of the filters in Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in.
Specific Editing: No big surprise, I use Adobe Photoshop CS. I’m using an older version, but for what I need it’s more than adequate. In fact, I usually recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements to most photographers because it has all the essential tools.
I really only use Photoshop to make extremely specific edits to specific parts of the image or text treatments, so I’m only likely to fire it up a couple times a month. Aperture and Nik have me covered for everything else.
I always say that it’s better to get it right in-camera, but there’s nothing wrong with treating photo editing as an equally essential part of the creative process. As long as the effect “works” and it doesn’t steal the spotlight from the subject-matter and composition, I say go for it. People that tell you that photo editing is “wrong” are just being pedantic.
Finally, don’t pirate stuff. You wouldn’t shoplift a lens, so don’t steal a software title.