The Best of the Best: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

The best of the best cameras, accessories, photo books and more.

The best of the best cameras, accessories, photo books and more.

It’s the time of year that the number of photo questions I receive increases dramatically. Many of them have to do with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from someone shopping for a photographer, or photographers shopping for themselves.

So once again here is my list of “best of the best” of articles recommending the best photo gear, software, books, DVDs, calendars, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. I will revise some of these articles in November and December, but most of the advice is good as it stands. The best books on photographic composition or the best photo labs haven’t changed in the last 12 months. As I rewrite articles I will update the links below. You can check the date at the top of each article.

Originally posted Nov. 21, 2015. Updated December 11, 2015.

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The Best Image Editing Software

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, Adobe Photoshop CC, and Lightroom 5

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, Adobe Photoshop CC, and Lightroom 5

Your photos will look their very best if you optimize them with high quality image editing software.  Short list:

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, 12, or 11*
Adobe Photoshop CC or CS6*
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, 6, 5 or 4*

*The software versions listed above include all the versions that use Adobe’s newest “process version”. See the section below on Adobe’s new process version for more information.

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Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part One

If you want to master color in Photoshop, Dan Margulis is the best of the best. He is one of the first three persons to be named as a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame. And the book to get is Professional Photoshop: The Classic Guide to Color Correction (5th Edition). It is well worth finding on the used market (which you can do via my photography store). What Margulis teaches you to do with color is amazing. The before and after images will make your jaw drop.

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Bobcat: Fast and Simple Tonality Adjustments with Adobe Camera Raw

Bobcat, Before and After a Tonality Adjustment

Bobcat, Before and After a Tonality Adjustment

With the right software, you can do amazing things. There are some lighting situations where it is almost impossible, and certainly not practical, to get the correct white balance setting in the camera. This bobcat photo is an example. The best, fastest, and simplest solution is to get the right while balance setting after the fact using software like Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). A few minutes work with ACR can make a huge difference in the look of your photo.

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MASTERING PHOTOSHOP SERIES

If you want to master Photoshop, a complete course can be found in the books in the posts below.

FOUNDATIONS

Begin with one or two of the basic to intermediate books in the next post. After that, jump into the list of advanced books in the posts below.

ADVANCED SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES

Your image processing begins with how you process your RAW files with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). One of your best guides is Bruce Fraser and co-author Jeff Schewe. What you do with your RAW files determines how much or how little you can do with the file later on in Photoshop. You maximize your possibilities later on by making the right choices in ACR. Make the wrong choices, and you have limited what you can do later on.

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MASTERING PHOTOSHOP: RETOUCHING, PART TWO

Two essential and challenging Photoshop skills are Masking and Compositing. Fortunately for all of us out in Photoshop land, Katrin Eismann has written a masterful book on developing these skills, Photoshop Masking & Compositing.

You will learn about selection tools and techniques, how to use masks and layers, advanced selection techniques for difficult subjects like human hair, and how to do flawless composites.

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MASTERING PHOTOSHOP: RETOUCHING, PART ONE

Katrin Eismann is a world class expert on photo retouching. She is one of the best of the best. In 2005 she was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame. Anything she writes should be high on your reading list if you are serious about making the most of your Photoshop skills.

Adobe Photoshop Restoration & Retouching (3rd Edition) has become a classic and it is is now in its third edition. You would be hard put to find a better book on Restoring and Retouching photos with Photoshop. Once you’ve learned the basics of Photoshop, this book is a must read. Just look at all the 5 star ratings at amazon.com and read the glowing reviews.

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MASTERING PHOTOSHOP: ADVANCED COLOR CORRECTION, PART ONE

If you want to master color in Photoshop, Dan Margulis is the best of the best. He is one of the first three persons to be named as a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame. And the book to get is Professional Photoshop: The Classic Guide to Color Correction (5th Edition). What Margulis teaches you to do with color is amazing. The before and after images will make your jaw drop.

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RESIZING PHOTOS FOR THE WEB WITH PHOTOSHOP

Bay Area Bridge, photo copyright Jim doty Jr
Bay Area Bridge. Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

I was asked recently how to re-size images for the web using Photoshop. The person asking the question was not only having problems resizing images, but the photos looked desaturated with muted colors.  My instructions (below) are for using Photoshop CS3 for Windows, so some menu items may be a little different in other versions of Photoshop or with Photoshop Elements, but the basic principles and steps are the same.

My reply follows.

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WHAT TO DO WHEN PHOTOSHOP QUITS WORKING DUE TO LICENSING FAILURE

You bought Adobe Photoshop CS3 or CS4 and it worked fine for a year or two. Then you get this message:

“Licensing for this product has stopped working. You cannot use this product at this time. You must repair the problem by uninstalling and then reinstalling this product or contacting your IT administrator or Adobe customer support for help.”

You uninstall and reinstall Photoshop and it still doesn’t work. Now you are really frustrated, but you try uninstalling and reinstalling again. No luck.  Now what?

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