Sample Product Images, Courtesy of the Adobe Website
Photography software is critical to processing photos, whether you're doing creative editing, or just wanting a program to keep your photos organized. There are at least two programs you should have as a photographer to be able to do just about anything, whether you're an amateur, in between, or a full on professional.
This program, by far, once you get used to it, is amazing. Not only can you organize all your photos, but you can import from any connected memory cards, cameras, and storage devices into the program. You have the option of importing as a JPEG, or if you shoot in the RAW format, you can bring them in as RAW files or DNG (digital negative).
It is highly recommended, if you have the memory card space, that you shoot all photos in RAW format. You have so many more options when editing your photos, and the quality is exceptional! Personally, importing files as DNGs is the best option, as it copies all your digital information into one file, as opposed to importing straight as a RAW file, which has a separate XMP file. If you don't know about RAW files, how they work, check out this tutorial, as it is quite helpful in explaining how the RAW format works. Once you start to use the format, it's really hard to go back to shooting in straight JPEG.
Another great feature of Lightroom is it's presets. You can either manually edit photos or you can apply a preset that changes certain features to achieve a particular look, such as "Antique" or "Sepia". In addition, you can download for free lots of presets for Lightroom from designers and other professionals. Check out Presets Heaven to begin your downloading.
If you want to edit your photo and then import into another program, such as Adobe Photoshop CS4, Lightroom makes it very easy to do so. You can right click on an image or set of images and send them to edit in another program. A truly remarkable program that is well worth trying out!
The latest release of Photoshop from Adobe blows previous versions out of the water when it comes to how conveniently located everything is now. The jump from CS3 and CS4 isn't as noticably different, but the extra features and upgrades Adobe made enhance the useability and ease of processing for photographers of all levels.
Some examples of the new features: The new adjustments panel that allows you to play with the settings for your photos with the ease of on-image controls. The new masks panel which gives you the tools to quickly add and edit mask layers to your photos. The nicest feature is the integration with Lighroom that allows multiple image edits for combining into panoramic, HDR, or multilayered Photoshop files.
As previously mentioned, these are just two programs recommended that you have as a photographer, regardless of your level. You can certainly add other programs, depending on your needs, such as Photomatix Pro, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Illustrator, and a variety of other programs.
So go out and check out these programs! Once you get the hang of using them, they truly become second nature and will be some of the most essential parts of your photography arsenal.