You Ain’t Done Till Your Done And The Image On Your Screen Or Coming Out Of Your Printer Screams Oh My God LOOK AT ME!!!!
I have always preached that getting it right in the camera was the most important first step that any professional or non professional has to accomplish. You simply must have the exposure, white balance, and the composition as close to perfect as it can be. You should also always be shooting in raw just in case changes have to made in software, because a raw file is non destructive.
I know that so many folks, maybe even myself from time to time say I can fix it in software. That is a very true statement with the software capabilities that we have today. But the more correct you get it in the camera means the less work you will need to do to provide enhancement.
Part of getting it right in the camera besides the composition is to keep an eye on the histogram. If it is climbing the wall on the right hand side of the histogram then there is a good chance there will be little to know detail in the all important highlights. If you are squished(technical term) against the left hand side of the histogram it means that there is some problems in the dark parts of the picture. But dark is easier to recover than blown highlights. But if there is too much to recover in the dark parts of the image then the possibilities of noise messing up an image are quite strong with the recovery process.
So it boils down once again to getting the exposure as correct as you can IN CAMERA. Remember you have 3 meters and in some cases only 2 meters in a camera for dealing with exposure. You also have an over and under exposure setting that could help you modify an exposure. And some people bracket a few stops, one normal, one under, when over and choose the best ones. And yet some people shoot an HDR image which can be anywhere from 3 to 10 on a general basis and then use an HDR program to meld the images into an overall correct image with very high dynamic range. Isn’t software great?
What you will end up using will be your personal choice, but the best OVERALL program I have found is Adobe Lightroom V.5.0 for both Mac and PC. I have literally tried almost every program that is out there and it seems to me that Adobe Lightroom has the best feature set of them all when it comes to processing any image. But of course I shoot in RAW which is what all of these programs are designed to work with.
I also like the fact that Adobe readily accepts “plug ins” from manufacturers that add to Lightrooms capabilities. My favorite image enhancement plug ins are:
Google Nik Software-complete. This software used to be sold by NIK until Google bought them. If you were to own the whole set when NIK sold direct, the set would have cost over 600.00 smackers. Now that Google took it over the cost is a mere $149.00. I also like the Detail Plug in from Topaz. The only other RAW processor that I use in conjunction with Lightroom is a Mac only program and is called Irident Raw Developer.
A great many people are in love with the Library functions of Lightroom, which produces catalogs for your images that you control the content and meta data of.
I have my own filing system for images which I have used since my early days of scanning images and use that along with Photo Mechanix for adding metadata and backups. To each their own. Just be sure you have some kind of organization or may never find the images you are looking for.
Like anything there is a learning curve when it comes to using software and Lightroom is no different.
The School Of Creative Photography offers an excellent two day course with Brian Zwit, an excellent instructor and would be to your benefit to take it. You can check it out here. CLICK