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| p.1 #6 · Basic newbie software recommendation |
First of all, I recommend shooting RAW. There is more information in a RAW file than there is in a jpg since the jpg is only 8-bit while the RAW is generally 12-bit data. That gives you more latitude in changing things. If your camera will do RAW+jpg, start out that way. You get the immediate gratification from the jpg and the editing flexibility of the RAW IF YOU NEED IT. Generally you can do pretty well with the jpg, but I find that 5-10% of my shots need editing, and I prefer to do it from a RAW file.
As far as Lightroom or PhotoShop, they will both edit your photos, but they are really designed for different things. Lightroom is a basic editor. Brightness, contrast, white balance, cropping, tilting, and a few more advanced operations. Pretty much beginner's stuff. But it also provides you with a catalog of pictures. You can add tags to the pictures to help you find things years later. (You can do that with other programs too, but IMHO Lightroom does it best).
PhotoShop is a more advanced editor. It will do everything Lightroom will do except keeping a catalog of images. In addition, you can use layers to combine different photos or edit just parts of an image. It has lots of bells and whistles and takes a lot longer to master. PhotoShop Elements is a simplified version of Photoshop with fewer bells and no whistles, but it might have some horns.
I use both programs. I start with Lightroom (all my photos go into it so they're in the catalog). Do whatever editing is needed, then export the photos to jpg copies. If I want to do something fancy I go to PhotoShop. I then re-import the result into Lightroom so it's in the catalog. Photoshop is probably used on fewer then 2% of my photos, so it's not something that's essential to a beginner.
PS: A RAW file is the data that comes out of the camera sensor. It is not something that you can use as an image directly. You have to convert it to an image format (JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, etc). A jpg is a compressed image that can be shown on a computer. There are different levels of compression, resulting in different size files. The jpg file is generally significantly smaller than the RAW file.