This is a massive subject so we will just touch on it here and I’ll cover it in greater detail at a later date.
The first point to raise has to be the question of ‘Cheating’, more precisely is it cheating to manipulate your images off the camera instead of capturing the ideal image directly from the camera.
While you can get a great image direct from the camera, you will usually find that there is some element that requires a little touch up.
This is nothing new, going back to the days of 35mm film cameras, the development technician controlled how the colours on your image were processed. Today you have that control. Remember photography is an art, and as such it is the end product that matters. The path you take is simply the process to achieving a great image.
Rant over question answered….
By far the best software on the market has to be Adobe Lightroom, not only is it simple to use, but it also includes Adobe Camera RAWas well as having a great image cataloguing system ‘Library’.
When ever you shoot an image I recommend you shoot in RAW format as this collects the greatest amount of data for your image and allows for greater manipulation in the software environment.
The ‘Development’ section is where you make your adjustments to your images.
Here you can manipulate the White Balance, Contrast, Vibrancy, Noise Reduction, Cropping and so much more.
With a little know how you can recover even the most poorly exposed shots.
Photoshop is next choice for photo manipulation, while I do use this for manipulating or merging multiple image I still do the bulk of my work in Lightroom.