For postprocessing or just general photo manipulations we use variety of tools
Adobe Photoshop – www.adobe.com
Definately a must for delicate photography fixes. I know many people find it too complex to work with but, once you get to know the way around the interface, you won’t let go 😉 Also, since Adobe released the CS2 for free (just sign up for an Adobe ID and get your key, link above), there are no limitations for getting it on your PC! A nice alternative we also are familiar with is the opensource piece of software called Gimp. At work just as good as PS and sometimes even better, but the workflow is not as fluent as with PS. We recommend trying out both!
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Lightroom is the sort of application, that can import your photos from a card, organise them and make a ton of adjustments. Apart from messing around with the sliders yourself, you can find many, paid and free, presets to use in Lightroom. Basically, it can be used as sort of a photo headquarters – you can browse your photos, arrange them into collections, edit them externally in PS or just any editor. Also, many programs like Photomatix or onOne Creative Suite come with plugins for LR, which allow you to play application ping-pong with just any of your pictures :-D.
RawTherapee – rawtherapee.com
This software is just amazing! Functions are pretty similiar to Lightroom, except you can go further. Works great with curves (even better than LR in my opinion) and unlike Lightroom, it does not require you to import the photos – works as a browser. Of course it has a downside too. As many open source programs, it is a little overwhelming and confusing at first sight, but it is relatively easy to get oriented in the interface. The other downside is a bit slower saving speed (compared to LR), but that usually isn’t a big deal. We haven’t tested the theory ourselves, but some say it does the conversion from RAW to JPEG better than Lightroom.
HDRsoft Photomatix – hdrsoft.com
This is the heart of HDR creation! Three images (or more) go in, one comes out. Give it a try with trial version (leaves watermark) and see for yourself. You can find a great review, tutorial and discount code here: Photomatix on Stuck in Customs as well as a lot of great tips for HDR photography. Mr. Ratcliff really is a master of the trade!
Luminance HDR – Luminance
If you thought Photoshop was too complex and difficult to comprehend, prepare to be stabbed in the face :-D. Especially if you already are used to Photomatix. Luminance is really great piece of software and although free, it can make up for the Photomatix quite nicely. It has just two downsides. First, each time you make an adjustment, you have to re-render the image. It may be not that big deal, but it would be so much better with live preview. The second one is the overwhelming, yet inadequately composed amount of choices. The program presents many methods for creating the picture and every method has its specifics. While in Photomatix, you’re usually set with just the Details Enhancer, in Luminance, one method is usually not enough. It just takes time to get familiar with it 😉