My current software and plug-ins set-up:
Adobe Photoshop 6.0- Photoshop is the defacto editing software. The new content aware options and the Smart Filters have revolutionized photoediting. The only downside to Photoshop is the price tag of $699.00 ( unless you are a student or teacher- $249.00) is a big hit to the wallet. I have not used Photoshop Elements for many years now, but my understanding is that it has come a long way and might suit most people’s photo needs for basic editing.
Adobe Lightroom 4.1- Adobe Lightroom in conjunction with Photoshop is a killer combination. Besides letting you sort, categorize, watermark, make collections and you name it to your images, it has become an image editing first stop piece of software in its own right. There are many images that need no more than Lightroom to be considered finished. Lightroom has also beefed up the software by adding a bookmaking option that is linked to blurb within the app. You can upload images to social media such as Flicker and SmugMug right from Lightroom, You can create slideshows for display using your computer (However, Lightroom slideshows suck if you want to export them to another media such as a CD/DVD. They come out soft and grainy). You can create Print Packages and more from the Print Module. Lightroom keeps getting better and stronger with each addition and offers many more possibilities than Adobe Bridge. Well worth the money.
Plug-Ins– I have tried other plug-ins, but have now narrowed my chooses of plug-ins to Nik Color Efex Pro 4, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, and Nik Silver EFex Pro 2 and Topaz Adjust 5. Nik is also an industry standard with the Color Efex Pro 4 version having over 56 filters to choose from. I also prefer Nik Efex HDR color toning over Photomatix and Photoshop HDR toning. Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 is another industry standard for creating Black and White images.
There are lots of amazing plug-ins out there, Alien Skin being another standard. However, for my budget, needs and time at the computer Nik and Topaz fill 95% of my needs. It also hurts the wallet when you upgrade Photoshop, you often have to upgrade your plug-ins as well. Ouch!
Redfield’s Fractilius- Fractilius only works with 8 bit images in Photoshop. You can get some elegant results, but I don’t find the plug-in intuitive. Therefore, if you go out on the web there are many Youtube videos and tutorials that will help you refine your results. You also buy a PDF book from Denise Ippolito off the “Birds as Art” website. Denise’s book walks you through some of her recipes for using Fractilius.