Software – what you’ll need for this course …

Today, visual journalism is almost entirely a digital process. Cameras and computers are necessary hardware, but you can’t do anything with them without the proper software to capture, download, edit, process, and share your images.

The software you need to capture images is already contained within your camera. The rest of the process is chiefly executed on a computer – either your own or one of the University’s computers.

First thing – you don’t need Adobe Photoshop®. Not for this class, at least. And I think you will find that the ubiquitous imaging editing program is becoming a smaller and smaller part of imaging workflow, even with professionals. Frankly, Photoshop is overkill for photojournalism. It’s features are seductive and mostly unnecessary. And it’s well-known capabilities for manipulation have caused the general public to be suspicious of news photographs.

You do not need to purchase a computer or software to participate in this class, but you will need access to computers with the appropriate applications installed. There will be a quick tutorial in using Adobe software (Lightroom) to perform basic and necessary processes before sharing/publishing your photographs. You will find this software in the classroom computers, in some other computer labs around campus, and on some computers in the library.

Be advised that this class will require you to use computers outside of class time in order to submit your shooting assignments to this website. So, in addition to planning time to shoot your assignments, you will need to make time to edit and upload your submissions before deadlines.

If you own your own computer, make use of it. If you are a communications major, you should own basic image editing software anyway. Even if you don’t plan on becoming a full-time professional photographer, it’s likely that most of you will end up shooting and sharing photographs, in some capacity, at some point. You need something to help you organize, edit, and share/transmit photographs.

Like I said, though, you do NOT need Photoshop. Most Adobe products are of professional quality, but they aren’t your only choices, either. All you need is software that is capable of :

  1. browsing images for editing purposes
  2. embedding captions and other metadata into the image file itself
  3. cropping your images
  4.  making basic color and tonal corrections (white balance, lightness and darkness, contrast)
  5. saving or exporting your images as JPEG files

That’s it. No fancy filters. No special effects.

There are free applications which will allow you to execute any assignment for this class and can be of use to you once you graduate into the real world.

Adobe now requires a monthly subscription fee to download and use its applications, rather than buying a disc from them and installing it on your computer. You should be aware that Adobe DEEPLY discounts it’s software for Georgia Southern students and faculty. You should take advantage of this!

However, Adobe typically requires that you pay one year’s subscription up front. If you cannot afford that cost, there are other options.

As long as you can perform the above tasks, you can use any software you like. Here are some suggestions:

Free software:

Picasa (for Windows and Mac) – Picasa was created by Google as a software client on your computer to help you use their Picasa Web Albums online sharing service. You don’t need to sign up for the online service, though – Picasa will function as a stand-alone application and allow you to save/export images on your computer hard drive. It will perform all of the functions mentioned above, plus more. It will catalogue every image file on your computer, automatically. When you download it, run it before you go to bed. By the time you wake up, every image will be catalogued and easy to search for within the program. It’s pretty easy to use, and best of all, it’s !00% free!

Apple Photos (Mac only) – if you own a Mac, you already have the software you need for this class, as Photos comes already installed. You can perform all of the functions mentioned above and easily organize all of your pictures.

LightZone (for Windows and Mac) – LightZone used to be a commercial product that was conceived to compete with Photoshop. It never quite found a mass audience, but developer Fabio Riccardi recently made the program open source. The learning curve is longer than Picasa and iPhoto, but this application has professional level image processing capabilities. To download it, you’ll need to register at the LightZone project page and await approval of your account, but on business days the wait isn’t longer than 3 hours. It’s image management/photo library capabilities are a little dated, but it’s definitely worth a try if you cannot afford to pay for applications developed for professionals.

NOTE: DO NOT USE WEB APPS! There are some free online photo editing applications will allows you to crop and make tonal corrections right in your web browser, such as Photoshop Express and Pixlr. You don’t need an application on your computer – just an internet connection. These applications are pretty slick and quite capable for casual shutterbugs, but they are NOT appropriate for our uses in this class. First, you still have to browse your pictures and make your selections on your computer, then import your individual selections into the online editor, and that’s not an efficient workflow. Second, these apps typically strip any embedded metadata (captions, camera info and settings, etc.) from your image file. This may be fine if you are simply sharing photos with friends and family, but metadata is extremely important when preparing images to be consumed by the public for informational purposes.

You don’t need to own professional imaging software to participate in this class, but you need something that is capable of performing essential functions. That said, read on …

Professional software: 

These are the very applications pros use for managing their photographs on a daily basis. They are not out of reach, cost-wise, even for college students.

NOTE: Adobe no longer sells stand-alone software. They have transitioned to the Creative Cloud where you download the software and pay a monthly license fee to use it. There are deep discounts for students, so make sure you check out the discounted software link on MyGeorgiaSouthern.edu. and at Adobe itself: Creative Cloud for Students.

Adobe Lightroom (Windows and Mac) – Lightroom is a professional level application for managing your photographs. It will perform all of the functions of the free programs mentioned above, only much faster and more comprehensively. It will help you create and organize image libraries. You can apply captions and other metadata at the same time you download your images. You can create slideshows and online web galleries. You can export files directly to existing online galleries and sharing sites. And you can transmit images via email or FTP, right out of the program itself. It also has sophisticated, professional level image adjustment tools that you can apply to single images or batches of them all at once. It’s all most folks ever need.

Adobe Photoshop (Windows and Mac) – This is the application most everyone knows about but you probably don’t really need. You cannot browse image files with Photoshop and you cannot export images directly to online galleries. Photoshop does ship with Adobe Bridge, which allows you to import files, organize them, browse thumbnails for editing, and embed captions and other metadata. But it is a separate program and if you want to make any changes to your images, you must open them up in Photoshop. I will give a short tutorial on a basic image workflow using Bridge and Photoshop because that is what some University computers have installed. But Photoshop is very complex, has a long learning curve, and is very resource hungry – that is, it takes a lot of RAM and processing power just to run it. Make sure your computer has the specifications necessary to even run it on your computer. The Bridge/Photoshop workflow is a workaround. If you own your own computer, I recommend Lightroom over Photoshop, as you can perform most necessary functions, all in one application.

Aperture (Mac only) – Unfortunately, Apple has dropped development of this application, and it is no longer available on the App Store. It’s every bit as powerful as Lightroom, it just goes about performing the same tasks a little differently. If you own an older Mac you may have Aperture and I encourage you to use it. Both Aperture and Lightroom work equally well on a Mac – for now. Most professionals who once used Aperture are now transitioning to Lightroom.

Pixelmator (Mac only) – This application is a comparative newcomer, but many are beginning to recommend on a frequent basis. It’s more like Photoshop than Lightroom or Aperture, in that it’s strictly a photo editor without any photo management features. It’s not a true professional quality application, but it could be classified as a “prosumer” application and has many professional level tools and will perform the functions necessary for this class. And it’s a relatively inexpensive $29.99 at the App Store.

Your instructor will walk you through the basics of digital workflow in class. Alway feel free to ask for advice and recommendations.

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Card Readers …

If you’ve read the syllabus, you know that I recommend downloading your images from your camera’s card instead of directly from the camera with a USB cable.

There are a few reasons for this.

  1. It’s usually much faster.
  2. Some cameras require you to download software before you can download directly from the camera. That software often comes free with the camera, but it’s not usually the best choice of software for downloading and organizing images.
  3. It’s safer. If your camera’s batteries die in the middle of a download, you could corrupt the memory card and lose all the images on it.

The best way to download your images is to remove the memory card from your camera and use a card reader to download them to your computer.

Pros once had to spend up to $100 for super-duper fast card readers capable of downloading multiple cards at the same time. The cost of carder readers has declined recently, and even professional level card readers, with the latest standards, can be had for less than $20.

First, know what kind of card your camera uses.  SD (Secure Digital) cards have become the standard for consumer level DSLRs, and even many professional models. If you buy a high end SD card, sometimes the card reader will come with it. You can buy a basic SD card reader for less than $10, such as the Kingston Digital MobileLite.

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You can probably find something comparable and cheap just about anywhere locally that sells electronics, too. Wherever you shop, look for the USB 3.0 interface. Places like Walmart often sell readers with the older USB 2.0 interface. Try to avoid those. You will really appreciate the speedier downloads of USB 3.0, especially when you are transferring hundreds of photos or video files.

Higher end professional cameras and older consumer cameras often use the larger CF (Compact Flash) cards. You could buy a dedicated CF card reader, but I really recommend one of the multi-card readers. One of these can cover all of you downloading needs from just about any device you might use.

The Transcend TS-RDF9K All-in-One USB 3.1/3.0 UHS-II Card Reader and the Kingston USB 3.0 High-Speed Media Reader are both professional level, compatible with all of the latest card standards, and cost less than $20.

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Whatever you decide, just get a card reader!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need recommendations.