Adobe Photoshop CS6

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We love photoshop! The full version allows you to do more than Photoshop Elements and integrates nicely with other Adobe programs, specifically Adobe Lightroom. Use Photoshop for the intense “pixel surgery” on your photos. For Adobe Photoshop Elements, Click here. It is the simplified version.

Adobe Lightroom 4

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I would HIGHLY recommend choosing Lightroom as your first post-processing software option. Eventually, you’ll want to pare Lightroom with Photoshop so you can do more in-depth edits. You can remove blemishes, soften skin, adjust color, exposure, straighten the horizon, crop, add filters.

Adobe Creative Cloud

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The latest versions of Adobe will only be available through the Creative Cloud service. Lightroom is also included in the Creative Cloud if you have the Complete subscription. This is the service we use and we like it because we will have access to the latest software as it is released.

Nik Collection by Google

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Dustin loves Nik Software! There are a lot of features in the different programs but is probably the best for finishing effects on your photos. It will take some practice -trail and error- to get the hang of it. Try the 15-day trial and give it a shot. You just might like it as much as Dustin!

Photomatix Pro

♥ ♥ ♥ Improve's Review:
Photomatix is one of the best HDR programs out there as far as its accuracy in merging your photos into HDR. The tone-mapping presets are too intense for our taste. Photomatix is a great way to get your photos merged with some tone-mapping, but use Photoshop to finish the effect off nicely.

ATTENTION: iPhoto Users
The software you are using is good, but it is not great for photographers. The internal photo management structure of the program is slow and ultimately unreliable. We suggest you switch your iPhoto Library into another program such as Lightroom, Aperture, or even Adobe Bridge to better manage your photos.


Laptops Desktops Screens

MacBook Pro 15″ Retina

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The Mac is an amazing machine with incredible reliability! With the Retina display you will be seeing your photos better than ever. We suggest at least: 2.4Ghz i7, 8GB Ram, and 512GB SSD. Check out refurbished models as well to save some money. Also get external storage for backup.

iMac 27″

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This gorgeous 27″ display really makes it easy to spread out and work on your photos comfortably. With enough power to process practically anything you throw at it. We suggest at least: 3.2GHz Intel i5, 16GB Ram, and 3TB Fusion Drive.

Apple Display 27″

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Before you jump on this band wagon – you should be aware that there should be a new Apple Display to be released shortly. Don't buy unless you're desperate for this one and won't get upset when Apple releases something new.

Dell Inspirion 15″ Touch

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The touch screen just might be enough to push anyone over and buy this one. But this has comparable speed and power to the MacBook Pro. Although, you'll want to wipe off those finger prints before you start editing photos.

Dell XPS 8700 Desktop

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We have one of these in our office here and it has been quiet the trooper as we put it through it's paces. For a Windows PC, we've been impressed at the consistent performance of this machine. We suggest at least: 3.9GHz i7, 12GB Ram, 2GB HD, and the 27″ monitor.

Monprice 27″ Slim Monitor

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The screen in this monitor is made by LG. The same people who make the Apple Display. This is worth looking into – except, it will not work on a Mac. But it's still great for you PC users out there…

HP Envy Touchsmart

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As far as specifications are concerned, this is probably the closest to the MacBook Pro. However, it does have a touchscreen instead of a Retina Display. This laptop comes with Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements.

HP Envy Phoenix

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This Desktop PC packs a punch with all the specifications it comes with. You'll have no problem editing your photos or doing other creative work on this. All you'll need is a nice monitor to complement the entire setup.


Carbonite Online Storage
15-day FREE Trial

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This is a very affordable and a great solution for practically most people. There is an array of plans and options to choose from. For single users, the basic plan will probably be enough for you. You will have to manage it and make sure that all your photos and other data is being synced to the online service.

4TB WD External Drive

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There are a lot of Hard Drive brands out there to know what will do the best for you. We have used a lot of Western Digital products and have seen the greatest lifespan in external drives. External Drives will last longer if they are accessed more often. Idle drives become stagnet and will corrupt sooner.


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We have the larger version of this ReadyNAS in our office and it works great! It's expandable to add more drives in for extra space. You can access it online like you would dropbox, or treat it like a normal server on the network. Setting this up to work for you might require more techical knowledge.

Created by Dustin Olsen


  1. Jim, I was wondering if you could recommend a monitor calibration device. I’ve been looking at the spyder 4 Pro, but it has mixed reviews. I do a lot of printing of my own work and would love to hear your recommendations for a user friendly calibration device.

    I appreciate your input and love the podcast…Keep up the good work!!

    Torrey Voigt

  2. Getting ready to spring for a new MacBook Pro and need to know if moving up to the i7 quad-core processor is really important for PS and LR work. My budget is for the 2.6GHZ i5 dual core but would it be a mistake not to step up? The speed is almost identical. The two offerings are as follows with a least a $200 differential:
    2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 – Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
    2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 -Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
    Appreciate your comments.

  3. Jim,
    just wondering what would you recommend in terms of tablets?

    I am hoping to not have to carry my laptop in order to be able to see how the shots turn out on a larger scale.


  4. @De —- I have both an IPad 2 and a Samsung Galaxy note 10.1. I actually prefer the Galaxy. I recently went on a cruise and didn’t want to take a laptop. While I can load my images to the IPad using the camera adapter, I’m limited to the amount of memory on the tablet. The Galaxy offers limitless external storage via micro SD cards.

    I have the 32GB Galaxy and several 32GB and 64GB micro SD cards. I use them in my Nikon with the adapter. At the end of the day I insert the micro SD card into my Galaxy to review and edit photos.

    I shoot RAW and JPG. The RAW images are untouched for proper post editing. I use the Google+ Photo app or Adobe Photo Express for quick on the road editing of JPGs for family and friends.

    The Galaxy also has a very nifty intelligent stylus which offers several functions and easy of navigation on the tablet.

  5. I am looking for a solution to store my photos other than my external hard drive. I noticed that you guys recommend Carbonite but I was also looking into Picturelife. Have you heard any good/bad reviews? In your expert opinion what do you think about picturelife?

  6. I was wondering if anyeyone could give me some information on a computer that would be good for photography. I am new to this and id like lamans terms please. I can’t really afford a apple but am interested in the hp pavillion touchsmart. I don’t know what I would need in a computer to get a business going. Please help anyone.

  7. Could you recommend a printer for printing photos – professional quality that isn’t going to cost me a fortune?

  8. Deciding again on a laptop and find the 15″ MacBook Pro at $2600 to be great but expensive. I now see that Lenovo is offering 4k laptops with the same processors at the MBP for about half the price. 512SSD on both. I’d prefer the mac to integrate with my phone/iPad and I like facetime instead of skype that some of my contacts don’t use. The computer’s main purpose is photo editing on LR and PS. Do I go Apple or Lenovo plus a new lens? Let me know your thoughts and other considerations I should keep in mind. Thanks, Jim and all responders.

  9. Dell Inspiron 7000 – I bought this party on the recommendation of this site and am not impressed. Its great for most things but not photo editing. I bought the top specs 3.1ghz i7 with 16gig ram and 2gig GPU.

    The laptop can run new games like FarCry4 with no problem but Lightroom 5 is slow and annoying

  10. The computers section needs to be updated. The links to all but one of the computers take you to pages telling you the product cannot be found. It may also be helpful to add the date when you last updated your recommendations so that people know that you didn’t consider products that were not out at the time you made your recommendation.

  11. Would you recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements 13? Your link goes to v11

    1. I would recommend PS Elements 13. It has all the basics for photo editing with out requiring a college degree (humor). Make sure you get the disk with the download version. Sign in to Adobe and have some fun. We use it, and 14 for our business to touch up RAW prior to conversion to JPEG. We keep both copies on two separate hard drives and the cloud for added POM.


  12. ok gonna blast you here … i use only open source software.. photoshop and lightroom have been and still are way over priced .. if you use linux based OS ( UBUNTU or linuxmint ) their are several programs to use but GIMP ( graphical image manuaplition program ) is a FREE version of photoshop .. darktable is likewise.. all the buttons are in different places but they both do the same and the amount of free add ons are limited less and you can find web all over the web and youtube..

  13. I have used some of the HP’s and liked the results but recently purchased a Canon Pixma 920. It is by far a much better printer and in terms of my photographs, they look amazing. The difference between Canon and HP is quite noticeable; when you are looking for a printer be sure to research your needs with the Pixmas to be sure to get everything you want as some of the older models may disappoint. Good luck!

  14. I am starting to get into photography. I just got a Nikon D 5500. I am in bad need of a new laptop and I don’t have any editing software. Most people recommend the MAC; is there another computer that is comparable or better without such a high pricetag?

  15. just came across your site. i was using hiresqfx back when ps could not work on an image over 20mg yet you don’t mention it LAME…… might want to take a look.

  16. A great editing program from On one software called Ononeraw is new and highly recommended. Simple to use and leaves Photoshop elements in the dust. Check it out for free, plus they give away cool stuff each month

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