This question has been asked so many times that it’s become one of the most popular in the Ask an Expert Community that I’ve ever created. And as someone who spends more than half his time editing photos every day, they are among the most frequently asked questions.
I’ll keep this short — it’s Photoshop, not Lightroom or Camera Raw. It’s not like the other photo editing applications that claim to be “easy” but that in practice are just a little more difficult than Photoshop.
With any decent Photoshop package, I recommend using the free Adobe Photoshop CS5 to get started. (It’s really that simple and will save you years of frustration.)
But it’s a little more complicated if you want to build your skills to be able to use more advanced programs.
Here’s what I’d recommend for beginners
I’ve done this before and it’s been really helpful, even if I don’t consider it a beginner’s best practice. (You’ll notice me trying to explain it, since it’s very complicated to explain, but then I do it often.)
My first recommendation — the simplest Photoshop package that I can recommend.
If you can afford it and have Photoshop CS5 installed, it’s Photoshop CS4 — the latest edition to run in a Windows environment.
If you cannot afford it, I recommend using the free versions of Photopress and Lightroom to start. These products are not as user-friendly, but they are much more sophisticated and will give you a lot less practice than you might expect.
As a beginner who doesn’t have Photoshop CS5 you may want to use Lightroom Pro or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC. I’d recommend Lightroom because Lightroom does have tools that are a bit more advanced than Photoshop CS5’s features. The Lightroom plugins are more like Photoshop tools than Lightroom is like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
I don’t actually recommend using Lightroom because Lightroom is too advanced for my own personal use. But it’s a good starting point for beginners and allows you to get better at editing photos.
I’ll include the tutorials and other resources on these four programs below for reference.
Photoshop Lightroom Pro
Photoshop Lightroom CC
I used all four programs to do some research on this very topic, but the Lightroom plugin did the best job at showing you what kind of tools you’re getting at each of the four,
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