(I'm strictly an amateur, so take the rest of this post with plenty of salt.)
Up until now, I have been using Picasa, free from Google, but limited. It's fine for correcting a white balance, cropping and straightening, but that's about it. Anything I do to a photo there is global; if there's a problem with a sky that's too light while the rest of the photo is too dark, I can't do anything about it. It is easy to use, though, and quick; doesn't tax my memory, even while I run other programs in the background.
I have tried many other free programs. Some are better than others; none are better for me than Picasa. One was about as easy to use, and had layers. I don't know why I decided against it, and uninstalled it. It probably merited a second chance, but now I can't remember which one it was. Oh, me!
Lightroom can adjust parts of a photo separately, can balance colours and brightness in a variety of ways, has interesting possibilities. It allows for fine-tuning values like sharpness and "vibrance". I have rescued a couple of photos already, photos I normally would delete, or worse, keep because of sentimental value. And it will be half the price of Photoshop, which is what I would like to use.
So far, though, I'm not sure I like it enough to pay for it. It is slow, very slow. It loads everything to the web, which I think is what contributes to its sluggishness. It sometimes crashes my computer. It doesn't do layers. It doesn't co-ordinate well with Picasa, which is what I would use anyhow for the majority of my photos, needing just a quick tune-up. And sometimes, I am not sure if the photos look worse or better once I'm done; they seem a bit too dramatic, too definite, out of sync with BC's soft, greyed tones, but the Lightroom skin is a gloomy dark grey, which skews my perception of colours and brightness.
Here's a photo I tuned in Lightroom today:
First hellebore of the year. In a pot by my door.
What do you think?
What programs do you use? Would you recommend them?