Defringe: Why Photoshop/Lightroom Are Still Irreplaceable For Amateurs And Enthusiasts

We are approaching the end of August. Corel has just released an update to Paintshop Pro. Alien Skin has announced that a new version of Exposure is due this winter. No doubt other photography post-processing software vendors are also preparing new version updates for their respective products, as is the tradition every year around this time.

Since Adobe discontinued stand-alone versions for Photoshop and introduced Adobe CC, rival vendors have been under considerable heat in the photography post-processing software market. CC’s offer of Photoshop and Lightroom at 10USD-per-month is impossible to compete against, as this is significantly cheaper than what professional photographers used to pay. However not everything is gloomy for these vendors, as non-working photography amateurs and enthusiasts find the new pricing structure more expensive for them. These users used to be able to purchase a release, then skip a version or two before purchasing another version. Now the new price for them is an annual 120USD without the benefit of a revenue source from a photography business to offset the cost. For this demographic, alternatives to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are looking increasingly attractive. These products do not need to have the full features of Adobe’s industry-leading duo, just having a good proportion of selected essential features will be sufficient for these users to feel comfortable enough to migrate off Adobe.

Unfortunately, to me the list of features offered by alternatives do not quite cover all the essentials I require yet. One missing feature continues to rear its ugly head, and I am afraid that no software update by any of the PS/LR-alternative vendors this year will offer it – the local defringe feature. Let me illustrate this with an image (If your display isn’t properly colour-calibrated or does not have sufficient sRGB coverage, you won’t see the colour fringes):


Purple fringes are appearing on edges with high contrast. There are some who claim that you can just sample the fringing colour and most image processing software will remove it automatically. I honestly believe that people who say this produce sub-standard work during post-processing. This is because if these same people had paid more attention to the images they are editing, it should be plainly obvious that in real life, these colour fringes can occur in different colour ranges throughout the image frame. An image-processing software’s automatic global colour fringe correction will never be able to correct every occurrence of this anomaly. In fact with strong global correction values, you risk blacking out edge details from legitimate purple or similar-coloured objects in the image. Just imaging a picture of a mall’s facade in the day with purple and magenta colours in the signs/banners/road-signs. How about some bougainvillea in the foreground? Or just a pedestrian dressed in purple.

The only way to correct these properly is to use the local defringe tool in PS/LR to manually brush the colour fringes off. No other alternative product has this feature:


To all the other vendors positioning their product as an Adobe alternative: You need this feature for your software to be considered viable. Enthusiasts may not have the same needs as a working photographer does, but the ability to correct these easily visible image faults should be a minimum requirement.

As I regularly shoot building and architecture facades in the day, colour fringing occurs regularly and this is a must-have feature. Until a vendor introduces a competing product update with this feature, I will be sticking with Lightroom 5.

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