Whilst I believe good photography starts in the camera and the techniques you employ, I believe great photography is created in post capture processing. There are a lot of software tools on the market to help you with varying degrees of success. I have tried many and also ruled out many. I now find myself returning regularly to a number of plug-in provides which are listed below.
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Topaz Labs produce a wide range of filters for photographers which can be used with a number of popular image editing packages including Adobe Elements, Photoshop and Lightroom. Many of their products are aimed at visual image enhancement and can produce some very striking special effects. This can sometimes lead to image being very stylised and having a false appearance if you don't take care. The range of products and value for money is excellent.
There are fully functional trial versions of the software available for download on their website as well as a number of good value bundled deals. Video training materials are available on the website and on YouTube.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a member of the Topaz Affiliate scheme which means if you buy any Topaz product using the links on this page I will earn a commission. This doesn't cost you anything more but helps me cover the cost of running Lenscraft).
Nik Collection from Google ***Now FREE***
The Nik Collection from Google is a great set of plug-ins offering photographers a huge set of tools with which to improve and transform their work. When Google bought out Nik the price of these excellent tools dropped dramatically. A great new plug-in (Nik Analog Efex) was then launched and included for free but since then there have been a few automatic upgrades but the toolset remains relatively unchanged. This is no bad thing as the tools are brilliant if still a little on the expensive side. I use these tools regularly to enhance my work and have written a number of books about their use. Highly recommended.
Exposure from Alien Skin
Alien Skin have a number of software products for image editing but I find the most useful is Exposure (updated with a new release every couple of years). This is an excellent package for enhancing both colour and black and white images. It also comes with a huge library of film simulations which are very true to the originals. Particularly impressive are the Infrared film simulations, particularly if applied to digital infrared images which lack the halation effect that so many people love. The package initially seems expensive but once used for a while you come to realise it's good value. It's well worth downloading and trying the trial software.
PhotoWiz is range of plug-ins which can be used with common photo editing packages (check the details on the website). I don't use all of these myself but that's not to say they are not great products. I currently own and use the products "BW Styler", "Focal Blade" and "Contrast Master" which all produce excellent results. They can be a little tricky to use but the results are worth the effort and the pricing is good.