I shoot alot of macro images at home (currently with a Nikon D610 & a Sigma 150mm Macro), typically of insects, spiders and other creatures which are hanging around my house. My personal favorite animal to photograph are jumping spiders which in my honest opinion have personality, and they are actually interested in their reflection in the lens which always helps and they tend to (at times) stand still which helps with focus stacking.
Given people seem to be becoming more interested in Macro photography, I thought it might be worth giving a bit of an idea on the sorts of tools that I use within my macro photography, what they do and the reason I use them. The table below gives you an idea of the pieces of software I use, and when I use them in the workflow (the top of the list is the start of the workflow, the bottom is the end).
|Lightroom||Digital Asset Manager||Primarily used to group, and manage the photos I currently have on my system, as well as some VERY light photo editing, cropping, and to hand photos off to the various pieces of software below.|
|Topaz DeNoise AI||Remove Noise||Primarily for when I have high noise images, this might be in low light when I have to bump the ISO up to increase the shutter speed to freeze the movement, or when the environment is dark.|
|Helicon Focus||Focus Stacking||Primarily used to increase the depth of field within my macro photos. Because the Sigma 150mm Macro has a 1:1 reproduction rate (depending on focus), the depth of field is VERY shallow and to get a full subject in focus I often need to stack multiple images into one more sharp final image.|
|Aurora HDR||HDR||This is not always used in my macro images, but occasionally if I want to apply a HDR look to an image, bring out the colours or shadows I will run it through Aurora HDR which gives great HDR images (just be careful not to overcook them).|
|Luminar 4||Photo Editing||I use Luminar 4 to apply edits to my images, I use a number of different AI tools within the software which are most commonly Accent AI which applies general lighting and colour improvements, I then usually apply Structure AI (sometimes with masking).|
|Affinity Photo||Advanced Photo Editing||If my photo needs some more advanced editing I will commonly use Affinity Photo. This is a photoshop alternative which I use for cloning out items, cleaning up the image overall, and making some more advanced edits.|
|Topaz Sharpen AI||Photo Sharpening||Generally once I am happy with my photo I will feed it through Topaz Sharpen AI which uses AI to enhance the image, it looks at the image to try and understand what the image needs (i.e. is the lack of sharpness because of movement, blur, is it just out of focus) and tries to correct that and apply additional but targeted sharpness to the image (this is not a global sharpness, so it is only applied to where it is needed.|
I have not done a side by side comparison, but there may be some duplication between Structure AI in Luminar, and Topaz Sharpen AI, but I find that Topaz Sharpen tends to cover a wider set of sharpness issues.
|Topaz Gigapixel AI||Photo Enlarging||Often there is a need to enlarge the image, when this is needed I use Topaz Gigapixel AI which uses machine learning to try and increase the resolution with the photo without leaving artifacts.|
|JPEGMini||Photo Size Optimisation||Finally, if I am exporting my image for Social Media, or anywhere as a JPEG I will typically run the image through JPEGMini which analyses the image and tries to reduce the size of the overall file without affecting the resolution or the users perception of the image.|
I hope you have found this run-through of the various products I use in Macro photography useful, the work-flow does sometimes change but for the most part this works very well for me. Depending on how your setup works, your camera and lense, and your capability, your mileage may vary :).