Digital image editing software has come a very long way in the last couple of decades. Indeed, the number and complexity of constantly evolving applications make it hard to determine which are the most efficient and effective in both cost and function. Regarding cost, see Thom Hogan’s article on PetaPixel for some clear-eyed value comparisons.
Every photographer eventually develops a preferred workflow using software that suits his or her needs. What works for me is Adobe Bridge/ACR/Photoshop, staying non-destructive as long as possible. However, now and then a new program comes along that really makes a difference—like DxO’s PureRAW.
DxO PureRAW has been around for a while, now in version 3. It’s designed not as a replacement for a full RAW-processing/editing suite like ACR/Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, DxO PhotoLab, or others, but as a slimmed down, modest-cost perpetual (non-subscription) application containing a few of DxO PhotoLab’s best RAW-development features while integrating seamlessly with a Lightroom or ACR/Photoshop workflow. Here’s how it works: select a native RAW file (or files) to process, choose the type of noise reduction, optical correction, and output format (JPEG, TIFF, or DNG); then process. The renamed file is saved to a DxO subfolder of the original image’s folder, or other designated location. DxO’s noise reduction is excellent, especially with DeepPRIME XD, and their lens corrections are world-class. I’ve found the results of using PureRAW so good—especially with older files—that I’m systematically reviewing and reprocessing selects from my entire digital archive.