25 Jul 14. For today's close-up/macro image I'll depart from the normal discourse to discuss, at the request of several list members, what I'm using software-wise in my work. As most of you know I shy away from promoting specific products, because software, like hardware, is most always a matter of personal choice. But as I have many products from which to choose, and I play with all of them, I thought I'd make an exception and answer several individual questions as a general discussion. The image for today is not one in which I photographed the subject against my black velvet backdrop in the studio, but rather, a shot taken in the front yard of a red-orange calla lily shortly after a rainfall that I then took into the computer and cut from its background and under laid with a solid black layer. The part the software removed allowed the underlying black layer to show through. The making of a mask for a complex object has always been a somewhat trying, if not impossible, task, but new software is making it almost simple. Of all the masking programs I have, the latest from Topaz Labs, ReMask 4 ($35) is by far the best, and I highly recommend it to you if you want to do serious masking. The process I employed is demoed at the link above. Now, the base programs used by most can be quite expensive, and I'm sure you've heard the names of many including Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, onOne Suite, Elements, and Paint Shop Pro to name several, but Topaz makes one you've likely never heard of that is very capable called photoFXlab ($80). Either this, or Elements ($90), is a very good choice for starting and both have their advantages. All the Topaz programs have one VERY significant advantage; you purchase once with a lifetime (your) upgrade policy. NO other company offers this to you! Now, for a quick and VERY capable file viewer and image manipulation stand alone program, take a look at FastStone, which is freeware. I use it daily as the starting point for all my work. Another workhorse is Vuescan, ($40 for one year of upgrades; $80 for lifetime upgrades) a program for doing ALL your scanning needs. Finally, there is a printing program called Q-Image ($70) whose capabilities are so extensive that I don't have space to write about them but you can review them all here in this collection of training videos running over 338 minutes. You can also watch over 177 minutes of training videos for photoFXlab here. This combination of software is enough to get you doing almost everything I'm doing. Of course it will require effort on your part, but I'm happy to help anyone who asks for it. The total outlay for all of this is either $225 or $265 depending on your choice of Vuescan. In the big picture, this is peanuts for any serious work. The one thing I haven't included here is the collection of plug-ins I use, and these vary in price, but many, such as the Topaz collection of 14 programs, is always available as a bundle at a significant savings and the bundle often put on sale at either a 33% or 50%. I hope this helps those who have asked and perhaps some who didn't. Nikon D300s; 18 - 200; Aperture Priority; ISO 200; 1/250 sec @ f / 5.6.