I’m new to photography so I’ve been reading a lot about post-processing and editing software. This is what I have been gathering. I’ll continue to use the camera software and free choices until I have a better grasp at this new hobby. Please correct my collection of reading points where I may have misunderstood them.
Use the basic photo editing software that came with your camera (like View NX2 for Nikon users) to do basic retouches. A good free alternative is Picasa.
If you can afford the full-blown PhotoShop, do so. A good alternative is PaintShop Pro. One level down is the more lightweight and more inexpensive PhotoShop Elements. It is well suited for the average photo enthusiast or amateur photographer who doesn’t need heavy graphic editing. A good free alternative is Gimp, Paint.net or Pixlr.com.
Lightroom is a photo database organizer loaded with post-processing tools for photo adjustments. While not as robust in graphic-editing as PS or PS Elements, it has enough tools to satisfy most entry-level photographers. A decent free alternative is Picasa.
HDR software. Use Photomatixs or HDR Efex Pro. A good free alternative is Luminance or Picturenaut.
I’m really not concerned with the organizational and database features of Lightroom. So in regards to photo editing, is there anything that Lightroom can do that PS Elements cannot?