Unless you’re hoarding a freezer-full of film and chemicals and submitting your slides, negatives and prints in mailers, you’re going to need to have and use at least some software. Photoshop remains mandatory for just about every pro. It’s incredibly useful and powerful, but you might find that you’re not using it as often as you once did. That’s because software that was originally designed for simple organization and low-level adjustments has become more powerful and useful. Also, specialized plug-ins have come along that can do the heavy lifting that you used to rely on Photoshop to handle. In this short article, we’re going to look at some software that every pro should have on their system.
Image Management And Organization
Handling a pro’s extensive image library is no small feat. There are a number of excellent options available for Mac and Windows users, but remember, effective image management begins with a good organizational foundation. We’ve published a number of articles on organization, so go to www.digitalphotopro.com to get some ideas on how you can build a solid foundation.
Image management software has come a long way. Today, you can use your image manager to handle everything from batch renaming to sophisticated color correction and web publishing. Many image management programs can make use of plug-ins that further expand their scope.
ACDSee Pro 5
With features to help you import and organize your images and add ratings, keywords and color labels, ACDSee Pro 5 is a powerful organizer for your image library. There also are tools that can correct lens distortion and perspective. Long a favorite of Windows users, ACDSee Pro 5 is fast and powerful, and it supports still images as well as motion and other media. List Price: $139.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
What began as RAW workflow and organization software has evolved into a multi-faceted image powerhouse. Lightroom will manage, optimize and output your photos, as well as work seamlessly with Adobe Photoshop. Lightroom 4 is the latest version, and among its new features is support for GPS metadata so you can find images by location. Like many image management programs today, Lightroom 4 supports motion as well as still images, and a nice little feature is the ability to customize workspace with your own logo. List Price: $149.
Apple Aperture 3
When Apple introduced Aperture a few years ago, the Cupertino-based company made it clear that they were going to be a strong player in professional imaging. With the introduction of Aperture 3, that commitment remains strong. Taking the most useful workflow components from their lower-end iPhoto software and combining them with sophisticated professional elements, Aperture is one of the best options for organization, management and RAW workflow. One particularly nice feature of Aperture is the ability to use it with your Mac laptop and Mac desktop computer. On the road, you can fully manage images in new "events" within Aperture, then when you get back to your home base, connect the laptop to your desktop computer as a targeted drive and simply move the event to your main Aperture library. Aperture 3 supports HD video, and you can make multimedia slideshows with those video clips within Aperture. List Price: $79.
Camera Bits Photo Mechanic 5
More than one high-level pro finds that Photo Mechanic is the only organizational tool they need. Like a Porsche 911 SC stripped of frivolous elements that in get the way of the driver and the road, Photo Mechanic doesn’t do any image enhancement. It’s strictly a photo manager, and it does that really well. You can import from multiple flash cards simultaneously, edit IPTC metadata and generally manage large photo libraries quickly without drama. List Price: $150.
Effects And Plug-ins
There are so many plug-ins available now that it’s impossible to list them all. Here, we’re covering a few that will form a sound foundation for doing a number things to make your images stand out.
Alien Skin Bokeh 2
Alien Skin Bokeh 2 is just one of Alien Skin’s many plug-ins. It lets you easily apply lens effects to simulate tilt/shift lenses and create highlyselective depth of field. These looks have become enormously popular in recent years, particularly with wedding and portrait shooters. The latest version of Bokeh lets you apply multiple effects to an image in different areas, and you can match the grain structure to the blurred area for a seamless effect. List Price: $199.
Athentec Perfectly Clear
Perfectly Clear is a set of 12 quick corrections that you can apply to improve exposure, reduce noise, remove color tints, improve skin tones, adjust contrast and sharpening, and more. The software can apply enhancements automatically, or you can take manual control and fine-tune the results using slider controls. List Price: $199.
onOne Perfect Mask 5
onOne makes a number of useful plug-ins and stand-alone software packages. Perfect Mask is useful because it does the heavy lifting of the often tedious process of masking and isolating your subject from the background, and it does it well. The latest version has a library of backgrounds that you can drop into your portraits or other photos. List Price: $99.
Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
Nik Software was recently acquired by Google. The company has been a favorite of photographers for years due to their powerful U Point technology, as well as their photographer-oriented workflow. Silver Efex Pro 2 is Nik’s powerful and highly fine-tunable application for converting photos to black-and-white. You can choose from a number of presets or create your own. Either way, once you’ve made the conversion, you can customize the image with U Point controls in a limitless manner. List Price: $199.
Tiffen Dfx 3
Tiffen Dfx 3 Digital Filter Suite is available as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture or a stand-alone software package. It’s multi-talented software that can simulate dozens of Tiffen optical filters, as well as recreate the look of specialized lenses, film-lab processes, film grain structures and more. Dfx 3 also includes tools that can fix common photo problems, compression artifacts and noise. List Price: $169