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Software & Plug-Ins

A selection of the top image editors and special-effects plug-ins

This Article Features Photo Zoom


ACD SYSTEMS

ACDSee Pro is a powerful photo management and organizational app that's increasingly talented throughout the digital workflow, from processing to output. New in just-released version 5 are an advanced sharpening tool with easy-to-use edge detection, and dodge and burn tools for intuitive localized exposure fixes. List Price: $239.

ACDSee Pro for Mac doesn't have all of the features of its Windows sibling, but it's one of the most robust photo organizational tools available for Mac OS. On the processing side, you can enhance RAW files, quickly fix exposure problems with simple slider controls, and in the latest version 1.9, you now can save a series of adjustments and batch apply them to a folder of images. List Price: $169.

ADOBE

New this fall, Photoshop Elements 10 builds on the popular alternative to Photoshop CS with a number of new tools designed to make otherwise tricky enhancements, such as simulated depth of field, as easy as moving a few sliders. Also new is an intelligent search tool that can collect related photos based on the objects in your selected image, so you can quickly find all of your images of a favorite person or pet. List Price: $99.

Photoshop CS5 is the gold standard of photo processing, and for good reason: If it can be done digitally to a photo, Photoshop can do it. Though it offers no organizational tools like many other photo apps, it includes state-of-the-art capabilities like Content-Aware Fill, which can automatically remove an unwanted object and replace it with pixels that match the surroundings. Also noteworthy is a brushed-based, pressure-sensitive sharpening tool that lets you quickly enhance fine details only where you want to. List Price: $699.

Photoshop Lightroom 3 is a favorite of pros and enthusiasts alike. It's a powerful app that has everything you need to manage, optimize and output your photos in a streamlined, clutter-free work-space. Version 3 includes an advanced noise-reduction technology, lens- and perspective-correction tools, and organizational support for DSLR video files, so you can keep your stills and movie clips together in one place. List Price: $299.

ALIEN SKIN

Exposure 3 is a plug-in for Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop Elements that includes over 500 preset effects that you can quickly apply to your images to re-create the look of classic film photography. You can simulate dozens of film types, plus toy camera effects and more. Edits are all nondestructive, so can experiment freely. List Price: $249.

Though many of the latest digital cameras deliver files exceeding 16 megapixels, there are still occasions when you want to enlarge an image, and a specialized plug-in like Blow Up 2 gives you more control and features than the Resize command in your photo processor. Version 2 adds a JPEG repair slider for cleaning up JPEG compression artifacts, batch processing and a handy tool to sharpen the image appropriately for your final use. The plug-in requires Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. List Price: $199.

Selective-focus effects can dramatically improve portraits and more by taming busy backgrounds. Bokeh 2 offers a wide range of focus adjustments that are easy to apply and let you control focus, vignette and apparent depth of field. New in Bokeh 2 is the ability to use multiple focus points and to simulate the look of tilt-shift lenses. This plug-in requires Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom or Photoshop Elements as a host application. List Price: $199.

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