Monday, May 7, 2007
10 Top Imaging Applications
Our favorite software for photographers, from beginners to pros
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Designed to complement, not replace the wider array of tools in Photoshop CS3, Photoshop Lightroom is a workflow-based application with a robust yet simplified and efficient workspace. Lightroom is designed to address core tasks—from importing and organizing through output—that make up the majority of the work we do with our photos.
One of the first things you'll notice about the Lightroom interface is the task buttons that suggest workflow steps: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. Clicking on these buttons reveals the control panels and tools you'll need for that portion of the workflow. For example, click on Library, and Lightroom displays the control panels you'll need to find and import image files, organize them into collections and add tags or edit metadata. You also can compare multiple images at once to check details like sharpness and narrow your selection of final images.
Click on Develop, and the control panels switch to image-processing tools, including a histogram display, tone curve editor and numerous sliders to adjust exposure, color, sharpening and more. All of your image edits are non-destructive, meaning they don't affect the original file. One especially handy feature is the ability to see side-by-side "before and after" views, allowing you to compare the effects of your adjusted file against your original image.
Once you've perfected your images, the remaining task buttons—Slideshow, Print and Web—bring up control panels you'll need to present them. Slideshow makes quick work of creating a custom design that you can output to PDF for cross-platform compatibility. The Print workspace offers a variety of templates for standard prints sizes and contact sheets. Web offers tools to create Flash and HTML galleries, ready to be uploaded to your Website. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is available for both Windows and Mac. List Price: $299.
Digital Light & Color Picture Window Pro 4
Professional-quality image editing doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. With a list price of $89, Picture Window Pro 4 is one of the best values for serious photo work. Full support for 16-bit color and RAW files, plus advanced color and exposure tools, give you a lot of flexibility.
Picture Window takes a unique approach to image editing that you won't find in other applications. Typical photo enhancements are accomplished via "transformations." When you begin a transformation, Picture Window creates a new copy of your image in the workspace, so you can compare the effects of the transformation with the original file. Every time you apply a new transformation, it creates another copy of the file. It's an idea similar to the History palette in Photoshop, but is different in that each stage of the editing process is encapsulated in a distinct copy of the file—all of which are open and accessible in the workspace.
The newest version of Picture Window adds support for RAW files, so you won't need an external editor to open most popular formats. It also includes batch processing to automate repetitive tasks on a whole group of images, and you can set Picture Window to automatically launch a predetermined batch process when a camera or memory card is detected. For example, you could create a batch process that automatically imports all files from your camera, organizes them into a specific folder and converts them to a file type of your choice.
In addition to organizing and editing tools, Picture Window also includes a slideshow creation tool that supports music and captions, and a photo album creator with automatic or manual layouts. Picture Window is compatible with Windows-based PCs.
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