Monday, October 8, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2008: Photo-Processing Software
Today’s software offers us a big range of choices in how we work and play with our images
Apple Aperture 1.5
Aperture is Apple's first program geared directly toward serious and pro photographers. The Mac has been popular among professional photographers for a long time, so Aperture is designed to help them better work with photos on the computer. (Aperture is only available for Mac.) While similar in many ways to Lightroom, Aperture definitely has a different, very Apple-like personality. It's optimized to handle RAW files as easily as JPEGs, but it also does work with most common image file types. Like Lightroom, Aperture was designed to work with a lot of images typical of a pro or advanced amateur's work and includes powerful photo-management tools. One amazing feature is a virtual light table. With it, you can sort images into piles just like working with real slides, and these piles automatically form groups for the photos. When you want to compare images, the Loupe feature makes it easy to examine many images quickly to make informed decisions about their quality. The program is a full-featured RAW-processing program, too, which means you have nondestructive, changeable processing for your photos (this applies to JPEG and TIFF files as well). Aperture also includes strong output options, including slideshows, Web galleries, photo books and more. The street price is $299.
Apple iPhoto '08
iPhoto is unique among all of the image-processing programs listed here. It's part of a larger suite of programs called iLife and comes free with a Mac (it's not available for Windows). iLife includes web, audio and movie-making software in addition to iPhoto. iPhoto was a fairly basic program, but now, under some influence of its very big brother, Aperture, it has been expanded and offers organizing and processing power well worth considering. iPhoto organizes photos first based on when they were shot, then on something new, called Events, meaning specific times that photography occurred. Image-processing controls got a distinct upgrade in this version and look a lot like Aperture's controls, yet are still designed for quick and easy image adjustments. Special controls, such as Highlight and Shadow adjustments and noise reduction, which never would have been expected on an inexpensive program like iPhoto, are now included and give the program a high value for any photographer. Like Photoshop Elements, iPhoto includes a lot of great ways for working with your photos, including creating cards, calendars, slideshows and the photo books that have a justly high reputation. Talk about affordable—it's free with all Macs, though you can buy the complete iLife package for an older computer for just $79.
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
Paint Shop Pro Photo is a program that has been around nearly as long as Photoshop, though originally it was made by a company called Jasc. It was long considered the "poor man's Photoshop" because it offered so many features, including all the layer capabilities of Photoshop, at a low price. This program has a strong cadre of loyal fans; it is, in many ways, a cult classic because of how well it has done as an advanced image processor for so many people around the world. In Europe, Paint Shop Pro is one of the most popular photo-processing programs. Paint Shop Pro also includes a photo organizer and photo browser, so you can get even more for your money, and get going on sorting and editing your photos. Features include RAW capabilities, color-management settings and 16-bit processing, which is uncommon for a program at this price. There's also a Smart Photo Fix feature that automatically and smartly adjusts problem images. This is a Windows-only program, with an estimated street price of $99.
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