Buyer's Guide 2009: Image Processing Software
The latest generation is more photographer-friendly than ever, with powerful
Photoshop has become one of those brands, like Coke® or Kleenex®, that's so iconic, it represents a whole category of products. It even has become a verb, as in "to Photoshop" an image. So it may come as a surprise when we say that it might not be the best choice for your photo needs. There are many software options for both Mac and Windows users. Each program has its own personality and its own way of working, which may or may not be appropriate for you. One way of finding out is to download a trial version of the program. Try the demo, and check out the features that each manufacturer highlights on its website. That will tell you a lot about the personality and workflow involved for any given program.
Aperture 2 is a much polished program compared to the earlier versions. Apple learned a lot as it developed and refined its original program, thereby making this version faster as well as more useful and photographer-friendly. Its streamlined interface makes working with the program much more inviting and more efficient. It's a very powerful program designed to organize and work with a lot of photographs at once (including an amazing light-table feature), but that very power requires a computer with processing power.
Aperture 2 includes a useful new Quick Preview mode, which helps in browsing photos so that you can find, evaluate and compare images quickly. Apple also has added a few tools that were only available in Adobe products before, such as the Recovery and Vibrancy adjustments, that add capability for the photographer working in this software. All image adjustments done in the program itself are nondestructive (this isn't true for plug-ins). One big breakthrough for the program is the ability to use plug-ins, programs that use Aperture as a host. This gives Aperture a great deal of flexibility and expandability. Apple includes a Dodge & Burn plug-in to get you started, but there are more than 70 currently available, many from popular third-party software makers like Digital Film Tools, Nik and Tiffen. Aperture is available only for Mac.
iPhoto is an interesting program. For a long time, it seemed to follow its own direction unrelated to photo enthusiasts, so some people found it useful and others didn't care for it. But today's iPhoto is a very different program. Apple has learned a lot about working with photographs and photographers as it developed and refined Aperture. Many ideas and concepts from Aperture have been included in iPhoto.