Aimed at keeping the work flow for photographers fast and fun, image browsers are designed to offer organization functionality at affordable prices. Most browsers are centered around simple interfaces to help you sort through images quickly, make the best selections and output them as prints, use them on the web or send them to family and friends. The best browsers also include essential image-enhancement tools and are the primary work flow tool for many photographers today.
ACDSEE PHOTO MANAGER 2009
ACDSee’s Photo Manager 2009 quickly displays more than 100 different file types, including many popular RAW formats. Photos can be viewed at full size or as thumbnails, and ACDSee’s Quick View feature will preview e-mail attachments or desktop files, as well. Images can be dragged and dropped from Windows file folders, and Photo Manager 2009 also will add keywords and ratings and edit metadata, all for one of the most inexpensive prices available. List Price: $49.
MICROSOFT EXPRESSION MEDIA 2
Microsoft Expression Media 2 provides a drag-and-drop visual database for importing, organizing, annotating and classifying more than 100 different file formats. Images, music and movies can be stored anywhere, even offline, and files can be browsed in a variety of ways, including as thumbnails, slideshows, a lightbox and more. Each file is searchable by customizable criteria and metadata, and up to six files can be compared side by side. A built-in Image Editor provides basic editing tools, including cropping, red-eye removal, color-balance adjustment and several auto enhancements for fast touch-ups of images. Prints of any size can be output, including contact sheets, and Expression Media 2 can perform single or batch conversions of images, movies and audio to a variety of formats. The coolest feature of the browser is that almost every feature can be programmed to provide automated workflow for avoiding repetitive tasks. List Price: $199.
ADOBE BRIDGE CS4
Bridge CS4 is the hub of Adobe’s powerhouse Creative Suite 4 selection of programs, which includes Photoshop. Images can be previewed in a variety of ways, like full-screen, a cycling Carousel view, a List view, stacks, thumbnails and with metadata and shot information. Bridge uses robust organizational tools and batch processing, offering metadata addition, image resizing, photo ratings, file renaming and format conversion for cross-production between CS4 programs and multi-output of images and files to different devices, including web galleries and handheld devices. Bridge CS4 also provides workgroup file management for multiple-version tracking of images, ideal for projects with many different people involved. Bridge CS4 is included with most CS4 programs and software bundles. List Price: $699 (with Photoshop CS4); $999 (with Photoshop CS4 Extended); bundle prices vary.
iPhoto ’08 is part of Apple’s iLife ’08 suite of programs, included free on every new Mac. iPhoto offers automatic organization of your photo library by Events, ordered by date and time. Images can be edited with basic retouching tools and sliders for adjusting exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, sharpness and more. Images can be output in a variety of exciting ways, including as calendars, books and an integrated MobileMe online gallery. Pictures are searchable by date, keyword, event or rating, and prints can be embellished with included customizable borders, textured mattes and text. iPhoto also saves untouched original images in the library, so you’ll always have the original. List Price: $79 (includes complete iLife suite).
FOTOALBUM 6 PRO
FotoAlbum 6 Pro has a lot of features, but is most unique for its use of geotagging as a way to organize photos. Featuring integration with Google Maps API, images are filed into multilevel smart albums and sub-albums that are searchable through a customizable database of GPS locations, as well as captions, keywords, dates and other metadata fields for photos and videos. FotoAlbum Pro can be used by multiple users simultaneously, and watch folders will allow you to keep your pictures stored where you like while referencing them in the FotoAlbum 6 Pro configurable interface. Prints and novelty items of images can be ordered directly from the software, and there’s also basic image editing with red-eye removal, cropping, color correction and more. List Price: $39.
SOME FULL-FEATURED ORGANIZERS ALSO FEATURE POWERFUL PHOTO-EDITING CAPABILITIES
Acdsee Pro 2.5
With ACDSee Pro 2.5, photographers can keep images organized while also gaining the ability to apply nondestructive and pixel-level editing. Photos can be imported and organized with searchable categories, keywords, EXIF and IPTC metadata, and more. Collections can be browsed in a customized interface, and images can be renamed, rotated, deleted, organized and backed up. Some of the image-editing tools include a Shadows/Highlights adjustment and a Photo Repair tool for blemishes, flares, lens scratches and imperfections. Selection tools can apply local adjustments to defined areas, including blur, saturation, color and more. Pro 2.5 also adds custom borders, drop shadows and edge effects, as well as offering print templates, slideshows and online galleries. ACDSee Pro 2.5 is currently Windows-compatible only, but a Mac version is in development—go to acdsee.com/proformac for more info. List Price: $129.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2
Adobe first offered its Lightroom image browser as an alternative to its soup-to-nuts Photoshop powerhouse, which tended to be overkill for a lot of casual users. Maintaining the essential editing tools of Photoshop, Lightroom offered a more straightforward interface and a user-friendly experience. Now updated to Lightroom 2, the program has become a powerhouse in itself, featuring better integration with Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite 4 programs, as well as more accurate image enhancements, improved batch processing, metadata filters for faster searching, off-line volume management and a new architecture that accepts plug-ins for even more creative potential. List Price: $299.
Apple Aperture 2
Aperture 2 is
Apple’s image browser/organizer aimed at creative pros and Mac enthusiasts who need more power than iPhoto provides. Capture is fast and easy, including tethered-shooting support from a camera attached by USB or FireWire. Photos can be stored anywhere, and Aperture will keep them organized by project, folder, album and Smart Albums, which are able to keep images together based on criteria that you designate. There’s also automatic addition of copyright, captions, keywords and metadata during import. Aperture 2 provides a healthy image-editing set, too, with retouching tools, highlight recovery, definition, vibrancy, vignetting, image comparisons, straightening, a lift and stamp tool for copying adjustments to multiple images, and selective color adjustments. Plug-in architecture expands the possibilities, and there are a variety of export options, including online publishing, book ordering and prints. List Price: $199.
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
Corel’s Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 photo-editing browser has numerous organizational abilities, including metadata, importing and viewing, and searchable photos. The Express Lab mode makes rotating, resizing, cropping, straightening and removing red-eye fast operations. The integrated Learning Center teaches you how to use the program’s many professional image-correction functions, which include offerings like HDR Photo Merge, histogram adjustments, curves, sharpening, layers and adjustment layers, levels-adjustment tools, and artistic effects and filters. Original photos are automatically stored as copies for preservation of your original images. For only $30 more, X2 Ultimate is a more hearty version of the program, and offers support for RAW files, a background remover, media-recovery software, a 2 GB USB Flash Drive, Corel Painter Photo Essentials 4 and more than 150 extra creative features. List Price: $69 (Paint Shop Pro Photo X2); $99 (Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate).
DxO Optics Pro 5
DxO Optics Pro’s workflow provides a multitude of features centered around a streamlined design. The interface is organized efficiently into four tabs: Select, Prepare, Process and Review. Images can be dropped into a filmstrip window below, where they then can be automatically processed or moved on for further editing with color-coding and duplication. Correction of optical flaws also is provided for distortion, vignetting, softness and aberration, and noise and dust removal, plus EXIF-based batch processing files images according to stored camera and lens details. DxO Optics Pro 5 Standard and DxO Optics Pro 5 Elite are both Mac- and Windows-compatible, and differ only in the number of cameras and lenses they support respectively. List Price: $169 (Standard); $299 (Elite).
| ACD Systems, (866) 244-2237 www.acdsystems.com
Corel, (800) 772-6735 www.corel.com
FotoTime Inc., (888) 705-0389 www.fototime.com
Adobe, (800) 833-6687 www.adobe.com
DxO Optics www.dxo.com
Microsoft, (800) 642-7676 www.microsoft.com
Apple, (800) MY-APPLE www.apple.com