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Friday, September 1, 2006

Gadget Bag: Digital Image Management

Take the work out of photo organization with these smart applications

Apple Aperture
(Mac only) is the newest member of Apple's Professional series of products. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Aperture works only on the Mac platform, and its system requirements will have you wishing you had the most up-to-date hardware available. That said, it's a robust and powerful application. Aperture is unique in its support for versions—regardless of the file type, the original file is never touched. All editing and adjusting is done on versions that are virtual copies of your master file. These version files don't take much space because they only contain the instructions on how to modify the master. RAW shooters have had this ability from the beginning, but Aperture brings it to JPEG and TIFF files as well. At $299, Aperture is the most expensive product here, but also the most full-featured. While it won't replace Photoshop for all image-editing tasks, Aperture handles most typical photo needs with strong organization tools and excellent output options, including book publishing.

Apple iPhoto (Mac only) is included with every new Macintosh and is a surprisingly full-featured image organizer and editor. The latest version includes full support for RAW images and, with organization tools such as keywords and ratings, iPhoto includes most of the editing tools you'll need. iPhoto also includes "photo casting" capability, which notifies clients or friends that new images have been posted for review. It also integrates with the other iLife applications for outputting to the Web or creating slideshows. iPhoto '06 adds the ability to store your images in a central database or leave them in the existing folder structure. If you have an older Mac that didn't ship with iLife '06 preinstalled, it retails for $79.

BreezeBrowser Pro (Windows) has been around for quite some time. While it started out as a simple image browser, BreezeBrowser has grown into a full-featured image manager with excellent RAW file conversion for most popular cameras and advanced features like noise reduction and lens-distortion correction, along with extensive Web gallery and contact sheet options. At $69, BreezeBrowser Pro is one of the great bargains in digital photography.

Bibble Pro (Mac and Windows) is full of tools for the RAW photographer. Along with excellent RAW image conversion, Bibble Pro includes an image browser with flexible batch renaming and tagging functions. The latest release of Bibble Pro also includes the popular Noise Ninja for noise reduction, lens-distortion correction and panoramic stitching. Bibble Pro lists for $129 and is one of the few products that also supports Linux.

Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 (Windows) includes a full-featured image manager along with its image-editing program. Also functioning as a browser, Digital Image Library has excellent sorting and keyword functionality along with a simple interface that will get you up to speed in no time at all. Support for RAW files is limited, but if you shoot JPEG and run Windows, this is an excellent option. The complete package, including image editing and cataloging, is $99.

Still "In Beta"
Adobe Lightroom (Mac and Windows) is still in beta form, meaning that it's not finished and ready for retail release. It's not hard to tell what the goal is with Lightroom, though. Adobe is aiming straight for the end-to-end professional imaging solution. Lightroom combines many of the features from Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw into a very intuitive interface. There's full support for image browsing, sorting, rating and keywording, as well as RAW image conversion, printing and Web gallery creation, along with slideshows. The price hasn't been set yet, but this one deserves a close look. You can download a free beta version from the Adobe Website, www.adobe.com.


(800) 833-6687
(800) MY-APPLE
ACD Systems
(305) 596-5644
Bibble Labs
(512) 345-3480
Breeze Systems
(503) 274-2020
iView Multimedia (Microsoft)
(800) 642-7676


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