|Apple Aperture 3|
Be it shoeboxes overflowing with slides, binders full of contact sheets or narrow aisles of shelves loaded with meticulously labeled prints, photographers have always found their craft at odds with organization. Moving into the digital age, where frames have become even more plentiful and storage space is easy to come by, photo management is even more important, and losing that one great shot increases in chance.
Luckily, photo organizational systems have been popping up in the past several years and expanding their tools exponentially. While at the base of each system is the organizational foundation that photographers hold dear, now these systems come loaded with advanced editing tools, as well as direct sharing and printing capabilities. This means, once you find the ideal photo management software for your workflow, you may skip other editing software altogether, using this from import to organization to edit to export.
Organization Is Job One
At the heart of the software is organization. If you're catching quick wildlife motion or moving from location to location multiple times, you likely understand the frustration of organizing photos at the end of a long day. Not only do you need to label specifics, but you also want to locate and separate your favorites for editing.
Today's software has a variety of organizational tools to personalize your workflow, depending on your project. Star ratings mark your favorites; color systems can declare where you stand in your editing process. You can search and change metadata fields, adding valuable information such as location, captions, equipment specs or keywords.
Several companies have taken advantage of the new GPS-enabled cameras and offer organizational searches based on location. Some even place your photos on a map based on this location information. Additionally, other systems have integrated facial-recognition software, letting you find pictures of your travel companions at every location quickly and easily.
Incorporation Of Powerful Editing Tools
Now, photo organization systems have added innovative advanced editing tools. Nondestructive editing is the name of the game. This means that real-time adjustments of white balance, sharpness, color correction and even cropping are being made, but your original file is still intact. If you change your mind about any adjustment, you can return to that step of your process. You also can see your edited file in a side-by-side comparison with the original to monitor your progress.
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But this is where the organizational systems have expanded to become editing tools in their own right. Not only can you make general adjustments in color or add a vignette, but now you can fine-tune regional areas with masks and gradient features. Smart-edge technologies help accurately create a mask for your mountains when you're separating them from the sky. It's now possible to target specific areas for noise reduction or sharpening instead of adjusting the entire image. Healing and cloning tools will remove sensor dust. Lens correction for geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, perspective correction and vignetting keep your images looking lifelike.
Some systems include more advanced technology such as Content Aware Removal to take away unwanted objects in the frame, for example, power lines. Some create simple single-image HDR results, while others have full HDR merging from multiple images. While you used to need to bring your images into a specific photo-editing software to do this type of manipulation, it's now easily managed in this workflow.
Serif PhotoPlus 6
In general, one of the most useful parts of the organizational systems across the board is their ability to batch process. In batch processing, you select a task to be performed on a group of files at once, instead of manually opening each file, editing, saving and then moving to the next file. When organizing, you might keyword or rename all your files from one day.
During the editing process, you can select 50 images to apply a perspective correction instead of opening each image one at a time. During export, simply apply your watermark to all of your final images at once. Batch processing is what makes this type of system a true time-saver.
What Would We Do Without Social Media?
Direct sharing to your social media outlets is quick and easy with this type of photo-organization system. Native upload to Facebook and Flickr are included, and most have plug-ins for other social media. Many have direct emailing, as well as FTP uploading. When exporting, customizable and savable watermarks, color spaces and sizes are available.
If you're looking to create the perfect book, templates and themes for your project are included. Slideshow templates are available, or you can customize your own. Then share your slideshow on your website, phone or tablet.
Individual prints, contact sheets, CDs and DVDs also are quick and easy to create in the export process.
Software To Consider
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 has a clean and intuitive interface that keeps organization at the base of their software. Find your photos by location, custom keyword, metadata stamp or advanced filters. When it comes to management and organization, you can work with your photo library even when your files are on an external hard drive not connected to your computer. Lightroom offers tethered shooting without the need for a plug-in, making macro or time-lapse photography one step easier. Nondestructive editing includes advanced black-and-white conversions, lens corrections and selective masks. For those interested in video, Lightroom supports limited video clip edits and extraction of stills from video. Lightroom excels at batch processing, even allowing multiple image processing from multiple devices at once. Templates are included for books, slideshows, greeting cards, contact sheets and fine-art prints, or send your images directly to Facebook or Flickr. Estimated Street Price: $149; $79/upgrade. www.adobe.com
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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, ACDSee Pro 6
Apple Aperture 3 combines with iPhoto to create one library so you can open and edit your photos from either place. Using GPS technology, photos can be organized by location and placed on a map. Aperture also offers Faces, a face-recognition tool to sort your photos by person. Nondestructive editing includes masks and layers with a Detect Edge system for accuracy. Photo Stream in iCloud is included, where your last 1,000 photos are uploaded for archiving and an auto import may be set. Slideshows easily are created and sent directly to iTunes and synced with iOS devices. Exporting to Facebook and Flickr is native for Aperture, and plug-ins for SmugMug, iStockphoto and PhotoShelter are easily added. Book themes, which include maps pulled directly from photo GPS data, as well as print and contact sheet templates, make prints easy. Traveling photographers can use all of the features of Aperture on a laptop and transfer the project to the main library on a desktop computer by setting the laptop as a targeted drive. It's an easy, but powerful feature. Mac OS only. Estimated Street Price: $79. www.apple.com
ACDSee Pro 6 is a browser-based workflow system with a 10 GB cloud space available for backup. Your image files are connected directly to the system, removing the import time most other software requires. ACDSee searches and organizes your files based on metadata, keywords, file properties, GPS location, ratings and color labels. It can save hierarchical keyword searches, such as Nature > Animals > Birds > Eagles. Nondestructive editing includes advanced color management, smart sharpening, red-eye reduction and single image HDR results. Share your images directly through Gmail or Yahoo, Flickr, SmugMug, Zenfolio, Facebook or Twitter. Upload to FTP sites, create slideshows or burn to DVD and CDs. Estimated Street Price: $99. www.acdsee.com
PhotoDirector is a relative newcomer to the management software division, but it has quickly made a place for itself with high-quality organization and innovative non-destructive editing. Flags, rating and color labeling are available, along with face recognition for easy custom organization. PhotoDirector 4 is loaded with adjustment tools. Fine-tune white balance, color and noise or use lens correction tools. Masks with smart-edge detection and gradients along with spot removers for sensor dust make edits quick. But PhotoDirector 4 has a few more advanced editing tools. Content Aware Removal tools assist in removing power lines from landscapes, Background Removal assists in collage creation, and for portraits, Body Shaper assists in adjusting body ratios with a quick intuitive design. Export your photos to different color spaces with different frames, or share directly to Facebook or Flickr. Estimated Street Price: $79. www.cyberlink.com
A bit more of an editor than an organizer, Serif PhotoPlus 6 manages your entire workflow from import to export. The predominant organization methods are album, star rating, flagging or viewing location on a map. But the software has a lot to offer in the way of nondestructive editing. Basics are covered in terms of brightness, contrast, color and perspective tools. HDR enthusiasts will be excited to find the HDR studio where multiple images may be merged into one, as opposed to the other software systems, which only handle single-image HDR simulation. For those interested in importing and restoring vintage photos, tools such as the scratch remover are available to help remove scratches, creases, marks and defects left from age. PhotoPlus 6 provides how-to guides and video tutorials to help you get to know the software. www.serif.com