Gadget Bag: Keeping Track

Use the right software to get a handle on your ever-growing image library
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Apple Aperture 2

For nature photographers, once we come back home with cards full of inspiring images, it can be quite a challenge to get all of those images sorted out and organized. Big memory cards have made it easy to shoot digital images by the hundreds, and keeping track of so many files requires some help.

There are a number of software packages you can use to manage your image library. Each program has its strengths and weaknesses, and your choice of which one to use will be dictated by how much functionality you think you need. For example, do you simply want to have a program that keeps your images organized, or do you want the ability to do some enhancement? All of the organization-software choices are becoming more useful and powerful. Some programs offer so many image-processing features that you’ll find that you seldom need Photoshop for any but the most complex work.

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Corel Photo Album 7 Deluxe

Most imaging programs use interfaces that have been designed for simplicity while viewing, and flexibility when choosing how to browse. Programs often allow you to view images by thumbnail or by hierarchical structure (which means you can view them by folders and subfolders), and now many programs also are offering a carousel view, which presents a larger foreground image with previews of upcoming or preceding images minimized to the sides. It’s a visually pleasing way to quickly cycle through images until you find the one that you want.

Corel Photo Album 7 Deluxe
gives you the essentials of image management at an affordable price. You can organize images quickly, and there are video-management capabilities thrown in, as well. Basic editing options like rotating, cropping, resizing and fixing red-eye are included, and one-click image optimization will optimize brightness, color and contrast. There also are extras like converting images to black-and-white and creating slideshows. Integration with Sharpcast technology is another key feature of Corel Photo Album 7 Deluxe with an online backup solution for your photo collection. List Price: $49.

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Microsoft Expression
Media 2

Microsoft’s Expression Media 2 has grown out of the company’s purchase of iView MediaPro, which had been a favorite of many professional nature photographers. It uses a simple-to-understand drag-and-drop interface, and you can organize many types of media files. More than 100 different image, music and movie file types are supported. When importing media files, Expression Media automatically detects source file info, including size, file type, resolution, color space, GPS data and other qualities. Keeping images sorted by GPS location is intuitive with Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, and if GPS information isn’t available, you can drag and drop image files onto locations. Image and media workflow also can be automated for performing repetitive tasks on multiple files. List Price: $199 (Full Version).

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ACDSee Pro Online Mode

ACDSee Pro Photo Manager 3 is the latest in the popular ACDSee lineup. The new interface was conceived with the help of feedback from photographers and longtime users, and it shows. Image management is intuitive and flexible. The Manage mode, View mode and Process mode work together with one-click switching, and an Online mode makes it easy to share images with friends, family or clientele. In the Manage mode, you can browse images on the camera, memory card or wherever they may be without needing to import them. Collections can be organized through EXIF, IPTC and custom metadata, and there are batch tools, import functions and savable Quick Searches for total control over image navigation. You also can add metadata, categories and ratings while browsing images by using the Properties pane. Pro Photo Manager 3 currently is available as a free beta program for users to test.

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DxO Optics Pro 5

DxO Optics Pro 5 uses a simple interface for keeping images organized by centering on a four-tab workflow that follows images on their logical progression from Select to Prepare to Process and finally to Review. The Select tab uses a filmstrip view for browsing images, and if you want to work quickly, the Process Now mode will optimize images for you. During the editing stage, Optics Pro color-codes images with green, red and orange to show the respective level of completion. This simple system gives you a powerful at-a-glance way of seeing where you are in your workflow process. The Review tab allows you to compare before-and-after versions. List Price: $169 (Standard); $299 (Elite).

If you have the complete Adobe CS4 Creative Suite, you already have Bridge CS4. Early versions of Bridge were not especially loved due to slow performance, but those early kinks have given way to the current version, which lets you perform all of the tasks that keep your images organized and labeled for interchange between the other programs in the Creative Suite family, including Photoshop. Bridge CS4 is fast and easy to use. Images can be viewed by List view, in stacks, a cycling carousel view and thumbnails, and grouped together as larger images, once selected. Bridge offers batch-processing and tools for image resizing and output to a number of places, like the web, prints and image devices. List Price: $699 (With Photoshop CS4); $999 (With Photoshop CS4 Extended).

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Adobe Photoshop
Lightroom 2

Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom 2 is one of the most popular programs for organization and image processing. Lightroom 2 takes the best of Bridge and combines it with many of the commonly used features from Photoshop. Many nature photographers will find that Lightroom keeps them out of Photoshop for most images. You can keep your images organized in any number of ways, including Quick Collection selections, by folder and by Smart Collections, which can include star ratings, time frame, recent edits, keywords, notation by colors and many other definable terms that you can add yourself. You also can search through images by text and metadata information, like camera or lens types. List Price: $299.

Apple iPhoto ’09 has added some neat new intuitive features to a program that already was known for its easy-to-understand interface and its comprehensive abilities. Places is a new function that uses GPS data to categorize your images by location. Places also converts GPS location tags to more commonly used names, and you can add information yourself if you aren’t using GPS-capable cameras. iPhoto ’09 keeps images organized by project, folder, album and Smart Albums. By using criteria that you add—like rating, date, keywords, metadata, file status and, now, Faces and Places—iPhoto automatically groups together images that meet these conditions. Available with the iLife ’09 Media Suite, iPhoto ’09 also makes it seamless to migrate image collections to an online Apple MobileMe gallery. List Price: $79 (Single User); $99 (Family Pack).

Apple’s Aperture 2 program is the much bigger brother of iPhoto. Aimed at advanced amateurs and pros, Aperture allows you to browse through images fast, and the stacks approach to organization keeps the screen uncluttered as you work. Stacks is like a deck of cards—you can move around images and group them together in the interface. If you have images that are similar, you can place them together as a “stack” that keeps your favorite on top, and the rest neatly tucked away. Adding searchable terms and metadata is simple. Newly added functionality for using plug-ins makes Aperture an even more powerful tool for nature photographers. List Price: $199.

ACD Systems
(866) 244-2237

(800) 833-6687

(800) MY-APPLE

(800) 772-6735

DxO Optics

(800) 642-7676,