Archive for Computers & Software
It is a given that most photographers who are Mac users will, at some point, use iPhoto to organise their images and perform simple edits. And whilst iPhoto is a polished product, it is by no means perfect. Shoebox, by KavaSoft, is a simple alternative to iPhoto, but is it realistic as a replacement?
Shoebox isn’t stunning to look at, although controls aren’t cluttered and the app is very usable as a result. The simple nature of Shoebox also lends itself to quick processing, and indeed, Shoebox doesn’t suffer from slowdown.
Shoebox works differently from iPhoto; rather than creating its own library, to which images are imported, Shoebox simply scans folders on your Mac, and locates the images within these folders – thumbnail previews of the images are then displayed within Shoebox’s interface. By selecting images, you can add them to a category, give them a rating or change their name, as well as edit or view a plethora of other metadata.
One area in which iPhoto probably outperforms Shoebox is organisation. This is less to do with a lack of organisation features, and more to do with accessibility and ease of use of these features. Generally speaking, however, as an image sorter, Shoebox performs well and due to its minimal operation, it runs very fast. Despite having 4GB of RAM in my Mac, I still find iPhoto slowing-down from time to time, whereas Shoebox always seems to be snappy.
Like iPhoto, Shoebox has a slideshow feature. It isn’t as customisable as iPhoto, but as a way of displaying your pictures, it works fine. This is certainly an area where Shoebox can improve in future versions, however.
Photos look great on paper, but if you need to display your images on-screen, or using a projector, you’re going to need an app that will showcase your photos beautifully. In a previous article, I reviewed ePic (a basic slideshow app for showing off pictures) and found that whilst it was fine for creating a slideshow, to show to your friends and family, on your Mac, it wasn’t great for heavyweight photographic slideshows, not least because it lacks an export option. Boinx, the well-established software company most famous for animation app iStopMotion, has its own entrant into the slideshow market – PhotoPresenter 4 – but will this app be the answer to your slideshow requirements?
With PhotoPresenter 4, Boinx have gone for a well-balanced mix of the simple, yet powerful. Creating a great looking slideshow in this app is very easy if you want to simplify things; you can choose a folder or album in iPhoto, Aperture, Photo Booth or Flickr (or anywhere else on your Mac), and then choose a theme, at which point, you’re ready to play.
PhotoPresenter 4 has hidden depths, however. All of the slideshow styles or “themes” are customisable, with different frames and backgrounds available, and the ability to add captions and titles. You can also add music to any slideshow, and change the speed at which the images are played, including the option of syncing to the length of a music track.
Despite the high quality of the themes included in PhotoPresenter, some aren’t particularly usable for anything other than a screensaver. The zooming “Ken Burns” theme, for example, is almost unusable with certain image aspect ratios, whilst the “Wall” theme provides only a partial view of any picture at any time. Having said this, themes such as “Book” (a virtual photo album) and “Carousel” provide a classy and beautiful background to your images. Whether the handful of really good themes is enough to get you to purchase PhotoPresenter 4 is up to each individual’s judgement.
Many of the apps I review in this column are stacked full of features and, seemingly, developers seem to think that more really is more. ACDSee Photo Flash is as far from these do-it-all apps as it’s possible to be, but will the traditional adage of “less is more” ring true for this minimalist app?
The one-and-only function of Photo Flash is image brightening, the claim being that this app is an in-Mac flashgun. My initial thought was, “Why can’t I just use the exposure slider in Aperture/iPhoto?” ACDSee claim, however, that their special “Lighting and Contrast Enhancement (LCE)” technology is a superior option. This function is adjustable, using Flash Photo’s only control – a percentage slider.
After studying images outputted from Photo Flash, I would say that the exposure adjustment which this app provides is tempered by highlight reduction and shadow lifting. The images, as a result, have a slight HDR feel, but nothing too garish, or even noticeable. I have to admit, though, that the effect is quite similar to the illumination that flash gives.
I have reviewed a number of simple editing apps in this column, many of which are effects-based. But suppose you don’t want to make your picture look like a badly exposed polaroid, yet still would like the simple operation that apps like CameraBag 2 have? Today’s app is cf/x photo, which aims to fit just this description – but will it fill the niche?
I hadn’t heard of this app, or its makers – cf/x software – before stumbling upon photo in the Mac App Store. On initial inspection, photo seems to follow the trend of sleek and simple effects/edit apps. Unlike the standard formula in this genre, however, photo is not about messing around with your pictures (even though a few basic effects filters are included). The aim of this app is summed-up nicely by its makers: “CROP. TWEAK. ENJOY.” As a result, the focus in photo is practical functions, like cropping and watermarking. You can also create classy frames of any colour you desire, and put text onto the image as well.
The crop function includes a number of aspect ratios, as well as the ability to crop at an angle. Given that you have a Mac (on which photo runs), you automatically have iPhoto, which can perform these crop functions itself. The need for such a cropping function in photo, then, is somewhat lacking.
The frame options in photo, whilst being basic, are very useful, allowing the easy addition of a coloured border, with one or two-colour options available. The width of the frame is adjustable, but unfortunately, making the frame wider makes it encroach on your image more, rather than expand outwards – a disappointing feature.
Text can be added in one of three segments of the image – top, middle and bottom – although the text actually sits somewhere near the top of each of these segments. The placing of these is strange, and makes this tool useless in comparison to the Mac’s inbuilt app, Preview, in terms of annotation. Read More→
What’s better than a great photo? Lots of great photos on the same sheet of paper, of course; and so the collage creation app is born. Or should I say, “apps,” as this is not a niche market. Today’s app, Picture Collage Maker Lite, is one of many, but will it be this app that is the remedy for all of your multi-photo cravings?
This Lite version comes with 42 templates, including some quite elaborate, themed templates – Christmas and Wedding being examples. Additionally, there are numerous layout templates, which go beyond the usual grid, and allow your images to be arranged in a neat, but seemingly random pattern. A good variety of grid-based templates are available to use as well, if you so desire. Each of these templates has an adjustable size (although if you want to create something bigger than 1920×1440 pixels, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version of Picture Collage Maker).
The controls for making your collage are simple and well built. You can alter how the photos “lie” and the amount of the original image that is masked. There is a large library of shapes and looks available for masking, including theme-related shapes. If you fancy, text can be inserted onto the collage in the same way that photos are. Read More→
April 12, 2012 – PRESS SUMMARY - X-Rite, Incorporated, the world leader in color management, measurement and communication technologies, announced its new portfolio of i1 Professional Color Management Solutions which now include a newly redesigned i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer.
Built upon the success of X-Rite’s i1Pro spectrophotometer as the de facto industry standard for more than a decade, the newly enhanced i1Pro 2 device has been redesigned to provide an even higher level of accuracy, versatility, ergonomics, functionality and value. Combined with the recently released i1Profiler software v1.3, which accommodates all levels of proficiency and expertise, the new i1Pro 2 portfolio of four different products is specifically targeted to meet the unique needs of photo, pre-press, digital print and publishing professionals, providing exceptional value at very attractive price points.
This new portfolio, comprised of X-Rite’s i1Basic Pro 2, i1Photo Pro 2, i1Publish Pro 2 and i1Publish products feature groundbreaking new technology and applications. Each Pro solution includes the new i1Pro 2 second generation spectrophotometer – the most accurate and forward thinking device available today accommodating three measurement modes in one single device. These modes include the most commonly used M0 (Standard Illuminant A), the emerging M1 (illuminant D50) and M2 (known as UV-cut). Also included are i1Profiler, X-Rite’s entirely new next generation color profiling software, PANTONE Color Manager color swatch bridging software and ColorChecker Camera Calibration software.
Look in the Mac App Store photography section, and you’ll see a number of tilt-shift apps (see one of my previous reviews) but not so many dedicated to standard blurring of fore- and backgrounds. Perhaps this is because of the relative complexity involved in making depth-of-field blur look realistic in software. Can Big Aperture for Mac (from Everimaging software) be the go-to app for this task?
Big Aperture isn’t stacked full of controls, not least because the task it is set up to perform doesn’t require a vast set of menus. This provides the benefit of an uncluttered interface, which is already enhanced by Big Aperture’s classy, darkroom-style presentation.
There are two main control menus – Basic and Advanced. The Basic control menu – which I actually found the more useful – edits each image in what is, essentially, a four-step process. First, you select a blur “mode”; the selectable options are Nature, Portrait, Macro and Architecture, all of which act as presets. Their true function, however, is the selection of blur type; whether there is a sharp spot in the centre, with blur increasing outwards, or whether the blur is depth-based, with a horizontal plane of focus across the image, and blur increasing above and below this plane.
Unlike many of the apps I review in this series, today’s is neither new on the market, nor new to me. In fact, I have been using it for years now, so it’s about time I shared the brilliance of The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) with you.
This app provides accurate prediction of sun and moon positions at a given time, in relation to a location on the inbuilt version of Google Maps. A simple function it may seem, but for any photographer who needs to work with the sun’s light, TPE provides a unique and incredibly useful utility.
TPE has a very polished interface, with period-style visual details, providing a beautiful accompaniment to the app’s purpose. The main focus is on the Google Maps area, where you navigate to the location of your shoot – a search bar is provided at the bottom to ease this, as is a favourite locations list – and then hit the marker button to see the line of the sunrise and -set, and the moonrise and -set in that location. In addition, you can see this data for, seemingly, any date in the future, and information on the timing of the rise and set events is included on the right of screen.
So you have a Mac? And you want to make your images look better? But you can’t be bothered to use iPhoto’s manual editing controls? And you want to use auto-enhancement on batch images? And you’re willing to pay two-thirds of the price of Photoshop Elements to get something that performs this function only (which, of course, Elements can do – a lot better)?
Well, whilst I would suggest that you are a fairly niche target market, the market that you represent is catered for (or so the makers, VeprIT, hope anyway) by Photo Sense for Mac.
The process of “improving” pictures with Photo Sense starts with adding images, which have their previews immediately “enhanced.” The options for processing include the standard exposure, contrast and saturation adjustment, as well as noise reduction and sharpening. In addition, effects can be added, although the extent to which you use most of those included very much hinges on “personal taste”.
By clicking on each individual image, you can manually adjust it, with the aid of a histogram and a split-screen before and after.
As with most auto-enhancers, the results of Photo Sense’s default processing are at best, “dramatic”, and at worst, disasters. Whilst the heady mix of over-sharpening, super-saturation and ridiculously boosted contrast can be attention grabbing, the thought of allowing these images into print fills me with dread.
The original CameraBag was one of the first style and edit apps, not only on Mac, but on iPhone too. It was well built, and performed well, but since then it has been trumped by FX Photo Studio Pro (see my review) in this category. Now, however, the folks at NeverCenter have come back fighting, with their new offering, CameraBag 2.
CameraBag 2 is a slick looking app, but pretty looks aren’t the main feature of this app. Editing is conducted using impressive 32-bit processing, RAW is supported, and editing is non-destructive – all high-level features, aimed at the serious photographer. CameraBag 2 includes 100+ filters under the Styles tab, but far more important than this are the editing controls under the Adjust tab. Here you find the standard fare of contrast, saturation, exposure and so on, but additionally, more higher-level controls, such as RGB and luminance curves, selective saturation and grain. When these are used in conjunction with the adjustable inbuilt filters, almost any effect is achievable. What is striking is the quality of manipulated images, thanks to the 32-bit processing; this app produces classy, print quality pictures.
The preset filters that come with CameraBag 2 are very nice, both in terms of quality and quantity. Most are based on various print or film types and techniques, and are (in my opinion) very stylish. Examples include “Cyanotype,” “Leaky Helga” and “Super 1962.”