Thursday, January 31, 2008

Best Software: Photo Management

Eighteen months ago I looked at the Best Software For Graphics. Now I have a Pentax digital SLR, it's time to update that list with a special article focusing on photo management and workflow. The original article still stands for image editing and creation tasks. All of the packages I'll mention (except one) are free of charge, so there's nothing to stop you from trying them out.

Eventually you will accidentally delete photos from your flash card. Then you will discover that all too many vendors are willing to sell you tools that PhotoRec ox makes available for free. And I doubt any product is as powerful as this -- it ignores the file system and extracts underlying information to recover any type of file from any type of media. You'll have to work in a DOS interface, but it's a clear step-by-step process.

Once your files are on your hard drive, the free Community version of dpMagic w will allow you to see thumbnails for Pentax Raw Format (PEF) in Windows XP Explorer. This is handy since Microsoft's own viewers work only for Vista.

To process and convert RAW files you could use the Pentax Photo Browser and Laboratory (by Silkypix) that come supplied with your camera. Much better is Raw Therapee x, a slick free RAW converter.

The single most impressive photo manager on the planet is the free Picasa x, which allows you to scan your entire drive system and manage files by physical location or in virtual albums. Besides RAW and annotation support it has a host of nifty features like automated e-mail transfer (resize on the fly), links to web apps (Shutterfly, Ofoto, Blogger), geotagging with Google Earth, screen saver integration, backup, slideshows, printing, web album creation, and correction effects (eg: red-eye removal, straightening). It's insanely fast and feels silky smooth. Though you can get a histogram of each image and EXIF info, I am not sure if full tags are displayed.

Using Picasa means I might see less of IrfanView w, an image viewer that has powerful batch file conversion. This is very handy for resizing and converting 200 images in one go, either to create a quick thumbnail folder or to transfer webwise. Be sure to also get the plugin pack so it will work with PEF raw files.

Some time ago I bought Noise Ninja x, one of the best tools in its class. This is vital for point-and-shoot and even necessary for SLR cameras if, like me, you fancy natural light work.

ExposurePlot is free software that uses EXIF data to analyze focal length, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. In this way you can build up a statistical sense of what lenses you most use or need.

If you think I've saved you hundreds of [insert your monetary unit here] then make a donation using the PayPal link. Thanks!

o Open Source

w win32 only

x cross-platform


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