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Digital Photography Workflow-Management Software

Software and systems to streamline image

Big Picture

If your operation makes use of a digital camera on a regular basis"?or even if you use a film camera and convert the images to digital downstream"?a close examination of image and file workflow can benefit your bottom line. The software and systems available can help you better streamline time-consuming processes such as image conversion and management, allowing you and your staff to move onto the next phase of the project.

Begin by defining just what it is you're looking for. For the photography to easily move into your established graphic-design system, do you primarily need an image/file browser, a RAW converter, or an asset-management system?

Image or File Browsers: After the photos are shot, they must be downloaded from the camera card onto a computer or website. Image/file browser programs allow you to look at photos, edit out bad ones, change file names, add caption info, organize, and file digital photos. This program may reside on a computer hard drive, or be an online site that helps facilitate sharing of photos with others (which can help in choosing images for a project, for instance). Note that many online websites also offer a print-sales service, primarily of interest to pure photography operations.

RAW Converters: These programs convert the RAW files (directly from your camera) to JPEG or TIFF files, which can then be edited and printed. Often, digital cameras come with a proprietary system from the camera manufacturer, but many third-party programs are also available. We have not listed RAW programs from camera OEMs that work only with that company's cameras; we assume that you're already familiar with that camera's own RAW options.

Asset-Management Applications: These programs are designed to catalog photos into a searchable database. They make it easy to find specific photos and typically offer searches by date, keywords, metadata, and text. In this listing, we do not cover programs that focus on long-term storage/archiving.

Many of these photography-oriented workflow programs offer a little of everything, and prices can range from just a few dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the features a program offers and the number of users. The sampling of programs and services that follow can be helpful to a range of end-users"? from print providers needing better image-management systems to those adding a photography service or even professional photographers who are looking for other alternatives.

From ACD Systems, ACDSee allows photographers as well as other end-users the opportunity to view, manage, print, edit, share, and store photos. ACDSee features the ability to view more than 50 media formats; group and save images in user-defined folders; and search by date, categories, names, camera metadata, keywords, or text descriptions. It makes it easy to print photos and contact sheets. In addition, ACDSee offers basic photo manipulation. Price: $49.99.

Bibble Labs' Bibble allows for quick and easy browsing through RAW files, editing and adjusting of RAW files, and conversion of RAW files to JPEGs or TIFFs. Features include: thumbnail browsing; one-click white balance; support for monitor proofing; batch processing; interactive 16-bit image adjustment; and more. Available for Mac OS and Windows; offers support for various Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Kodak, and Canon cameras. Price: $99, single-user license.

BreezeBrowser from Breeze Systems, offers a system to edit, organize, and present images after they are down-loaded from the camera. It combines an image browser with a RAW converter, converting RAW images from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, and Olympus digital cameras. Price: $49.95. The company's DownloaderPro allows the transfer of images from the camera or card reader to the computer with renaming and storing capabilities. Windows only. Price: $29.95; bundled together, price: $64.90.

Capture One
In Capture One photo-editing software from Phase One, the workflow is built around a RAW environment. Files can be previewed as thumbnails, named, organized, adjusted, and processed into high-res TIFF or compressed JPEG files for image approval or Web usage. Capture One allows for manual adjustments as well as predefined film curves to match light and color-management profiles. Available for Mac OS X (Pro and SE versions) and Windows (Pro, SE, LE, and Rebel). Supports all Phase One backs as well as various Canon and Nikon cameras. Price: $49 (Rebel for Windows), $99 (LE for Windows), $249 (SE for Mac OS X or Windows), and $599 (Pro for Windows or Mac OS X).

Collection is a Mac OS X and Linux-platform image database suitable for large-size files and use in corporate-graphics workgroups, professional photo labs, and picture libraries with mixed PC/Mac networks. You can organize, manage, archive, and distribute image and document files with it, plus it features strong graphics query tools to simplify image retrieval. Collection also offers basic photo retouching and ICC calibration, plus a Web-based module. Price: $5886.

CompuPic Pro
From Photodex, CompuPic Pro offers image browsing, viewing, and management. It supports more than 70 file formats and allows for batch conversions. In addition, CompuPic Pro features photo editing and enhancing. Price: $79.95.

Digital Image Suite 9
Microsoft's Digital Image Suite 9 offers hoto organization, archiving, editing, and sharing of photos. Price: $129.

Express Digital Darkroom
Express Digital's Express Digital Darkroom provides professional digital photographers with image-capture options, photo-storage and management features, image-enhancement tools, local printing capabilities, and Internet publishing and storefront integration. PC-based and for use with any digital camera, Express Digital Darkroom catalogs images by event, subject, or location; adds notes to images; enhances images; automates proof-sheet printing; and prints directly to printers. Price: $495.

FileMaker Pro 7
FileMaker Pro 7, from FileMaker (a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple), is database software that allows professional photographers to organize and keep track of photography, assignments, and more. Price: $299.

FotoStation Pro
From the Norwegian software company FotoWare, FotoStation Pro is a digital-asset management system designed specifically for companies dealing with digital imagery (from digital photography and scanning) including professional photographers, stock agencies, and magazines. It supports more than 30 file for-mats and is compatible with RAW images from most digital-camera systems. A 30-day trial download is available. Price: n/a.

ImageTracker Pro
Comprehensive business-management program and image-tracking database for professional photography studios. File-Maker Pro-based image-tracking system with added business-management functionalities such as estimating and billing jobs; managing contact lists and calendars; analyzing costs; and preparing progress reports and shoot sheets. Price: n/a.

Photools.com offers IMatch 3 image-management system for photo professionals and graphic artists to organize photos, create albums, convert images, work with RAW data from digital cameras, and integrate with other applications. Supports more than 50 image file formats and a variety of RAW files, as well as offering ICC color management. The IMatch license is user-bound"?the registered user can use IMatch on as many computers as he/she likes. Price: $49.95.

IPhoto 4
Apple's iPhoto allows users to import, organize, edit, and share photos. iPhoto is part of the iLife package for Mac, which includes GarageBand, iTunes 4.2, iMovie 4, and iDVD 4, and sells for $49.99.

iView MediaPro 2.5 features media management (browsing, converting, and organizing), presentation, editing, publishing, and cataloging applications. It supports more than 25 file formats, and is available for both Mac and Windows systems. Price: $199.

Paint Shop Photo Album
Jasc Software, Inc. offers Paint Shop Photo Album that allows users to move photos from the camera to the computer with one click, and then organize, enhance, and share them. Archive photos to CD and add special effects. Price: $49.

Photo Mechanic
Camera Bits offers Photo Mechanic for both Mac and Windows systems. It allows users to view, organize, and process digital photo images. In addition, it offers batch captioning, image renaming, high-speed browsing, and automatic collection of metadata. Price: $150.

Photoshop Camera RAW Plug-in/ Photoshop CS/Album/Elements
Photoshop CS ($649) offers RAW file support, file browsing, and file tagging, as well as a vast array of photo-editing, modification, and graphic-design capabilities. The Photoshop Camera RAW plug-in, now only available as part of Photoshop CS, was updated earlier this year, and supports an array of cameras including Canon, Contax, Fuji, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Leaf, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony. Photoshop Album ($39.99) allows users to organize and share digital images, as well as to perform some basic edit functions. Photoshop Elements ($99) is more geared toward the photo hobbyist and features importing of photos from digital cameras, file organization, and basic editing. Photoshop Elements and Album are together as a package, price: $129.

Although it's primarily a printing application, Digital Domain's Qimage can convert and work directly with RAW files from several cameras, including Nikon. Price: $44.95.

Logical Designs' SharpRaw can process Minolta, Canon, Fuji, Nikon, and Olympus RAW files. It can also process JPEG, TIFF, and BMP files for levels, color correction, and distortion correction. At this point, only Windows is supported (Mac and Linux versions are in development). Price: $99 ($269 for "Pro" version, with print profiling and calibrated color target).

SilverFast DCPro
From Lasersoft Imaging, SilverFast DCPro supports RAW files from Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Kodak, Fuji, and Sigma cameras. Default and custom RAW image settings are available; settings can be applied across multiple files from the same photo shoot. Also includes a Virtual Light Table for organization and management of images, as well as a GANE noise and grain removal feature. Price: $299.

StudioMaster Pro 3.0
StudioMaster Pro 3.0 is workflow software for the professional photographer from Fujifilm. Users can accept images from digital cameras or scanners, edit images, layout albums, and write an order to the photo lab. Price: n/a.

StudioWorkhorse, from The Workhorse Group, features workflow software for corporate photo studios and graphics workgroups. Content creators can exchange information and images with internal and external clients. Project information is stored in a scalable SQL database that can be integrated into the enterprise's other workflow/billing systems. Windows only. Price: n/a.

ThumbsPlus 6
Cerious Software's ThumbsPlus is a customizable image database/thumbnails/ graphics editor application that allows users to view, catalog, locate, maintain and modify graphics files. In addition, version 6 supports more than 100 file formats, including several RAW images, and converts, resizes, and zips images. Price: $49.95 to $89.95 for a single user.

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