Having given up on choosing just one photo manager/post processing system I have been happier just using the software that seems most appropriate at the time (I often call this my many mistress project) One of the steps that I do want make sure is not tedious is what happens when I first load my photos and review them. This is one area that Lightroom has left me feeling there is a better way, other than running away to get a coffee and getting distracted. Infact my short trial of Photo Mechanic, opened me to the possibility that there was a better way. I also had become comfortable with doing a lot of this preview and culling in Picasa, which is much faster to load photos and very easy to use. The problem was that ranking and other organizational issues where just wasted on Lightroom
Enter AfterShot Pro, which is a much appreciated Christmas gift. At first it appeared to be duplicating a lot of Lightroom functionality. The really attractive part of this new mistress was the fact that you could just look at photos without having to import them all into its library. It does take a very short moment or two to build a thumbnail (on the fly) but its as easy as moving to the directory where the photos have been loaded (I still use picasa for this) using the navigation (browse) panel on the left of the screen. Choosing the appropriate view, must admit I swap around a bit but I prefer the Multi-Image View (as shown above). The basic edit features are always there on the right (no changing modules as in Lightroom). I’ve already mentioned the little magnifier tools I still think its a gem. The fact that I can save my ranking and metadata to xmp files that Lightroom can pick up later is one reason I have started to do most of my previewing in AfterShot. Like Lightroom (and Picasa) AfterShot Pro is a “non destructive” editor, the original photo remains unaltered and you can store its adjustments in an xmp file, the problem is this post processing isn’t compatible with Lightroom’s processing. I’ll probably write more on this later.
An unedited RAW image on a calibrated screen, can be a very boring thing. It often takes a fair few steps (ie not just Auto White Balance or Auto Tone in Lightroom) to see the potential of an image might have for further tweaking and post processing. Which brings me to another real gem I have discovered in AfterShot Pro. It now has the Perfectly Clear plug-in, built into the basic edit panel. This a an “image enhancer” (their term to differentiate themself from other “creative filter” plug-ins) by anthentech, which you can be still purchase separately as a desktop application or downloaded as a smart phone app. The details of their “science” make good reading, but they had me hooked when I saw the quote “Your “Enhancement” Software Takes the Camera Distortions and Makes Them Worse”. The proof though is in the pudding and I have always tried to me honest and fair in my evaluation of AUTO anything style claims. They usually fall short of the mark for me. However I love perfectly clear as I scroll though my photos because with one click I can see the potential of a raw image. It gives me a target to strive for in Lightroom later without having to invest a lot of time tweaking an image and not be able to transfer this to Lightroom. I will probably still try to do better with some manual tweaking later but I haven’t invested a lot of time, and if I’m in a hurry to email a proof or just upload an image to illustrate a blog post that one click is pretty much all I need to do. Perfectly Clear does work with jpeg as well, but it may not have as much potential to work with as the equivalent RAW file.