Before It All
Gets Out of
Hand ...


Okay, if terms such as 'workflow' haven't totally bummed you out already, enter 'Digital Access Management' as a word image, seemingly applied to photography by your broker, to completely sap any enjoyment you may have previously had in your visual arts endeavors. As if 'Image Browser' wasn't good enough, high-end enough – or serious enough, the people who forge these terms can only be granted an apt description of their own: Pure Evil.

For those who don't shoot professionally – and even for those who do – words such as 'Management' and 'Workflow' greeting your day can only sour one's enthusiasm for living, itself. Yes, I know that such terms may well excite those cardboard middle-management dullards who endlessly email one another on 'mobile management smartphones' exchanging their latest ideas, such as they are, concerning the upcoming PowerPoint presentation for Houston – simply because ... they can. But for those of us whose lives haven't completely degenerated to a 'Whiter Shade of Pale', further decayed by a tragically false sense of self-importance, there has to be a way to describe innately basic functions without the task-elevated bullshit. But no ... Suggesting the simple notion of, “I want to organize and tweak my frigging pictures” just doesn't cut it in an age of 'Solutions' ... Software Solutions. Investment Solutions. Marketing Solutions. Dry Cleaning Solutions. Septic Evacuation Solutions ... Prior to the digital age, who was I to know that we had so many problems, seeking … solutions?

If true, there's more than a vague implication that the entire techno-industrial world is in desperate need of mass-psychotherapy. Problems. Management. Work. And so it is now, it seems, for those who had once kept their negatives and slides in a three-ring binder as the high-end professional alternative to shoe boxes. But, clearly, there are those who simply love all of this shit ...

As I once perused the internet blogs and forums, I was amazed to read the, essentially non-professional, fanboy reviews of one image browser or another, proudly proclaiming that they could easily breeze through a single 1,500 image shoot with, say, Adobe Lightroom – or iView, whatever. I'm sorry, but if you're banging away 1,500 shots of a local carnival to generate five 'keepers', it's your head – or your eye – that needs some 'Asset Management'. In your software praise, you've successfully indicated that your photographic batting average is miraculously less than mere statistic chance would otherwise allow, shooting blindfolded. I don't care that you're banging away 5 images per second in some rapid-fire burst mode. You still look fucking ridiculous.

As for me, I've increasingly looked for things to simplify my life and keep it somewhat organized, while also retaining some degree of functional versatility, without slavish rigidity. The quest for this simplicity is, in itself, often complex. As a Mac user, the variety of photo organizers – and image editors – has always been fairly vast. Adobe Lightroom – or Bridge, combined with Camera Raw, along with Apple's own Aperture, as well as iPhoto – the scaled-down Aperture for soccer moms, included with every Mac sold. The diversity doesn't, in any way, end there. Both iView and Photo Mechanic have also had their adherents, particularly among photo journalists. And this short list doesn't include image editors – with a variety of filters and layering capabilities, such as Photoshop – as well as the scaled-back, but remarkably proficient Adobe Elements (also incorporating browser functionality). For those living behind Windows, one also has a fairly broad range of popular image browsers from which to choose ... and, again, editors – inclusive of the primary Mac choices listed above, save Aperture and iPhoto. And then there's Google's entirely free Picasa – the family snapshot 'iPhoto' for the Windows platform.

Most image browsers, indeed, offer some basic editing tools – or image-tweaking capabilities, more accurately, for even a delete into the trash is, indeed, an 'edit'. For many, these additional tools offer all one would require. Some browsers, such as Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture, provide image manipulation capabilities that are highly sophisticated – at a somewhat sophisticated price, for many ($200 ~ $300 USD). UPDATE: The price of both Lightroom and Aperture have since dropped considerably. Both are even more increasingly worthy.

But the diversity above presents the rub. I had tried them all, and outright owned most, in search of an ideal. This, simply, was never to be found – much like most options presented in one's life, I suppose. As such, I can only offer my impressions that led to particular choices – the ones that worked for me ... reasonably well. After all, choices must ultimately be made to achieve that aire of simplicity – or lack of complication. But, herein, I also provide some alternatives that may work exceptionally well for you, inclusive of less expensive options ... I won't be covering the 'feature sets' of each, as this is already widely covered on the web. Rather, again, I lend my impressions as a mere guide to consider ...

Most who read this area find limited utility in the likes of iPhoto or Picasa. Both are actually quite good for their intended targets. For many, they both could be very good with a few additions, combined with a little structural re-thinking. But for most of you visiting these pages, neither one is up for consideration. And with this in mind, here is my thinking – and picks – on this day ...

Adobe Lightroom

While I generally love most things Apple, as a second-generation, mature version of Aperture still resides somewhere on a hard drive, I ultimately gave the nod to Adobe's Lightroom as my primary image browser. (UPDATE: Apple's Aperture has since become increasingly mature as of version 3.0 - but so has the newer editions of Lightroom). Some of the decision was based upon mere subjectivity – the very look of the interface. But from the start, Lightroom proved to be more intuitive in its structure, relative to Aperture – an impression that wouldn't significantly change as I became more familiar with Apple's offering. And for image editing, outside of tweaking for the web, most of what a photographer requires – professional or otherwise – is provided in Lightroom's 'Develop' mode – inclusive of handling common 'jpeg' and 'tiff' images, in addition to camera RAW files. The same can be said of Aperture – with a few additional tricks of its own. But in my view, Lightroom won out by a small margin, with a little more elegance, organizationally, as well as in its general handling of processes in a somewhat more coherent interface.

Adobe Bridge with Camera Raw (with a sporadic problem, so read).

For most practical purposes -- as well as for most people, it's about, say, 85% of the original Adobe Lightroom 1.x, and 75% of the more feature-laden Lightroom 2 (depending upon how one considers such things) -- if with a little less elegance and polish. And, it's free ... kind of. It's actually a 'value added' browser that comes with a variety of Adobe products, inclusive of Adobe Photoshop -- as well as the newer editions of the far less expensive and extremely capable Photoshop Elements for Mac. So, if you’ve purchased the $699 Photoshop -- or the $90 Photoshop Elements (Mac version), you get this exceptionally fine 'freebie' in tow. The Windows version of Elements has the remotely similar, but truly less graceful ‘Organizer’ to replace ‘Bridge’ – with regret – but it still remains reasonably proficient for basic cataloging. But Bridge – combined with the ‘Camera Raw’ software that's also included, allowing for much in the way of image adjustment – may well raise the question if Lightroom is worth yet another $300 (UPDATE: Now half that price) expenditure (unless, perhaps, you’re a pro needing to sift through 30,000 images on both internal and external drives). You, again, have the general essence of the Lightroom package between the interaction of Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw, which pops in its own dedicated window. Bridge may be set to open Camera Raw with the click of any image in the browser, by way of the Preferences menu (maybe, read on …) You may also set Bridge to open an image directly into Photoshop or Elements, naturally. Or Camera Raw may be opened by way of a drop-down menu after an image has been selected (maybe) -- along with any other image editor you may have on your drive. And yes, Bridge can catalog all of your keywords with ease, as well as provide you with the metadata you may wish to peruse.
The similar
Adobe Bridge software ...

Already comes in tow with Photo Shop ... and even with the bargain, 'Photo Shop Elements' for Mac.

One may never require the pricey Lightroom ... maybe.

There are those who will strongly disagree with my appraisal of 'Bridge' being remarkably close to Lightroom – often by those who originally laid out $300 for the latter ... But, particularly for those who have purchased the value-priced PhotoShop Elements, freely use Bridge as your browser, by all means. Perhaps put the money saved towards a lens. In fact, the Elements/Bridge combo is what I’d most often recommend for many photo enthusiasts. After all, the Adobe Lightroom and full-featured PhotoShop combo may only clutter the pathway towards intent, relative to the somewhat slimmed Bridge and Elements fusion. Currently, I do use Lightroom as my primary image organizer and image database,

So there you have it, from the pricey to the dirt cheap. But please always remember that the very best image editor ... is in your head, combined with your innate sense of 'vision'.

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