Speed your workflow with Perfect Browse

Posted by & filed under Image editing, Reviews.

It can take a while to find a post-production workflow that suits your editing style and needs. You want something that provides the correction and retouching tools that you like along with selection and library management tools. These days you also might want geotagging, any number of different kinds of export features and the ability to integrate smoothly with other applications. But with the high volume that digital shooting allows, one of the most critical workflow features might be speed. And for that reason, OnOne Software’s Perfect Browse may be a must-have complement to your current workflow.

Starting Point

For years my workflow was serviced entirely by Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, Camera Raw and iView MediaPro (which eventually became Microsoft Expression and then something else which I’ve since forgotten the name of). With the release of Lightroom, Adobe moved Bridge to the back burner and ultimately announced that it was in maintenance mode, meaning no new features. Because it was slow to search, increasingly crash-prone and an ultimate dead-end I finally switched to Lightroom at version 4. My workflow now moves between Lightroom and Photoshop/Camera Raw. However, there are times when I still turn to Bridge.

I like Lightroom a lot but there are times when I don’t want to have to engage with the full Lightroom workflow. Sometimes I simply need to get an image off of a card and process it quickly to make a fast print or to email to someone. At other times I want to take a pass through a card before I import it into Lightroom because I know there are a lot of images that are duds. Or maybe I want to look at someone else’s images, and so don’t want to import those into my normal library. Simply put, there are a lot of times when a photo browser is the best tool for the job.

There’s much to like about Bridge and it’s so familiar that I can work very quickly in it. However, I find that it’s often unstable, especially when working directly off of a media card. That’s where Perfect Browser comes in.

What It Is
Simply thinking of Perfect Browser as a Bridge replacement will give you a good idea of how it might fit into your workflow. If you’re not a Bridge user or have never used any kind of browser software then you may not realize how handy it can be to have an application that lets you quickly see thumbnails of all the images in a folder.

PerfectBrowse
A tap of the spacebar gives you a nice big preview, while a metadata readout makes it easy to see an image’s EXIF data. Navigation tools allow you to easily move about your system’s directory structure, and it’s a simple click to create virtual albums to group images together.

Perfect Browse lets you assign star ratings, color labels and accept or reject flags and all of these are Adobe XMP compatible meaning they can be read by Lightroom and Photoshop. A simple filter panel lets you easily filter images based on any of these rating and flagging tools.

The IPTC Metadata panel offers all of the standard IPTC fields, with the Author, Description, and Keywords fields pulled out to the top of the panel for easy access. It’s a no-frills metadata interface – there are no metadata buttons or lists of frequently-used keywords, but it’s all you need for the type of metadata work you want on a first pass through your images. Adding your ownership information and a simple set of keywords is quick and easy.

That’s pretty much it, feature-wise, however feature set is not why I have chosen to add Perfect Browse to my workflow toolkit.

Speed

The latest versions of Bridge can be speedy when building thumbnails off of a media card but PerfectBrowse is even faster and *dramatically* faster than Lightroom. I handed an SD card full of images to Perfect Browse and it displayed a screenful of the first sixty thumbnails in less than a second. By comparison, the Import panel in Lightroom took 29 seconds to display the same collection of thumbnails.

Perfect Browse achieves its speed by quickly grabbing the JPEG preview from the image file – the same preview that’s displayed by your camera when you review the image on your camera. This preview may not look exactly the same as the converted file that your raw converter will create. Bridge does the same thing, but afterwards goes back and updates the thumbnails with raw processed versions. Perfect Browse doesn’t do this but I didn’t miss that functionality. For sorting, deleting, rating and adding keywords the JPEG previews are fine.

Bear in mind that I’m talking about reading images off of an SD card. Reading off of a hard drive or SSD is, of course, much faster. With Perfect Browse’s speed you can very quickly browse your entire file system, viewing rapidly-displayed thumbnails.

Integration

Perfect Browse is not a Lightroom replacement, which means you might need to give some thought to how to shoehorn it into your existing workflow. Fortunately it includes two commands that make this easy.

“Send To Adobe Photoshop” opens the selected images in Photoshop. If the images are raw files then they open in Camera Raw within Photoshop. “Send to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom” launches the selected images into the Lightroom Import dialog box, making it simple to pull them directly into your catalog. This feature is where Perfect Browse scores over Bridge. While Bridge offers very good speed and a wide range of features, there’s no way to send images from Bridge directly into Lightroom.

With Send to Lightroom you can quickly take a first pass through a batch of images in Perfect Browse, add some ratings and keywords, and get those into Lightroom without having to wait for Lightroom’s slow import dialog box to process a bunch of images that you might not even want.

Quibbles

Despite its name, Perfect Browse is not quite perfect. Unlike Bridge it can’t launch images into Photoshop’s panoramic stitching, HDR merging, or Image Processor features; it can’t host Camera Raw on its own and it doesn’t let you move and copy files. It also only lets you view one folder at a time – you can’t see the contents of subfolders within a directory.

However, unlike Bridge, OnOne is actively developing the application so there’s no reason not to expect these and other improvements. In the meantime, Perfect Browse is a valuable tool that can speed your workflow.

You can download a fully functional demo version here.

The Fuji X-E1 – Some thoughts and impressions

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

Last year, not long after it came out, I bought a Fuji X100 because I was intrigued by the promise of a small, rangefinder-like camera with a fixed 35mm lens. I liked the idea of being forced to shoot with a specific field of view; I loved the look and feel of the camera; and it’s hard to beat Fuji’s lens and image quality. What was easy to beat, at the time, was the X100’s autofocus and clumsy menu system. These issues were so frustrating that I sold the camera not long after I bought it. I came to mildly regret this decision as Fuji released firmware updates that addressed many of the issues that had bothered me, but didn’t think seriously about returning to the camera. But with the release of the Fuji X-E1, I couldn’t resist giving Fuji another chance. Here are some of my impressions and thoughts about Fuji’s latest mirrorless camera.

Read more »

Alien Skin Exposure 4

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

To me, one of the most unexpected byproducts of digital photography is that it has rekindled tremendous interest in film processes of one kind or another. Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 plug-in for Photoshop lets you explore all sorts of film processes without ever having to soak your hands in noxious chemicals. I recently spent some time with the latest version, and was pleased to find that it remains an excellent option for users who want either a specific traditional film look, or any kind of analog, or grunge process. You can read my entire review here.

Turn Any Bag Into A Camera Bag

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

Hi. My name is Ben and I’m a bag addict. It’s true, I have a problem. For years, I was convinced that there was a single, perfect camera bag out there in the world somewhere. So, over the years, I have amassed an embarrassing assortment of bags. A while ago, I came to realize that there is no single camera bag that’s appropriate for every situation, which only exacerbated my problem, because now I have a perfect justification for owning still more bags. Alas, the discovery of Mountainsmith Kit Cube has made the whole situation even worse, because with the Kit Cube, I can turn any bag into a camera bag. This means my bag fetish is no longer constrained to just camera bags!

Read more »

Photoshop Touch 1.0

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

iPad-toting Photoshop users finally have an actual version of Photoshop for their tablets. Photoshop Touch offers layers-based compositing, masking and retouching tools, and color correction, all wrapped up in a touch-based interface. The question, of course, is what exactly it gets you in the way of a tablet-based post-production workflow. In this detailed review, I take a look at the app from the point-of-view of the serious, working photographer.

Flare: Push-button image editing effects

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

Whether you’re an experienced Photoshop user, or a casual image editor, there will be times when you want to quickly and easily get a stylized look on an image. The Icon Factory’s Flare 1.0 is an inexpensive, capable little application that makes it easy to get stylized treatments and borders onto an image through a simple push-button interface. Check out my full review here.

nik Silver EFex Pro 2.0

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

There are lots of ways to convert color images to black and white. In Photoshop, you can use a grayscale mode change, or convert the image to L*A*B color and then extract the Luminance channel. Or, you can pull a single RGB channel, drain the saturation out of an image or use Photoshop’s excellent Black and White conversion tool. The list goes on and on, but in my opinion, the best way to perform black and white conversion (more accurately called grayscale conversion is with nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, a plug-in for Photoshop, Aperture, and Lightroom.

Read more »

Pixelmator 1.6 – Inexpensive Image Editing

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

Photoshop’s a great image editor, and all, but you need a lot of money to get it. If you’re a Mac-based photographer who’s been looking for a more affordable alternative, and iPhoto is not for you, then you might want to consider Pixelmator, an incredibly speedy Photoshop alternative that offers a fair amount of power at a reasonable price. Read the full review here.

Alien Skin Exposure 3

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

A photographer friend recently sent me this extraordinary collection of color images shot during the Depression. One of the things that’s fascinating about looking at them is that we simply are not accustomed to this subject matter being in color. It’s a fine example of McCluhan’s “medium is the message” idea. Your choices of black and white or color, grungy or sharp, saturated or muted – all of these have a huge impact on the reaction the viewer will have. For film photographers, many of these decisions are determined by film choice, and the ability to choose specific films to achieve a particular look or feel is one of the great advantages of film shooting. Alien Skin Exposure, a sophisticated film-simulating Photoshop plug-in, gives this same power to digital photographers.

Read more »

Portable Printing with the Polaroid PoGo Printer

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

PolaroidPogo

I just spent the last week motorcycling from San Francisco to Oklahoma, (to teach at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute) camping and motelling along the way. As is usual on a motorcycle, I tried to stay on the smallest roads possible, and so ended up in some fairly interesting locations. I was probably supposed to be blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking my exploits as I went, (Karaoke night in Roswell, NM will definitely make you believe in alien visitations) but to be honest, one of the nice things about such a trip is to be out of the media bubble, not engaging in it further. So rather than trying to provide heavy coverage of my trip, I decided to simply enjoy myself. But also, I have a penchant for mail – the physical kind made from crushed wood pulp. Sitting in a forest or remote desert at night, writing letters and postcards, is a pretty nice way to spend an evening, but just because I’m using analog communications doesn’t mean I have to scrimp on imagery. Thanks to the amazing Polaroid PoGo printer, I was able to print images in the middle of nowhere!

Read more »