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.

Photoshop Automator Actions Now Compatible with Photoshop CC

Posted by & filed under General.

The latest version of the Photoshop Automator Actions collection, version 5.0.7 is now compatible with Photoshop CC, in addition to CS4, CS5, CS5.5, and CS6. All users will want to upgrade, though, since the new version includes important bug fixes to file naming and the Edit IPTC Info action. Requires Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks. The update is available for free to current owners of the CS6, CS5, CS5.5, and CS4 packages. For new users, there’s still a free version, and a $20 pro option. Note that upgrades only work within Photoshop versions. So, if you have, say, the CS6 version and want the CC version, you’ll have to buy the CC version separately. (Yes, that’s a very messy sentence, but it’s late and I’m too tired to clean it up.) Check out the actions here, at our sister site.

Alien Skin Exposure 4

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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.

Nikon Capture NX 2 Essential Training

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Nikon Capture NX provides a complete editing environment and workflow tool, all built around Nikon’s exceptional raw converter. A complete, non-destructive image editing system, Capture NX also uses Nik software’s uPoint technology for selective editing. This gives you incredibly powerful editing without having to hassle with masks, keys, paths, or any other traditional selection tools. You can learn all the ins and outs of this great image editor in this new five hour and forty minute course at Lynda.com. Watch it now right here!

Photoshop Touch 1.0

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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.

Photoshop Automator Actions 5.0.3 Update

Posted by & filed under Automator Actions, Features.

The Photoshop Automator Actions v5.0.3 Updater is now available. This package updates delivers numerous bug fixes and tweaks, and adds Lion compatibility. Available for CS4 and CS5, the update is free to all users of both the free and Pro versions of the Photoshop Automator Actions Collection version 5. Updates are available here.

For this updater to work, you must have a copy of the version 5 package installed. (Obviously, you’ll need to install the updater package that matches the version that you have installed, either CS4 or CS5, free or Pro.)

nik Silver EFex Pro 2.0

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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.

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Pixelmator 1.6 – Inexpensive Image Editing

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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

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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.

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Editing and Printing iPhone Images

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Only a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have spent any time talking about shooting with a cell phone camera. It’s not that I have anything against lo-fi imagery, it’s just that for years, cell phone cameras were more akin to no-fi photography. The iPhone offers a very good camera (for a cell phone) as well as the ability to edit images on the device, and print. (If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a look to see an extremely serious application of the iPhone camera.) If you’ve been wondering about editing your iPhone images, this article will help you get started, while this will walk you through printing – both from the phone, and from your computer.