Software Updates And Opinions

Image processing has always been an important facet of photography, even in these post-film days. Indeed, even working from film, most photographers now go the scan route so that all images get poured through the digital funnel as they make their way to print and online. While we often run processing technique articles that concentrate on Adobe Photoshop, the reviews here feature other products that pose an alternative to that most impressive program and that might just handle many of your conversion, manipulation, and editing needs. It is rare these days that one software package can do it all, and many exciting programs are available that offer unique ways for you to work your images.

One important change that has occurred as of late is the inclusion of processing steps in camera—there are tonal curve compensation options, so-called “art filters,” and even the ability to process Raw to JPEG images right inside many cameras. Many images can be used, therefore, right “out of the box.” Yet, there’s only so much you can do working on a small monitor.

While some software functions as a “plug-in,” meaning it relies on the architecture of a host program to create an infrastructure for its functionality, more and more programs are offering the option of being a “stand-alone” as well, which means you can run it as a subset of another program (usually accessed through the Filter menu) or use it without having to go through another software door. This speaks to the fact that as in-camera processors become more capable, the options for processing the image afterward can often be realized within a less elaborate program.

Software does pose exciting imaging options, but there’s a bit of a dark side as well; namely updates and upgrades that seem a constant part of the bargain. Bought a new computer lately? There’s a good chance that when you transfer over the “older” programs to the new OS they will not run without being upgraded. Some software makers recognize this and often offer free upgrades if you had recently bought the software—others don’t. That means that you might have to add a few hundred dollars to your computer purchase price just to maintain the functionality you had on the previous model. This can be, to say the least, a frustrating experience. And with even the most optimistic assessment of the three-year “life” of computers these days, and about 18 months on software revisions (to keep up-to-date with new operating systems), a bit of a merry-go-round feeling sets in. For many, it’s an unsettling realization, but a fact of life in these digital days.

On a final note, we must mark the passage of perhaps the greatest color film of all time—Kodachrome. We all knew it was coming due to the ever-shrinking processing options, but unlike Polaroid and similar Instant Film, it doesn’t look like anyone will be reviving that time-honored emulsion ever again.
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