My Top 5 ‘Software for Photography’ Titles for 2010 (so far)

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 16, 2010

Category: General

So far 2010 has seen quite a few changes in both my workflow and the general day to day running of my Photography business; much needed changes if I’m honest and this has all been possible because of 5 Awesome Software Titles that I’m now using.

First off I just want to clarify that in no way, shape or form am I receiving any kind of gratuity, back-hander or whatever else it could be called in telling you about these software titles; it’s just that they have made such a massive impact on me that I feel it’s only right to share them with you.

Workflow: Photo Mechanic
Last November you’ll remember me telling you about the time I spent out in Atlanta with Zack Arias on his OneLight Workshop. Well, it was while I was out there that Zack talked about and demonstrated his workflow and kept raving about a piece of software I’d never actually heard of called PhotoMechanic. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t really give this software that much attention because I thought my workflow was good enough as it was; oh how wrong was I!!! Needless to say my curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded the free trial and have been completely hooked ever since.

PhotoMechanic, made by a company called Camera Bits does way more than I am using it for, but for importing and sorting through images from a shoot it is absolutely incredible; lightning fast. My old workflow would see me importing files directly into Lightroom using a Lexar Firewire 400 card reader, which for a 4Gb card would give me enough time to pop downstairs and put the kettle on, but not anymore. No sooner have I put the card into the reader, the files are there on screen, no visible rendering, nothing…just there. To say this has saved me masses of time would be an understatement so if you’re the kind of person looking to reduce the amount of time you spend on your workflow, I can’t recommend PhotoMechanic enough. You can download the free trial here: www.camerabits.com and to buy it will mean an investment of roughly £100.

Workflow: Lightroom 2
I’ve been a dedicated user of Lightroom ever since it was released as a Public Beta so to move away from it would take something very special indeed. Over time however I had noticed Lightroom was starting to run quite slow and not just when importing files from a card reader. I remembered some time back reading that a catalogue of around 10,000 photographs would start to affect Lightroom’s performance, so I checked to see how many files I had…over 37,000!!! Clearly not all those files were being used and there was going to be alot of files/photographs that had never and would never be edited and passed onto the client or used in my portfolio. I set aside some time to sort through the entire catalogue which resulted in me uncovering over 300Gb of unused/unwanted files; backed up the now clean catalogue, created a new one and now Lightroom is running like it’s on steroids!

Lightroom 3 is currently in public beta with the full version set to be released in the very near future. No pricing details as yet but going by previous versions it could be around the £150 – £200 mark.

Workflow: Photoshop CS4
Okay, don’t think I really need to say much about why I’ve been using Photoshop for a few years now, other than it simply being the Industry Standard and the BEST there is.

Photoshop CS4 comes in 2 formats: CS4 Standard at around £599 and CS4 Extended at around £800

Workflow: Nik Silver Efex Pro
This is one of those pieces of software that I held off from getting for quite some time; I mean…do we really need another way to convert images to black & white, greyscale, monochrome or whatever other term you want to use? Well, as I was in a ‘free trial’ frame of mind I thought I’d download it and again, see what all the fuss was about. Well, just as I was totally convinced with PhotoMechanic, I’m now totally convinced with Nik Silver Efex Pro. This is without doubt an amazing piece of software that creates the most beautiful black & white images.

Before now I would convert images to black & white in Lightroom or Photoshop using a variety of simple techniques; I would even on occasion use a Photoshop Plug-In by Alien Skin called Exposure, all of which I though would give me nice results. Nik Silver Efex Pro though just blows me away; the tones are so rich that the images almost jump out at you. I could go on and on about why I like it and why it’s so good, but don’t take my word for it, download the 14 day free trial and give it a go for yourself: www.niksoftware.com

You can buy Nik Silver Efex Pro from  a variety of online outlets and you’ll pay anything from £125 – £200.

Business Management: LightBlue
Business Management and being organised is one area that I definitely needed help with and thankfully my prayers have been answered.

Wouldn’t it be great to have one piece of software that amongst many of it’s other talents can keep track of all your clients, shoots, expenses, inventory, purchases, send out group emails, newsletters, organise your image files and so it goes on? Basically, a piece of software that gets you and your business organised and in return gives you your life back. Well, this is exactly how I feel about LightBlue. No longer do I have files on my computer that hold copies of invoices, folders in mail to keep track of communication between clients, an iCal diary that’s just bursting at the seams and is consequently hard to follow and then there’s the dreaded end of year accounting to organise. LightBlue does it all for me and what’s real nice about it, is that it’s so easy to use too.

There’s something to be said about being organised; particularly when running a business, in fact I’d go so far to say that you’re on a downward slope if you’re not organised because somewhere along the line, you’re gonna miss something. Using LightBlue has completely turned my business around and I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks at this point. Being more organised has meant I know exactly where I stand when it comes to what shoots I have coming up, the state of other shoots i.e whether clients have received images etc; I know exactly how I stand financially with regards to how much I’ve paid out, how much I’ve paid in, any monies owing and so on and all at the touch of a button. Having this kind of information available to me so easily has meant I can concentrate my efforts elsewhere and as a result be more productive.

If you’re looking to get organised or looking to improve how you manage your business I can’t recommend this software enough. You can download a trial of LightBlue here: www.lightbluesoftware.com and to buy prices start from £295 inc VAT for single user. Oh and one more thing…I’ve emailed the guys (Tom & Hamish) over at LightBlue a couple of times for a little bit of advice and each time have had a comprehensive reply within 2 hours and one of those was on a weekend, so they don’t just offer a great product, they offer great customer service too.

Now as I said the start, these are 5 pieces of software that I’m using in 2010 that are making a big difference to me in both Workflow and Business Management but there are many other titles out there to be used.

I’d be really interested to hear about what software titles or methods you’re using to move your business forward. Any thoughts or comments? Are you using the same pieces of software and if so, why? Please use the comments section below and share them with us all.

Bye for now.


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11 Comments

  1. Matt Palmer

    Another great post Glyn.

    Have you had a chance to have a look at the sneak peek videos for Photoshop CS5? Theres some amazing improvements coming. If rumours are to be believed it’ll be released within the next 2 months.

    Importing of images in Photo Mechanic wasn’t very fast for me but thats because of my cheapo card reader. I could see how fast it can potentially be from watching ZA’s workflow video.

    Lightroom 2.0 has a great look and feel to it but it has it’s problems, most notably pretty poor sharpening and noise reduction. When zoomed in to 100% the LR2 sharpening routine does some ugly looking things to your image. The LR3 beta is far superior in this regard. I’ll often color correct and do tonal work within LR3 beta and then export the image to Photoshop. I’ll then use the Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0 Raw Presharpener and Output Sharpener which seems to give a much nicer result.

    Your blog is really shaping up to be a great resource of info Glyn. Long may it continue I say. 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Matt.
      Thanks for taking the time to add a comment.

      Re Photoshop CS5, yeah I’m lucky enough to have been given it to trial because of being an ‘Adobe Community Professional’. There’s some real sweet additions and improvements coming especially when it comes to masking. Fingers crossed the final release wont be too far away now.

      Forgot to mention that when I got PhotoMechanic I also got the Lexar Firewire 800 reader Zack mentions about, so that combined with the software totally rocks mate!

      When it comes to Lightroom, I use it like the other pieces of software I use in that I like certain things that each one does; no one piece of software is a ‘one stop shop’ for me. Tend to agree with you about the sharpening side of things too; sharpening for me if any is always done in Photoshop but I think that’ll be changing once LR3 is released. Nik Sharpener is one piece of kit I’ve not looked into so I may have to give that a whirl too; damn…just when I promised myself not to buy anymore software (this month atleast)…lol

      Thanks for the comment re the blog too; real good to hear it’s useful.
      Cheers and thanks again mate,
      All the best to you,
      Glyn

      Reply
  2. Keith Hammond

    Good right up Glyn, it’s nice to find out other peoples work flow and what they use. Gotta admit Andy does all the editing and album design in Lightroom and PS Elememts, all i do is press the shutter now and again, oh and i’m office boy, which i enjoy, i have looked at LightBlue a couple of times but then we needed it on two machines at two different locations and be able to sync but it wasn’t possible also i would like to sync it to my iPhone as that has everything on it, will have to have another look at it, should have talked to them at Focus but was side tracked by all the shiny things. I like your style of getting the info across as it is and not making it to complicated, i’m about half way through your archives so don’t post too much or i will never catch up. Keith

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Keith,
      Thanks for the kind words; it’s always nice to read positive feedback.
      Re the LightBlue solution, have you taken a look at Foto SF which you can download a trial version of here: http://www.fotosf.com
      I tried out this one too but finally ended up going for Light Blue as you know. Foto SF has a few add-ons such as syncing with the iPhone etc which you might like the look of. It’s a little more expensive however at just under £400. I too am an iPhone user but am gonna sit tight until the guys at LightBlue add the ability to sync with it too, which I’m sure they will at some point.
      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  3. Andy Cuadra

    Great write up Glyn- I’ve been tempted to look into Photo Mechanic but I’ve got so much on plate right now, I know it will get the best of me; it’s just a matter of time :-). LR has been my main starting point so far, but Zack Arias slightly emphasized how much he loved Photo Mechanic.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.
    All the best-

    //A.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      It’s how well the two of them work so well together Andy that does it for me. Definitely a winning combination. Quite looking forward to seeing the final release of LR3 too.

      Cheers for commenting mate,
      All the best, Glyn

      Reply
  4. Keith

    ah yes thats Oz’s prog, good friend of Andy’s so i’m looking for -% there 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      It’s not what you know it’s who you know…lol

      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  5. Andrew Hall

    Great list! My favourite has to be Aperture 3. It handles nearly all of my picture editing. With the improvements to V3, I now don’t need to use Photoshop anywhere near as much! I have had a play around with Nik Silver Efexs Pro, very good program but I wasn’t convinced the extra time spent converting the images showed an overwhelming increase in quality of my B&W photos to justify the extra time. Light Blue Photo, I started using on your recommendation on Twitter! Love it! Completely agree with everything that you said about it, highly recommend! Will be making my business life much much easier to follow.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Andrew, thanks for posting a comment. i can totally see why you like to use Aperture 3. Having a go with it during the free trial I was really impressed and I gotta admit it was a tough decision not to move to it from LR. Real pleased too that the recommendation re LightBlue worked out. I know speaking for myself it’s made a real big impact on getting organised and how things are run this end now.

      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  6. Hamish Symington

    Hi –
    Just a follow up to what Glyn’s been saying about iPhone sync. I’m Hamish, from Light Blue Software. There are already a couple of ways of getting your information onto your iPhone from Light Blue: Photo.
    If you’re on a Mac, the simplest way is to use two-way sync with iCal. Shoots or meetings which you enter into Light Blue: Photo are instantly published to iCal. From there, you can sync that with your iPhone. If you add an event to the calendar on your iPhone, you can then suck that information back into Light Blue: Photo.
    If you’re on a PC, iCal obviously doesn’t exist, so you can’t use that method. Instead, you can publish your shoot information from Light Blue: Photo to Google Calendar, and then use Google’s tools to publish that information to your iPhone. We don’t have two-way sync with Google Calendar yet (it’s technically very tricky) but we’ve not ruled it out.
    I should also mention that both of these are included in the price of Light Blue: Photo (currently £295, including VAT). FotoSF (full version) is £440 (including VAT); If you want to publish to your iPhone from FotoSF it’s another £94, and publishing to iCal is £52.88 (including VAT). At Light Blue Software, we don’t like hidden costs so we don’t include modules or anything like that – the main program includes all the functionality we talk about on our website (www.lightbluesoftware.com).
    If anyone’s got any questions or comments, we’d love to hear them – just drop us a line at admin@lightbluesoftware.com.
    Hamish

    Reply

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