A Quicktake Review
Sometimes photographers have little appreciation for what others types of photographers have to deal with. The fine art photographer may go out on a weekend and take a few dozens exposures, while a wedding photographer may come back with many hundreds. A photojournalist or a wildlife photographer may return from a major shoot with many thousands of images.
How each one handles their digital workflow will depend on the photographer's temperament as well as practical issues.
For working pros, what has come to be called Digital Asset Management is one of the biggest challenges of day-to-day photography. How to ingest images from data cards, then catalogue, index, keyword, raw process, final process and archive them, all while leaving enough time in the day for everything else that needs doing.
In December, 2005 I published a review of the two DAM programs that I use – Photo Mechanic and IView Media Pro. December also saw the introduction of Apple's Aperture, and then in January, Adobe's Lightroom Beta One. Both of these are next-generation image processing programs that incorporate a number of DAM capabilities.
Many photographers today use Adobe's Bridge in conjunction with Camera Raw and Photoshop as their primary image processing and image management applications. Indeed the vast majority of pros probably use Bridge as their primary asset management tool.
As good as it is, Bridge leaves a lot to be desired. That's why programs like Photo Mechanic and IView Media Pro, along with their competitors, have carved out such a successful niche for themselves. In the future Aperture (Mac only) and Lightroom (Mac + Windows) will likely become preferred tools for many photographers. The reason is that these applications integrate almost every aspect of image processing and management under one consolidated roof.
But Aperture is still in its 1.0 early days, and Lightroom is still in Beta. By the end of 2006 Apple will likely have worked out Aperture's teething problems and Lightroom will be a powerhouse commercial application.
Till then, Adobe's Bridge is the traffic circle around which much workflow circulates. With this in mind DamUseful software has just started shipping a new product called RapidFixer, which does a dam good job of solving one of image processing's current bottlenecks – the separation of image management and raw processing into two separate applications; Bridge and Camera Raw.
What RapidFixer does is to provide tools for accessing many of Camera Raw's image processing capabilities right from within Bridge. If you look at Figure 1 below you'll see Bridge displayed in a typical Filmstrip viewing mode. But, you'll also see arrayed along the top and bottom of the screen a new set of controls that you've never seen before. These are put there by RapidFixer, and provide access to selected Camera Raw functionality.
Now – before you get too excited, note the words "selected functionality". RapidFixer is by no means intended to supplant your use of Camera Raw itself. But what it does do is allow you to take a large group of raw files and apply some basic common settings to them quickly and easily. For example, you can correct the colour balance of a group of raw files within Bridge with a single click. For anyone working with a large number of files that need similar basic corrections, this can be a huge time saver.
Available as a download from the DamUseful for $39.95, RapidFixer is a file which is placed into Bridge's Scripts directory, which location is found by using Bridge itself. When Bridge is restarted you'll find that there is now a new command located under the Edit menu, which produces a flyout offering four different sizes for the additional onscreen commands, depending on the size of screen that you're working with.
Rather than show endless examples of the selections that are available, I'll just show one part of the bottom menu, as seen in Figure 3 above. Most controls have fixed amount increase and decrease buttons for various functions, performed using the left and right carrots, while single step increments can be performed with plus and minus keys.
This is not as straightforward to use the sliders found in Camera Raw, but is almost certainly a limitation of using a Script structure to access them. Nevertheless, they are still very useful, especially since they can be performed on an entire directory of images simultaneously.
The user should be aware that RapidFixer requires that Camera Raw needs to be set to work with Sidecar .XMP files, and also that you need to apply Camera Raw's Default settings to all files (done simply as a batch), so that each file has a pre-existing .XMP file associated with it. This too is a requirement for using a Script function.
Having said all of that, it takes just moments to set things up appropriately, and so should not be a concern for users.
Controls available include most of the main ones in Camera Raw, including White Balance, Saturation, Monochrome, basic Curves, Sharpening , Colour Noise Reduction, Highlight Recovery, Vignetting, etc. There is even a very clever tool for fixing flash images to compensate for hot spots and fall-off.
If you'd like to learn more you'll find three Quicktime movies on the DamUseful web site that show the product in some depth.
If you're the type of worker that shoots a small or modest number of images, and works slowly on each one, then RapidFixer likely won't add much to your workflow. But if you're a busy pro who needs to prepare large numbers of files quickly, and who uses Bridge and Camera Raw as day-to-day tools, then RapidFixer may be just what the doctor ordered, and the prescription price is even easy to swallow.