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Unless you are still living in analog land (as fun as it can be, I hope you aren’t), post-production software is an essential part of a photographer’s toolkit. Even if you are the type of person whose use of the digital darkroom only extends so far as removing red eye and adjusting contrast, you need to have software that speeds your workflow and produces great results.
For most photographers, that basically means using some combination of Lightroom or Aperture with Adobe Photoshop. While that combo is attractive and effective, it’s also expensive. Lightroom is $115, Aperture is $70, and Photoshop kicks in at a whopping $240 PER YEAR (thanks to Adobe’s new Creative Cloud service). So with all that in mind, I decided to look at a new software suite that is slightly more economical for the budding photographer—Perfect Photo Suite 8.
At $129 for the full-package, the price certainly is sweet, but can it displace the Lightroom/Aperture + Photoshop combo?
Perfect Photo Suite is a collection of 8 “modules” that each do one specific task extremely well. There is:
- Browser: An image organizer
- Layers: For working with Photoshop-like “layers”
- Enhance: Equivalent to your “Develop” module in Lightroom/Aperture, it can do quick corrections such as brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature colors, etc.
- Effects: This is what Perfect Photo Suite is known for. They have a seemingly endless array of filters that can mimic or create just about any look. They can really punch up a photo or give that signature aesthetic you’ve been looking to create.
- Portrait: This is designed for retouching portraits (as the name suggests). It has tools for red eye, blemishes, and whitening teeth and eyes. There is also face recognition technology that will recognize and select the eyes and mouth automatically.
- B&W: My personal favorite. It is great for turning any image into a beautiful, stark black and white image. It really captures the look of film with a variety of presets tuned to specific film types or photographic processes.
- Mask: This is specifically for dropping out certain areas of the background. No more staring at the monitor at 500% to delete each tiny pixel.
- Resize: Using “Genuine Fractals” technology, this can upscale any image over 100% while maintaining sharpness and detail. A huge life-saver.
While Perfect Photo Suite could be a powerful tool for any photographer, I think it is an extremely attractive option for emerging photographers because of the following reason: It was designed with the working photographer in mind. It’s not a full-blown image editor for every image professional the way that Photoshop is, but it does the certain things it is designed to do exceptionally well and it has a very low learning curve.
Perfect Portrait's eye and mouth recognition is impeccable.
I imagine that most newer photographers don’t want to spend a ton of time sitting in front of a computer monitor. The goal is to be out shooting. People spend years learning how to do on Photoshop the tasks that Perfect Photo Suite does effortlessly. It's easy to get stuck in the digital darkroom behind the screen, editing images. Perfect Photo Suite can help you get great edits without exerting an excruciating amount of time.
The black & white module, with the "Ansel in the Valley" preset, just one of the killer presets in PPS8
At this stage in the game, you are probably still figuring out your aesthetic, your photographic philosophy, and the like. It would seem to me that having your post-production housed in a place that isn’t necessarily as free-form as Photoshop (and less time-consuming) could be a good introduction to the types of looks that you can get on your photography. It is also a forgiving software, in that it really helps you make the best of every image, no matter where you start. That is not to say it can turn a crappy image into a great one, but it can salvage great images that are marred by a few technical issues (like exposure, color, imperfect lighting).
That all being said, I do think that Perfect Photo Suite isn’t enough for every photographer, especially the professionals with a defined workflow + aesthetic. That’s because the Browse module is still extremely lacking. This is probably because Perfect Photo Suite 8 is the first iteration to include the Browse module, but, nonetheless, it lacks essential features like rating, cataloging and tagging. Any photographer familiar with a digital workflow knows that this is non-negotiable to editing large volumes of images, like say 900 pictures from a wedding. It does have the awesome ability to pull from cloud services such as Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox, which is truly innovative, so I'm encouraged to see where they take the Browser in future versions, but it's not there yet.
The browser module: encouraging, but ultimately lacking.
In addition, Lightroom/Aperture, still has the advantage when it comes to applying the same adjustments to a batch of images. It’s not as seamless in Perfect Photo Suite. The entire program is also slower. I’m running Perfect Photo Suite on a newly purchased MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM. It should have no trouble running Perfect Photo Suite. It doesn’t really, but it is laggy and takes time to scroll through images or switch between modules. By comparison, Photoshop and Lightroom are lightning fast with almost no delay on most actions. This will likely improve over the years, but it’s not likely to change with this iteration of Perfect Photo Suite.
Personally, I think the best solution (given infinite money), is a combination of Lightroom/Aperture + Perfect Photo Suite. It’s actually the combination that I’ve been using 80% of the time to edit my photos for the last year. Photoshop will always come in handy for specialty tasks, but Lightroom/Aperture and Perfect Photo Suite are just more specifically geared towards photographers’ needs and produce more stunning results with less time.