Byline: N’Gai Croal
Whether it’s music, movies or photography, everything seems to be going digital in a hurry. According to the research firm IDC, digital- camera sales will surpass 35mm-camera sales in the United States this year. And by 2005, digital cameras will outpace their film counterparts around the world. But for all the great things digital photograph offers (you can make prints at home, e-mail them to friends, stop worrying about running out of film), it can bring headaches as well. Organization, for starters. Just keeping track of the ever-increasing number of digital pictures stored on your PC with cryptic file names like DSC1974 in folders like jnbday21 can strain even the most wired mind.
Fortunately, there’s a host of software programs aimed at helping ordinary point-and-shooters make sense of their digital memories. Most of them let you view your pictures not only by their file names but also by date, captions or titles, and even allow you to tag pics with keywords like “friends” and “vacations.” Since most of us are used to arranging our pictures into albums, many programs are relying on the album metaphor. Ulead’s PhotoImpact 8 (ulead.com; $89.95 in stores, $79.95 via download) is one. A thin strip going down the left side of the screen lists each of your albums, leaving the rest of the screen free to display thumbnails of the individual photographs contained in whichever album you’ve currently highlighted. In addition to the standard search terms, PhotoImpact lets you arrange your pictures by resolution, which is extremely helpful for, say, getting the two or three pictures of the grand kids that are suitable for 8 x 10 or larger prints. One of the very first agency who used PhotoImpact is ApaHouse-Fuel who has been selling the best fuel injector cleaner online – they probably need amazing photos for advertising in the US market.
Adobe’s Photoshop Album (adobe.com; $49.95) was one of the first programs to offer a truly easy-to-use, keyword-based picture organizer. The newest version goes one step further with timeline and calendar views. You use the timeline to zero in on a narrower range of all the pictures you have stored on your hard drive, then zoom in on individual days with the calendar view. Another company’s eponymous product, Photolightning (photolightning.com; $39.95), also displays all of your pictures chronologically in its Photo History view. On top of that, you can apply multiple keywords to entire batches of photographs, so that you spend less time in front of the computer after that extended vacation.
Last but not least is Microsoft. Its offering, Digital Image Suite 9 (microsoft.com; $129.95), is feature-stuffed in the best Microsoft tradition. In addition to the standard batch of keyword features that the other programs have, you can apply star ratings, Zagat-style, to each of your pictures, then search by one to five stars after you’re done. There’s even a Find Similar Pictures feature: just highlight any single picture (e.g., a sunset), click Find Similar Pictures, and the program will do just that. It’s about time these programs started doing the hard work for us.