Product Review: Photo Mechanic Software
By Kristin Reimer
With the imminent demise of a well-known photo management application I’ve endorsed since the days I embraced digital photography, it became clear I had to find a replacement. Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits in all appearances seems to be my replacement. At the present time, it is not a cataloguing solution—Camera Bits says that may change soon—but overall it’s a very user-friendly application that I use for all of my DAM workflow.
Photo Mechanic is Mac/PC compatible. System requirements are: MAC: Mac OS X 10.6.x, 10.5.8, or 10.4.11. PowerPC G4, G5 or Intel; PC: Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, or XP with Service Pack 1 – 3. Intel Pentium 3 1.2GHz, AMD Athlon 1200 or higher.
Let me go over a few available options that give strength to the Photo Mechanic program:
Images can be imported directly into Photo Mechanic via their ingestion program, or you can open images already stored in an existing archive/folder. When using Photo Mechanic’s ingestion tool, you are given batch controls of your images, such as: adding a metadata template, renaming, and back-up.
One function I appreciate is that during ingestion you can back-up your files to a second location simultaneously. (Screen Shot 1 A) By the way, provided you have multiple card readers, you can ingest more than one card at a time. If you are an impatient person like I am, another ingest feature is that you can open a contact sheet and start viewing your images as they download.
The metadata is where Photo Mechanic really has the opportunity to strut its stuff. This is one of the things that makes it a favorite among photojournalists and stock photographers. You can easily and quickly embed metadata in your files starting here. By setting up the Stationary Pad (Screen Shot 1 B) you can create a template that will load your reoccurring data into all of your files with the press of one button. By using the IPTC editor you can go in later and fine tune specifics. You can save as many templates as is required.
Soapbox moment. If you aren’t adding metadata to your files, you should read up on the Orphan Works (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan_works) bill and rethink that.
Now that your files have been ingested, let’s look at the interface. Personally I find the GUI user friendly. You can customize the window via preferences (Screen Shot 2, below).
Viewing & Sorting Images
From this main window, you can view your images as a contact sheet and by double clicking on a thumbnail, you’re brought to a larger preview, which I will explain further later. You can open new contact sheets by clicking the “+” sign (Screen Shot 3 A), adding images from either a desktop folder or directly from your card reader, if you didn’t use the ingest process. After tagging your edits with either a 5-star rating or color code (Screen Shot 3 B), you can sort them together (Screen Shot 3 C) by: color class, star rating, capture time, modification time, filename, etc. In addition, you can use the button to the right of arrangement to sort by your “selected, tagged, untagged” choices (Screen Shot 3 D).
By clicking on the icon to the left of the search field, you are given the option for the File Uploader menu (Screen Shot 3 E). This menu gives you the easy ability to upload image files directly to your account on PhotoShelter, Flickr, and SmugMug, among others. You can send original files, jpeg copies, apply a watermark, and resize all within this menu.
Right-click a thumbnail and it gives you the following handy options: Image Info (camera info), Color Class (label), Apply IPTC Stationary (another opportunity to add metadata), Edit Photo (using the image editor of your choice), Rename Photo, Copy Photo, Delete Photo, Save Photo As…, Send Photo via Email, FTP as…, Upload…, Reveal in Finder.
In addition to some of the features listed above, you also have the ability to export HTML web pages, burn images to disc, print contact sheets, and create slideshows.
Photo Mechanic makes editing through hundreds or thousands of images a breeze. One of the great things about editing within Photo Mechanic is that it will generate a jpg preview of each RAW file, so loading of the images is super quick. I’ve often been editing as the ingestion is still happening, which takes me no time at all.
When you double click on a thumbnail, it brings you to an enlarged version of your image. From this window, you have the following preferences available to you in the top menu: front/back arrows, rotate image, IPTC stationary pad (are you sensing this is important yet?), file copy options, delete, and screen view options (screen shot 4 A, below).
To the right of the screen you have your file info which contains your camera data. By clicking on the + and – signs in the top right, you can edit what information you would like to see here. You have a crop tool, a zoom button (allowing you to enlarge your image by 800%) and lastly, a histogram.
From within this window, it is very easy to navigate forward and back using the arrow buttons on your keyboard and tag each image with either a star rating or color code and speed through the folder. When finished, head back to the main GUI and arrange your tagged edit as you see fit.
From there it’s an easy right click to copy your files to another folder, ftp or email them.
IPTC Stationary Pad
I’ve mentioned it before, but let’s take a closer look at the IPTC Stationary Pad. You’ve now seen the various places this window can be accessed. See the window (screen shot 5, above) for more details. As I mentioned you can create templates for your metadata and simply apply them to a batch of images, or individual images with one button. There is a function called IPTC Snapshot which allows you the ability to copy and paste a set of metadata between files. You can access the snapshot via the lightning bolt graphic in the lower left corner; right-click function, via the edit menu or via the enlarged preview window’s upper menu “i” button.
In addition, via the image menu, you can find a keywords panel where you can build a list of keywords that you use often.
In conclusion, the main things to keep in mind before purchasing this program, is that if you are looking for a program that works as a cataloguing option, this is not for you. This is also not an image editing program. Because of these omissions, I may hesitate to purchase this program by itself, however, for the price, you can’t go wrong if you are looking for a way to ingest and manage your images quickly and efficiently.
I am very fond of Photo Mechanic’s ability to copy files to two locations during ingestion as well as the speed with which the previews come up, enabling me to start editing while I am still ingesting files. Renaming files, being able to email and FTP files are also functions I used quite readily as well.
One thing I dislike (other than it’s lack of cataloging abilities) is that there is no “undo” button. I have at times applied ratings or labels only to find that there is no quick way to undo a mistake. I also find, for me, that there are too many ways to achieve the same goal. For instance, the many places you can reach the IPTC Stationary Pad; it could have been simplified just a little bit more.
Lastly, for support, the Camera Bits forum is full of information and one can often get pretty speedy replies from the developers themselves. That’s a nice personal touch to experience in this day and age.
MSRP for Camera Bits Photo Mechanic, version 4.6.3 for Mac/PC is $150. You can demo the software free for 20 days. For more information, check out www.camerabits.com.
♦ Upon graduating with a BFA in photography from Pratt Institute, Kristin went on to become the studio manager for the esteemed Magnum photojournalist, Elliot Erwitt. Under the tutelage of Elliott, Kristin acquired a more capacious understanding of the history of photography and of the unique and diverse contributions of those who define the field. Her work with Elliott also provided a forum from which to create and develop her own artistic style.
In 2002 Kristin founded Photomuse (www.photomuse.com), a fine art/documentary style wedding company. Kristin is an award-winning member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA), a professional organization composed of photojournalists and wedding photographers from around the world as well as the Artistic Guild of Wedding Photography (AGWPJA) and the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP).
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