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In this post Sime asks Ste’ to review Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits .
I’m not a professional photo journalist, however, I do tend to hang around with a number of them and I know for a fact that most of them rabbit on about their work flow and how it can be a real nightmare sometimes. The idea of a photo journalist is that they take the photos that the news outlets want to see and print, stick them on their laptops as quickly as possible during or after the event and run them up in some piece of software that allows them to compare, choose, tag, edit, keyword and upload all as fast as is humanly possible. I have asked a friend and UK Press Photographer, Stephen Simpson.
As a busy UK press photographer finding the right software to complete my work flow and get my images to the picture desk as soon as possible is a priority. I was using Apple Aperture for a number of years on my Macbook 2.5ghz Intel Core 2Duo, but as my workload increased, Aperture seemed to be holding me back. It would take a few minutes to boot up and occasionally I would get locked out whilst it rendered previews. It really did start to make the difference between getting the images to the desk quickly and not.
After asking around fellow snappers, it soon became apparent that most of them use Photo Mechanic (PM) by Camera Bits. I found myself wondering if this was a professionals secret. How had I never heard of it? I set out to investigate it as an option for processing my images.
I downloaded an evaluation copy from Camerabits.com. Their very basic website didn’t inspire confidence initially but did promise ‘The Essence of Editing’ and ‘The Ultimate Professional Work flow Tool’. It offered a ‘fast and easy to use image browser’ It also had a comprehensive manual within the support documents which proved invaluable as I stumbled my way through the initial hours of use.
The first thing I noticed was the speed at which the program opens, upon clicking on the icon in the Dock it opens within seconds. In the first instance I opened a folder from within my pictures folder and was very impressed at the speed at which it displayed the images I had chosen. Photo Mechanic has a very simple, yet increasingly familiar, interface. Folders are listed on the left of the screen, with a large main central window in which to view your thumbnails and images. The uncluttered top toolbar has no more than five tools, no silly symbols or clutter but words that make it very clear what instruction you wish to be carried out.
Further investigation found a very comprehensive set of preferences, and setting up folders and directories for your image catalogue is relatively easy. The interestingly named ‘ingest’ function is completely customisable, allowing for the same preferences to be set for all incoming images. You can even add general captions at the point of ‘ingestion’
Once the images are ingested there is a very quick and slick set of shortcuts, sorting and most importantly captioning options available to you. The beauty of the interface is that you can start working on the first images before the card has even finished ingesting. I tend to favour the tagging function as I zoom through the images to be edited, I then use the copy function to keep the chosen images in a new directory. These are the images I then edit and caption all from within PM. I think it is important to point out that Photo Mechanic is not an editing platform but does allow direct editing in your favourite editing platform, in my case Photoshop.
Once cropped and tweaked in your editor, PM comes into its own with the easy to use captioning interface. You can save captions before the shoot, which can then be pulled back and added to your edited images, allowing for very speedy results. You can copy and paste captions simply from groups of images and, most importantly, you can add frequently used metadata at the click of a button.
Once you are happy with your images you can then start sizing and sending them to the desk with the built in FTP client or email.
I use Photo Mechanic for a very specific purpose, essentially editing and captioning images which need to be moved quickly onto picture desks. With this in mind, it is a professional piece of kit and does exactly what it should, without any fuss. It’s quick and simple to use, has very quickly become an essential part of my workflow, and sits very comfortably inside my bag.
THIS NEWS JUST IN – Camera Bits Announces Educational Discounts on New Licenses and Upgrades for Photo Mechanic Browser and Workflow Software (Thanks, Vanessa!)