Instant Filters: This Zoom effect takes time to render in Photoshop, but happens instantly in Pixelmator, thanks to Core Image. Apple loads iPhoto ’08 as standard issue onto every Mac sold, and while the app makes sharing and organizing photos a super-cinch, iPhoto doesn’t offer much of the power of Apple’s real-time Core Image technology. So is there room for a Core Image–savvy contender in the sub-$100 category of image editors? Pixelmator seems to think so. The Pixelmator app offers a $59 alternative to Photoshop. While we love the real-time filter effects, there’s a quite a bit that does not thrill us with this initial offering.
Adjustment settings can be saved and quickly applied to new photos. We have thousands of digital photos, but still feel nostalgia for the days of leafing through prints crammed willy-nilly into dented shoeboxes. Wouldn’t it be nice to get your jumble of digital images out of their virtual shoeboxes? Blow up that favorite, or frame that one from last year’s family reunion and send it to your sister in St. Paul. Aperture 2 handles these tasks and more without the nagging clutter—or sneeze-inducing dust clouds—of those old shoeboxes. Meanwhile, it lets you nudge exposure levels and retouch problems. It essentially manages your photo library from import to export, keeping track of your changes and making the daunting task of cataloging hundreds or thousands of photos much easier than you ever thought it could be.
HDR and tone mapping bring out all the detail in this shot of Venice’s Grand Canal. High dynamic range (HDR) photography is a technique designed to capture much more detail in color and contrast than traditional photography can. When taking a photograph, a camera can only capture a single exposure. A shaded subject with a bright sky behind it presents a classic conundrum. Capturing the details of the shaded subject requires an exposure that will wash out the sky. Yet an exposure optimized for the sky will underexpose the shaded area, swamping its details in inky darkness. HDR photography captures all those details by snapping three or more images at differing exposures and blending them together.
The Guided Edit mode gives you a column of options for easy editing. Photoshop Elements has long played the role of little brother, with a streamlined interface and toolset designed for amateur photographers, hobbyists, and anyone who doesn’t need all of Photoshop’s advanced functionality—or $649 price tag. At $90, Elements 6 is a tremendous bargain, and head and shoulders above previous versions. This is the first Universal binary version of Elements, and the performance boost on Intel Macs closely mirrors that of Photoshop CS3—it boots quickly and generally feels smooth and responsive. We also ran it on a G4 Titanium PowerBook and a Dual Power Mac G5 with respectable speeds. While Adobe claims that Elements can run with 512MB of RAM (1GB is recommended), we found that the program sometimes crashed on our PowerBook, which has 1GB of RAM, but never on our MacBook Pro or Power Mac G5, with 3GB and 2GB of RAM, respectively. We suggest downloading the trial version to see how it performs on your machine.
No more frosted faces or smiles stuck on “how nice.” No more regifting, exchanging, or Goodwill-ing stuff that missed the mark. This holiday season, all that you want will soon be here: the gewgaws, the tchotchkes, the doodads, and the thing-a-ma-bobs. The bags, the boomboxes, camcorders, and flaming logs. The mice, the cans, and the bling. Oh, you know - just about everything. Forthwith: Mac|Life’s greatest guide for gifts. Ever.