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PhotoComplete review

Verdict:

A budget photo editor with surprising powers that'll quickly and easily improve any digital photographers shots

Review Date: 12 May 2006

Price when reviewed:

Reviewed By: Keith Martin

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

At the other end of the spectrum to Aperture (p31) is PhotoComplete, a new image editor designed to help you enhance your digital photos in various ways.

No, Adobe and Apple won't be threatened by it, but it's worth a look. Keep one thing in mind: PhotoComplete is a photo editor, not a general-purpose bitmap image editor. It works on Jpeg, Tiff and PNG formats with layer-style effects for enhancing your photos, but it doesn't provide painting tools.

The developers at FunkyPixels say they've 'left out the fluff that never gets used'. If you're a Photoshop user, you would probably disagree with that, but then you wouldn't be the target market anyway. Where this fits best is with iPhoto users who want more than iPhoto's Enhance controls give them.

The application is easy to use - one window per image, and that's it. On the left of a PhotoComplete image window there's a panel with a drop-down menu of 'actions' (the different edits you can make to your image) and two further items: Read Image and Final Image. Any actions you apply appear between these two items. Clicking an action item itself shows just the changes it makes to the image, clicking on Read Image shows it in the original state, and Final Image, of course, shows the composite effect of all your actions.

By default, a transparent information panel sits over the top-left of your image and a histogram at the bottom left. If the image contains Exif data from the camera, you'll see details such as the date and time it was taken, the camera's lens focal length, shutter speed, aperture and so on, but if not you'll just see the pixel dimensions. The histogram is clearly presented, but its usefulness is questionable. Still, it can be hidden if desired and it can help to show how much change your actions are making to the image data.

For photographic adjustments, PhotoComplete scores over iPhoto in a number of ways, but one we particularly appreciate is its precise control of scale. Unlike iPhoto's vague slider, you can choose specific percentage zooms, including 100%, which shows your image pixel-for-pixel on screen. Another nice touch is the Black & White action, which lets you choose the precise red, green, blue and luminance style of the colour to monochrome conversion. This level of sophistication was quite surprising to find in such a modestly priced and generally unassuming photo editor. We're not entirely sure whether many of its users will appreciate some of these abilities, but it was impressive all the same.

Another nice trick is its support for Flickr, the online image sharing community. If you're a Flickr user, you can send your edited images directly to your Flickr account, ready to share with the world. Add title, description and tags, and choose whether it's to be public or private. It makes using Flickr even easier: just edit and choose Upload to Flickr, and you're done.

One point that's well worth noting is that PhotoComplete's edits are all non-destructive. You can go back at any time and change or remove any of your adjustments, whatever they are. Mind you, if you want to do this after closing and reopening an image, you'll need to save it in PhotoComplete format, as saving to other image types (PNG, Jpeg or Tiff) involves rendering your actions down into the saved image. This is understandable, but you'll need to save out a regular rendered image version of your work at some point because other applications can't open native PhotoComplete files.

Ultimately, despite PhotoComplete's sometimes surprising powers, it remains best suited as an adjunct to iPhoto rather than a tool to keep beside Photoshop. However, we would like to see a version of this offered as a Photoshop plug-in, as a number of its tricks can be rather complex to replicate with Photoshop's regular tools. We'd also like to be able to disable actions without removing them and be able to apply a set of actions to different images without having to remake them each time. For sets of photos that have the same enhancement needs this would be a real time saver. Anyone who uses a digital camera and wants to improve the look of their shots quickly and easily, and everyone who uses Flickr, should try this out.

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