I love to try out new programs, most of which I ditch after a few weeks evaluation. They either don’t fill a need I have or aren’t enough different to entice me to switch from what I’m already using. Every once in a while I find something truly different and worth keeping. PhotoComplete is just such a program.
I’ve been using Photoshop for over 12 years now and am not likely to give it up. But Photoshop, even Photoshop Elements is far from the easiest photographic correction tool to use.
There have been a few other options like ULEAD’S PhotoImpact and Corel’s PhotoPaint that never gained enough traction in the Mac world for their publishers to keep them available. Canvas and Fireworks are excellent design tools that can be used for photo editing, but that’s not their strength.
We’ve had a huge gap between the conversion automation tool, GraphicConverter, which has only the most basic photo editing functions and Photoshop. iPhoto has been improving steadily but isn’t my first choice either. I think PhotoComplete will be.
For starters, PhotoComplete is a photographer’s tool. Period. It can certainly be used to ready images for the web and I’ll get to that in a bit. But creating a new program from scratch that doesn’t worry about layers, channels, compositing, text, vectors or the million other features that Photoshop offers can allow programmers to look at photo editing from a whole new angle. And that’s exactly what PhotoComplete’s programmers did.
The result is a program that is both reasonably powerful and reasonably easy to use. FunkyPixels, the publisher has this to say:
We’ve left out the fluff that never gets used, and instead spent our time tuning the features you really need. We think the result is that PhotoComplete is easier to use, and lets you get the results you want faster than any other photo or image editing application out there.
Take away the inevitable marketing hype and that’s pretty close to the truth. But don’t throw out your Photoshop.
Most of the features will look familiar but the way you access them is clever. PhotoComplete allows you to add effects one at a time and see what you’ve done. Each effect shows up in a side panel. All effects affect the entire photo. There is no potential for spot editing.
Effects are non-destructive and applied in order. If you don’t want to add an effect to an image, simply click the X to close the effect and it is gone. Only the saved, final version actually has any effects applied to it. You may notice a bit of a wait for the photo to render, depending on how many, or which, effects you’ve applied.
You’ll find most of the standard image adjustment options with a few nice extras. There’s the sliders for saturation, hue, etc. There are also nice color wheels for cast and remove cast. Crop and resize, are as you’d expect. Unsharp mask is there too, as is a pleasant surprise, curves. The curves panel only allows you to use two points and you can’t adjust the endpoints, but for most needs that’s plenty and more than Elements offers. And like Elements, PhotoComplete has a functional Shadow/Highlight correction effect built in.
There are translucent EXIF data and a histogram overlaid on the screen, unobtrusively on the top and bottom of the page.
PhotoComplete will also let you export your photos to any color space setting you have set up in your Displays preference pane. You can rotate and straighten images. The straighten effect works much like that in iPhoto, with a grid popping up over the photo for reference. Rotate the image left or right with a slider.
Of course, for $40 you won’t get all the features you’d find in a pro level program. I imagine that there are a zillion and three things you can do with Photoshop or Elements that you can’t do with PhotoComplete. But for most images you won’t need to.
Besides not being able to work on selected portions of your photo, PhotoComplete won’t handle RAW files, only JPEG, TIFF, PNG and its own format. That’s for import or export. The unsharp mask filter won’t remember the last setting you used between photos. There are no batch or automation capacities. JPEG export only offers a few compression options, all of which are a bit softer than Photoshop exports of the same file size. Still, they’re perfectly usable for the web.
One other feature that’s nice is Flickr export. You can do that with iPhoto, but only with a third party plugin.
And iPhoto doesn’t recognize PhotoComplete as an external editor. If that little problem is corrected, then I’d have absolutely no problem recommending PhotoComplete to anybody as the first choice photo editor. As it is, I’d probably suggest using iPhoto first, then switching only for more difficult editing jobs, and Photoshop only as a last resort or for batch work. I love Photoshop and find Elements an excellent program but PhotoComplete is so much simpler to use that it makes a much better starting point for the average digital photographer.
In conclusion, PhotoComplete isn’t really a complete digital darkroom solution. However, it does handle the most common adjustments easily and quickly, and at a good price. Unless you are really willing to spend tons of hours learning Photoshop, you may never use more than it has to offer. It’s an excellent first choice for routine photo editing needs.
PhotoComplete requires Mac OS X 10.3.9, 10.4 or later. It’s not yet a universal binary. (they’re working on it)
Ease of use: 5