We’re constantly on the lookout for great new digital imaging tools. Every week we spend hours searching the Internet for genuinely useful software that helps photographers to scan, organise, edit and print their pictures. Below is a list of our favourites.


We’re constantly on the lookout for great new digital imaging tools. Every week we spend hours searching the Internet for genuinely useful software that helps photographers to scan, organise, edit and print their pictures. Below is a list of our favourites.
[New digital imaging tools appear on an almost daily basis. If you’ve discovered a particularly good application, we’d love to hear about it at edmail@photoreview.com.au.]

We’ve listed the free software first:

An interesting freeware java application (which means it will run under most operating systems). Its purpose is simple: to minimise digital noise artefacts in images without adversely affecting key edge details, or leaving the images with the weird ‘plastic’ look created by excessive noise removal. This is not an application for beginners but nor is it something for the experts only. If you’ve mastered a few basic procedures in your favourite photo editing software, then the three-step procedure required by AbsoluteDeNoiser should present no special difficulties or challenges.
Win & Mac

One of the best freeware graphic viewers applications we’ve ever seen. Irfanview is a simple, effective freeware editing and file conversion tool. Its enthusiastic creators continue to update and add features to the software on a regular basis. The current iteration opens dozens of file types and saves in all the main image file formats. It offers TWAIN support, batch conversion utilities, printer support, a slideshow function and an ever-increasing range of filter and effects controls. Even incorporates a software audio CD player.

Build a web album speedily and well. David Ekholm’s JAlbum is an exceptional piece of freeware. The man clearly has a talent for designing very easy-to-use yet powerful software. Essentially, JAlbum allows you to create a web album by dragging and dropping a folder of images on to the application and clicking ‘make album’. It does the lot. You end up with a set of html pages and images files that can be transferred to your web server for an instant online photo album. Suitable for novices, it also offers more experienced users scope for tweaking the appearance and layout of their albums. It captures metadata (EXIF) from your images and is able to accomodate multiple sub-sections. JAlbum accepts gif, jpeg, png, avi, mpg and wmv file types. It is a java application, so it will run in all the major (and not so major) operating systems. A very impressive piece of work.

Lupas Rename
The most flexible batch re-naming utility we’ve seen. Lupas Rename is the handiest freeware utility I’ve come across in the last six months. It allows one to quickly and easily batch rename any type of file. While broadly useful for all computer users, it is particularly suitable for digital photographers. One can easily convert meaningless picture file names such as DCR001234.jpg to something intelligible like Wilson_Job_picture_01.jpg. You can change the entire file name or you can insert prefixes or suffixes of your choice and, if desired, group-specific numbering sequences can be applied to the batch. Every Windows-using digital camera owner should have a copy of this application.

The must-have image management software The latest iteration of the freeware Picasa image management software from Google is an absolute corker. At the click of a button, Picasa inventories every image on your hard drive and then provides a host of useful tools for gathering, sharing and even manipulating your collection.

Picture Tray
Like name, like nature: this sofware tool makes resizing images child’s play. Picture Tray is such an elegant and simple little application that it really should be in every Windows user’s toolkit. As the name suggests, the sofware presents the user with two “trays” separated by a central control section. The left side is an image browser that displays graphics files, while the control section provides a simple interface that allows you to specify the dimensions you want to resize your images to. To use the software, you simply drag images you wish to resize from the left tray to the right. And perhaps the best news of all: it’s free.

An exceptionally useful image file viewer and organiser. But more than that, it is one of the very few free Windows applications capable of viewing and editing IPTC image data. Editing the aforementioned data is as simple as right-clicking on an image and filling in the details. PixVue keeps information about your images in easily searchable ‘galleries’. The actual images themselves remain wherever you stored them, so search speeds are very swift. The interface is clean, the ease of use world class, and the price unbeatable. Given that it is completely free, there’s no good reason for not having PixVue in your digital toolkit.

Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery
You’ve accidentally erased vital images from your camera’s memory card? Before you panic, try this free tool. As long as your camera saves images in JPEG or TIFF formats, Z.A.D.I. should be able to retrieve data from your media. You can access the data via your computer to camera link or with a card reader and the software will recognise all the common camera memory formats.

A fast photo viewer and manager with printing, editing and sharing facilities. ACDSee makes it easy to find, organise, edit and print digital photos and allows them to be shared via e-mail. It also contains tools for creating slideshows and outputting them to recordable discs and prints.

Adobe Photoshop CS
Adobe’s benchmark image editing application. Photoshop CS is a comprehensive update of Adobe’s famous professional editing software. There are far too many new features to list here, but among those most likely to appeal to experienced photographers are the new Layer Comps option (allows you to store a number of different layer combinations in one image file), integrated raw file support for many major camera models, a dynamically variable histogram palette that shows changes as you make settings adjustments and a Match Color command that helps maintain consistency when shooting packs. All and all a must-trial tool.
Win & Mac

Adobe Photoshop Elements
One of the best image editing applications for beginner to intermediate digital photographers. Photoshop Elements offers many of the same editing tools you’ll find in its professional counterpart, Photoshop CS. Because Elements is aimed at the keen amateur rather than the pro, its interface has been designed to help you work easily while at the same time offering tools that enable you to develop and improve your skills. A very comprehensive set of features and superb help and how-to resources make this an application for every digital photographer.
Win & Mac

Powerful yet reasonably priced software for managing the conversion of AVI files to DVD and VCD formats. AVI to VCD/DVD is perhaps not the shortest name for a software package, but it has the great virtue of telling you exactly what you get. If you’re looking for a straightforward and well-regarded AVI conversion package, this offering should have a claim on your shortlist. So long as your AVI file has a frame rate of between 6 and 60 fps, AVI to VCD will convert it to either VCD or DVD formats. Long files can be broken into segments to fit on to multiple VCDs. Hardware requirements are modest and the price is a reasonable.

A cost-effective set of tools for the manipulation and conversion of raw image files. Both professional and serious amatuer photographers alike understand the importance and value of editing raw image files before they are converted to jpeg or tif format. Bibble offers a range of useful tools for this work, including white balance and exposure compensation, interactive adjustment of curves, colour, sharpening and noise removal. ICC compliant and able to preserve and view EXIF shooting data, Bibble is multithreaded for speedier processing on multiple CPU computers. Available in Windows, OS X and Linux native versions, it works with raw files from most Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus and Fuji professional models.
Win & Mac

File-Rescue Plus
We all know what happens if you open a camera before you’ve re-wound the film. Sadly, there is a digital equivalent: Memory cards often react very badly to being removed when a camera is on, or worse, when an image is still being transferred to the card. Even when you behave yourself and do everything correctly, cards can inexplicably refuse to yield up their contents. Every digital photographer needs a tool such as File-Rescue Plus for those occasions when a memory card (or other storage medium) becomes unreadable. File-Rescue Plus allows you to scan for deleted files and then to restore them. It’s a Windows-only shareware offering, so you can try it out first, but you can only recover two files without the license.

A Photoshop-compatible plugin that provides a set of tools specifically for improving and tweaking image sharpness. Along the way it also enables one to manage the degree of blur, soft focus and glow. Being a plug-in, it is not a standalone piece of software, but its Photoshop compatibility ensures it will work with many leading photo editing packages.

Focus Magic
An alternative to USM or the sharpening filter, this application smooths out unwanted grain. For many photographers, the first step into the digital realm is taken via a scanner. And one issue that soon appears is the problem of what to do about soft, out of focus or just blurred original images. Focus Magic gives you an alternative to simply dialing in more USM or sharpening in your image editing software. The latter options can be quite effective, but if an image is too blurry, the application of ordinary sharpening filters only serves to make the picture more grainy and to create annoying ‘halo’ effects. Focus Magic achieves at least as much edge definition but without adding grain to large areas of uniform tonality. It comes as both a standalone Windows program and as a plug-in which is compatible with most versions of Photoshop, as well as Microsoft Picture It!, Ulead PhotoImpact and others.
Win & Mac

Foto Album Pro
Choosing the perfect photo album software is not an easy task (there are dozens of candidates to be found on the average shareware site). FotoAlbum is one of the more popular offerings in the category – and justifiably so. Like the competition, it allows one to easily organise images and video clips into albums and groups. But it also has a particularly well thought out browsing system and the video tools make it a snap to create multimedia presentations from your picture collection.
Win & Mac

ImageMatics StillMotion Creator
Put some life into your online stills presentations. ImageMatics StillMotion Creator offers the user a set of tools for the creation of Flash SWF animations from stills. Panning across a still and then zooming in on a key detail is a simple yet effective way to create a compelling addition to images used in presentations or on web sites. The software comes in three different versions, the most expensive of which supports HDTV levels of resolution.

Erased memory card? If you have a reader or a camera connected to your computer, try ImageRecall. It is produced by a group who run a data recovery service in England. Their software is Windows only (although their website says that a Mac version is in the works) and uses a three-step procedure to recover erased or formatted away images from all the major removable media types. Like its many competitors, it will restore a wide variety of image and multimedia file types. The trial version is time limited and will only restore the first 10 recovered images on a card. http://www.imagerecall.com/software.asp

Jasc Paint Shop Pro
Hugely popular, ever-improving, Paint Shop Pro is a complete and inexpensive image editing package for intermediate to advanced users. It is a comprehensive image editing application that many consider to be a true rival to Photoshop. The feature list is far too extensive for us to detail here, but among the many valuable inclusions in the current package are such tools as: One Step Photo Fix, which applies a range of standard image problems in one step; a retouch brush set to allow simple dodging, burning, red-eye reduction, scratch removal, etc.; the background eraser tool that permits simple and effective masking effects to separate complex foreground images from uninteresting backgrounds; automated productivity scripting tools that allow you to replay multi-step image manipulation processes; customisable workspaces and much more.

Slick interface and a 30-day trial make this one worth a look. MediaRevival provides an attractive interface and all the tools you need to recover those inadvertently deleted images, or worse, an accidentally re-formated removable medium such as Memory Stick or CF card. This is a Windows only product, but the specifications say that it is capable of recovering all types of image and sound file formats from all types of removable media.

Neater Image
ABSoft’s Neat Image uses a series of specialised filtering routines to improve digital pictures by lowering the visible evidence of image noise. To optimise the performance of its filters, Neat Image has a set of easy to use tools that allow you to take into account the specific characteristics of your camera or scanner. Available in Demo, Home, Pro and Pro+ versions, Neat Image also has a very good home page with examples and how-to’s.

Noise Ninja
Tackles the problem of digital noise from high ISO settings and other consequences of digital photography and scanning. Noise Ninja employs a specialised branch of mathematics called wavelet theory to tackle that bane of all forms of digital image – noise. The developers don’t claim to be the only ones applying wavelet theory to the problem, but they do contend that their recipe delivers cleaner results more quickly than their rivals. The professional version of the software has a batch processing feature that allows you to process images in the background while you get on with other computer tasks.

PhotoCleaners’ authors reason that many digital photographers are not interested in learning how to use a powerful general-purpose editing tool simply to tidy up their photos. So, the software gurus created an application that delivers optimised versions of the most frequently required post-capture operations. These include: levels adjustment, Re-size and sharpening. Additionally there are useful tools for creating a subtle vignette, boosting the overall colour intensity and adding a frame to the final picture.

129 effects for Photoshop users. If you own a copy of Photoshop, then the PhotoKit photographer’s plug-in toolkit may well be worth a look. It comprises some 129 effects that replicate a range of analogue photographic effects. These include B&W toning, colour balance adjustment, dodge effect tone control, sharpening tools and various photo effects. A simple dialogue calls up the PhotoKit tool sets, where you can select the desired image effect. It is also possible to record an entire series of PhotoKit steps into an extensive Photoshop Action.

Photomatix Pro
The idea is very simple: to maximise dynamic range in a digital image, the photographer takes two shots from exactly the same position. One is exposed for the highlights and the other for the shadows. Blending the two images delivers a shot with maximum dynamic range. Photomatix is designed to make the creation of seamless and optimally blended contrast-maximised images a quick and easy operation. It is particularly useful when scanning, as you can blend a scan optimised for the highlights with one that has been tweaked for the shadow details.
Win & Mac

Deleted your images accidentally? Photorecovery was once a freeware application, but it obviously became popular enough for someone to decide it was worth selling. A Windows-only application, it is designed to recover image, movie and sound files from all types of digital media, including the removable formats used in digital cameras. The demo version shows recovered images as thumbnails, but will not save them until you pay the licensing fee.

Picture Rescue
Macintosh owners are just as likely as anyone else to strike the problem of inadvertantly erased images, or mysteriously recalcitrant memory cards. The people at Prosoft Engineering have devised a shareware application to contend with the aforementioned unfortunate turn of events. An OS X compatible product, Picture Rescue is intended to be extremely simple to use. Fire up the program, select the media adapter or camera, click start and any recoverable pictures will reappear so that you can save them safely.

Second Copy
Centered Systems backup utility, Second Copy, is one of the more astute investments in future peace of mind a Windows user can make. Second Copy has been around for years and over that time it has evolved into a truly great backup application. The latest feature list includes automatic file compression and synchronization modes, an archiving option that retains up to 25 previous versions of a particular backup profile, support for backup across LANs, for removable drives and for disk spanning (handy when you”re backing up more than 650 MB to CD-R ). Using the software requires no special expertise (a setup wizard will guide you through the process) and the help system is first rate.


Freeware refers to software that you can use without paying for it, either because the author has decided to donate their work or the author is trying to get you to buy a version with more features.

Shareware works on a sort of honour system, where you can try a program for free, but if you like it and continue to use it, you have to pay a fee to the person or company who wrote it, which is called ‘registering’ that program.

Trial software is similar to shareware, but stops working after a trial period. The idea behind trial software is to give you an idea of what the program can do, to encourage you to purchase the full version.

Demo software is similar to trial software but all the features of the program may not be available.