digital photographer

In praise of Photo Mechanic

Every software package has its fans, its designers and its detractors. If we all loved the same system then there would be no choice. I wanted to blog about Photo Mechanic and to say how much I like it. That isn’t to say that the others are rubbish – that would childish and purile – just that I find this one application suits me and what I do extremely well. So what is Photo Mechanic? I thought that the description on the company’s own website was hard to beat:

Photo Mechanic is a standalone image browser and workflow accelerator that lets you view your digital photos with convenience and speed. Photo Mechanic displays your “thumbnails” in a familiar “contact sheet” display window. Photo Mechanic helps you find the best photo amongst several similar shots in a preview display that lets you flip through a group of selected photos at high resolution.

Photo Mechanic’s super fast browsing enables you to quickly compare multiple images and select the best ones from a sequence. Its powerful batch processing, full support for image variables, IPTC and Exif metadata, make it the perfect tool for any digital photographer.

Before this becomes an advert and a love-in, there are a few tiny issues with the current (4.6.8) version that I’d love to get sorted. The trouble is that we quickly revert to the “love-in” because the team at Camerabits who design, code and sell Photo Mechanic are second-to-none when it comes to listening to the views, issues and suggestions of their customers. Got a problem? Email Camerabits and nine times out of ten they sort it the same day and the other one out of ten times sees a resolution in the next upgrade.

Screen grab of a Photo Mechanic "contact sheet" window.

Anyway, what do I use it for? Photo Mechanic is the package that I use to import RAW images from my memory cards, edit out the bad pictures, IPTC caption, batch rename, edit again and then send the selected RAW files to my RAW converter of choice (which happens to be ACR in Photoshop CS5.5 but that isn’t important right now). Once the files are converted there they are right back in Photo Mechanic where I can save them to a separate folder, create HTML web galleries, burn discs, FTP or email images to clients or pretty much whatever I might need to do with photographs.

I can hear people saying that there are plenty of packages that can do all or some of the above and even ones that remove the need for a separate RAW converter – all true, but that misses the point. I want my workflow to be fast, repeatable, adaptable and generally hassle free. I want to rely on the trackpad or the mouse as little as possible and have a good, strong set of keyboard shortcuts instead. Bingo – that’s what I get from Photo Mechanic.

In an earlier post I talked about how teaching helps you to get your own practice right and this is very true with using software. If I had to work without Photo Mechanic tomorrow I have a good knowledge of Apple’s Aperture and a very good knowledge of Lightroom and I would never try to dissuade anyone from using those packages. Having had to buy and learn other software has made me appreciate what I have.

The Camerabits website says that version 5 of the software is due in the early part of 2012 and that there will be a separate but interconnected cataloguing application available too. That’s two things from my wish list sorted out – all we need now is a version of Photo Mechanic for the Apple iOS and that would be another thing ticked off that list.