There are of course several excellent mid-range to high-end OS X image editors, Adobe's Photoshop CS being the professional standard in the category, but it's both complex to learn and quite expensive, not really a sensible choice for casual amateurs or even moderately advanced hobbyists. THe Open Source GIMP image editing application is also very powerful and deeply-featured, but demands a fairly advanced level of user geekiness, and is even less user-friendly than Photoshop. It does have the advantage of being free, but be prepared to scale a steep learning-curve. Other Open Source image editors are Seashore, which is sot of to the GIMP what Photoshop Elements is to Photoshop CS, and Java-based ImageJ.
Adobe also offers Photoshop Elements, which packs in an amazing amount of Photoshop CS power for the relative bargain price of $89.95, and it's an excellent, more-accessible but still highly-capable graphics application for "the rest of us." Pixelmator is another excellent mid-range image editor that's coming on strong as a Photoshop Elements challenger, has a visually stunning user interface, and sells for $59.95. Flying Meat Software's $39.95 Acorn also has its devotees.
However, there have not been a lot of amateur/consumer focused graphics apps., at least that offer significantly more power, correction features, and versatility than iPhoto and Preview, but designed with the needs and budgets of amateur photographers foremost, but there is now at least one really good one: Funtastic Photos, Ohanaware's amazingly powerful but still easy-to-use photo editor for the Mac that was launched several months ago.
It took only a few minutes exploring Funtastic Photos for me to determine that I was really going to like this pleasant to use little photo editor. While the user interface is disarmingly clean and uncluttered, a vast array of photo correction and enhancement tools are just mouse clicks away, and for many digital photographers, Funtastic Photos could be all the photo editing software you need for for fixing images.
Even the name, while a bit cutesy, is descriptively accurate. Funtastic Photos really is fun to use, and its capabilities are genuinely impressive in an application that costs only 35 bucks.
Notwithstanding its user-friendliness, Funtastic Photos leverages OS X's powerful built-in graphics technologies like the Quartz 2D graphics engine, Spotlight, and ImageIO Kit, and comes jam-packed with advanced photo editing features, such as non-destructive photo editing, which allows non-permanent adjustments that can then be altered or removed at any time. Such changes can include exposure, shadows and highlights, blurring, captions, color manipulations, borders & frames, matte effects, blending, rotation, levels, digital flash, shadows, highlights, contrast, saturation, 1-Click Styles, water drops, reflections, greyscale, sepia and many more. The edited photo can also be easily 'rewound' to its original state, no matter how many editing changes have been applied.
The Funtastic Photos main interface window is a file browser that can display photo archives stored in iPhoto, in folders on your hard drive, or even on other connected volumes. You select archive in a sidebar and display its contents in the standard icon/list/columns troika of view options. A tool bar at the top of the browser window has a button to access OS X Leopard's Quick Look feature, as well as buttons for various other navigation and organization tasks. There are also a thumbnail size adjustment slider and a search field at the bottom of the main window .
Double-clicking on any photo in the selected directory brings it up in the Edit window, with a whole different set of toolbar tools, including a button that zooms your currently selected photo to full screen view for closer inspection. There are also buttons for Save, Copy, Share, Print, Rotate, Undo (apparently unlimited undos are supported - very handy), and there's a Rewind To Original button as well, plus crop functions.
Unfortunately, one of my few major criticisms of Funtastic Photos is that I was disappointed with the Crop tool, with no way to move the crop box for adjusting what it selects by default.
[Update: I'm happy to report that Ohanaware's Sam Rowlands has enlightened me that the crop box actually is movablle by clicking and dragging on the crop area, and resizable by clicking and dragging on the corners, which renders that criticism null. Doh.... I would still prefer to have the option of a Marquee tool for crop selections.}
There is also a handy Before & After command in the View menu that provides side-by-side renderings of pre and post editing changes, as well as a full-screen preview button.
However, there is a vastly expanded array of correction and adjustment tools at your fingertips when you click the "Advanced" button, revealing a sidebar containing some 40 different image-editing modules. These editing tools are arranged in four categories: Fixing Tools, Color Adjustments, Artistic Adjustments, and Finishing Touches. Select the function you want with its check box, and it will either apply the effect automatically, or slider(s) will appear allowing you to fine-tune adjustments of qualities like Exposure, Contrast, Color Balance, and Levels in real time. There is also a Reset button to restore the image's original status.
There's more. Select "1-Click Styles" from the View Menu, and a button bar appears at the bottom of the main window revealing six sets of one-click special effects and styles - Ohana Favorites, Artistic, Romantic, Quick Fixes, Vintage Camera, and My Styles, each containing from five to a dozen or so style options such as Framed Oil Painting, Glassy Greyscale, Self Framed Photo, Wanted Poster, 1830 Daguerreotype, 1880 Sepia Tone, Faded Color Photo, Blur, Line Art, Mosaic, Oil Painting, Wave, Water Drops, And Captions. And that's just a few of the more than 50 1-Click style options included.
Another Funtastic Photos feature called "Finishing Touches" can be employed to add borders, a matte, vignette effects, glosses, or 36 different provided border styles. You can also add your own borders to the "Finishing Touches" library.
Funtastic Photos lets you save images in most popular image formats such as TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, and PSD. You can also rename edited photos and change saved locations, including as additions to your iPhoto library. This program is pitched as a photo sharing app, as well as an image editor, and lets you upload images to online galleries or share them via email without having to switch to another app.
The program offers an array of hard copy export capabilities. Funtastic Photos' Print & Layouts window includes a variety of printing options with layout templates for photo greeting cards, photo cubes, and mini photos books, as well as allowing you to print side-by-side, one image over another, and a variety of multiple image options, plus a mosaic or collage option including multiple photos which can be very useful for printing up family greetings, newsletters, and such.
Funtastic Photos 1.0.3, released in mid-December, is a bugfix and feature enhancement, free to registered users, resolving an issue whereby some high resolution images were not being printed at high resolution. Printing portrait greeting cards was also improved so that Funtastic Photos now rotates them correctly and no longer requires additional rotation of 180 degrees. Printing resolution has also been doubled, allowing higher quality printing when available. Minor fixes include toolbar enabling/disabling and a rotation error in the Save As Copy dialog addressed.
As I observed above, Funtastic Photos is an easy program to like, but there were a few things I would suggest need improving. I already mentioned that there is no way to manually select and copy part of an image using a Marquee tool, something Funtastic Photos does not have, a deficiency I find more than a bit too limiting. The Sharpen command sharpens soft focus images quite dramatically, with the effect being a bit more dramatic than you might like in some cases, and it cries out for an intensity adjustment slider. There is no free-rotate function and the Help reference leans on tutorials rather than the searchable topics format I prefer.
As for system requirements, Funtastic Photos supports both Intel and Power PC Macs running OS 10.4 or later with at least a G4 processor and 512 MB of RAM. However, while it works just fine and is quite usable on my well-behind-the-bleeding-edge 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4 with 1.5 GB of RAM and 64 MB of video RAM, it isn't exactly lively in response, but I would deduce that it will be more than satisfactorily quick on any Intel-based Mac, particularly models with discrete graphics accelerators and dedicated video RAM given Funtastic Photos' reliance on OS X's built-in graphics power.
A free full-featured trial can be downloaded from Ohanaware's web site. Until you register, Funtastic Photos will watermark any exported or shared photos. Ohanaware also offers a family pack which allows the program to be installed and used on up to five computers for the price of $56.00. Gift Vouchers are available, plus during December Ohanaware is offering a special gift voucher pack - 3 for the price of 2. These special prices are valid through the month of December (2008), after which they will revert to $34.99 for the single user license and $69.98 for the family pack.
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Charles W. Moore
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