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Corel AfterShot Pro photo manager

AfterShot Pro does not force you to import your images into a catalog just to work with them

Corel has undertaken a big challenge in trying to squeeze a pro-level photo management application into a market crowded with heavy hitters. At first look, you might be tempted to compare AfterShot Pro to Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. But I think a more fitting comparison is to Adobe’s Bridge and Camera Raw (both adjuncts to Adobe Photoshop and the Creative Suite) for managing and editing images. Corel provides similar flexibility, but in a more integrated environment.

Raw shooters who use a variety of cameras and workflows may also consider augmenting their existing workflows with AfterShot because it provides features not available in their primary applications. Either way, it’s certainly worth a closer look.

Basic interface

Getting around in AfterShot is fairly intuitive. The adjustment tools are in the right column and the file system is on the left. In the middle you can toggle between Thumbnail, Standard (image plus thumbnails), and Image views using the icons in the upper right corner. If you want to focus your attention on the image itself, the side columns are easily hidden using the L and R keyboard shortcuts.

A set of tabs run vertically down the outside edges so you can display different tools in the respective columns. Even though AfterShot is not completely customizable, there are enough options to shape the interface to your preferences.

Importing images

You don’t really import images into AfterShot; instead, you point the application to where they reside.

Corel says that, “Unlike other workflow tools, AfterShot Pro does not force you to import your images into a catalog just to work with them. You are free to access your photos in existing folders, on a network or on a memory card.” This works well if you want to focus on a few specific photos. But it may feel cumbersome if you want to establish an efficient workflow for an entire shoot. This would be especially true for iPhoto, Aperture, and Lightroom users who are used to working in a more structured environment.

Lightroom and Aperture, for example, provide a robust importing tool that streamlines the transfer process. If you want the same results with AfterShot, It requires two steps. First, you copy to files from a memory card to your Mac or an external hard drive. Then you enable the Import Photos from Folder command to add them to an AfterShot catalog. At this point you can manage the images in a similar manner that you would with other pro apps.

Where the AfterShot gets interesting is when you don’t really want to import the entire set of images, but rather choose a few, edit them, then save them out to another location. Let’s say after a photo shoot you want to quickly deliver a few samples to the client, but don’t necessarily want to catalog the entire project. By using the Open File command, you can browse files on the memory card, connected hard drive, or even a network drive. I tried all of these scenarios, including accessing images on my Pogoplug drive, and it worked great. I edited the raw files, then saved them to a different location. The originals were left untouched. AfterShot did, however, create XMP files with the editing instructions and added them to the same directory as the original raw files.

So, is AfterShot Pro worth the $100 download? That’s a tough call, considering you can get Aperture for $79. But if you’re a Bridge/Adobe Camera Raw user, or are intrigued by the features mentioned in this review, it’s worth a look via the 30-day free trial download. And if you are an Aperture, Lightroom, Bibble, or Paint Shop Pro license owner, you qualify for the $79 upgrade price. I’ve already taken advantage of that offer.