Affin­ity Photo

Does Pho­to­shop have a se­ri­ous ri­val at last?

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

Pho­to­shop’s days are num­bered

£39.99 De­vel­oper Serif Labs, affin­ity.serif.com Re­quires OS X 10.7 or higher

Serif is bet­ter known in the Win­dows world, for its range of low-cost, am­a­teur-ori­ented al­ter­na­tives to pro­fes­sional apps – but its Affin­ity se­ries is very dif­fer­ent, be­ing built from the ground up for Macs. Photo is de­signed not for Pho­to­shop wannabes, but as a di­rect ri­val to that app. At first sight it’s a lot like it, but with a row of ‘Per­sonas’ that put it into dif­fer­ent modes.

The De­velop per­sona is equiv­a­lent to Pho­to­shop’s Adobe Cam­era Raw dialog, with a full range of colour and tonal ad­just­ments. On a Retina MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM, it took a sec­ond or so to re­draw while pan­ning a zoomed-in im­age. Black and white points can be set au­to­mat­i­cally, yet are change­able to ex­tract the full dy­namic range of your raw files. There are man­ual tools to re­move chro­matic aber­ra­tion and lens dis­tor­tion, but no equiv­a­lent to ACR’s cam­era cal­i­bra­tion op­tions for mim­ick­ing the cam­era’s own colour re­pro­duc­tion. Serif plans to crowd­source lens pro­files. Like ACR, lo­calised ad­just­ments can be ap­plied with gra­di­ent and brush tools.

The Ex­port per­sona saves out in a range of for­mats, with ad­justable pa­ram­e­ters (such as JPEG qual­ity) and pre­sets. For web de­sign­ers, it can split im­ages into slices for ex­port, based on lay­ers and ar­eas.

Edit­ing tools

The Photo per­sona is the prin­ci­pal edit­ing en­vi­ron­ment, while the oth­ers are de­signed for spe­cific tasks. The app is se­ri­ous in go­ing toe-to­toe with Pho­to­shop at the high end. Most edit­ing is car­ried out on RGB im­ages, but Photo also of­fers an end-to-end CMYK work­flow, and ‘soft proofing’ ad­just­ment lay­ers to non‑de­struc­tively tweak im­ages for dif­fer­ent out­put de­vices.

The app uses its own file for­mat, yet can im­port and ex­port Adobe’s PSD for­mat. It also works with Pho­to­shop-com­pat­i­ble plug-ins. For this to work, how­ever, you need Pho­to­shop or El­e­ments and plug-ins in­stalled al­ready, though Serif says it’s talk­ing to plug-in mak­ers about di­rect sup­port. In our tests, the Google Nik Col­lec­tion plug-ins ap­peared to work, but MacPhun In­ten­sify Pro stalled while load­ing and DxO FilmPack 5 caused Photo to quit un­ex­pect­edly. Plug-ins look like a work in progress right now.

There are no im­age cat­a­logu­ing tools, but it there is a handy me­dia browser, with short­cuts to favourite fold­ers and the abil­ity to read your Ap­ple Pho­tos and Aper­ture li­braries.

If you’re fa­mil­iar with Pho­to­shop, it won’t take long to find your way around. You can add ad­just­ments like Curves, Lev­els, and Black and White as non-de­struc­tive ad­just­ment lay­ers, and there’s a Merge but­ton to flat­ten them as a per­ma­nent ef­fect. Of course, you can also com­bine im­ages in multi-layer mon­tages, with sim­i­lar se­lec­tion tools to Pho­to­shop. The Se­lec­tion Brush works well for ini­tial ad­just­ments, and in the Re­fine Edges panel you can smooth, ex­pand, feather and con­tract your se­lec­tion and paint over hu­man hair, trees and other ir­reg­u­lar out­lines.

The Liquify per­sona is just like Pho­to­shop’s epony­mous tool for pinch­ing, push­ing and twirling your im­age, but feels faster and more fluid. You can ‘freeze’ parts you want left alone, yet the max­i­mum brush size of 1,024 pix­els hardly seems enough for large-scale dis­tor­tions.

Re­duc­ing a layer’s size in Pho­to­shop per­ma­nently down­sam­ples it, but Photo re­tains the full res­o­lu­tion

Smart ed­its

An in­ter­est­ing fea­ture here is non‑de­struc­tive scal­ing. Down­siz­ing a layer in Pho­to­shop per­ma­nently down­sam­ples it, but Photo re­tains the full res­o­lu­tion, so a layer’s size can be in­creased again later.

There are pow­er­ful re­touch­ing tools too, in­clud­ing a neat In­paint­ing Brush, rem­i­nis­cent of Pho­to­shop’s con­tent-aware fill tech­nol­ogy but ap­plied sim­ply by paint­ing over an ob­ject you want to re­move to have the space filled us­ing nearby im­age data. It doesn’t work ev­ery time, but when it does it’s a sim­ple in­stant fix. Where it doesn’t, you can al­ways fall back on the reg­u­lar Clone Tool.

Affin­ity Photo uses its own file for­mat, but it can also im­port and ex­port lay­ered Pho­to­shop files.

This be­fore-and-af­ter pre­view shows an ad­just­ment’s ef­fect, with a mov­able di­vide.

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