The company where I work churns out multi-media training documents by the barrel, and that means many of the Mac users here are tied into a number of Adobe’s rent-me-forever apps, including Photoshop.
After all, Photoshop is the industry standard image editor which can do nearly anything you can envision. At a price. The Photoshop and Lightroom combo weighs in at $10 a month; $120 a year, $360 for three years. What if you could get a Photoshop-like app for $50?
Out Of My League
Don’t get me wrong. Photoshop is an excellent applications; the flagship app of Adobe’s success and continued profits. $10 a month for both Photoshop and Lightroom seems reasonable until you begin to look at alternatives and realize that renting forever has a cost.
This weekend I put Affinity Photo through the ringer. Interestingly, it’s a new Mac photo editor and graphics design app that’s been around awhile in a public beta. It’s also the companion to Affinity Designer, which some call Illustrator Lite.
Right at the top of everyone’s list Affinity Photo competes. It opens and saves Photoshop PSD files. It handles color space from RGB to LAB to CMYK (take that, Pixelmator), 16-bit per channel editing, live filters, effects, blends, and masks, all implemented with non-desctruction, all available a click or two away in the standard charcoal interface that’s all the rage these days.
Think of Affinity Photo as an affordable, professional level digital darkroom. Whatever Photoshop can do that Photo cannot I haven’t found yet. It crops, paints, creates gradients, mixes colors, erases pixels many different ways, does the standard dodge and burn and clone and blur, and looks and feels as much like Photoshop as Photoshop does.
Drop in shapes, add text, even warp with a movable mesh, or adjust perspective of any object on any layer. Controls are as granular as possible for nearly every tool and setting. Photos can be enhanced or corrected with curves, white balance, HSL, levels, black and white, even shadows and highlights.
Every option and feature I’ve used so far runs in real time, including blending complicated layers (28 layer blends in Affinity Photo). Got RAW photos? Editing is built in. Need power user keyboard shortcuts? You’ll need a cheat sheet.
Working with color is one thing, but adding professional photographic elements takes experience. Or, just use the built-in lens corrections for chromatic aberration, noise reduction, de-fringing, and vignettes.
Some standalone Mac apps do photos portraits with all kinds of facial retouching tools. Those are built in to Affinity Photo to remove blemishes and red-eye. Liquify an image. Customize the user interface (which brings me to my only real complaint; Affinity Photo, Photoshop and Pixelmator love those floating tool palettes– I do not, but fullscreen mode helps to reduce the visual tool clutter).
It’s one thing to warm an image or alter its perspective, but it’s something else to correct a photo with warm and perspective tools. If it doesn’t look quite right, fix it. Who’ll know? Affinity Photo uses all the latest OS X goodies, including OpenGL, CoreGraphics, Force Touch on MacBook Pro and new MacBook models, and it has a built-in media browser to manage all your editing projects.
You’ll spend as much on Photoshop in six months as you will on Affinity Photo for the next two or three years. The app is also a bit addictive. I downloaded it on Friday, played around awhile Friday night and Saturday, and actually got some work done on it Sunday. The developer’s website has plenty of detail on the tools list, good tutorials, but no try-before-you-buy option. For an app this good, even with a price that’s competitive with Pixelmator, that’s criminal.