Photo Tools

I’ve been messing a bit with the photos I’ve accumulated carrying arround my digital camera for the last 6 months and two tools have impressed me lately.

Neat Image removes noise from images while minimizing loss of detail. This comes in really handy because most consumer digital cameras produce very noisy images in low-light situations whether you use long exposures or high-gain (ISO 400). Using photoshop’s built in filters results in a loss of detail. Neat Image on the other hand, uses some sort of clever juju to preserve detail. The interface is a little daunting. Even in basic mode there are a lot of fine tuning parameters, but using the default parameters will still produce decent results.

Neat image is available in a number of versions ranging from a free for non-commercial use demo to a $79 version with support for 16 bits per channel, batch jobs of unlimited size and a Photoshop plug-in.

I’ve been really happy with the demo version in my so far limited use, and its hard to imagine i’ll ever run into its limitations, but I’ll probably buy the home version if I end up using it much to help support the author.

The other tool I’ve been trying out is J Album It’s a tool for automating creation of web albums. It comes with a selection of templates, and allows what looks to be relatively straightforward creation of custom templates. Select a template style and give JAlbum a folder full of images and it will do the rest, including creating high-quality resized thumbnail and intermediate sized images, extracting EXIF and JPEG comments for display and building the HTML pages. It will even upload the whole thing to an FTP server. In order to simplify preparation of your images, it includes a simple UI that will let you step through the images to rotate or flip them and add comments.

I was first drawn to JAlbum because of the FTP feature, though I haven’t really tried it out yet. It also seems to have some logic for doing incremental updates of albums, so if you add pictures to a folder and then reprocess it, JAlbum will only make the changes needed for the new images. If you use its FTP feature, it looks like it only uploades the changed files. JAlbum also includes a set of filter actions that can be run against images to do things like watermarking or adding a logo image while building the batch.

Jalbum is freeware, though the developer accepts donations. It’s a Java app and claims to run on Windows, MacOS X, Linux and various other operating systems with JRE 1.3 or later available.