I recently received After Shoot Pro as a gift, and using it in earnest has been something of an epiphany after my many mistresses ponderings. I have been aware of After Shot, (formerlty Bibble) for a while even tried a quick trial some months ago and seen the many reviews mainly comparing it to Lightroom. The general consensus was it was “becoming” a viable alternative to Lightroom (or Aperture) for processing RAW format photos but the reviewers differ on who might benefit from using it. Well other than the obvious it is somewhat cheaper to purchase (particularly in Australia).
What suddenly struck me as I was only starting to review and classify and tweak a few images directly, ie without having to first import them into Picasa or Lightroom, was that After Shot pro is really fast and easy to use. After a bit of experimenting I settled as the combined thumbnails and single image display as what suited me. I can move through the thumbnails (like the film strip in Lightroom) rate the photo, do some preliminary editing and metadata tagging with only a few key strokes. In other words I can do most things on a singles screen (I don’t have to jump between modes)
The massive difference to Lightroom, and one I haven’t investigated in enough detail yet is the ability in After Shot pro to work with layers, for selective editing. Unfortunately the “spot” removal and retouching (called heal & clone) are accessed under the layers panel, so they are one step off the one single screen approach. I always try out the Auto-fix and Auto-enhance features but soon find them wanting, well at least not what I want. Perfectly Clear is a little different, sure it enhances the contrast and lifts the colours a little but it does it in a tame fashion, that closely matches what I remember seeing, Specifically it stands out from others when it comes to handling portraits, “keeping them real”. If the photo is well exposed it may not even make more than a few subtle changes but on underexposed and unfortunately strongly shadowed images it seems pretty reliable. I know perfectly clear was, and apparently still is, a popular plug-in for Photoshop & Lightroom. Having it built into After Shoot is a bonus. The other real gem is the magnifier, all it does it is work exactly like a smallish magnifying glass, or loupe, which you can move around to view any part of your photos with the mouse. It makes that Lightroom 1:1 viewing look and feel tedious. One final thing that soon became obvious to me was although After Shoot Pro makes extensive use of short cut keys, they where not always the same as Lightroom, However I also found you can easily redefine the shortcuts, using file/preferences/keyboard, so I changed a few to match the shortcut keys I commonly used in Lightroom. You can also set up short cut keys to perform key wording from your keyword sets.
Yes there are several things After Shot Pro doesn’t do which Lightroom can, Red Eye removal is one obvious omission. Probably a lot of fine tunning Lightroom gives more options. However its speed, ability to work on any image anywhere without “loading/importing it” and easy to use basic tools make After Shoot Pro perfect as my first review tools. The fact that I can transfer any rating, flagging, tagging and metadata edits into Lightroom later makes it the ideal first step to view and organize my photos without that long delay! So I see AFTER shot as a better way to review and organise photos BEFORE Lightroom, rather than a Lightroom replacement.
Lightroom has been a very finicky yet well loved mistress and doesn’t play well with other software so she is just going to be left on my studio computer and might only get used when I have time to pander to her eccentricities, everywhere else and particularly on my laptops and netbook After Shot is now my preference because she is fast, slim (less than 1/6th the size of Lightroom) and with more than adequate skills for me. The big outstanding issue is whether I will bother to re-catalogue my photo archive in Lightroom, after my recent disappointment?