I’m always on the lookout for a faster, more efficient way to sort through the hundreds of photos I seem to take each month. I don’t care for iPhoto’s way of organizing images, so most of the time I use Adobe Bridge (since it came with my copy of Photoshop). I really like sifting through photos with Bridge. It’s reasonably fast, and it supports stacks, batch renaming, in-place rotation, and detailed metadata viewing.
However, Bridge isn’t perfect, so when other digital asset management (DAM) apps drift into view I tend to give them a shot.
Photon ($69) is the latest such app to appear on my radar. While nowhere near as comprehensive as iPhoto or Bridge, it sports a slick interface, and is ridiculously easy to use. Drag a folder of photos into the area at the top of the window – or plug in a memory card – and Photon instantly imports all the photos into a new stack. And I mean “instantly” – this thing is blazing fast, and before you know it you’re happily browsing all your photos at full resolution.
Organizing photos is equally fast and simple thanks to the stacks feature. You create a new stack, and it’s assigned a shortcut key, such as 1, 2, 3, and so on. You can use the stacks to sort your photos any way you like – for example, you might want to divide your photos up by subject, or by quality.
To move a selected photo (or photos) from the original imported stack to one of your sorted stacks, simply press the target stack’s shortcut key. It’s lovely to use, and a really quick way to sort your photos after you’ve imported them.
It would be nice if you could name stacks though, to help you remember what you’ve used each stack for.
If you find a photo that doesn’t make the grade, you can hit Delete to move it to the Discard Stack (or simply drag it to the stack). At the end of your session, you can click the Trash discards button to move the discarded photos to the Trash.
Photon’s zoom feature is the nicest that I’ve seen on any DAM app. Most apps let you zoom in or out incrementally, either by dragging with the mouse or using keyboard shortcuts. Some, like Bridge, feature a virtual loupe that you can use to view a portion of the image at 1:1. Both approaches work, but they’re a bit clunky to use.
Photon is different. Click anywhere in an image and hold the button down – the image instantly and smoothly zooms to 1:1. You can then drag the mouse around to inspect areas of the image. When you release the button, the image smoothly zooms back out to fill the window. It’s really, really nice, and lets you instantly see whether a photo’s worth keeping. To my mind, this is Photon’s standout feature.
Photon is not without its little bugs, like thumbnails randomly disappearing:
Also the Histogram window occasionally fails, with a continuous message saying “Loading”:
One confusing thing: I’m never quite sure whether I’m working on copies of my photos, or the original photo files themselves. This isn’t clear from the sparse help file or the interface; on the one hand it talks about “importing” photos, which implies it’s copying them, but then you get the feeling you’re actually working with the originals. Very strange.
A notable omission is a sort feature for photos in a stack. As far as I can tell, there’s only one sort order: alphabetical. There’s no way to sort by the date the photos were taken, for example.
I also couldn’t try out things like batch conversion or exporting photos – or even editing photos via Photoshop – because all these features are disabled in the trial version. C’mon guys – if you’re offering a trial download, at least let us try out all the features before buying!
Photon is a simple DAM app that does one thing very well: It lets you quickly and easily sort through your photos. Its zoom and stacks features are lovely; apart from looking great, they really help to speed up your workflow.
However, the help file and interface could be improved, and not being able to try out all the features before you buy is a major problem. Furthermore, Photon seems pricey for what it does – I would consider paying $29 or $39 for such an app, but not $69. Still, if you have a lot of photos to sort through then it could save you a lot of time – and time is money, as they say.