iView Media Pro

· technology ·

Since I've got a bit of spare time over the holidays, I've been trying to sort out my collection of digital photos and inspire myself to take some better images. I've had iView Media for a while now (I got a cheap upgrade from a version bundled with Toast), but I hadn't got around to really investigating the new version.

It's one of those bits of software which is simple to use without reading the manual, but has a lot of hidden power. Adding images to the catalogue is easy via drag and drop, or you can import images directly from a digital camera. There's a lot of scope for batch processing files to rename them, resize or convert them, or to add metadata like the location, event, caption or category. Furthermore, you can add your own custom fields (I have 'camera' to distinguish shots taken with different cameras, and 'quality' to sort out the good shots from the duffers). Moving or copying files within the application is also very easy, so you can sort out the whole digital workflow without having to go to the Finder.

I start off by using the import panel to get the images off the camera, and dump them in an 'incoming' folder. I then use a slideshow to view all the images, and tag them with a label as I go along to give some indication of quality. To do this, you just hit the keys 1 to 0 — quick and easy. For me, 0 means "only suitable for the trash", and 9 is "very bad picture, but I might as well keep it for sentimental or personal record reasons". There aren't a lot of images in category 1, more's the pity! I then go back to the thumbnail view and delete the images I've tagged, before dragging all the images to a folder which is labelled with the month and year.

I've saved some sets of metadata (basic, Oxford etc.) which allows me to fill in the fields quickly, and apply them to multiple files. I try to fill in as much as possible, because there are lots of organising features which depend on these fields. For example, in the 'Organize' tab, you can view all the images taken in one location, with certain people in them, or — in my case — by camera or quality. There's even a field for colour sample; it analyses all the images to come up with the colour characteristic of each, which is much more useful than it might appear. I also find the 'Dates' field very handy; it automatically gathers all the images taken on the same date in a hierarchical menu, with the dates based on the EXIF capture date or the event date (which you enter yourself — useful for scanned images).

Once all that's done, I can view my images very flexibly, and easily pick out those which might benefit from a bit of work in Photoshop. It's amazing how many images have surfaced in this process which I rather like, and had forgotten that I had taken. It also makes you want to burn a slideshow of your favourite images to a CD for friends and family (which is also very easy).

I've really only scratched the surface of the application here; you can also make rather nice looking web galleries, lay out PDF files with images and media information on, or print the images in a number of different layouts, and with whatever information you like included. There are also simple image editing facilities, like cropping, red-eye reduction and so on, but if you have Photoshop, you probably won't use those.