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Software Review: Photo Mechanic

Being a professional portrait or wedding photographer means that you’re going to be dealing with a lot of photos. The faster you can deal with those photos the more productive and profitable you will be.

Obviously one side of this equation is processing and editing your images.

The highly overlooked other half of this equation is uploading, sorting and browsing.

You might be thinking “But I can do all that in Bridge, or Lightroom etc.”, but the real trick of the matter is using the right tool for the job. For the most efficient workflow, this is where Photo Mechanic comes in.

 

Import

  • Photo Mechanic allows us to import from multiple card readers simultaneously! We plug in 4 Lexar firewire 800 card readers and are able to download whole weddings and portrait sessions with incredible speed.
  • You can also select primary and secondary locations to have the files uploaded to (automatically backed up).
  • Another awesome feature is that Photo Mechanic will automatically rename files with the same file number on import. Say you’re shooting with two cameras and both are creating photos with the same file number. Photo Mechanic will automatically append an “a” to duplicate file names. E.g. If you have two photos with the file name IMG_2389 one will become IMG_2389a.
  • Tip: You import photos in Photo Mechanic by selecting File->Ingest. The word “Ingest” threw me off a couple times, when I first started using the program.

Sorting

This is where Photo Mechanic really stands apart from a program like Bridge or Lightroom. We’re able to sort through thousands of photos quickly and easily.

  • Photo Mechanic takes seconds to load a folder with thousands of RAW images.
  • Browse through the folder in thumbnail view or double click an image (or press space bar) to see a full size preview.
  • Press Z to zoom in on an image to check for focus or expressions.
  • You can rate it (1-5 stars, or color code) and press the right or left arrow keys to navigate to the previous or next image. Photo Mechanic is fast and snappy all the while.

The above screenshot shows Photo Mechanic in thumbnail view. You can adjust the thumbnails to make them larger or smaller, rate images, or even quickly zoom in on images in this view.

screen-capture.png

The above screenshot shows the full image preview (press Z or space bar to get this preview). Here you can zoom in further, rate images from this view as well. This is the view we do most of our sorting in since we can quickly see a large view of the whole image. The thumbnail strip is also useful in showing the photo in relation to other photos (for easy comparison with right/left arrow movements)

When you’re dealing with a task that needs a lot of back and fourth viewing (like sorting!) it’s absolutely essential that you’re using a program that can keep up – otherwise you’re wasting precious time!

(You can also sort photos by capture time, file name, camera serial #, rating (obviously!) and a variety of other useful parameters)

It’s also worth mentioning how important it is that sorting be a separate process from editing. You can import and sort much faster in Photo Mechanic than with Lightroom. And because you can’t edit anything directly in Photo Mechanic you’re not tempted to constantly adjust photos to see how they would look.

Stay focused on one task at a time to be most efficient and effective. 

Once you’ve sorted out your favorites and imported them into Lightroom, it’s a much easier task processing them all because you know they are all the selects. You’re just focused on editing them.

This arrangement between two separate programs (one for browsing and one for editing) massively increases productivity.

Other Uses

Photo Mechanic is capable to doing quite a bit more than I’ve described. Here are some other neat uses:

  • Upload photos to web space, export web galleries, burn to disc, batch convert from RAW to DNG and much more.
  • When you’re on a photo you can press E, to quickly edit it in Photoshop.
  • The rename function makes it easy to rename large amounts of images quickly
  • When designing an album it’s the perfect tool to use to look through finished images, and drag them into InDesign.

Wrapping It Up

Photo Mechanic is an essential program that no professional photographer should be without. If you have to regularly import and sort through thousands of images then this program will save you unbelievable amounts of time. Definitely worth the $150 price tag.

You can visit PhotoMechanic to learn more and download a 20 day demo here.

Happily, it’s available for Mac and PC!

*Note: We aren’t affiliated with Photo Mechanic in any way, we just love their program and want to spread the love :)

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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Discussion

4 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. For a limited time you can get PM 4.6 for $60! You lose the year of free updates, but if you're on a budget, that is an outstanding price!

  2. Thanks for the article! I am doing my research on the best workflow to approach when it comes to software and I’m still stuck on Aperture vs. Lightroom vs. Photo Mechanic. Apparently Aperture 3.3 is as fast as Photo Mechanic with regard to importing but you can then use it to edit without spending time moving it to another app like Lightroom or Photoshop. I’m intrigued by your comment about keeping importing and editing separate. You’ve found this method to be the speediest? What are your thoughts on Aperture? Thanks!

    • Hey Lisa! In terms of separating sorting and editing we’ve found it speeds up our workflow for weddings and portraits. For personal stuff where we might not get a chance to sort it all, I’ve been importing everything into Lightroom.

      As for my thoughts on Aperture. It’s a program I’ve tried out a few times. It has some features I think are interesting (multimedia slideshows, face detection) but overall the program has never felt very good for workflow (compared to Lightroom).

  3. While everything you said is true, one of the real strengths of PhotoMechanic is the ability to add, update and work with IPTC and other meta data on the file. As a journalist we live and die by meta data. I realize probably isn’t as important to commercial and wedding photographers. But adding something other then a long file name makes finding things easier later or if you ever plan on making any of your stuff available as stock, meta data is the difference between sales or not.
    PM can add IPTC on ingest, apply IPTC stationary pad to thousands of images at once, find and replace IPTC. Really really powerful.
    All the functionality of PM is included in Lightroom. But it’s buried or just plain hard to use. Photo Mechanic is a really wise investment. I’ve been using it since the beginning and has nothing but improved. It is a lighting fast tool that makes dealing with a large number of digital images effortless.

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