When it comes to alternatives to mainstream photo editing software, ACDSee has been one of the best and most popular options for many photographers. I've had the pleasure of using much of their software over the last year and I'm pretty excited about their latest edition.
The way I see it, ACDSee is almost an amalgamation of all the most important and best features of Lightroom and Photoshop without the awful performance of Lightroom. In my experience I've always found ACDSee to be much faster and snappier, especially when editing high resolution files from cameras like the Canon 5DSR and Sony A7R III. What's brilliant now is the fact that ACDSee has just released their new Photo Studio Ultimate 2020 version and the new features are pretty incredible.
Face Detect Features
Now, normally when someone says face detect you generally think autofocus in mirrorless cameras, ACDSee, however, has implemented a feature in their latest software that can not only recognize faces but can sort images based on that too. In a previous article, I discussed how much I love the file management system that ACDSee has and now it's been made even better. The way this works is that ACDSee using their intelligent software is able to differentiate between individual faces and can sort portraits based on people. Let's say for example you did a shoot with someone and you need to quickly find their pictures again. Instead of having to go through all of your files and folders trying to find them, you can simply search for them by name and ACDSee will bring up all the pictures that includes them. I personally loved the search features in ACDSee prior to this update and now with face detect it adds a whole new fantastic layer to the system.
The thing I'm actually interested in is how this technology can be further developed. I wonder if face detect could be used for even more incredible features. What if ACDSee could use its face detect abilities to improve or repair images. Let's say you have a series of portraits and one of the images you took is perfect in composition and lighting except you slightly missed focus. What if ACDSee could using what it knows about this persons face "repair" the image or make it so that the face is correctly in focus. Of course this is entirely speculative however the technologies that ACDSee is implementing in its software is pretty genius. This is one of the things I love about the software, they continue to develop things that we haven't yet thought of and it translates into something properly useful and practical features.
If you're an architectural photographer like I am or if you're a product photographer then focus stacking is probably something you've done before. The results you can produce using this method is far greater than stopping your lens down to f/22 for a couple of reasons. Firstly you can avoid issues relating to diffraction by shooting at your lenses sharpest aperture and secondly even at f/22 in many situations you're still not going to be able to get everything in sharp focus like you can by using this technique. The other benefit of this is that you're not having to use incredibly bright lights that are required when shooting at f/22 or you don't need to expose the image for as long when shooting and stacking at a wider aperture.
The great thing about ACDSee is that you're not required to hop in and out of two different software applications just to be able to use this feature. As long as you have your series of images in a logical order of where the focus points are you can click on the 'Process' button and focus stacking will appear as a drop-down menu option. It's really quite as simple as that and the results are as good as you'd expect them to be. For architecture specifically, I find that having this feature is pretty much a requirement now. There are plenty of situations where if I'm shooting an interior, for example, exposing at super small apertures is simply not convenient. I love how simple and straight forward this is in ACDSee and the video above details precisely how to do it.
HDR Image Stacking
This is another feature that is extremely useful for architectural and many other types of photographers. Unfortunately, current cameras still aren't able to perceive deep shadows and bright highlights the same way that the human eye can. For this reason, many photographers take multiple images with different exposures to merge together in post. I personally think that editing using layers in ACDSee is probably a more effective and detailed way to merge images, however, sometimes it's much easier to simply click on 'Process' and let the software produce a starting point you can work from. This is something that I actually do quite a lot. I'll produce an automatically stacked HDR image and then work on that file with other layers to get an even more detailed and better looking final product.
Blended Clone Tool
This is probably one of my favorite new features in ACDSee. There are many occasions when I need to clone something into an image however due to slight differences in color and lighting it can several steps before the cloned section looks natural and pleasing. ACDSee has included a new feature that intelligently clones by adjusting both lighting and colors to produce a more natural-looking result. This can be such a huge time saver and gives you far more flexibility when cloning aspects in an image. In the video linked above, you can see how you're able to comfortably duplicate sections of an image and the results are fantastic. Even when it comes to images with more complex backgrounds like the dog looking out of the window, you can see how ACDSee produces pretty much perfect results.
Other New Features
Text is now available in layers. This improvement means text editing is now non-destructive and can be edited at any time.
You can resize the canvas around layered content, expanding or cropping, or add solid backgrounds. This makes it easy to create composites.
Measure an image in a variety of units (inch, cm, pixel). Drag guidelines across the image with the ability to snap layers, selections, and text to specific positions.
Supporting Even More Cameras
This latest software now supports a huge range of cameras and raw file formats. Cameras like the Hasselblad X1D II, the Sony a7R IV, and even the Fujifilm GFX 100 are supported by ACDSee. This effectively means that ACDSee currently supports pretty much all the most popular and sought after cameras that are on the market.
ACDSee continues to push ahead with better and interesting features. It's one of the few companies on the market that offers a fully detailed and in-depth alternative to some more mainstream editing suites. With features like the Blended Clone Tool and Face detect algorithms it really does put them ahead. The software is currently only available on Windows and a perpetual license can be bought or you can opt to pay yearly for a subscription.