In the image editing market, there is a clear separation between the assets management, editing, and retouching solutions. Most photographers rely on multiple apps to fulfill their workflow. Although we have grown accustomed to working with a few different software to get to the final result, it would be fantastic to have everything in one place. I didn’t think it existed until I stumbled upon ACDSee Ultimate 10. I’ve been trying it out for the past few weeks and wanted to share my impressions with you.
What is ACDSee Ultimate 10?
ACDSee Ultimate is an all-in-one digital asset manager, raw file processor, and advanced layered images editing software. To put it simply, it does what Lightroom or Capture One combined with Photoshop could offer you but within one single interface. No export, round-trip, or any other trick needed to go from the library to the edit and back to develop module. Everything is seamless.
The Interface and Tools
The interface is divided into five different modes: Manage, Photos, View, Develop, and Edit. If you are familiar with Lightroom, you won’t be lost as the principle is very similar. The Manage mode is where you can organize your images in folders, rate them, add metadata, and anything else you’d like to do to catalog or archive your images. An important note though, ACDSee Ultimate doesn’t work with a catalog or session-based workflow. You can freely browse and organize your files, very much like Photo Mechanic.
The Photos mode is not without reminding me of the MacOS Photos app. The interface is very similar, meaning it’s incredibly easy to navigate. It differs from Manage in the way that it’s intended to browse the images through a timeline. You’ll find all the images that are available in the folders previously scanned. It’s very useful to have a quick overview of your entire image library or to find images per date.
The third tab is the View mode. As the name implies, it’s to view your pictures. The display is blazingly fast, and I’d guess it loads the raw files embedded JPEG and not a preview, making culling a breeze. It’s something that has always kept me away from Capture One or Lightroom when culling large shoots such as weddings. But having something as fast as Photo Mechanic that offers the possibility to quickly edit as well is just brilliant.
Speaking of editing, the following tab is Develop and allows you to process the raw file in a non-destructive way. It includes everything you could hope and even more. When I started working with ACDSee, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the tools I’m used to in Capture One and Adobe Camera Raw are present. The interface is well designed, and thus makes the processing of the raw files straightforward. What struck me in the Develop module is the Effects tool. It lets you add either a photo effect, a color overlay, or a gradient map. All of them are great for color toning, but what makes this tool unique is the possibility to change the blend mode and the opacity of the filter, just as if it was a layer in Photoshop. Opacity on filters and presets is something every other software should include by default, but for some reason, they don’t. The Color EQ and Light EQ are also fantastic. I had never seen anything like this in a photo editing software. It makes toning and color correction very organic, a lot more than the traditional levels and HSL sliders found everywhere.
Last but not least is the Edit module. In short, it’s just like having Photoshop with built-in Lightroom. The interface is a bit different, but the tools are very similar: adjustment layers, repair tool, dehaze, dodge and burn, etc. There are even a few tools to make retouching easier and faster for those who aren’t looking to produce high-end results, such as the skin tune tool. Those looking for their traditional curves and healing brush won’t be lost either. Only a few features may be lacking for some such as Apply Image if you use frequency separation.
Who Is ACDSee Ultimate 10 For?
To me, ACDSee Ultimate is perfectly tailored for wedding photographers or high volume portrait photographers. It offers everything they could need in a single software that’s extremely fast and easy to use. It may not have all the bell and whistles other solutions such as Photoshop have, but why have more features than you need?
Without the shadow of a doubt, amateur photographers will also love ACDSee Ultimate. Instead of learning various software, just get familiar with one, and you’re ready to go. Plus, its price makes it very attractive compared to other solutions.
Priced at just $6.90/month or $69/year, ACDSee is very affordable, especially for what it offers. You get the equivalent of about two or three apps in one for that price. Saying it’s worth its price wouldn’t be fair. It’s much more than worth its price. If you're not a fan of subscription models, you can also purchase ACDSee Ultimate 10's MSRP with a one time cost of $149.99 (although it's discounted for only $79.95 until May 16, 2017.
What I Liked
- The interface is very responsive.
- The software is easy to learn and navigate.
- It’s a complete solution, offering every tool most photographers could need from organizing their images to retouching and exporting their work.
- Light EQ and Color EQ are fantastic tools for precise and organic light and color adjustments.
What Could Be Improved
- Unfortunately, ACDSee Ultimate 10 is only available on Windows for now. Hopefully, a MacOS version will follow.
Having used the same workflow for about two years now, I’m always skeptical when trying new apps. I never really know what to expect, I’m afraid to lose time trying to get used to them and the way they work. However, the transition to ACDSee was surprisingly flawless. The software in itself is an incredibly appealing alternative to the Lightroom and Photoshop combo, even more so when the price is taken into account.
ACDSee is worth a try, particularly since it’s available in a free 30-day trial. So be sure to download it and try it out for yourself. I’d love to hear all about your experience with it.