- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

If you have a digital camera, the chances are very good that you are using the software that came with the camera to store, manipulate and catalog your images.
However, there is a new program you might want to take a look at as a great "front end" to digital photography. It's called "After Shot" and it comes from a company called Jasc Software. The software is priced at $49 and that's before a $10 rebate, making the price rather reasonable.
Load this software on a Windows-based PC, attach a digital camera, and watch some magic begin to happen. First, the click of a button onscreen will import photos from the digital camera and arrange them for easy viewing. Now, this is something similar programs will do, but the difference here is that you can automatically select and rename the entire run of pictures. Instead of a generic name such as "P101025O" or something equally meaningless you can rename the photos, in one batch, as "Vacation Trip," each with a sequential number. This makes more sense, and makes groups of photographs easier to find as you fill up your computer with more and more digital photos.
It is also possible to assign a key word to a given photo, or group of photos, again making it easy to do searches and locate photos weeks or months later. The photographs can be grouped into a slide show or even arranged as a QuickTime movie, either of which can be "burned" onto a CD-ROM or sent via e-mail to other recipients. You can add sound to a given photograph, and with careful planning, create a QuickTime movie that has not only a sequence of pictures but narration as well. Everything I've described so far can be done intuitively and easily. While the program comes up with documentation, extensive study may not be necessary since the program seems to function very easily and clearly for users. Shannon Weber, a product-marketing manager at the firm, told me that the software was designed to be easy to use, particularly for people who are new to digital photography and the manipulation of pictures on a computer.
This does not mean, however, that the software is limited in its capabilities. Photographs can be adjusted for contrast, color, "red eye" correction and other editing functions. A particularly impressive feature was the ability to "stitch" a series of photographs into a single image. Once the images are stitched together, suggestions for cropping are made. The resultant image could be a panorama of the seashore or skyline, or a montage of scenes from a family picnic. This is the kind of function that normally is done by people with extensive training in manipulating images. In this case, After Shot does the work for you.
The program includes functions to send photos by e-mail, or create a Web site with varying layouts of the pictures. Again, such abilities are usually found in programs costing much more then $49 and with a much steeper learning curve.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of this program is that all of these features are combined with a printing layout section that is second to none. You can arrange photos in all sorts of positions and sizes to create a page that lets the user take the best advantage of a sheet of expensive photo printing paper in sizes ranging from 4-by-6 inches down to pocket-size.
What's more, if you need to adjust or zoom in on a particular photograph, you can do this on the page layout itself.
Should you want to take a given photograph and work on the picture in another application, it's a simple step of dragging the photo on to a "launch bar" to start the other program and work with the picture. This is another nice convenience feature other software makers would do well to emulate.
It's a shame that this program is not currently bundled with digital cameras, but even if your camera arrived with a range of programs, you owe it to yourself to check out After Shot as a wonderful tool that will enhance your digital photography experience. More information on After Shot can be found at www.jasc.com.

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