Jun 16, 2011 — by: Karl Johnson
Categories: Mac Applications, Review

Photographers have a different set of features that they require in their main application. Adobe tried to support this with Adobe Bridge in Photoshop and although some like it, most find it very slow and difficult to use. To answer the needs of digital photographers, Adobe, Apple and others stepped up to create an application dedicated to photography. Applications like iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom have become the digital hub for photographers.

iPhoto has a very limited set of editing tools and is mainly used to organized photos. Aperture and Lightroom, on the other hand, have many more powerful tools to quickly edit and manage photos. When it comes time to really manipulate a photo, these applications don’t have the tools that Photoshop and Pixelmator have. This article will mainly compare image editing and manipulation tasks in Pixelmator and Photoshop.

Pixelmator, as mentioned in the previous article, already has a great set of core image editing features. The same advantages Pixelmator has for Graphics, also applies to photography and other areas. Beyond the basics, Pixelmator starts to lose out when compared to Photoshop. Although Pixelmator 2.0 takes a big leap in narrowing the gap between the two. Let’s look at the features still missing in Pixelmator after the next 2.0 upgrade and some solutions.

  1. Photomerge: To create Panoramic Images, Photomerge takes multiple pictures and combines them into one larger panorama. The Photomerge tool is one of the best panorama tools out there today. Yet, there are stand alone applications like Calico Panorama and Autopano Pro that provide the same or better features.
  2. Auto blend layers: Auto blend is used to combine multiple images of the same scene with different focal points. This technique is used to increase the area that is in focus. While the feature seems interesting, few photographers will ever use it. Also, this technique, while time consuming, can still be done in Pixelmator.
  3. Content Aware Scaling: This feature allows users to scale parts of a photo while keeping other parts intact. It sounds like a cool feature, but in the end, I have never found a reason to use it.
  4. Better Filters: Pixelmator has a nice set of filters, but they still don’t measure up to Photoshop. It lacks a high pass filter used to improve photographs. Also, the Noise reduction and unsharpen mask filters don’t offer the same control as Photoshop. There are work arounds, but it would be better to see the developers of Pixelmator improve their filters.
  5. Adjustment Layers: Adjustment layers allow users to edit photographs non-destructively. Yet, it is just as easy to achieve the same output with regular layers.
  6. 16-bit image processing: This feature provides better accuracy and color depth to images. Amateurs may not miss this feature, but professionals will. Hopefully, this will be added in the near future.
  7. Channels: This is another feature mainly for professionals, as it gives more control in editing images. If you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t need it.
  8. Masking Tools: Pixelmator does have some masking tools, but they are not as good as Photoshop. Fortunately, onOne Software makes a very good stand alone masking tool for those that need more.
  9. Liquify: A lot of professional image editors use this tool to really manipulate photos. For example, it can be used to make people thinner, but it takes some skill to use. Still, it would be really nice to see Pixelmator include this feature as well.
  10. Lens correction: While lens correction is in Photoshop, it is a tool that belongs more in Aperture and iPhoto than Pixelmator.

There are three features that the developers of Pixelmator could add to really help photographers and they are: 16-bit image processing, liquify, and improved filters. Most professionals will choose Photoshop, but for the rest of us, Pixelmator offers a great set of core tools at a great price. Combining Aperture with Pixelmator offers ninety percent of the tools needed to edit photographs professionally at a fraction of Photoshop's price.

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  1. Mario C. ~ Jun. 16, 2011 @ 8:29 am

    Of the ten features you listed as missing, really the most useful one is #10, lens correction. Aperture doesn't have it, so I had to get Adobe Lightroom to get this feature. I would've preferred to use Aperture in conjunction with Pixelmator as it would've made it a lot easier to work with my existing iPhoto Library. Still, I'm looking forward to Pixelmator v. 2 because I think it will have some nice new features and improved existing ones. #
  2. Joe ~ Jun. 16, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    Interesting article, however, it seems that you are wanting Pixelmator to be the same as Photoshop. You don't put all the bells and whistles in a program without investments of time and money. Then you want to recoup the money and make a profit. After they make Pixelmator the same as Photoshop, do you think they will still charge $59.00. I don't think so. And then where will you be... looking for another graphics program that can replace Photoshop and Pixelmator but for a small amount of money... except they need to add X amount of features to make it just as good as Photoshop. Sorta cyclic in your articles. #
  3. Yacko ~ Jun. 17, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

    "Interesting article, however, it seems that you are wanting Pixelmator to be the same as Photoshop." I think the point is to warn people that starting a project in Pixelmator might leave you short of a critical tool. PShop, Lightroom, Dx0, Bibble, Illustrator are all professional tools and professionals use them and earn back the money quickly. Sometimes consumers as pro-wannabees start using lesser tools little realizing the depth the pro tool has and box themselves in the corner. How many wannabee logo "designers" start with a raster tool rather than a vector? I posted a previous response about PShop filters. I wasn't talking about the ones built-in. There is a slew of third-party filters and one could be indispensible to you. That alone makes it a must have. Filters don't make the designer but they do apply the glue. Does pixelmator do actions (macros)? A real time saver. Unfortunately Adobe charges premium prices but if you make money then they are trivial. Best course of action is, if you are a student, take advantage of the student discount and when out of school take advantage of the upgrade price. #

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