CAPTURE / PROCESSING
Unified Color Technologies HDR Expose
Unified Color Technologies won this category with a next-generation application for creating and editing HDR images that replaces its flagship software, HDR PhotoStudio. HDR Expose offers a set of new features, including an interactive HDR histogram, digital color readout, multiple ghost reduction options, plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture, and a new user interface. Unified Color Technologies is the only company offering full 32-bit color editing for HDR images, based on its patented Beyond RGB color space.
Price: $149.99.www.unifiedcolor.com
 
IMAGE EDITING
Adobe Photoshop CS5
It’s a bit jarring to realize that Adobe Photoshop recently celebrated 20 years of digital imaging innovation, but hardly surprising that this landmark software lands another Hot One Award. For its milestone release, Adobe packed Photoshop CS5 with new technology for complex retouching and advanced contentaware features. Content-Aware Fill automatically removes extraneous details in the image and seamlessly corrects the deletion with pixels sampled from the surrounding areas. Adobe didn’t stop there. CS5 includes enhanced Selection tools, a new Refine Edge, better HDR imaging capabilities, the new Puppet Warp feature, and a host of other cutting-edge functionality.
Price: full, $699; upgrade, $199.www.adobe.com
 
PLUG-INS / ACTIONS
Nik Software HDR Efex Pro
Go ahead, call it the year of HDR imaging software. Nik Software lands the Plug-ins prize with its sophisticated HDR Efex Pro. The plug-in provides complete HDR control in a simplified interface to help photographers achieve both realistic and artistic results. It features ghost control, tonemapping, exposure tweaks and contrast adjustments. Nik U Point technology provides selective fine-tuning for color, light and tonality.
Price: $159.95.www.niksoftware.com
 
PAINTING
Craig’s Actions Beauty Bar
The Craig Actions Beauty Bar accesses a collection of portrait treatments for optimizing skin tones and cosmetic touchups in Photoshop. With 15 workflow options built around several styles of portraiture, the Beauty Bar Actions automatically perform treatments to render the image in the selected style, appropriately tweaking color and contrast, highlight and shadow values, as well as skin softness. The Beauty Bar Workflows allow you to step away from the computer while the software runs through the entire image workflow. The software also provides 17 skin-optimizing makeup tools and more than 30 production options.
Price: $147.www.craigsactions.com
 
ALBUM DESIGN / LAYOUT
Fundy Album Builder v3.6
Album Builder by Fundy Software appealed to our judges for its unique approach to helping photographers create their own album designs without templates. The software’s Ninja Layout module automatically aligns the images for the user-selected layout. It’s a design helper that searches for the ideal layout and guides you through the process. This Photoshop plug-in can be used to design albums of any size and format, and works with all Photoshop actions and filters. You can even remove photos from the layout, retouch them in Photoshop, then reinsert them without leaving the Album
Builder application. Works with most major brands of albums, and on both the Mac and PC OS in Photoshop CS3, CS4 and CS5.
Price: $299.www.fundysoftware.com
 
PRESENTATION / SLIDESHOW
Animoto Pro
Last year’s winner in this category as well, Animoto scores a victory for the professional version, Animoto Pro. The easy-to-use, Web-based application turns photographs, video clips and music into professional-looking video slideshows in minutes. Animoto Pro includes eight new video styles in the Elegance Collection.
Price: $249 or $39 per month.www.animoto.com
 
STUDIO MANAGEMENT
SuccessWare 6.0.6
SuccessWare continues to pace the competition with the latest version of its widely acclaimed studio management software. Version 6.0.6 comes with all the tools photographers need for day-to-day business management, marketing and managerial accounting financial reports. It’s the only studio management software that helps you answer that all-important question: How much should I charge? SuccessWare links seamlessly with Time Exposure ProSelect sales projection and production software.
Price: $1,495 or $49 per month. www.successware.net
 
VIDEO EDITING
Adobe CS5 Production Premium
As video capture assumes a larger role in pro photography, Adobe stays ahead of the curve with Creative Suite 5 Production Premium. The suite includes Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, After Effects CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, Illustrator CS5, Flash Catalyst CS5, Flash Professional CS5, Soundbooth CS5, Adobe OnLocation CS5, Encore CS5, Bridge CS5, Device Central CS5 and Dynamic Link. The software components with their familiar user interfaces integrate with one another to provide a complete video editing toolset. Enhanced planning and production features streamline the workflow for photographers working in different digital media. Available for Mac and Windows OS.
Price: $1,699www.adobe.com