CAPTURE / PROCESSING
Darkroom Software
Darkroom has provided an end-to-end software solution for professional photographers since 1994. The most recent upgrade earned this year's Hot One Award for a feature set that includes wireless capture capabilities; set up of onsite job details for invoicing, archiving and marketing; cataloging and archiving of digital photos; automated production of print products with color, vignette and text variations; green screen technology; publishing to free Internet portfolios and storefronts on PhotoReflect.com; and more.
Price:$1,395.www.darkroomsoftware.com
 
IMAGE EDITING
Nik Color Efex Pro 4
With 55 different filters, Nik Color Efex Pro 4 landed this year's Hot One Award in Image Editing Software. The new version of the application introduces stackable filter combinations, visual presets, filter recipes and new filters such as Detail Extractor, Vintage Film Efex and Image Borders. Color Efex Pro 4 also includes a new History Browser, improvements to imaging algorithms, greater performance and enhanced usability over previous versions.
Price: $199.95.www.niksoftware.com
 
PLUG-INS / ACTIONS
Silver Efex Pro 2
Widely considered one of the world's best black-and-white imaging solutions, Silver Efex Pro impressed our judges once again with version 2 of the application. Silver Efex Pro 2 provides powerful tools for creating black-and-white fine art images from color photographs. The software's U Point technology allows selective enhancements, and advanced imaging algorithms protect against unwanted artifacts. In addition, Silver Efex Pro's all-in-one workflow improves production time without sacrificing image quality.
Price: $199.95.www.niksoftware.com
 
PAINTING
ArtRage Studio Pro 3.5
ArtRage Studio Pro 3.5 provides the experience of painting digitally on a computer canvas with oil paints that smear and blend, and with watercolors that flow together into wet gradations. Improvements in v3.5 include the ability to record and play back paint strokes, faster speed, scripting, content sharing and enhanced color blending tools. The user interface has also been augmented to streamline workflow.
Price: $80.www.artrage.com
 
ALBUM DESIGN / LAYOUT
Fundy Software Album Builder 4
New from Fundy Software, Album Builder 4 won this year's award for Album Design/Layout Software on the strength of several enhancements to the application. The software has a new basic layout module with a drop-down of mini template building blocks, an advanced layout module that allows these building blocks to be used in continuation, and a dynamic template module for quickly sorting through thousands of templates designed by the likes of Jerry Ghionis, Gene Higa, Frank Salas, Michelle Turner and other photo industry luminaries. The software also carries over the ease-of-use
functionality and Photoshop compatibility that made version 3 a popular release.
Price: $299.www.fundysoftware.com
 
PRESENTATION/SLIDESHOW
ITíS A TIE!
Animoto Pro
The updated and upgraded Animoto Pro earned a share of the Presentation/Slideshow category with new features that include a smarter video creation workflow that makes it easier to produce pro-quality videos from photos, video clips and music. Animoto Pro also added a new video slideshow style to its library, Vintage Voyage, which gives videos an antique feel. The system has been streamlined to allow the creation of a video in as few as five clicks. The software also includes an expandable workspace that can display up to 300 thumbnail photos at a time, as well as an editing feature with full-size image previews and text preview from within thumbnails. A searchable database of royalty-free music includes 1,100 tracks.
Price: $39 per month or $249 per year. www.animoto.com/photography
 
TimeExposure ProSelect 2011r2
Earning the other share of the Presentation/Slideshow category, ProSelect 2011r2 is the second of two significant updates released for the 2011 series of this popular software. ProSelect 2011r2 features a new Working with Rooms module that allows photographers to design a wall gallery with any mix of prints, with or with out frames, digital or matted collages, and canvases, and then present them on a virtual rendition of the client's wall. Photographers can also use a wall from a library of sample rooms. Other highlights include an autosnapping feature for easy design, as well as support for gallery wrap canvases, variable thumbnail sizes and multicolumn thumbnail lists. Just after our judging concluded, TimeExposure released version 2012r1, with even more exciting features.
Price: $399.www.timeexposure.com
 
STUDIO MANAGEMENT
ITíS A TIE!
StudioCloud 3.1
In a category long dominated by SuccessWare, StudioCloud broke through this year to earn a share of the title. This free desktop software provides an integrated studio management system that includes client info management, scheduling, bookkeeping, reporting, marketing campaigns, project/event/order management and more. For a fee, StudioCloud offers online capabilities, such as appointment reminder e-mails and text messages. The software also provides cloud-sharing apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android devices and Blackberry Playbooks. The updated v3.1 has a new scheduling wizard, employee security tracking, automatic project/task features and updated apps.
Price: Software free, $30 per month or $60 per month, depending on add-ons. www.studiocloud.com
 
SuccessWare
Of course, SuccessWare wasn't just going to hand over its crown. For as many years as we can remember, the studio management trailblazer has been at the top of the podium. This year it shares the spotlight, but that in no way detracts from its merits as a reliable order tracking, scheduling and marketing application. SuccessWare sets itself apart in the way it helps photographers create an annual financial plan for success. It ensures
that you price your products for profit and prepares easy-to-read financial reports. New calendar and contact sync features bring the software up to date for 2012 and beyond.
Price: Leasing $49 per month for single user, $79 per month for multiple users.www.successware.net
 
DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT
ACDSee Pro 5
ACDSee Pro 5 impressed our judges with its flexible cataloging capabilities, viewing speed and powerful photo editor. Highlights of v5 include improved RAW processing, metadata tools and patent-pending LCE single-exposure HDR technology. The software is designed as an integrated, end-to-end editing and digital asset management solution. Functionality and workflow are customized to help photographers manage the digital darkroom tasks fast, so they can get back to the camera room.
Price:$239.99.www.acdsee.com