As many of you know, I'm always interested in ways of obtaining great results, without spending a fortune. It's driven my choice of camera bodies, lenses, computers and software -- on my Macs, the most expensive piece of imaging software I own is Lightroom, which costs $79 from Apple's App Store. So, when I stumbled across Flare, a $19.99 imaging program from The Iconfactory (available for $9.99 for a limited time via the App Store), I was certainly intrigued. Could a $20 piece of software actually be any good?
Actually, it can be.
The program is really quite good at quickly applying a variety of effects to images, with a decent level of control. And, it works with pretty much any kind of image you can throw at it. For the images here, I started with JPEG images from our last trip to Maine.
For the bicycle image, I wanted to fix the color and exposure a little bit, and apply an interesting boarder. I spent more time looking at the available borders than in applying the actual effects. Total processing time was about 5 minutes.
The Flare interface is quite simple, and very easy to learn. Every thing you want to do can be previewed, including blending modes, with simple flyouts.
Image editing can be accomplished using presets, which can be modified. You can also create your own presets, which can be saved and shared via the company's web site. Every aspect of a preset is also editable, and the whole thing cab be saved as a snapshot, which includes an image and all the effects used to make it. The final output can be saved as a file to disk, sent to your iPhoto library or shared via Flickr or E-mail.
Another interesting feature is that, if you have an image open, and you open a second file, that file will be opened "into" the current working space, so any effects or settings applied to the first image will be immediately applied to the second image. The program remembers up to 24 snapshots for immediate recall, and once applied to an image, they can be saved as a preset.
I'm particularly impressed with the single-click black-and-white conversion. It's about the nicest I've seen anywhere.