Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of applications are the standard of the graphic design and photo enhancement industry. With a bunch of bolted on services in the mix, a single monthly subscription gets you Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Premiere, Lightroom, After Effects, Flash Pro, Acrobat, and a host of other applications often considered best of breed for those who develop media content. Subscription? Pay by the month. Forever.
A less expensive plan is available for photographers and includes Photoshop and Lightroom, but it’s still a subscription plan. Forever. Stop paying and you stop using Adobe’s apps. Adobe’s my-way-or-the-highway approach has created a vacuum, a less expensive market segment for those who don’t want to pay by the month, don’t want a subscription, and don’t need all the features that come with Adobe’s highly acclaimed application suite.
Today I’m going to focus on a collection of six apps from a Mac-only developer; apps which rival many of the features found in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite but far less expensive. It’s the Creative Kit 2016 package from Mac developer Macphun. I’ve been an Adobe Photoshop user since version 1.0; more of a dabbler than designer, of course, but one of those Adobe customers who couldn’t afford to upgrade to the latest suite every year. The Creative Kit is collection of Photoshop-like applications for photographers. You’ll spend more money on the Photoshop-Lightroom package per year than you’ll spend on these apps to own.
I have and use five of the six applications in the Kit. If you’re into Photoshop and Lightroom but balk at the lifetime subscription fees, these are worth a look.
Noiseless Pro – Perfect for iPhone users, Noiseless Pro improves low light photos by diminishing the visual artifacts from digital noise, while enhancing and sharpening images with just a few clicks. Here’s an example.
Focus Pro – This is the one app within the Kit that I do not have. Think of Focus Pro as a bunch of blur, focus, and lens effects. Point and shoot and Lytro camera users must love this.
Snapheal Pro – This is my favorite app because it’s the only one that makes it easy to remove an unwanted object from a photo. Easy? Remarkably so. Simple brush over the unwanted object, select a preset, and the object is removed, then Snapheal Pro fills in the hole to match the background. Look what happened to two poles in the water.
Tonality Pro – Think gray scale and black and white gone amok. All the tools you can think of to create monochromatic photos with a few clicks. This is a good tool to add filters, lift shadows and detail, and more. Think Ansel Adams-look without the film.
Intensify Pro – This is my second favorite but most used tool in the Kit. What you get are filters which highlight details and intensify colors. It’s like having Kodachrome with film or slides. Intensify takes ordinary, mundane, boring photos and gives them life, sparkle, and color with just a few presets. This before-and-after is typical.
FX Photo Studio Pro – This was the first app in the kit that I bought a few years ago. Basically, it’s a photo filter and effects app with presets that can change the entire tone of a photo with just a click to a preset. If you could only afford one app in the Kit, this would be a good recommendation for the photographer-cum-artist.
I don’t want you to think of this list as a quick advertisement for Macphun’s apps, obviously targeted at photographers. It’s not. But the Kit is representative of the many apps available to do much of what some apps in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite does, but at a fraction of the price.
Here’s another example. Photoshop is the flagship graphic design tool for professionals, but if you cannot afford all that power and don’t want to pay a lifetime subscription, there are alternatives. Here’s one of the most popular.
Pixelmator – I’ve used this since it was introduced years ago. There’s an iPad version of Pixelmator which puts Adobe’s mobile apps to shame. If it were not for copyright issues, it could be called Photoshop Lite as it is packed with graphic and photo enhancement tools, filters, effects, and much more. Pixelmator is priced like an entry-level app, but it may provide 90-percent of the tools most pros use.
Photo And Designer – These two apps by Affinity fill in the Photoshop-Illustrator tandem so popular with graphic designers. Affinity Photo is Photoshop-like and outdoes Pixelmator by working in any color space (including CMYK) and RAW photos. It comes with dozens of features packed into a familiar Photoshop-like interface.
Affinity Designer is Illustrator-like, a vector design app with familiar tools and functions for pixel-by-pixel control; brushes, shapes, and all the new features found in OS X– Core Graphics, Force Touch, OpenGL and more. Designer looks, feels, and works much like Illustrator but comes with a single price that’s less than a month of Creative Cloud subscription.
Wait! There’s more!
Mac graphic, design, and photo enhancement apps about under Adobe’s expensive subscription model. These include the new Graphic (was iDraw) which mixes pixels with vector tools, and the image enhancement app Acorn.
By switching to the monthly subscription model Adobe may have a steady revenue stream, but the company created a vacuum at the low end and mid-range for a growing number of creative tools that work well for beginners and occasional professionals.