FotoStation is one of the more well-known image cataloguing products. It is available in two versions, standard and Pro. We're looking at the standard version here which is over 500 cheaper than the Pro. If you're not sure which you should be considering visit the Metasys web-site for a comparison.
There is a list of UK suppliers on the Metasys web-site and if you want to save some money you can buy an electronic version. Pricing for this electronic download version is $99, about 68. If you go to a retailer and buy the CD version expect to pay around 90.
- Archive large photo collections
- Assign keywords and text to make searching easier
- Built-in image editing
- Generate web-pages, printouts, slide shows or movies
Acquire or browse your images
The user interface is simple to use, though can take a bit of getting used to at first. Three tabs at the top of the window allow you to change the view of the selected folder. Along the left side, there are shortcuts to image albums and folders. Through the browse icon you can select folders on your PC and drag the selected ones into an image folder of your choice on the left. This enables you to sort the photos into categories, for example, for the images below we might put them all in a flowers folder. If you have several different cameras you might want to create a folder for each camera. The key benefit of this software is customisation, so most of your needs can be met with some editing.
The main Fotostation browsing screen.
When you are finished browsing your photos there are a number of options available to you from the icons just below the three tabs. These are from left to right: Search, Acquire, Upload images to web server, Show image text dialog, Edit image content, Show Slide show, Add images to album, Create a web page, Copy images to another folder, Print image.
We've already mentioned creating specific folders for particular images, though this isn't too far advanced from just organising images carefully on your computer. What makes this software so powerful is its text search facility. This allows you to leave comments on individual photos and assign them keywords, then using the search facility you can find the photos you are looking for in minutes. The only downside to this is the time it takes to assign keywords and comments to each photo!
This animation shows the areas of text you can edit for each photo.
When I first tried this software I hadn't downloaded the latest update for it. After installing it, the search facility is made more powerful by enabling you to search through information such as the Exif data. The latest update is available from the Fotostation web-site here.
Searching through a catalogue of over 7000 images for photos taken on the Nikon D1x took around five minutes. Our test computer isn't slow and we feel the performance should be better than this.
The search facility.
Enhance your images
The majority of images will need some manipulation and Fotostation provides this facility, albeit in a limited form. Some of the editing facilities are advanced, providing a workflow speed advantage over loading images in a separate application. However, for serious editing work, a dedicated program is preferable.
The editing area allows: Rotation, size-adjustment, auto-levels, various auto adjustments, cloning, cropping and more.
Drag and drop
Drag and drop features are common in most windows applications. Fotostations main advantage in this area is that it features a special drag and drop mode which resizes the window to a narrow vertical bar with small thumbnails. This makes it easier to drag and drop several small images into the application or folder of your choice.
Share your images
Another useful feature of this software is its ability to generate web pages for you. These allow reasonably well-designed on-line galleries with excellent ease of use. This area can be improved upon further by downloading additional templates from the Fotostation web-site here.
The web page wizard allows a good level of configuration options.
Slide-shows are also possible and can be configured to show various text information. Printing options provide a similar facility whereby you can have the relevant text for each photo shown on the same page.
This is a well designed and easy to use program. It will allow you to organise your photos efficiently and provides extra functionality such as the web-page creation, that most other packages don't. It's obvious the developers paid great thought to the features a photographer would need and it's nice to find nothing major lacking.
It is however let down in a few areas. The search facility could be faster, meaning that if you need to do lots of searches on large catalogues it will take a frustrating amount of time. On smaller catalogues however, the speed is sufficient. File copying of images from one folder to another is also too slow, even on fast computers.
With only a few minor niggles, this software is good value for money. If you aren't sure about whether you need it, or that it might be too slow for you, why not try the trial version here.