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How To Organise & Develop Your Photos With Zoner Photo Studio X

Zoner Photo Studio X is a comprehensive image editing platform and we're taking a close look at its Manager and Develop modules so you can get the most out of what they have to offer.

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Develop Dynamic Range |

ePHOTOzine has recently reviewed Zoner Photo Studio X and we were so impressed with its features, we awarded the software a 'Highly Recommended award. Now, even though the review gives a great overview of the software, after using it for a while, we've realised that the Manager and Develop modules are worth talking about separately as the tools on offer have really impressed us and we want you to see why. 


Organising Your Photos 

If you have an organised file structure your photo editing life will be so much easier and the Manager Module in Zoner Photo Studio X makes it easy to browse and sort your photo collection. From the outset, you can see that Zoner Photo Studio X is slightly different to other photo management software as you can manage your photos directly in folders containing images on your PC, you can manage images directly on memory cards (not recommended, however) or you can import your photos to a photo archive. 


Manager Preview |


Those how have used Lightroom previously will be familiar with catalogs and this is something Zoner Photo Studio X also offers. A Catalog is a way Zoner Photo Studio X can keep an eye on your photo folders and store all of the information about your photos in one place. This is useful as when you need to find a specific photo, you can use search criteria the software will then use to look through the catalog and show you images that match your specific search. This speeds workflow up and means you won't be looking through image folders for a particular shot. If you prefer, you don't have to work with a catalog at all but we found the system beneficial, especially when searching for specific images, and as it pre-caches your photos, it means photos load faster which is particularly handy when working with large RAW files. 

For the catalog system to work successfully, you need to add folders to it and this, ideally, needs to be the ones you use most often so images you capture further down the line will be added to the catalog. Once added, images in your catalog can be viewed by date, keyword or location and you can also search by keywords, ratings, colour (that you have assigned), location and the date an image was taken. You, obviously, need to add this data to your images but once done so, finding specific shots from your archive becomes much easier. Plus, there's a Batch Edit EXIF data option so you can add basic info, keywords, date/time and other information to multiple shots at once. You can also drag multiple images over from the central workspace to the left column where you can drop them on keywords that are already available to quickly apply them to multiple shots. Another batch process that's also available is Batch renaming which can help you organise photos as it gives you the opportunity to create a consistent file naming method. 


Manager Browser |

If you want a further method for organising images you can use locations and if shot location data hasn't been added automatically you can use the Map mode to search/find a location to add to your images. All you have to do is drag the images onto a specific location on the map and the data will be added. To access the Map view, you simply click the 'view' drop-down at the top of the interface which says 'Browser' and when you do, you'll also see options for comparing images. To the right of this is a button for previewing images but you can simply double-click on an image to do this which is actually quicker. Other tools along the top toolbar include the search box and the other modules that are available in Zoner Photo Studio X. The left side of the Manager contains the Navigation tools while the right-hand side panel displays photo information. 

We're just going to circle back to the compare option that's available as this is particularly useful when you've captured portraits of one person, for example, and what to choose the best shot to work on. You can look at multiple images at once and use the magnifying glass to zoom in on several images at once so you can check small details, look for the sharpest shot etc. You can also select a comparison layout to suit the number of images you want to view and the orientation you want to look at them in, too. If there's a photo you really like but want to make sure it's the best of the bunch, you can pin it so it remains in the comparison preview while the other images switch. 


Adjust Your Photos

Once you've finished organising your images you can switch to the Develop module where you can make non-destructive adjustments to images and this includes RAW files. 


Develop Shadows |


The layout of the user interface is similar to that found in the Manager module with navigation tools on the left, the main image preview in the middle and various other tools to the right which includes a histogram so you can quickly see the dynamic range, basic photo information, tools for making adjustments and controls for when you're working with presets or want to manually adjust settings. At the bottom of the screen is where you find your images in a filmstrip. 

Non-destructive photo editing means that your original image will always remain untouched so if you don't like changes you've made or want to do something different, you always have the option to revert back to the original as edits are saved to a different file. If you switch images or close the software down, then reopen the image you were editing, you will always start right where you left off as the software loads all previous edits you have made. 

You can work destructively if you want to but we'd recommend using the non-destructive method for peace of mind. Plus, working in the non-destructive mode (the normal mode) means you don't have to save changes while you work as these are saved automatically when you load a different photo, switch modules or close the software. 


Develop Color Shift |

The right side panel is where you find the main development settings you can use to adjust your photo and the tools on offer will change depending on what file type you're editing. Tools are grouped and you use sliders or enter numeric values to apply adjustments. When you've applied a specific adjustment, a tick appears which you can click on to deactivate the whole group or you can click the arrow to return the adjustments you've made back to the default setting. All of the tools on offer are the basic and essential tools you need for making quick but much-needed edits to photos. You can then further experiment with your photos in the Editor module but it's worth noting that once you move to the Edit module, your workflow becomes destructive so just be aware of this. 

Further editing options are available in the Develop module and these are shown as icons at the top of the right column which includes lens adjustments, cropping, gradient filters and retouching. There are also presets available which will automatically apply a look to your photo and there are plenty to choose from. If you prefer, you can make your own edits and save this as a preset so you can apply the same look to multiple shots much more quickly. You can also apply non-destructive adjustments to multiple selected pictures at once which includes white balance, exposure, colour adjustments, cropping and auto enhancements.


Develop Texture |

If you have multiple images from a shoot you know will be edited the same way you can edit just one of the images then copy and paste the edits you made on that one photo to your entire shoot selection which will save you a tonne of time and make photo editing pretty easy. 

Bonus Tip: The Zoner Photo Studio X team recommend you adjust your photo's white balance and exposure before moving on to other edits as your colours will be off otherwise.

If you're not sure what some of the tools on offer in the Develop module do, there's a great help section and tutorials available but here's a quick run-down of some of the most useful tools:

  • Gradient Filter - handy for balancing bright skies and darker foreground in landscape shots
  • Retouching Brush - remove distractions in landscape shots or use it to remove blemishes in portraits
  • Filter Brush - Make more specific edits to certain areas of your shot 
  • Radial Filter - Handy for creating dark/light vignettes 
  • Crop & Rotate - Quite self-explanatory but the Align Horizon option is particularly useful  


Export Your Photos

The edits you make in the Develop module, unless you're working destructively, can only be viewed in Zoner Photo Studio X so to apply them permanently to photos you want to share online, print or turn into photo books you'll need to export your files. You can choose the file type and quality for the new photo files and also where you want them to be saved. 


Try Zoner Photo Studio X For Free

If you want to put the Manager and Develop modules of Zoner Photo Studio X software for yourself, there's a  one-month free trial, which is a full version with absolutely no strings attached. There is no need to even use a credit card to open an account, just an e-mail address. More information on the free trial can be found here: Zoner Photo Studio X Free 30-Day Trial

After your trial, Zoner Photo Studio X is priced at $4.99 per month or $49 annually, which is around half the cost of Adobe Creative Cloud for photographers. ePHOTOzine members can also save 25%, for a limited time, when purchasing the software. 

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