Affinity Photo is a newcomer to Windows family of operating systems and so is not very well known. Apple users have known about it for quite sometime now. I bought a license few months back and have been trying my hand at it. It is wonderful software with its own quirks and methods.
Affinity Photo is a very lightweight program which is available directly for download from the Serif website. It presently costs INR 4000 (about 60 USD) and it is a lifetime license. None of that subscription model that Adobe has been pushing! The system requirements are also very down to earth kind though I use it on a fairly high-end system. Once downloaded, the installation takes just a few minutes.
On launching the program, I am greeted with a pink and dark grey logo indicating that the program is loading. Once loaded, Affinity Photo looks very similar to other common image editors. The interface is dark grey in color and text is easily readable. All the common tools are placed on the extreme left side and various other settings are available on the extreme right. The first thing that caught my attention was that even the icons for various tools are colored. They do look nice. The menu on the top is simple. Interestingly the Filters menu reminds me more and more of Gimp rather than any other image-editor. The layout and the overall design of Affinity Photo oozes perfection all around.
For trying Affinity Photo, I loaded one of the raw files created on Nikon Df. It took some time to open up. Slightly longer than other programs that I have tried but not something that would upset me. As soon as it opened in the program, the interface was different. Later I understood that Affinity Photo has an integrated raw development module which it calls as ‘Develop Persona’. The program itself has icons on the top left to shift from one persona to other (Persona being the name that Affinity Photo uses to call each of its integrated modules).
(Develop Persona – A test image from Nikon Df in raw format on loading into Affinity Photo opens up in the Develop Persona)
The raw file once opened looked different from when viewed in Nikon’s own raw developer (Nikon View NX). Affinity Photo did not apply the in-camera settings as the default starting point for the raw file. I have read reports of photos appearing dark or pinkish or faded when opened in Affinity. To me, it does not matter. it is simply the way Affinity photo interprets the raw data from the sensor (which is different from what is seen on the preview screen of the camera) and sometimes due to problems with color profiling these color shifts may happen. Though, nothing of this sort happened with my sample photograph. The Develop Persona had everything in place. The basic settings on the right-hand side had – Exposure, Enhance (contrast, clarity, saturation, and vibrance), White Balance, Shadows & Highlights, and Profiles (color spaces). Next to the basic settings, there were tabs for lens-related corrections, noise reduction, curves, and other toning tools and finally overlays. Some basic tools are provided on the extreme left too which include the blemish removal tool as well.
The only place where Affinity Photo seemed weak was the shadow and highlight recovery. Other that this, the Develop Persona is really nice.
Once the basic settings have been applied and the raw file appears good to go, the ‘Develop’ button on the top left needs to be clicked. This ‘develops’ the digital negative, the raw file, and opens it in the image editor module or the ‘Photo Persona’.
(Pressing the ‘Develop’ button in the Develop Persona opens up the image in the Photo Persona, with its own set of tools and adjustments)
Affinity Photo calls its image editing module ‘Photo Persona’. This is a very powerful image editor and has all the required tools in place. All the tools are located on the extreme left and the adjustments are located on the right. Affinity Photo supports layers functionality which is now considered the basic requirement of any good image editor. The selection of layer blend modes is quite detailed for most.
Burn & Dodge, Sharpen & Blur, and Sponge are some of the most used tools to improve the photographs. Clone Stamp Tool and Perspective Tool help me to correct some of the obvious problems in my photographs.
As I had mentioned earlier, Affinity Photo is different in its working from many other common programs. Simple functions like rotating the image or applying a graduated filter are hidden away. The cropping tool doubles up as a rotation tool. Using the rotation tool can still be tricky since the image frame size and aspect remains the same. For applying a graduated ND filter, there are various ways. I prefer to create a new curves layer, darken the image as required and then use a Gradient tool from the left-hand menu for applying the dark ND as a graduated filter. Using overlays is another method for applying a graduated filter.
There are some rough edges to the program which I expect to be smoothened out with the release of future versions. One glaring problem is with the application of sharpening after rotating or changing the perspective of the image. On doing so the edges appear jagged in the preview but this and a few other similar problems are minuscule if one looks at the program as a whole. (EDIT : In the new versions, this glitch seems to have been addressed.)
Another interesting aspect is the History tab on the right lower side of the interface. Each and every move is captured here, which also includes deleting any effect. One can move across the history by using the Position slider just below the history tab or simply by clicking on any of the notations in the history.
Affinity Photo also has a huge range of filters. These are very customizable and sometimes the settings available can be overwhelming for new users. Many of the commonly available Photoshop plugins are also supported by the program. I have installed Analog Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4, available as part of Nikon Collection, now being provided by Google. These are the ones that are shown as ‘working’ by the software. I did try some of the ‘unknown’ status plugins too and they seem to work fine. I have read reports of crashes on the internet but they seem to work fine.
(The preferences dialog has the option to load Photoshop Plugins)
Liquify, Tone Mapping, Export Personas
These are three other modules integrated in Affinity Photo. Liquify is used for distortions. Tone Mapping persona does what its name says – it maps out the tones which can then be used to create images similar to HDRs. Export persona provides power in saving images in various formats.
Saving the Image
By default, Affinity Photo saves the photographs as a proprietary file type with an extension .afphoto. These files are huge in size. These store information about all the intermediate steps, history and even store the file in such a manner that it is easy for the program to read. Though the sizes are huge, I do have to agree that the smoothness with which Affinity Photo works with these files is sheer pleasure. Whenever I am working on a photograph and have to leave my work in the middle, I prefer to save the work as afphoto.
Apart from this, I do not alter my raw files. All the photographs that I process, are exported to jpg format without any compression. Pressing ‘Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S’ opens up the export dialog box. As is the norm with Affinity Photo, even the export dialog box is quite colourful and user friendly. There are various other file options too for exporting the image.
(The colorful and fairly powerful export dialog)
Affinity Photo is the new powerhouse for photographers and total value for money. It has a steep learning curve but once the basics are understood most of the things come naturally. Thankfully the company has provided good enough documentation in the form of videos which have made learning very easy. Recently Serif has also announced an iPad version of its software.
Affinity Photo is the best image editing software in my opinion as of now. The fluidity and smoothness of its workings even beat the programs which are considered the standard in photo-editing. Affinity Photo has got the things implemented properly right from the start!
Get your Affinity Photo: Affinity
The company also makes some other software as well. Be sure to click on Affinity Photo if that is what you intend to download.
Disclaimer: I have no professional affiliations with Affinity Photo, Affinity or Serif. I am just a happy user of Affinity Photo who has paid the full license fees as well.