Digital photographers like to say that correcting shooting defects with
software is bad practice, the equivalent of compensating for a flawed
negative in the darkroom. These programs make us beg to differ.
Pixmantec RawShooter Premium 2006
This is a powerful alternative to the often slow, clunky RAW conversion software that comes with digital SLRs. It starts with an import feature that quickly gets photos off your memory card, renaming them (if you like) and creating previews on the fly. This means you can begin working on images while others are still being downloaded to your computer. Once you've converted the files, RawShooter Premium offers streamlined image editing; it replaces Photoshop's Hue/Saturation sliders, for example, with the Vibrance tool, which boosts or reduces saturation and contrast in a single slider. But what really sets this PC-only program apart is its emphasis on workflow. Shooters who can't resist filling their 8GB memory cards in a single day will appreciate everything from its batch-processing flexibility to the way it lets you save almost anything you do as a custom setting. About $100 (at pixmantec.com).
(* Update: Since publication, Pixmantec was acquired by Adobe.)