Why Picktorial 3 is not (yet) for me.

I have read some interesting comments about the new raw processing software Picktorial 3. Well, it’s not really brand new but this third version came out in April 2017 and I read that there is a plugin that would give me the film simulations I love so much when I use my fujifilm cameras. This post is not a full review but a first look or rather my first steps using the software and the comments I made to myself on the way.

So what is Picktorial ?

It is advertised as being a raw converter that gives you a non destructive workflow in an all-in-one package. It enables global and local adjustments from a catalog-free library. It has an export menu that enables to write a jpg or tiff file to disk or a small list of other options for export (mail, messages, twitter, Facebook…).

Note that it is Mac only. It is not a digital asset management program, so it will not enable tagging, keywording, colour tags etc… It does not allow collections or searches. The only asset management I found was the classic 1 to 5 star. The “catalog-free” library just means that Picktorial can load a photo from your hard drive if you can find it in the right folder (and that means a good organisation of the thousands of raw files you have!). The list of feature from there website is here.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 19.00.07.png

SOOOOO…. what is the appeal ?

Well, there have been quite a few raw converters coming out in the last couple of years to take a slice of the market of Lightroom, most of them boasting lightning fast editing and more advanced functions than Lightroom. The all-in-one package is the USP. To be fair to Lightroom, its strength an main reason of existence is its calalog and digital asset management functions. The raw conversion and editing is enabled by the integration of Camera Raw. The versions that have come out over the last couple of years have greatly improved on the editing side and have sparked the idea that an all-in-one program is possible. Why not ? I’m not a pro but I still go into photoshop from time to time. The more I can do in Lightroom, the better. It saves me from having an intermediary tiff file next to my raw files.

Picktorial has some fantastic appeals on the local adjustment side of things so I downloaded the 14 day trial and gave it a go, comparing it to what I can do in Lightroom.

The first photo I tried is a 1/3s exposure of a river taken on a mini tripod. The exposure is ok but the highlights in the water were badly lacking in detail. I just cranked down the highlights to -100 in Lightroom and adjusted the greens a little with the HSL sliders and here is what I got.


I then opened up the photo in Picktorial, the interface is easy to use and clean by the way.   I found the how to do the same thing quickly but although the colours are very pleasing, the highlights stay very overexposed.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-17h59min22s_pktI can get them down a bit if I underexpose the whole picture by one stop.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-17h59min22s_pkt2I honestly tried bringing down the highlights on the water with the local adjustment tools, trying the very promising luminosity masking, but to no avail. Keep in mind that I’m trying to recreate what I did in Lightroom in one step and I have neither the skill nor the patience to create complicated local adjustments to get better highlight management.

To give Picktorial its due, the luminosity masking is easy to do, it would take me much longer in photoshop to get similar results. Picktorial also boasts colour masking, radial and gradient masking with adjustable edge detection. The sophistication is there!

I tried a second picture which was taken at ISO 8000 to look at the highlight and shadow recovery there. The photo has a very strong contrasts betweens the light parts and the dark parts. Lightroom does a good job but there is some chromatic aberration where the rock meets the sky.


Here is a crop at 100% of the area with the sky.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 17.57.01

You can clearly see the purple aberration at the water-colour rendering of the details. The photo was taken at f/1.4 so there is no expectation of sharpness here. There is some global sharpening and noise reduction done.

Here is the equivalent photo in Picktorial 3:


You can see that the highlight recovery suffers in comparison but so does the noise reduction. I set the luminance slider to 20 in Lightroom and the luma slider to 30 in Picktorial. Anything more and the details start going really mushy. Here is the 100% crop.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 18.03.37

It looks seriously worse to me… The lack of recovery in the highlights annihilate all the details that Lightroom can show, albeit in a bit of a painterly way.


Picktorial 3 looks very promising, it has very advanced local adjustments, has a slick interface and tools that Lightroom does not. It is not in my opinion a standalone program as you will need some kind of asset management program. Maybe Photomechanics or something similar.

I don’t really know why I had a look, I think everyone is tempted from time to time to have a look around to see if there is anything better out there. I have done this several times, trying Capture One for example. Every time I come back to Lightroom because nothing can beat having a good digital assets management program and also because the raw processing and editing powers are better than good. Lightroom may be sloooooowwww but I have used it for years and it is seriously in my opinion the best program out there for getting photos off a card at to start working.

Picktorial has all kinds of bells and whistles on the editing side that push the boundaries of what a raw processor can do but if the raw engine is not up to standard I cannot use it.

I’m hoping the team at Picktorial will appreciate the positive comments made here and address these issues. I’m sure we will hear about Picktorial again!

Have a look at their website here and give it a try.

10 thoughts on “Why Picktorial 3 is not (yet) for me.

  1. Interesting review though my conclusion was the opposite, as it seems they are moving way ahead of the old and new player.
    btw, I do import files from an sd card without any problem. And the fils sims are really good, would love to hear your thoughts about it.


    1. Thanks Dan for your input, I’d like your opinion about the highlight recovery in Picktorial. I have just installed a trial version of Luminar and it looks light years ahead of Picktorial, maybe even better than Lightroom. I still need Lightroom to manage my photo library, so I mustn’t have looked hard enough for an import menu. I’ve edited the article, thanks for correcting me.


      1. I agree with you about the highlight recovery. Lightroom is much better than Picktorial. I hope its something they can fix in a future update.


  2. I have given Picktorial a try as well. A couple items I don’t like that I use (and have for years) in LR are:
    1) there isn’t an easy way to filter my star ratings. and it is inconsistent. I had to Google how to simple show my 5 star images and ignore the others. Turns out I have to type into the search box ‘rating=5’ !!? And when I did only 2 of the 10 I star rated of 5 showed up. But after I did my edits to the 10 and typed ‘rating=5’ again it worked perfect. Something is wrong with simple selection and that can’t be a problem for someone like me that bangs out 2000 images a day at a wedding and culls them down to approx 500. It has to work each time and be easy to use.
    2) I think there is an option to save presets but I haven’t been able to easily figure it out. If I want to create a preset that sets my Fuji RAF files to Astia and with some minor global adjustments and use this on import or simply apply to all after import? If its there it isn’t obvious how to do it.
    3) Where can I set DPI upon export!? I have to export images at 240 to 300 to meet any magazine/publication requirements and Picktorial seems to only export images @ 72dpi? I know on digital displays DPI means nothing, but when going to a printer having control over that is needed.

    Because of my experiences this is not a tool a professional can use. And I purchased it because I was so convinced by the reviews and demo videos. 😦 I hope soon it will have these simple items addressed.

    I find the quality of the RAF file that it renders to be very good. I have not worked on images where I pushed ISO to the top during image capture, but what I’ve seen thus far is good. The final rendered images look good.


    1. Thanks for pointing out your own personal experience. Picktorial will not replace a DAM like Lightroom but it could work as a plugin if the raw processor improves. I feel it is further from my needs that Luminar Neptune though for the moment.


  3. I downloaded a trial of Picktorial and liked it straight away – much faster on my MBP than anything else I have tried without making the fan come to life – but still used Lightroom for the film simulations as a starting point. Maybe I should have tried the demo more but when the Fuji X Pack for Picktorial became available I decided to buy a license and the X Pack and expected to switch 100%.

    Unfortunately I soon found the problem of processing some (not all) files, especially files that as you point out need highlight or shadow recovery, it is very poor to the point I can’t use it for that. One review I read stated that the highlight/shadow recovery in Picktorial is like working with a Jpeg file and that is maybe a good way to describe it. Maybe internally the RAW data has already been processed to a more manageable format like Jpeg and uses that data for all edits, perhaps that is why it is so fast.

    I will keep downloading any updates and and hoping for a fix but for now I have gone back to my stand alone Lightroom 😦


    1. I’m glad I downloaded a trial first. It is fast indeed and the x pack is enticing but the highlight/shadow recovery is a huge letdown. I will give picktorial 4 a try when it comes out though!!


  4. Like yourself, and those commenting here I have been been working through a growing catalog of RAW convertor software with comprehensive editing ability to either supplement, or replace my LR/PS CC workflow. Those include Pictorial, Luminar, AlienSkin Exposure X2, On1 Photo RAW 2017, Affinity Photo, and Pixelmator.
    Some of those are fairly good, and excluding DAM features, all can work as very good stand-alone editors, but those which work as LR/PS plugins provide the greater degree of flexibility.
    As far as Pictorial goes, it has much promise, but like Affinity Photo, I find the workflow awkward for me, having come from years of an LR/PS workflow.
    With Luminar I have to be careful as to which images I choose to edit in Luminar as I find that it lacks lens correction for CA/fringing, and for some presets, and adjustments it can introduce a color cast. So for me it cannot live without Lightroom.
    I also use Exposure X2, and On1 Photo RAW 2017, as stand-alone, and LR/PS plugins, and of those I favor Exposure X2 as having the promise to live as a stand-alone without Lightroom or Photoshop. AlienSkin is soon to release an update Exposure X3, so we shall have to see what that brings to the table.


  5. Thanks for your article. I’ve seen similar issues when evaluating Picktorial 3.0 — I found highlight and shadow recovery to be not really comparable to Lightroom’s. In addition, I saw some strange dark artifacting issues near the edges of recovered shadows.

    Quite disappointing really, as I found Picktorial to be overall very impressive. It is very close to being a capable Lightroom replacement, but it’s not quite there yet (at least for me).


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