Tiffen’s Dfx 3.0 offers photographers software that can make their images stand out from the crowd. The bundle is a digital emulation of 2000 of the company’s glass filters that for convenience uses the same names of the company’s Soft/FX or Pro-Mist filters, so those who’ve shot with their filters in the past know exactly what to expect when applying their digital equivalents. For those who haven’t, rest assured that the company who made their name in filters knows their stuff. As a bonus, the software also includes effects created by lenses, lab processes, film grain, color correction, plus natural light effects.
I must confess that previous versions of Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite, while interesting, did not make the final cut of power tools in my personal digital toolbox. All that’s changed in 3.0. It takes all of the good stuff from the previous versions, blends in new options, and wraps it around an interface that, while still containing a few less-than-elegant elements, retains its individuality and provides for smooth workflow.
Judging by the popularity of facial retouching software, there seem to be a lot of people out there who want to make their subjects look like they just arrived off a private jet from Monte Carlo. And they want to do it fast, and not get bogged down with little technicalities like learning how to use Photoshop. So, is it possible to just press a button and instantly have a complexion that looks like J.Lo after an hour in the makeup chair? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, so let’s take a look.
First, let’s take a look at what we have. Perfect Portrait is one of six products that combined give you onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6. You can buy the whole bundle or you can buy just the individual products that you like. And while I’m not going to address the other products here, let me just add kudos to onOne for using the same interface for each product, something you’d think would be automatic with software suites but sadly is not.
DxO Optics Pro Version 7 is a Raw converter for Mac and Microsoft Windows with some nifty tricks up its sleeve. It offers its own brand of nondestructive image editing, with tonal, exposure, geometric, and optical corrections that make it stand apart from the crowd. As was true of Version 6.6, Optics Pro 7 supports the company’s new FilmPack 3 film emulator plug-in (see sidebar below). We will have a more complete review of the film emulator in a future issue.
Optics Pro Version 7 is a dramatic departure from earlier releases. The Select pane is gone, so you no longer have to deal with tedious Projects (unless you want to). Now you go straight to work after opening a folder. Double-click on an image and that takes you right to the nondestructive editing phase, in Customize. Beyond this point the Mac and Windows versions part ways in one key respect: the Windows version runs faster than the Mac version, which continues to be laborious.
Wacom recently introduced their new line of Bamboo tablets, and we thought we’d revisit the use of stylus and tablet tools to give it a try. For our test we worked with the Bamboo Capture, described by the company as most apt for enthusiast digital photographers, although there are three intros in this new line.
Photographers, especially those dealing with large numbers of images, are always looking for ways to speed up the workflow and spend less time in front of a computer and more time behind a camera. Applications like Lightroom have improved the process tremendously, making cataloging and image adjustments easier and faster than before. If you have adjustments that you apply frequently, you can use presets to make it a single-click process, applying a number of adjustments in one operation.
Kevin Kubota has been providing presets and tools for both Photoshop and Lightroom users for quite a while now, and one of his products is a combination of a package of presets for Lightroom and a mini keyboard from RPG Keys that looks much like a numeric keypad on your keyboard. Available as a bundle for $349, or as a rental for $19.95 per month after a $49 setup fee, you get over 100 presets that do everything from black-and-white conversions to skin tone enhancements (and a number of interesting edge effects).
Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 ($199, or $99 for an upgrade from previous versions) is the latest manifestation of image-altering software that works atop the architecture of Photoshop and Lightroom, that is, a plug-in accessible through the Filters menu in Photoshop and for Lightroom as an external editor.
To launch Snap Art from an image in Lightroom you first select the image (or multiple images for batch processing), and select Photo>Edit In>Snap Art 3. You can also right click on the image and select Edit In>Snap Art 3. When Lightroom asks you how to edit the photo, the company recommends you choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.” This will tell Lightroom to make a copy of the image for Snap Art. You can also check and uncheck the Stack command, depending on how you want to see the image in the Library—choose Stack and you can easily unstack the image later, or just have it sit side by side in the normal Library (unstacked) view.
With each successive release of ACDSee Pro, the photo management suite adds ever-more-powerful features. In this review I hope to help you decide whether or not its features match up with your own workflow, meet your needs, or even improve on existing features to enhance your photographic creations.
In my own workflow, the new version, ACDSee Pro 5, smoothed over a few rough edges in the editing process and made my management chores a bit less time-consuming. The release is not so groundbreaking that it might make you consider abandoning Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture altogether, but there are some pro-level additions that are definitely worth considering. The program never crashed and operated quickly for just about any task on a standard desktop PC. Note I said PC—there is no Mac version available or considered at this point.
I usually do not write reports on new computers, but the new 2011 Apple Mac mini (www.apple.com) is an exception. It is not because it has the fastest CPU, as that is not a major advantage for working with digital photographs. In fact, doing digital photographic editing does not involve much computation (“compute” is to calculate or reckon a figure or amount) and no calculation is needed to edit an image with Photoshop. When an image editor opens a digital photographic file, the entire image, every pixel, is put into RAM memory.
Digital black and white has probably never been more popular than it is today. All of the major editing programs like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture support black-and-white conversions natively, and at a much higher quality than just a few years ago. While all of these programs can do black and white you can take your monochrome imagery to the next level with plug-ins, specific task programs that use the architecture of the main program to get the work done. These plug-ins (which may be available as “stand-alones” as well) produce some amazing work, letting you emulate various film types, grain patterns, and more, usually working with “presets” (image looks) that can be modified with ease to customize every image. Combined with the improved output from recent inkjet printers, there has never been a better time to explore digital black and white than today.
Backing up images while on the road makes sense; having a backup drive that can take the rigors of the road seems to make even more sense. That’s the idea behind the ioSafe Rugged Portable USB 3.0, available in various configurations, including SSD (Solid State Drive) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive), capacities, and aluminum or titanium covers. Regardless of the enclosure, the unit is dubbed shockproof (drops from 20 feet with the SSD and titanium enclosure with the optional “skin”), waterproof (submersible up to 10 feet for three days in aluminum, or 30 feet in titanium), and dustproof even in sandstorms, and even during ice storms for 24 hours. And, you’re also covered if you happen to drop it into a barrel of oil (up to 12 feet for an hour) or climb above 15,000 feet (aluminum) or 30,000 feet (titanium). To back up their guarantees the company includes a one-year replacement and one-time data recovery guarantee (up to $5000 on the data side).
Color Efex Pro 4 is Nik Software’s (www.niksoftware.com) latest version of its digital photographic filter plug-ins for retouching and creative enhancements. It is Mac OS and Windows compatible and installs as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 or later, Lightroom 2.6 or later, Photoshop Elements 8 or later, or Apple Aperture 2.1.4 or later. The installer searches for all of the hosts that are on your computer and if you already have Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture installed, as I do, it will install Color Efex Pro 4 for all of the host applications.
One of the biggest improvements in Color Efex Pro 4 is the ability to use Filter Combinations that let you stack multiple filters, adjust each one’s opacity, and make selective adjustments to get the desired look. Each filter contains single-click starting points, making it possible to explore different options. Shades of Emeril Lagasse, there are Filter Recipes that let you customize and share filter combinations with others. Bam! Reminiscent of HDR Efex Pro, the 10 recipes that are part of the package are a quick way to get started using Color Efex Pro 4 and more are available for download on Nik Software’s website.
The merge to HDR process has for too long been a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. That cloak of mystery is one giant step closer to being removed thanks to HDR Express, from Unified Color Technologies (www.unifiedcolor.com). While this software greatly simplifies the process, successful HDR merges don’t just happen when you click a button. There is some planning involved.
If you are a serious digital photographer you probably have a good D-SLR camera. And you expect it will capture sharp, finely focused, high-quality photographic images. It follows that the display you choose should be capable of reproducing all the attributes and qualities your camera has recorded. Most of the displays sold with computers in box stores, however, are not much better at reproducing photographs than the old-type big and heavy CRTs we had back in the mid-1990s.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 caters to the entry-level crowd, but is imbued with several professional-level tools. Even when a feature is not really intended for serious photographers, there is a goldmine of functionality that could save countless hours. The app is celebrating 10 years on the market. Adobe has slowly revised the workflow, and it’s getting much better.
In this version, you’ll first see a start-up screen with two buttons, one for organizing photos and one for editing. It makes more sense to click the button to organize images first, especially if you’re not even sure which images need editing.
When you do, one of the first prompts you’ll see asks how you normally import photos. That’s handy, because even the most experienced pro has to get photos off the camera somehow. You might typically load images onto a network drive, or prefer loading directly off the camera. (An option to scan images seems woefully dated these days.) Whatever option you choose, you can always go back and select a different import default. For now, it just means, when you start Elements 10, the app will automatically look for that specific source.
Operating as a plug-in for Lightroom, Aperture, or as a stand-alone workspace, Perfect Layers from onOne Software distills down and codifies the often-complex task of working in Layers to a fairly simple task, offering various Blend modes, composite shortcuts and tools that might otherwise pose a steep learning curve. You can use numerous source files, including Raw, TIFF, and JPEG formats, and scale and move the various layers as required. In short, Perfect Layers poses an effective tool for those who have wanted to work in Layers out of Aperture and Lightroom and opens up new doors to image creation.
The onOne workspace contains toolbars on the left and modifications and working options on the right, #1. Once you have selected an image or images from an organizer such as the Library in Lightroom, they load as separate Layers in the center screen. You choose the images to be used by selecting them from the Library or Browser, then going to File>Plug-In Extras>Perfect Layers. Here’s the selection process shown in Lightroom 3, #2.