Hidden Treasures In Imaging Software
I try to have fun with digital images
every day. This usually involves manipulating a few images then making
prints using different kinds of papers on whatever printer I'm currently
testing. Right now, that's an Epson Stylus Photo 1270 whose new inks
and Lightfast paper will produce a print with a life of up to 24 years
The output of this printer is impressive but no more than a hidden collection
of Photoshop Actions I found while playing with some image files from
a recent model shoot.
I recently discovered 14 actions called
Image Effects while poking around the Windows version of Photoshop. After
installation, the actions appear as a set of yellow buttons with descriptive
names that accomplish pretty much what the label says. One exception is
Soft Edge Glow which creates an effect on portraits that approximates
a Zeiss Softar filter better than any plug-in or software product I've
tried. The Soft Focus Action, on the other hand, produces an effect similar
to a traditional soft focus filter. Two "weather" effects--Blizzard and
Light Rain--produce results that you can use to create your own bad weather
images (see Shutterbug June, 2000, page 92). Although I didn't care for
Lizard Skin or Neon Nights, I may just need to find an appropriate image
for them to effectively work. My favorites are the ones that combine black
and white with color effects. Image Effects includes two Sepia Actions
that work well, but three others are designed to fade part of a color
photograph into black and white. They are the Colorful Center, Horizontal
Color Fade, and Vertical Color Fade. The Soft Posterization and Soft Pastel
Actions produce the kind of dreamy images--if you start with the right
photograph--seen in some of Robert Farber's fashion work and images of
Black And White Ink Jet Printing.
Cone Edition's PiezographyBW is a simplified approach to QuadBlack (printing
with four different shades of black ink) output. The package includes
a set of fade-resistant pigment based QuadBlack inks and a Photoshop compatible
Export plug-in for the Epson 3000 printer. Everything you need is included
in one easy to use package that installs in seconds. The software works
from Adobe Photoshop but there are no curves or transfer functions to
worry about. Your image file remains in gray scale mode and the output
contains no crossover dots of darker ink in the lighter tones. The software
contains a built-in paper/profile selector, but manual overrides are provided
for those who love to experiment.
Scan This. Agfa recently announced two new flat-bed scanners. The SnapScan e40 is the first in the company's new "e" series that are designed for electronic communications. It features 42-bit color depth and an optical resolution of 2400x1200. The maximum scanning area is 8.5x11.7" and its USB connectivity is compatible with Mac OS and Windows computers. Agfa's ScanWise software is part of this package and automatically formats scanned images for e-mail, word processing, text conversion, web pages, or image manipulation programs. Agfa has integrated its ColorTune color management software and PhotoGenie image enhancement into the ScanWise software. Those of us who like a touch of fashion in their peripherals will enjoy the interchangeable handles that are provided in translucent orange, blue, or graphite. Users can change the scanner trim colors based on their personal taste or to match their computer. The SnapScan e40 has a suggested price of $169. The SnapScan e50 has all of the features of the e40 but has a built-in transparency adapter and four programmable buttons--ala Agfa's SnapScan Touch--for greater ease of use. It has a suggested price of $199. For more information about Agfa's "e" series and their other flat-bed scanners, visit the company's web site at: www.agfahome.com.
Monitor This. The availability of flat panel LCD monitors have enabled designers to create monitors that are a far cry from the clunky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) models of the soon-to-be-distant past. Sometimes this design can take a whimsical turn, such as the Shelby Cobra PC that's designed to look like Carroll Shelby's fabulous sports car (www.shelbypc.com) or more practically the gray (they call it "silver") Samsung SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT. Once you get past the inelegant name, you'll see the first 15" flat panel monitor to offer image downscaling capabilities. Using the Windows-only software that's provided, you can downscale to large screen (1280x1024) resolution, and have continuous zoom--up to 64x--allowing you to zoom and pan across any part of an image that you might be retouching. For you techies who want to know specifications, the monitor has a .297mm dot pit and a refresh rate of 85Hz. For those of you who could care less about numbers, the monitor looks and works great. This Samsung is a true 15" TFT (Thin Film Transistor) monitor whose usable screen area is only slightly smaller than the 17" monitor it replaces. The base of SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT pivots allowing you to view the screen in traditional landscape (horizontal) mode or vertically in portrait mode. This monitor also has a direct hook-up to DVD players, camcorders, and VCRs that combined with Picture In Picture viewing lets you work on your Quicken budget while stealing a glance at Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT has a retail price of $1139. For more information about Samsung's monitors including their short-neck 19" CRT that occupies the same desktop space as a 15" model, visit their web site at: www.samsungmonitor.com.
Clever Content. In my
PMA 2000 report I mentioned a company called Alchemedia that offers online
copyright protection for images via its PixSafe product that is designed
for corporations or stock photo libraries. While the company works to
bring this technology to individual photographers, they've established
a free web site at: www.clevercontent.com which allows pixographers to
post a limited number of protected images. The only problem has been that
the Clever Content image viewer needed for people to view these protected
images was only available for Windows computers. Recently, Alchemedia
announced that the Macintosh version of the Viewer was available. This
technology prevents the copying, printing, or screen capturing of digital
images. Mac users, many of whom work in photography, graphic design or
related fields, will now be able to use the free Clever Content Viewer
to see protected image catalogs. Other products include:
Medium Format Digital Imaging.
Phase One has announced that its LightPhase digital camera back will be
available with an infrared cutoff filter mounted directly on the back.
Like most imaging sensors, the LightPhase also captures a big chunk of
the infrared spectrum. Mounting the filter on the lens has many advantages
including minimizing problems with dust or scratches on the filter. It
also lets you substitute an 87C IR filter, enabling you to create digital
infrared images. The disadvantage is that it drastically reduces the amount
of light in the viewfinder, making it more difficult to precisely focus.
The LightPhase family of digital camera backs is available for the Hasselblad,
Mamiya 645AF, and there is a new model for the Contax 645. Backs with
the IR filter mounted have a suggested retail price of $22,900. For more
information on Phase One digital backs, visit their web site at: www.phase
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