Helping People See The World; The Empire Strikes Back
"Photography is a major force in explaining man to man."--Edward Steichen
Here's a less benign quote about photography from Sean Penn: "I still think photographers should be lashed out at." The ex-Mr. Madonna goes on to say, "They should be put in a cage where you can poke them with a stick for a quarter. But not in a hostile way, just for giggles. They really are on the attack against mankind; it's a disease." Wow, that makes me feel kind of slimy. I've never met Mr. Penn but it doesn't encourage polite dialog to include us in the same group as paparazzi, who are a distinct, and some might say poisonous subspecies of the genus photographerus. Sean, Sean, Sean, paparazzi are not photographers. We need to do lunch and talk about aperture settings and how much good photographers do for the world. William Henry Jackson's photographs of the American West inspired creation of the National Park System and do you think anybody would care about the plight of baby seals without seeing photographs of the cute critters? In other tabloid headlines: "Britney Spears Appears to Hit Paparazzo." At least they got it right. Fortunately, not all movie stars hate photographers as can be seen in the accompanying photo.
Plug-In Of The Year?
onOne Software's (www.ononesoftware.com) PhotoTools and PhotoTools Professional are plug-ins that harness the power of Photoshop Actions to provide a wide range of effects, corrections, and automation wrapped around a full-featured interface that reproduces Jack Davis and Kevin Kubota signature techniques. The standard and Professional Edition faithfully reproduce camera filters like neutral density, color correction, polarization, as well as darkroom and alternative processes like solarization, cyanotype, and palladium printing. PhotoTools even includes a few cinema looks from the movies. You can preview effects in big before and after windows, stack effects on top of one other, and control the order of each effect and how they blend together.
Once you've created an effect, you can use PhotoTools' batch processing engine to apply that particular look to a folder of images and process the files using multiple output formats with different sizes, color spaces, and names. PhotoTools includes more than 150 effects, corrections, and styles designed with Jack Davis and costs $159.95. The Professional Edition ($259.95) features another 100 effects from Jack Davis and Kevin Kubota. It may be too early to name PhotoTools as "Plug-in of the Year" but onOne Software's product looks difficult to beat.
PicWash (www.picwash.com) is an online portrait retouching service that should be cost effective if the company's claims of an average professional retouching fee of $50 are realistic for your area. PicWash offers touch-up services for as little as $7 per photo and is not automated because "real humans" do the touch-ups, including reducing facial shine, removing skin blemishes, optimizing complexion and adding glow, eliminating redeye, whitening teeth, and reducing wrinkles, all while tweaking the picture's overall luminosity. The finished PicWashed photos are e-mailed back in 48 hours or less.
I was skeptical. Not because it doesn't appear to be a good service but because the purchase of retouching software--and doing it yourself--would quickly justify its cost based on PicWash's rates. I sent in a few portraits to see what PicWash could do and was impressed. One portrait from a recent trip to Puerto Rico was warmer than I would have preferred and for some reason their retoucher removed windblown hairs that I would have left in. I would also have done more retouching around the eyes than PicWash. To be fair I could have paid $10 and selected PicWash's "with notes" option, but to tell the truth I could not have anticipated these retouching decisions. On the other hand, all of the other portraits I sent were perfect. It's worth $7 to give it a try and see for yourself because the one thing PicWash really does is save time.
Alien Skin Software's (www.alienskin.com) Image Doctor 2 is a new version of its Photoshop compatible plug-in for photo restoration, retouching, and repair. Image Doctor's five filters comprise a useful toolset for photo restoration, JPEG compression repair, smart object removal, blemish concealment, and skin softening in a relatively affordable ($199) package. The five filters in Image Doctor 2 include Dust and Scratch Remover, JPEG Repair, Blemish Concealer, Skin Softener, and Smart Fill. Together they let you restore rips, scratches, and dust in scans of old photos; repair overly compressed and blocky JPEG images; remove unwanted objects from pictures with a seamless recreation of the background; and retouch and soften skin areas by removing moles, birthmarks, scars, wrinkles, tattoos (does Miami Ink know about this?), or splotchy skin patches. Image Doctor 2 has an upgrade price of $99 for registered users.
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