Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 is a major upgrade to an already great product and introduces many new features that offer you even more control over an image’s detail, contrast, and tonality, making it easy to transform color files into stunning black-and-white photographs. Silver Efex Pro 2 now includes controls for Dynamic Brightness, Amplify Blacks, Amplify Whites, Soft Contrast, Fine Structure, Image Borders, Selective Colorization, as well as a History Browser and many speed and quality improvements. All of Silver Efex Pro 2’s new features also play nice with Nik’s U Point technology, giving you selective control over an image instead of globally applying an effect, although that option is available, too.
Mention digital image editing and it’s likely that the first word you’ll hear is Photoshop. It’s become a general term, like Xerox. For many, the full-blown version of Photoshop (currently at CS5) is either overkill, with features that you’ll never need or use, or just too expensive. Adobe realizes this and has produced a more streamlined version for years. This “entry-level” version of Photoshop, named Elements, is priced like a basic editing program, but filled with features you’d expect to pay quite a bit more for. The latest version, Elements 9 has added several new features that photographers have been requesting for years, making this release an even more attractive option, and further blurring the line between CS and Elements features.
There are normally a couple of new features in each release that make upgrading an attractive option for current users, and in this regard Elements 9 adds some interesting items in the sharing area, and a major feature that has been requested for years. Let’s take a look at what is new in Version 9.
We’re all familiar with image-editing software, but we may be a stranger to asset management, that is, organizing and managing your stock photo library so that image files are readily accessible. Bibble 5 Pro’s asset management begins with pooling data from all the images you’ve shot on any given day, occasion, event, trip, or job into individual databases that Bibble defines as “catalogs.” The process also entails assigning keywords and labels, which along with other criteria, can be used to search through all of Bibble’s catalogs, whether the images or the catalogs are stored on your computer’s hard drive or on external drives.
A Shutterbug reader, Tracy Valleau, e-mailed me, suggesting that I take a look at the 24” widescreen Dell UltraSharp U2410 LCD display with 1920x1200 pixel resolution. What makes it suitable for digital photography and professional graphics is its wide color gamut of 96 percent of Adobe RGB and the fact that its white luminance is adjustable from 80.0 to 90.0 CD/m2, both of which provide a high reproduction screen image quality. Its 12-bit internal processing assures a smooth rendition of tones on screen. The screen is in a bezel and stand that is sturdy but light, with an excellent design that’s carefully manufactured. In all respects, this Dell U2410 is quite affordable at a list price of $599, while entirely competitive with more expensive brands favored for a color-managed digital photography workflow.
For those who thought that we here at Shutterbug were inalterably attached to our Macs, the chance to work with a PC, albeit a very fast and upper-price range one at that, was something we did not want to pass up, if only to dispel our own notions about crossing the OS Rubicon. The new HP EliteBook 8540w we worked with came with 8GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, more connection slots than we ever could wish for, a Blu-ray reader/writer, a download card slot for SD memory cards (with adapters available for CF, etc.), microphone, image out slots to a projector, HDMI, and more. As configured the unit runs close to $3100, although we’ve seen lesser-priced units of the same model with more modest attributes. This is close to what you’d pay for a MacBook Pro similarly configured, albeit minus Blu-ray and various slots but plus a larger screen. But our aim was not to put it head to head against the latest MacBook Pro, but to check it out on its own merits. That said, in terms of size and weight it is similar to the 15” Mac in many respects (the HP being 9.9x14.7x1.3” and weighing in at 6.5 lbs with a 15.6” display) so there’s no plus and minus in portability here.
No question about it, the iPad was one of the coolest products launched in 2010, or any other year. The truth of that statement lies in the gazillions of units Apple has sold (over one million a month). But is the iPad a must-have for photographers, or just another tech gizmo?
For serious photographers, the software you choose for a photographic workflow falls into good, better, and best buckets. The “good” bucket includes fairly mundane tools for basic image management, while “better” goes the extra step of providing image correction options and filters. The “best” tools provide tethered-shot features and robust metadata editing functions. At these upper ranks, the best software seems to predict your every move, mostly because the software developers are photo enthusiasts and understand real photographic needs.
Phase One’s Capture One Pro 6 falls into this “best” category. In many ways, it even beats out Adobe Photoshop CS5 in that there seems to be a professional-grade feature under every drop-down menu and in every dialog box. The editing functions pale in comparison to Photoshop, but as we’ve all learned, if you set up the shot perfectly on location you might not need to do a lot of editing later.
For years, anyone serious about photography has viewed Corel Paint Shop Pro (PSP) as the low cost alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Originally developed by a tiny company in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Paint Shop has grown up into a full-featured photo workflow tool with a built-in photo organizer that includes tagging options and fast previewing, an advanced image editor, and handy integration with Flickr and Facebook.
For $70, PaintShop Photo Pro X3 Ultimate is a smart addition to a virtual photo toolbox. A few performance problems and some slightly questionable editing capabilities puts PSP in the uncomfortable position of still being in the tall shadow of Adobe. That said, if you want to skip the $700 purchase price, PSP is on the right track.
Exceptional photographic software reveals its true nature over time. In the case of Photo Mechanic—which is a pro-level image organizing tool from Camera Bits—there are seemingly insignificant features that provide a smooth workflow, especially for photo journalists working with IPTC data.
At first glance you might think that Alien Skin’s Exposure 3 ($249 at www.alienskin.com/store or $99 upgrade from Exposure 1 or 2; a free trial is available on their website as well) is a push-button solution to image manipulation.
Everybody knows the basic concept and conceit of High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging but first let’s get rid of yet another unnecessary acronym. What does HDRI—High Dynamic Range Imaging—add to the discussion other than just another letter?
Whether you’re starting with a portrait, a landscape, a wedding photo, or a still life, it’s easy to use the hundreds of effects in onOne Software’s new PhotoFrame 4.5 (PF 4.5) to enliven your images and give them a distinctive look and unique appeal.
The latest version of Lightroom is coming into full use as more and more plug-ins and export options come into play. This month Jon Canfield takes a look at the essential ingredients; next month we have another opinion about the latest version of Lightroom that takes a different point of view.