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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Compendium 2008

High-tech tools to help you get the best images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

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onOne Software
Nik Silver Efex Pro
Travel Tripod. We all know that using a tripod is an important way to get sharper pictures. But when you really need to travel light, such as on a short business trip, that tripod isn’t something you can pack in a carry-on. The Gitzo Traveler Titanium tripod is an exceptional unit with amazing rigidity in an extremely small package (titanium.gitzo.com). It folds to a mere 16 inches and weighs about two pounds. This is a blow to all airlines that want to charge more for baggage! When I pull this out, I’ve had photographers laugh at me because it seems so small. Yet I’ve shot with this little tripod all over the country with excellent results, which never would have been possible without a tripod. Sometimes I have to travel quickly and light, and this tripod is perfect for that.

Software. This past year has seen the introduction of a number of software programs that are useful for photographers. I’ve always liked Nik Software’s approach to software, which makes it photographer-friendly and effective (www.niksoftware.com). Dfine noise-reduction software is absolutely great for dealing with noise. In addition, I’m impressed with Silver Efex Pro for black-and-white photography—it offers the possibility of the most flexibility and control in working with black-and-white images that I’ve seen. Viveza, a nifty plug-in for Photoshop and similar programs, allows you to easily limit adjustments to only what needs adjusting without using layer masks.

A cool way of dealing with sharpness is to use a tilt-shift lens to limit the sharpness in a scene in a unique and high-impact way, but not all of us have such lenses. onOne Software developed an effective way of controlling sharp and out-of-focus areas in a photo with FocalPoint (www.ononesoftware.com). This is a fun program to play with—you can shift the sharp and soft parts of a photo all over for some great, high-impact results (but you must have a sharp photo to begin with).

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Kingston DataTraveler HyperX
Finally, HDR is gaining more and more interest among major photographers, and for good reason; it finally allows us to capture an image as we see the real world. I discussed it in “HDR For The Landscape” (OP, August 2008). Since then I’ve found some new software. Essential HDR works easier and faster than Photomatix, plus I find it gives more natural colors and tonalities (www.imagingluminary.com). LR/Enfuse gives HDR possibilities directly from Lightroom, so I like its workflow (www.timothyarmes.com; go to the Me To You section, then Photographer tools). LR/Enfuse is a bit of a pain to install, but it works well.

Rob Sheppard’s latest book is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers Only. Visit his blog at www.photodigitary.com.

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