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Friday, June 1, 2007

Gadget Bag: Get Plugged In!

Ten must-have Photoshop add-ons for nature photographers

Alien Skin BlowUpAlien Skin Software has been producing exciting Photoshop plug-ins for more than 12 years. For those who want to give their digital images the authentic appearance of a specific film type, Alien Skin offers Exposure. Based on the detailed analysis of actual film stock, Exposure allows you to digitally simulate everything from push-processed Tri-X to Velvia. Exposure not only re-creates the film coloration and contrast, it actually reproduces the size, shape and color of the film grain. Exposure performs other editing functions, as well. The list includes a powerful Color to Black and White conversion filter that mimics analog film, a toning filter set (blue, gold, sepia, selenium and sulphide), warming/cooling color filters and more. Estimated Street Price: $199.

Noiseware from ImagenomicAlien Skin BlowUp, as the name suggests, is an advanced image-scaling application that allows you to easily produce perfect 4x (1600% area) enlargements with no loss of quality. Designed to create the highest-quality printed output, BlowUp also provides targeted sharpening algorithms that prevent the loss of contrast along sharp edges, simulated grain texture and support for 16- and 32-bit images. One distinctive feature that separates BlowUp from other scaling software is the way it handles original images. It will resize multilayer images without flattening. It also offers the option to create an enlargement in a new window as a new image, while leaving the original untouched. Estimated Street Price: $199.

If you’ve ever wished you could use your fish-eye lens without hemispheric distortion, Fisheye-Hemi is for you. The effect is amazing; in fact, it almost looks like an illusion. It corrects image perspective, straightens vertical lines and restores the natural appearance of human subjects. There are three separate plug-ins included in Fisheye-Hemi version 1.1, which can be downloaded from the Image Trends Website, and they cover the most common types of fish-eye images, from full frame to bordered circle. Estimated Street Price: $29.

get plugged in!Noiseware from Imagenomic is arguably the most innovative noise-suppression software available to digital photographers. It’s clearly the speed leader—it can clean up an 8-megabyte image file in about four seconds. It also offers the most complete set of tools and manual processing options of any noise-canceling plug-in. But at the same time, it will automatically calibrate a precision noise profile and choose the optimal settings for any individual image—all without a camera profile. DetailGuard, a proprietary feature of Noiseware, defeats one of the major bugaboos associated with noise-canceling applications: It preserves image details from excessive alteration. Meanwhile, the IntelliProfile expert system employs Artificial Intelligence methods to analyze and recognize noise patterns and to enable effective noise detection. It’s a self-learning system that builds a knowledge base as it mature—sophisticated stuff, but still affordable. Estimated Street Price: $79.

Optipix 3.1 from Reindeer GraphicsWe first encountered Digital GEM when it initially appeared as a topnotch image-enhancing firmware application embedded in film scanners as part of Digital Ice Cubed (ICE3). GEM is an acronym for Grain Equalization and Management, and it does what its name implies: It provides an easy and effective way to reduce grain and noise. Performance hasn’t changed much since its original incarnation—it still deserves must-have status and a special place in our filter drop-down menu. One of the best features of GEM Pro is a Clarity slider that delivers a useful soft-focus effect on one end and sharpening effects akin to an Unsharp Mask on the other. Estimated Street Price: $99.

Ever hear of Optipix 3.1 from Reindeer Graphics? If not, you certainly will. This suite of image-improvement plug-ins covers the gamut, from contrast management (including a Zone System approach) through sharpening and artifact-removing tools all the way up to the innovative Blend Exposure (two images are blended to improve contrast accuracy). The Refocus plug-in allows you to dissolve sofness without introducing sharpening artifacts, and the JPEG Cleaner is a champ at removing JPEG jaggies. Estimated Street Price: $119.


Alien Skin

Digital Film Tools

Digital GEM (Kodak)


Image Trends

Nik Software

Reindeer Graphics




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