More than any other brand, you’ll find Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters installed on PCs and Macs in digital photography labs across the country. Available in versions for Photoshop, Aperture and Capture NX 2, Color Efex Pro features U Point technology, which provides powerful, selective control and offers 52 traditional and stylizing filters (a total of 250 effects) that perform precision retouching, color correction and creative enhancements. Unique among photographic filter software, Color Efex Pro 3.0 includes the Selective Tool, which allows you to subjectively brush any filter effect into your image. Layers and masks automatically are created so you can experiment with ease. Color Efex Pro 3.0 is Smart Filter-compatible (Photoshop only), which allows you to adjust images even after effects have been applied. Estimated Street Price: $299 (complete version); smaller versions with fewer filters are available at lower prices.
Before the dawn of digital imaging, most photographers got their start shooting black-and-white film and then later moved to color. As the old saying goes, once they became proficient shooting color, they graduated back to black-and-white. Matching film emulsions, developers, paper and other variables was high art. Today, many serious amateurs and professionals alike have discovered that they can create monochrome masterpieces from their color images by using the right plug-in. Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro gives all of that creative control back to the photographer. It includes an extensive collection of film types and emulates each right down to the grain structure, color sensitivity and tone curve. And it offers 20 different preset conversions that can be selected by clicking a thumbnail. You also can create and save your own custom style. Silver Efex Pro uses powerful U Point technology for a high degree of control over detail and tonality. Silver Efex Pro comes in Aperture and Photoshop flavors and is Smart Filter-compatible with Photoshop. Estimated Street Price: $199.
PictureCode Noise Ninja
Available as a plug-in for Aperture and Photoshop, Noise Ninja by PictureCode cleans up images taken in low-light and fast-action situations by removing the noise and grain caused by shooting at a high ISO. Noise Ninja works by suppressing noise without sacrificing detail, and generally results in two stops of image quality improvement. It’s also a useful tool for minimizing noise when making enlargements from low-ISO images. You can let Noise Ninja work automatically, even with batch processing for multiple images, or use manual noise analysis with camera-specific profiles and a Noise Brush for adjusting only parts of an image. Estimated Street Price: begins at $34.
onOne Software’s Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition provides huge, poster-sized prints, even from small images. Available as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Apple Aperture, the software uses sophisticated algorithms to expand the dimensions of an image up to 1,000 percent without losing details or sharpness. The process is simple, with batch processing of images, texture presets and one-click cropping and resizing to more than 60 preset document sizes. Version 6 includes a new Tiling feature for dividing one image into smaller prints that can be pieced back together into a large print for people who have smaller-format printers. There’s also a Gallery Wrap mode for automatically stretching borders to fill the edges when printing to a gallery wrap. Estimated Street Price: $299.
A comprehensive postprocessing package that offers a seemingly endless assortment of options is Tiffen’s Dfx v2. It contains 110 individual filters and more than 1,000 filter and special-effects presets. Available for either Photoshop or Aperture, Dfx v2 allows you to invoke digital simulations of Tiffen’s optical filters, so you can be assured of consistent, predictable results. New in version 2, filters now can be added as layers, allowing you to add multiple filters to your image, and seven different types of masks can be used to isolate where a filter will be applied. Tiffen also has added several new filters, including Water Droplets (circular, rainbow-colored optical effects like those created by water droplets in the atmosphere), Ice Halos (simulates halos produced by small, airborne ice crystals) and Rainbow (as you might guess, produces an arc of spectral colors—but without the traditional pot of gold at either end). Estimated Street Price: $99.