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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faster And Easier Image Processing

Software plug-ins make computer work more efficient for nature photographers

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Nik Silver Efex Pro
Nik Software
Nik plug-ins have always been closely aligned with photographers’ needs, especially nature photographers. I first used early versions of Color Efex, and although the program always included some “special-effects” filters, it includes adjustment tools that I find invaluable for nature work. Contrast Color Range, for example, is almost worth the price of the whole program alone. Imagine having the ability to put a filter on your camera that would let you selectively brighten or darken colors just like the black-and-white photographers used to do with their filters. Contrast Color Range allows you to do just that.

Color Efex Pro 3.0 has lots of other controls, such as the Graduated Filters. While such controls can be done in Photoshop, this is easier, faster and with more flexibility for the average photographer. Foliage is a life-saver with many digital cameras. Some digital cameras don’t always capture all colors equally, such as making greens look too yellow, for example. Foliage finds only the greens in the photo and helps you fix them easily.

Nik Dfine 2.0
No matter what camera you use, sooner or later you’ll have issues with noise. If you have a smaller-format sensor, such as the APS-C or Four Thirds systems, if you have more megapixels, if you often shoot with high ISO or if you sometimes push exposure so that you get underexposure, you’ll see noise in your pictures. No general imaging software really does a good job with noise. Dfine does. Noise is basically fine detail. Dfine 2.0 works hard to reduce noise without damaging fine detail in your photo, it’s easy to use, and it offers controls to restrict noise reduction to specific colors and tones in a photograph. I wouldn’t be without it.

If you’re interested in black-and-white photography, check out Silver Efex Pro. While you easily can do some very good black-and-white work in a variety of programs, none compares to the flexibility of Silver Efex Pro. Its controls offer an easy-to-use interface that will work for black-and-white beginners, yet the depth of the controls offers the advanced user quickly available, high-level controls.

Viveza is an amazing piece of software. It allows you to control specific parts of a photo, such as colors or tonality, without affecting anything else, and without layers or layer masks! The latter is significant. Many photographers are intimidated by those adjustments in Photoshop, even though the benefits of layers and layer masks are great. There’s still somewhat of a learning curve with Viveza, but it’s much easier than layer masks.

How Plug-Ins Work
Photoshop-type plug-ins are software that open inside the host program. Their effects can be applied to works in progress, even applied as layers to a specific image and then used with the final image, as appropriate. You can make changes as much as you want.

Aperture and Lightroom plug-ins work a bit differently. They’re essentially export plug-ins, meaning that they can’t work inside the host program. You do your main work in Lightroom or Aperture and then export the image specifically into this second program, the plug-in. At this point, you’re working on a new file based on your work in the main program, gaining the benefits of the unique tools of the plug-in, but you can’t make changes to the original image.


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