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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

Vertus Tech Fluid Mask
Dfx also includes multiple masking and layering capabilities such as its EZ Mask (an exclusive feature), as well as several specialized lens effects (such as Lens Distortion), custom lab processes (such as Cross-Processing, Bleach Bypass and much more), unique film grain effects that look like film grain, plus graduated neutral-density, graduated color filters, color correction and other photographic or Hollywood effects. There are even some specialized effects, such as filters that affect skin tones, as well as Rosco and Gam Light Modifiers or Gobo effects, which allow you to change the look of light on your background (great for studio photographers, but I’m not sure it’s useful for nature photographers).

I especially like the Ozone part of this group of filters. This is based on how Ansel Adams’ Zone System worked, but in this case, it allows you to precisely affect specific tonalities in your photograph, zone by zone, without affecting other tonalities. Ozone does it with simple clicks of the mouse.

Dfx has so many filters that it’s both a great value and a little overwhelming! Use what works for you—you’ll find that even the names are intuitive (Selective Saturation is, as it sounds, good for nature work, while Smoque, not so much).

Fluid Mask
This may seem unusual for nature photography—a plug-in that helps you cut out something from an image. I’m not big on manipulating nature by taking something from one place, cutting it out and putting it into a new location. There are ethical issues, but when there aren’t, this can be hard to do and make it look right.

On occasion, you may need to cut out something to create a “mask,” which Fluid Mask 3 does well, and mostly automatically, too. One situation is when you have a landscape that looks great with one exposure, but the sky is terrible, yet when the sky is exposed properly, the landscape looks bad. That’s an ideal situation for two exposures to better capture the reality of the scene rather than the artificial look given by the unaided camera.

If the edge between sky and landscape is pretty even and consistent, it’s easy to put those two images together in Photoshop. But how often do we get edges that aren’t so good? Or worse, a tree with openings to the sky covering part of that sky? That gets to be nearly impossible to work with.

With Fluid Mask, you can easily select just the sky of even the most problematic landscape scenes. Here’s another example—you have a wonderful flower shot, with great detail, but in order to get that detail, you have too much depth of field. The background has unwanted detail. Yes, you can blur the background, but it can be a monstrous job doing that without causing problems along the edges of the flower. Fluid Mask comes to the rescue for this situation, as well.

Alien Skin (Bokeh, Blow Up 2,
Exposure 2)

Nik Software (Color Efex Pro,
Dfine, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza)

onOne Software (FocalPoint,
PhotoFrame, PhotoTools, PhotoTune)
Tiffen (Dfx Digital Filter Software)

Vertus (Fluid Mask)


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