Author: Rod Lawton

Silver Efex Pro 2

Originally developed by Nik Software and sold separately, this is now part of Google’s Nik Collection, following Google’s buy-out of the company. It’s a black and white conversion, enhancement and effects plug-in that replicates the look of traditional silver halide films and darkroom processes with uncanny accuracy and real power. There are many black and white tools on the market, and many ways to turn black and white into colour in conventional image-editors, but in my opinion (as an ex darkroom worker), nothing comes close to Silver Efex Pro 2. Like other Nik plug-ins, it’s based around presets and manual controls. Presets are displayed on the left of the screen, and they offer live previews using your own currently-loaded image. You simply click on the preset you like the look of and the effect is applied. But each effect consists of a whole series of separate adjustments, all of which are revealed in the tools panel on the right of the screen, and this is where the software’s real power and control becomes apparent. The tonal controls are highly sophisticated, going far beyond simple brightness and contrast adjustments to include ‘dynamic’ brightness control, ‘soft contrast’ and ‘amplify blacks’ and ‘amplify whites’ sliders. There’s also a ‘structure’ control to add localised contrast and give images the kind of ‘punch’ associated with black and white film. That’s just the start. You...

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Perfect Photo Suite 7.5

This is a collection of plug-ins from OnOne Software, and of all the programs I feature on Life after Photoshop, this is the one I know least well. I want to include it, though, because it offers an important alternative to Photoshop for those who use Aperture and Lightroom. The key to this is the Perfect Layers 3 component. You can use this to combine and blend separate images, which is one of the few things you can’t do in Aperture and Lightroom. It’s backed up by a Perfect Mask component designed to offer powerful selection and masking tools for creating cutouts and blending layers. There are other useful components in this suite: Focal Point 2 offers extensive blur control tools for deliberate defocusing, shallow depth of field and tilt-shift effects. You’ll find tutorials for this and Perfect Layers on this site. You also get Perfect Effects 4, which is a large collection of special effects, film ‘looks’ and digital versions of favourite darkroom processes. These can be layered and combined in quite sophisticated ways. It’s similar to Nik (Google) Color Efex Pro 4 in this respect, though I don’t like Perfect Effects 4 as much myself because I find it more difficult to use and the effects somewhat cruder. I might warm to it in time, though. Perfect B&W is an alternative to Nik (Google) Silver Efex Pro...

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Color Efex Pro 4

Color Efex Pro 4 is a image-effects plug-in for Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom and Aperture. It was originally published by Nik Software as a standalone plug-in, but now that Nik has been bought out by Google, it’s being sold as part of the Google Nik Collection, a suite which contains all of Nik’s plug-ins at a much-reduced price. Color Efex Pro doesn’t just offer one effect but a whole multitude, accessed via a list on the left-hand side, and each effect comes with one-click presets which can preview the results on the current image and give you an instant grasp of how your images can look with different treatments. Each effect also has its own adjustment tools, displayed in a panel on the right. Some have relatively few adjustments, but some are extremely powerful. What makes this plug-in special, apart from the range and quality of the effects, is the way these can now be ‘stacked’. You can combine effects in different ways and save them as new, user-defined ‘recipes’. Color Efex Pro 4 also use’s Nik’s clever ‘control point’ system, where you can make adjustments to specific areas of the image using auto-masking technology that only selects similar tones to those under the control point. With these, you can remove effects from specific areas or paint them in so that they only apply to localised areas. Its such a...

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Capture One Pro 7

Capture One Pro comes from Danish company Phase One, which specialises in professional medium-format digital cameras, and Capture One started out as the ‘tethering’ software used to control these cameras in studio environments and import images directly into the computer. But the rise in digital SLR usage has produced a shift in Capture One’s functions. It’s been able to open and process D-SLR RAW files for some time, and its image enhancement tools have been developed along the way. In fact it has built up a reputation amongst professionals for the sheer quality of its RAW conversions. Version 7 brings the biggest changes yet, though, and it’s now a direct rival to Adobe Lightroom and, indeed, Apple Aperture. The key changes are the introduction of a library-based cataloguing system which allows you to manage your whole image collection with a single database. Just like Lightroom and Aperture, Capture One Pro can also create collections (albums) and smart collections (which use database style search criteria to find matching images automatically). Capture One now has automatic lens correction profiles too, which puts it one step ahead of Aperture and hot on the heels of Lightroom. Capture One can’t quite match the range of lenses supported by Lightroom, but at its current pace of development, it surely can’t be long. Capture One Pro is particularly strong on editing adjustments. These are fully...

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How to add a watermark to your pictures automatically in Aperture

If you want to show your pictures online, it makes sense to add a visible watermark. It’s not just to stop people pinching your pictures and passing them off as your own because there’s another serious point – by the time it’s been re-posted, re-tweeted, re-pinned and re-blogged a dozen times, any indication of who actually took the picture can easily be lost. If somebody wants to credit you as the photographer (it does happen!) or get in touch to offer you work (that can happen too!), how else are they going to know who to contact? But it’s...

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