Mac photo-editing software specialised MacPhun has announced a free photo effects kit for Apple Photos users – though it can also be used as a standalone app by anyone with a Mac. You add it to Apple Photos from the Extensions menu on the Edit screen, and from there on it’s listed as one of your available Extensions.

The software installs with 15 filter effects pre-loaded, and you’re then prompted to sign up for a MacPhun email newsletter to get 15 more, which is what I did with my copy.

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The screen layout and filters look a lot like those in MacPhun’s FX Photo Studio CK, though in a more cut-down form. The controls are pretty simple – just one or two sliders for Contrast and Brightness, Saturation, Amount, or whatever else is relevant to that particular effect. But there’s also a Mask button, and in this mode you can paint in the effect, or remove it, in specific areas of the picture using simple brush and eraser tools. You can control the brush size and opacity, though a bigger brush size than 200 pixels would be handy.

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You can even ‘stack’ effects after a fashion, by applying one and then applying another, though this doesn’t seem to work if you’ve used a mask. Never mind, though, because there’s a nice selection of filter effects here, and while the controls are simple it doesn’t take long to figure out that you can still do quite a lot with your photos.

MacPhun is pitching this as a much more powerful – and free – set of alternatives to Apple Photos’ 8 built-in filters. It’s not quite the same thing, since Apple’s filters are non-destructive and can be removed or replaced without generating additional image files, but that’s a minor point because Filters for Apple Photos does offer some much more exciting and varied effects. I can see this being very popular with casual snappers who want to give their pictures a really different look, and even though Apple Photos will apparently replace your original photo, the original is still there and you can revert to it at any time.

You can visit the MacPhun website to download Free Filters for Apple Photos. Remember, it also works as a standalone app, so you don’t have to be using Apple Photos.