Alien Skin Exposure 4

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To me, one of the most unexpected byproducts of digital photography is that it has rekindled tremendous interest in film processes of one kind or another. Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 plug-in for Photoshop lets you explore all sorts of film processes without ever having to soak your hands in noxious chemicals. I recently spent some time with the latest version, and was pleased to find that it remains an excellent option for users who want either a specific traditional film look, or any kind of analog, or grunge process. You can read my entire review here.

nik Silver EFex Pro 2.0

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There are lots of ways to convert color images to black and white. In Photoshop, you can use a grayscale mode change, or convert the image to L*A*B color and then extract the Luminance channel. Or, you can pull a single RGB channel, drain the saturation out of an image or use Photoshop’s excellent Black and White conversion tool. The list goes on and on, but in my opinion, the best way to perform black and white conversion (more accurately called grayscale conversion is with nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, a plug-in for Photoshop, Aperture, and Lightroom.

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Alien Skin Exposure 3

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A photographer friend recently sent me this extraordinary collection of color images shot during the Depression. One of the things that’s fascinating about looking at them is that we simply are not accustomed to this subject matter being in color. It’s a fine example of McCluhan’s “medium is the message” idea. Your choices of black and white or color, grungy or sharp, saturated or muted – all of these have a huge impact on the reaction the viewer will have. For film photographers, many of these decisions are determined by film choice, and the ability to choose specific films to achieve a particular look or feel is one of the great advantages of film shooting. Alien Skin Exposure, a sophisticated film-simulating Photoshop plug-in, gives this same power to digital photographers.

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Alien Skin Bokeh

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Shallow depth of field is one of the most important tools in any photographer’s arsenal. Depth of field is the measure of how much of your image is in focus, and shooting with shallow depth of field provides you with another way to bring focus to your subject. The ability to shoot with shallow depth of field is especially useful for portrait and sports shooters. However, achieving shallow depth of field requires a fast lens (that is, a lens that can open to a wide aperture) and you may not always have such a lens with your. Or, you might simply not realize at the time you’re shooting that a shallow depth of field is what the image needs. For those times when you need to remove depth of field from an image, Alien Skin has a Photoshop plug-in that can help.

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Better Skin Tones with Portraiture 2.0

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A signficant part of the visual processing part of the human brain is devoted to face recognition. As such, we’re extremely sensitive to slight changes in skin color – a blush that might show embarrassment, for example – and texture. In addition to good lighting, one of the best ways to make portraits appear more attractive is to do a little work on your subject’s skin, not just to hide blemishes and possibly reduce wrinkles, but to soften and smooth skin texture in general. Imagenomic’s Portraiture 2.0 plug-in is an excellent one-stop tool for performing sophisticated skin corrections.

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Viveza – A Unique Plug-in For Photoshop and Aperture

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Viveza

Users of Nikon’s Capture NX are already familiar with the incredible image editing power provided by that program’s uPoint technology. However, if your workflow is Photoshop- or Aperture-based, then you may be hesitant to invest in yet another image editor. Fortunately, Nik Software, the co-developers of Capture NX, have taken their uPoint technology and rolled it into plug-in form, so that you can use these powerful tools from within Photoshop or Aperture. The result is Viveza.

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Imagenomic Real Grain and Alien Skin Exposure

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Adding film grain

Experienced film photographers have a broad knowledge of the exposure and grain characteristics of many different types of film. This knowledge effectively becomes yet another creative variable that they can alter when approaching a subject. By choosing one film over another, they can opt for particular imaging characteristics. If you come from a strong film background, or simply want some new "looks" for your digital photos, then you’ll want to consider two products that provide push-button solutions for simulating the look of various typs of color and black and white film.

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PhotoTune’s SkinTune 2.0

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SkinTune

These days, most of the color correction tools that you’ll find in a typical image editing package are fairly easy to use. However, that doesn’t mean that accurately correcting a color is necessarily easy. Recognizing the correct hue for a particular subject can be very difficult, and few subjects are trickier to correct than human faces. Becuase our eyes are so sensitive to facial recognition, and because even subtle changes in flesh tone can have big emotional impacts, correcting skin tones is one of the most difficult tasks you’ll face as a digital photorapher. That’s why PhotoTune Software created SkinTune, an $80 Photoshop plug-in designed specifically for correcting skin tones.

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Framing the Issue

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No matter how good a job you’ve done shooting and editing an image, some images just need a little more. A digitally-applied frame or edge is often the finishing touch that turns an image that’s lacking something, into a completed work. Currently, there are several software framing packages available for both the Mac and Windows.

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AutoFX DreamSuite Series 1

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To give your images a "hands-on" look, try DreamSuite Series One, a Photoshop-compatible plug-in and standalone application that lets you crease, crumple, and crackle digital images. The effects are impressive, but you’ll need a robust computer to tap into the program’s power.

Check out Ben Long’s review at CreativePro.