Home Buyer's Guide Software 2010
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Specialized Software

Put these programs to work to make your digital photography more effective and fun

Labels: Plug-InsSoftware

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Software plug-ins and specialty software can make your life easier as a digital photographer. Sure, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Aperture and other programs are very powerful and let you do a lot with your digital photos. But there are some things they simply don’t do well, or even at all, that can be important for your images.

Specialty software can expand your photo possibilities, including making digital photography more fun. Plug-ins can make your life at the computer easier, more efficient and more effective for the time you spend there—and that can be valuable for anyone working with digital images.

By plug-ins, we’re referring to software that fits inside a host program and helps it do something different, better or both. They’re often referred to as Photoshop plug-ins, but they usually work in Photoshop Elements and other image-processing software. By special-purpose software, we’re referring to software that does unique or specialized effects with images, such as HDR (high-dynamic-range) image work or noise reduction. This software is often of the stand-alone type, meaning it works independently of any other software, but some specialty software can be used as a plug-in, too.

The advantage of a plug-in over a stand-alone program is that it can fit into your workflow quite easily without any effort on your part. The advantage of standalone software is that it can always be used—you never need a host program to run it.


Imagenomic Noiseware

Nik Software Dfine 2.0
One of the most common needs for image processing is to reduce the impact of noise. No matter what you do, sooner or later, you’ll run into noise challenges. Noise-reduction software uses special algorithms to help discern the difference between noise and other details. It comes in both stand-alone and plug-in programs.

Imagenomic’s Noiseware is a powerful noise-reduction program that works extremely fast and can take advantage of dual-processor computers. It includes DetailGuard to protect important image detail that can be confused with noise by other programs. List Price: $49 (Standard); $69 (Pro).

Nik Software Dfine 2.0 includes a photographer-friendly interface that allows you to control where noise reduction is applied based on color. Often certain colors have more noise than others, so you can target those areas without harming other parts of the photo. Select areas for control both automatically and manually. List Price: $79.

HDR (high-dynamic-range) photography allows photographers to capture a very large range of tones from a scene, brightness levels far beyond the capabilities of any camera. It ranges from natural-looking images that give a truer interpretation of many scenes than the camera can do alone to stylized, “artsy” images that have little relation to reality.

HDRsoft Photomatix

Imaging Luminary Essential HDR
HDRsoft Photomatix is the de facto father of this type of software. It is why many photographers first got excited by HDR images. It creates an HDR image file that’s then tone-mapped so that it can be displayed properly and used. It’s commonly used for both extreme stylization and more normal-looking photography. List Price: From $79.

Imaging Luminary Essential HDR is a more recent entry into HDR work. It has a very easy-to-use interface that works well for natural-looking images. The Detail Revealer tone-mapping engine looks at each pixel of your multiple shots in order to produce a high-quality final image. List Price: $69.


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