Favorite Plug-Ins

quick fixPhotoshop and Photoshop Elements, in addition to other digital image-editing programs, offer photographers many filters and adjustments to expand their creative horizons. The creative process can be enhanced further by using plug-ins.

In Photoshop, plug-ins usually show up at the bottom of the Filter menu. However, you may find the loaded plug-in in the Automate menu (File > Automate), as is the case with onOne Software’s PhotoTools (more on this plug-in shortly), or even in the Save As menu, as is the case with Genuine Fractals (used to upsize an image without losing detail).

quickfix In this column, I’d like to share a few of my favorite creative plug-ins, which I used to enhance some images that I took during Carnevale 2008 in Venice, Italy.

quick fix Here’s the original image of one of the Carnevale participants (above), and the results of applying the Dreamy Photo effect in DREAMSUITE SERIES TWO Two from Auto FX Software (www.autofx.com). With this plug-in, you have control over blur, ghosting, tint and color, to name a few creative options. I like the straight shot, but the plug-in creates a dreamy, ethereal effect.

In Photoshop, an image is really never finished. That’s especially true when working with plug-ins. In the following sequence, I’ve added two more plug-in effects to the opening image.

quick fixFLAMING PEAR (www.flamingpear.com) offers dozens of plug-ins, some as free trials on their website. Melancholytron, one of my favorites, further enhanced my ghostly image by changing the focus and adding a nice color to the image. With many plug-ins, including this one, there are a variety of creative choices that let you customize your image.

quick fixPHOTOFRAME 3.1 from onOne Software (www.ononesoftware.com). To dress up my image, I applied one of the Brush frames in PhotoFrame 3.1. If you take into consideration all the options for selecting a frame and changing the background, border, frame and texture, you’d have thousands of digital frames from which to choose.


Above, Left This is one of my favorite shots from Carnevale. I like the mysterious look of the participants. However, I wanted to make the photograph look even more mysterious. Above, Right Compare my Midnight filter image to my straight image. Which one looks more creative—and mysterious—to you?

COLOR EFEX PRO 3 from Nik Software (www.niksoftware.com) includes the cool Midnight effect. As with other Color Efex Pro 3 filters, you have several options to create your own version of the effect, in this case, blur, contrast, brightness and color. You also have control over shadows and highlights. What’s more, you can choose to see the before and after effects. The filters are divided into two categories-traditional and stylizing, both of which let you create one-of-a-kind images.

EXPOSURE from Alien Skin (www.alienskin.com). Although I shoot all my pictures in color (as opposed to using the black-and-white setting in the camera’s Parameter menu), I sometimes like to make black-and-white images in the digital darkroom. With Exposure, you can choose between different types of black-and-white film effects (from clean to grainy) and then control the contrast, curves, shadows, highlights and so on. What more could you (or Ansel Adams if he were alive) hope for? By the way, Ansel Adams, toward the end of his life, realized the potential of digital image processing and even wrote about it in one of his books.

quick fixPHOTOTOOLS from onOne Software (www.ononesoftware.com) includes the Davis Wow Tint-Muted Blue+Lite Edges effect. By using it, I was able to create an interesting effect, removing the true colors of the image and subduing them with a cool blue tone, reminiscent of darkroom toning. Dozens of effects are available in this feature-packed plug-in, including before-and-after views and fine-tuning of many of the filters.

The next time you feel a creative block with your photography, try using a plug-in-and plug some creativity into your thinking cap. You can find more plug-ins at www.pcphotomag.com or by doing a web search: Photoshop plug-ins.

Rick Sammon has published 27 books. In 2008, he’ll publish three more books: Face to Face-The Art of Photographing People; Exploring the Light-How to Make the Very Best In-Camera Image; and Rick Sammon’s Pocket Guide for Taking Travel and Nature Pictures. Each year Sammon teaches dozens of workshops and gives seminars, covering shooting, scanning, saving, enhancing, sharing and printing. Visit his website for more information, www.ricksammon.com.

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