Buyer's Guide 2009: Software Plug-Ins
Extend the power of your photo processor with these smart apps
Tiffen Dfx 2
For many of today's digital photographers, the importation of the image into the editing application is just the beginning of the process. The digital darkroom provides us with the raw materials needed to release the full potential of our imaginations. Tiffen's Dfx v2 offers photographers many classic and new visual filters and effects to not only correct color or enhance contrast, but to completely transform images in a way that once was only possible using filters and advanced darkroom techniques.
Offering more than 100 individual filters, with over 2,000 filter and special-effects presets, the Dfx v2 plug-ins, available for either Photoshop or Aperture, allow you to apply simulations of Tiffen's optical filters, as well as specialized effects, such as film grain. Digital effects of custom photo-lab processes developed for use in several major motion pictures, all in either 8- or 16-bit, also are standard. Apply changes globally or, with one of seven easy-to-use masking features within the plug-in, isolate changes to any portions of the image—a Dfx exclusive. Layer multiple filters, special effects and masks to create your own unique look to an image. Digitally adjust color, luminance and more by zone to an image!
One of its greatest strengths includes filters and effects based on traditional tools, allowing the photographer to take advantage of analog "looks," but within a digital workflow. Photoshop and Aperture compatible. List Price: $99.
Alien Skin Software Exposure 2
There can be a certain uniformity to the look of digital photographs that can rankle those who remember the diversity of film emulsions that was once in our toolbox. Those differences of color, grain and contrast can be found in Alien Skin Software's Exposure 2, which provides simulations of film emulsions including TRI-X, Velvia, Agfachrome and other films that haven't been commercially available for decades.
The plug-in does more than just offer a tool for nostalgia. It provides the means to enjoy the diversity of color, contrast and grain that was once at the fingertips of film photographers. Whether it's cross-processing, infrared or black-and-white conversions, this plug-in provides the means to get not only amazing simulations, but also the flexibility to refine those simulations to your own individual taste using simple-to-use controls for fine-tuning.
The interface includes a large filter window that allows you to see the effect of your film choice and your changes easily and clearly. This makes the ability to create and save your own custom user settings easy. List Price: $249.
DxO Optics Pro 5
The choice of what software to use when importing images into the computer often revolves around concerns about obtaining the best color and greatest amount of detail from your original file. Increasingly, however, it's also important that the unique characteristics of the lenses that you're using are considered, as well. That's one of the strengths of DxO Optics Pro version 5.
This plug-in uses measured data from actual cameras and lenses to provide amazingly precise corrections for not only color and contrast, but also optical distortions. Issues such as vignetting and color fringing are remedied using solutions specifically tailored for individual lenses and cameras, resulting in exceptional control and accuracy. Whether adjustments are being made to single or multiple images, the elimination or removal of camera noise, lens softness or distortion is made while maintaining optimal exposure and dynamic range. Its advanced database of camera-specific information enables batch processing that delivers consistent results, saving both time and effort. List Price: $169.
The choice of what the photographer chooses to render sharp and what to leave out of focus always has been a major part of successful image making. Though often controlled only by lens selection and aperture, onOne FocalPoint provides the additional ability for digital photographers to emply focus control usually enjoyed only by photographers using a large-format film camera.
More than just another soft-focus filter, this plug-in allows you to achieve realistic depth of field while also controlling the plane of focus. This provides you with the ability to simulate the look achieved by using the swing-and-tilt feature of a large-format camera. Plus, you can maintain the sweet spot of your image and its sharpness, while diffusing the surrounding area in a natural-looking way. The software also allows you to create vignettes around the corners and edges of your images. This delivers a classic look for portraiture and lets you direct the viewer to the most important part of your image. List Price: $159.