Buyer's Guide 2008: Software Plug-Ins

DxO Optics Pro v4.5

There are any number of things that can go wrong when you’re trying to make something perfect. Lenses capture images with pincushion or barrel distortions. Low or high shots that may look great on your LCD screen often have unnerving perspectives once you see them. Low light levels can lead to high noise levels.

DxO Optics Pro v4.5 uses camera and lens profiling to automatically correct your images. With auto, guided and expert modes, the plug-in corrects and optimizes image distortion, color, exposure, perspective, vignetting, noise, fringing and lens softness. SmartVibrancy selectively intensifies colors automatically, deepening aesthetic beauty without exaggerating color shift on areas like skin tones. Features and supported cameras vary by package. List Price: $79 (Starter); $169 (Standard); $299 (Elite).

PhotoWiz B/W Styler

Capturing black-and-white effectively throws away data. Yet the aesthetic appeal of black-and-white imagery is always a classic and favorite of creative photographers. For this reason, many programs offer conversion to black-and-white images that’s quick, easy and comprehensive.

PhotoWiz’s B/W Styler emulates a variety of traditional black-and-white feels, including filters, lab effects, photo papers and film looks. The program uses the dynamic range of color to achieve a wide spectrum of striking monochromatic outputs not possible by shooting in black-and-white. A B/W Quick Mode offers 16 functional controls, and the Expert Mode provides dozens of features with bountiful controls and presets. If you already have black-and-white images, you can further enhance them by adding soft focus and effects, frames, film grains and colorization. List Price: $49.

Alien Skin Eye Candy Effects Collection

Graphic effects add layers of creativity to images. Ordinary photos can become authentic works of art, while textures or effects can be added to enhance the surrealism of an otherwise ordinary image.

Alien Skin’s Eye Candy Effects Collection packs their greatest hits of textures, effects and styles into one set. One purchase provides 54 filters with over 1,000 one-click modifications. Included in the set are five programs: Eye Candy 5: Nature, Eye Candy 5: Texture, Eye Candy 5: Impact, Xenofex 2 and Snap Art. Some of the simulated effects include lightning, fire, smoke, comics, pen, ink and pencil sketches, star lighting, burnt edges and lightning. The Eye Candy Effects Collection is available for $399.

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