Buyer’s Guide 2009: Software Plug-Ins

PictureCode Noise Ninja

One of the greatest advantages of shooting digitally is the capability to change the ISO on the fly. This ability to adjust for changing light levels, particularly low light, allows photographers to make images that might not be possible unless you use flash. However, the raising of the ISO also increases the presence of noise in the images. PictureCode’s Noise Ninja offers an effective remedy to counter that. Its manual and automatic noise analysis and camera-specific profiles allow the plug-in to reduce the presence of noise, while maintaining color fidelity and image sharpness.

The effectiveness of the plug-in comes with a straightforward interface that makes noise removal a simple thing. Whether applied to a single image or a collection of photographs, the plug-in allows you to selectively remove noise using the noise brush and remove noise from the luminance channel, chroma channel or all color channels simultaneously. This level of control helps to deliver images that can be enlarged without being weakened by the presence of noise from high ISOs or long exposures. Photoshop and Aperture compatible. List Price: $79.

Digital Anarchy
Knoll Light Factory

Lighting effects can be an important component of a successful photograph. How-ever, it can be a challenge to achieve that in-camera, particularly when you don’t have the benefit of complete control over the shooting situation. Digital Anarchy Knoll Light Factory provides realistic lighting effects such as flare and sparkle, which can be used in anything from product photography to landscape or portraiture.

Designed by Photoshop cocreator John Knoll, this plug-in combines naturally occurring visual light effects to create looks that can be rooted in reality or inspired by your creativity. Not only can you use a variety of presets that are included, but you also can combine multiple effects and make adjustments to create your own custom lighting effects. This allows you the flexibility to add lighting elements that can be as subtle or as dramatic as you want them to be. List Price: $149.

Auto FX Software Photo/Graphic Edges 6.0

Digital Film Tools Light! 3.5

Creating visual effects in a photograph after the actual shoot is one of the great promises provided by image-editing software, but it’s a difficult one to fulfill well. Digital Film Tools Light! 3.5 helps on that count by providing photographers with the ability to add realistic lighting and shadow effects to images. With a library of 565 patterns, Light! 3.5’s effects can simulate the use of gelled lights, gobos, vignettes or other light modifiers and diffusers.

The ability to apply these effects globally or selectively provides the control needed to make such lighting effects appear natural and realistic, but with the flexibility and control only available through software. Photoshop and Aperture compatible. List Price: $50.

Imagenomic Professional Plug-in Suite

Bundling three powerful programs into one, the Imagenomic Professional Plug-in Suite removes noise, retouches portraits and adds the textural look and feel of an image shot on film. Noiseware 4 automatically calibrates a precision noise profile from your pictures and chooses a noise-removal setting. Every time an image is filtered, the program learns more about your camera and creates a more precise profile.

Portraiture fixes people shots by removing unwanted flaws (like blemishes) and smoothing skin, while preserving texture and other facial details. A smart auto-masking tool allows selective smoothening only in the skin-tone areas of the image. The masking feature recognizes the optimal skin-tone range as the first step in either manually fine-tuning or batch-processing your images.

If the soft, grainy look of a photograph processed in a darkroom is what appeals, RealGrain achieves that effect digitally. The app simulates grain patterns and the color and tonal range of different film types and scan resolutions. Grain size is automatically adjusted based on the image’s physical dimensions. This allows the program to render accurate grain patterns for varying image sizes. List Price: $239.

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