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Posts Tagged ‘Photoshop plug-in

Product Review: Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box Photo Plug-in

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By Diane Berkenfeld

Digital Anarchy today released a new skin retouching program for still images, Beauty Box Photo. A Photoshop plug-in, Beauty Box Photo is compatible with Photoshop CS5 and earlier versions. The software is a follow-up to the company’s popular video retouching tool for After Effects CS5.

Beauty Box Photo skin retouching software automatically identifies skin tones and creates an intelligent mask that limits the smoothing effect to skin areas while keeping facial details sharp. You can use the software for batch processing too, which really helps speed up your workflow.

In Use Review

I had the opportunity to review a beta version of Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box Photo, using it with Photoshop CS4, and love the software. It has the power of high priced programs, yet the GUI or graphic user interface is simple to navigate and easy to use.

One of the great features of Beauty Box Photo is that it provides subtle yet visible retouching. Whether you use the automatic retouching or manually tweak the settings, the skin smoothing is subtle, so your portrait subjects look normal—skin does not look plastic or over-retouched. Pore structures and wrinkles are visible but softened.

(l. to r.) Screenshot showing 100% view before, and after. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

I found that the automatic mask did a wonderful job of masking the skin tone, not just on a face, but shoulders, arms—all visible skin in a photograph. You can very easily tweak the mask too, if necessary. Once you have the mask, you can fine tune the skin smoothing to your liking.

(l. to r.) Final portrait, and screenshot of the Beauty Box Photo mask. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

The software lets you take up to three snapshots of different amounts of smoothing, and you can toggle between each of them to choose which looks the best, and then apply that one. I personally would have liked to see a before/after button instead—although to the software’s credit, it lets you see up to three different settings which is more than a simple before/after or split screen would provide.

When it comes to retouching, sometimes less is better, meaning that Beauty Box does what it says it does—providing powerful skin smoothing without going overboard. And it is not overwhelming to use, like some software programs can be. This is great for the non-techie photographer or beginner digital imager.

The software is also very intuitive. I tested it out with a portrait of a 6 month old, a 4 year old and a 30-something. Each time the automatic settings provided a pretty good starting point. Less smoothing for the kids and more for the 30-something. Although I did tweak the settings, most folks would probably be happy with the program completely running on auto.

(l. to r.) Close-up view of the original non-retouched image (file open in Photoshop), and after (image in Beauty Box Photo's dialog window), using the automatic settings of Beauty Box Photo. Note the smoothing of the baby's blotchy red skin on his cheek. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

I definitely see Beauty Box as an addition to my retouching workflow. It makes it really easy to smooth skin for a pleasing look while leaving the skin looking realistic.

The photographs of the baby and child were for an actual job I was working on. I originally used a Photoshop action on the portraits, which while smoothing the skin also added a soft-focus glow that really was overboard for these images. The Beauty Box Photo skin smoothing was perfect—just enough to smooth out blotchy skin without overkill.

Beauty Box Photo works in Photoshop versions 7.0–CS5 and Photoshop Elements versions 6–9; on the Macintosh, running on OS 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6; and on Windows, the software supports Windows XP Home, Windows XP Pro, Vista 32-bit, Vista 64-bit and Windows 7. In the next few months, Digital Anarchy will have a version compatible with Apple Aperture, and in the future (date tbd) with Adobe Lightroom.

Beauty Box is regularly priced at USD $99. The product is on sale for $79 through June 21, 2010.

For more information, to try out demo filters and view samples, go to www.digitalanarchy.com.

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Product Review: Auto FX Software’s Photo/Graphic Edges Platinum Edition v.7

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By Diane Berkenfeld

I’m going to begin the review of Auto FX Software’s Photo/Graphic Edges Platinum Edition v.7 at the beginning—with installation. Photo/Graphic Edges will take about 30 minutes to install, not the five to 10 minutes that the installer says. And it may not look like it is doing anything right away, but be patient because it will install correctly. The software is Mac and Windows-based PC compatible and will work as a plug-in with Photoshop versions 7 through CS4 or as a stand-alone program. on a computer running at least MAC OS X (on an Intel or PPC Mac) or on a Windows-based PC, running Windows 2000, XP or Vista.

This version of Photo/Graphic Edges includes 32 new edge, border and frame effects. With all of the edges, frames, borders and overlays, adornments and embellishments you have thousands of options. For the pro photographer who wants to be able to add edges to a wide variety of images from baby and child photography to teens, seniors, couples and families, Photo/Graphic Edges provides edges, borders and frames appropriate for all. The software also features powerful tools to alter the edges, frames and borders. Many of them can be tweaked in a number of ways, from changing the hue, opacity, and other characteristics.

One of the additions to this version is the ability to add multiple layers to create unique images. You can save these new borders, edges and frames as presets so you can use them again. Photo/Graphic Edges Platinum Edition v.7 includes 300 pre-made layouts and instant effects, as well as the ability to add your own presets. Other new features include new storyboards and the ability to brush on edges. Auto FX Software has also improved the program with the addition of a new rendering engine and interface updates. An example of this is larger content previews. The content collections have also been reorganized so it’s easier to find what you want. And a favorites feature has also been added.

Using Photo/Graphic Edges

The software is simple to use, as a Photoshop plug-in or a stand-alone product, you launch the software, open an image and choose an edge, frame or border. You can add embellishments, adornments and overlays. If you don’t like the edges you’ve chosen, simply delete that layer and choose another. The edges and frames load pretty quickly too, so you won’t find yourself waiting.

When you are done with one image, and want to move on to another, you just open the new image and that automatically closes the first. It would be nice in a future version to have a ‘close image’ choice in the File menu, if only because everyone associates the word with the act of closing a working file.

When working with Edges, regardless of the one you choose, they reshape to fit the dimensions of the photo. When you are working with Frames, the Transform tool allows you to scale and position the photo as you want. There are actually two transform tools, transform frame/edges and transform photo so you can tweak the frame or edges and the photo exactly how you want. Auto FX notes that the Transform tools are dynamic and non-destructive.

Images can be saved as Bitmap, JPG, TIFF, and PSD files, however the software saves the PSD files flattened but with full transparency, so you can’t make any changes among the layers when opened in Photoshop. You need to do all photo editing and manipulation in Photoshop before you import the photo into Photo/Graphic Edges. One other thing you need to be aware of is that when you’re working with an image and Quit out of the stand-alone program, it will quit without asking if you want to save what you’re working with, so just don’t be too quick with your keyboard shortcuts. When you’re working with the plug-in, and Quit, it cancels the plug-in and returns you back to the host program, for example Photoshop.

I love the photo realistic darkroom edges like the filed out film holders, Polaroid film and Polaroid transfers. One of the cool things about the software is that you can add backgrounds for a full layout. Backgrounds include colors, gradients, textures, and more. Many of the frames and edges are for a single image, but there are also two-up and quad frames that can each hold a different photo. You can add text to images as well. There are frames that are designed to look like actual frames, as well as scrapbook style frames, embellishments and layouts. There are also geometric, digital, traditional, artistic, and more modern edges and frames as well as vignettes.

For software that incorporates so much content—a thousands items—you’ll have plenty to browse from, to find that exact frame or edge for your images. Photo/Graphic Edges Platinum Edition v.7 offers photographers such a wide range of options, that practically anything is possible. So much so, in fact, that you should definitely take a look at the manual before you begin, it comes as a PDF file. You might also want to view the free video tutorials on the Auto FX Software website.

For more information, go to the website at www.autofx.com.