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Posts Tagged ‘software review

Software Review: Kevin Kubota’s Pro-Pak w/ Dashboard

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Article & Images by Kristin Reimer

One of the first lessons I learned about being successful in photography is that it is 20% photography and 80% business. I watch photographers come and go on a regular basis. Who remains? Obviously you need to have talent to begin with, but if you know how to market yourself, stay focused, consistently evolve with the times and stay ahead of the pack, chances are, you will be a success.

So what does this have to do with Kevin Kubota’s Actions? He knows his stuff. If you haven’t yet checked out his actions, the bad news is that you’ve wasted precious moments of time—the good news is that there is no better time than the present. Kevin Kubota’s actions are now packaged with an awesome addition called DASHBOARD.

I’m not really sure who began to market action sets, but I will confess, I’ve been an addict ever since the day I discovered these time saving gems. It’s easy to find actions these days and there are some deliciously creative ones out there. I’ve been using Kevin Kubota’s Artistic V2 actions as well as his Auto Album 2 for years now and I rely upon them heavily. Simply put, they save me time, and they are creative and easy to use.

The Kevin Kubota Pro-Pak contains roughly 300 actions to help not only boost your creativity, but also increase your production and help clear time so that you can actually get work done quickly and get out to enjoy the world again. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The production actions range from border actions, interpolation, sharpening, B&W conversions and logo placement. Yeah, you can do these on your own, but why? Enjoy the fact that someone has already done the work for you. Spend your time getting creative. And then get creative with Kevin Kubota’s Artistic Action Volumes 1 – 4.

(l. to r.) Original photo, final image, Dashboard, Photoshop palettes. Screengrab © Kristin Reimer.

Original on the left. Image on the right created using Punch Drunk with Vignette. Photos © Kristin Reimer.

The artistic action options are endless. Not only are the effects inspiring but with names like Fashion Passion, Super Heroine CS2, Kiyoko Punch, Enter the Dragon, Punch Drunk—you know your visual taste buds will be watering to get busy. Even better, if you are curious at all about what the action does, feast your eyes upon the creative descriptions that accompany each one.

Now let me return to the beginning. So, aside from the actions themselves and the funky and descriptive copywriter, what sets Kubota’s Pro-Pak above the rest of the pack? The DASHBOARD.

Now, if you don’t have any addictive behaviors of your own, or if you don’t like to collect things, you may not understand the value of the DASHBOARD. What happens when you collect too many things? Clutter? Can’t find what you are looking for? Waste time searching? DASHBOARD is going to rock some housecleaning in the world that is Photoshop.

DASHBOARD is essentially a floating menu window that keeps your actions organized, easily accessible and easily searchable. Go to the top right and you can pull your menu down to access each pack of actions that Kevin has been producing over the years. To the left of that pull down menu you can enter in a keyword and the DASHBOARD will call up the actions to suit you. Type in moods such as “funky”, “creative”, “moody” or go with genres such as “wedding” and “portraiture” and you’ll see actions displayed that are best matched to your request. Loving it yet?

Once you find the action you want to apply, head on down to the bottom of DASHBOARD where you have a few options. With one touch of the buttons in the bottom of the toolbar you can “apply”, “undo”, “redo” and “paint”. Paint is pretty nifty. Essentially this creates a mask and you can simply paint the action in specifically where you want it to go.

Original photo on the left. Image on the right created using Smokeless Burn, Tea Stained, 81K warming, Wash Out. Photos © Kristin Reimer.

On top of all of this, the Pro-Pak is simply easy to install and understand. I will confess to limited patience for watching online manuals or detailed installation instructions. The installation did come with a video manual, but it was simple, clear and to the point. Installation itself was a breeze and the manual was simple to read. But the reality is, the Pro-Pak and DASHBOARD are simple. Simple means you get to the fun stuff right away…and I was certainly the kid in the sandbox in a matter of moments.

There is one downside to the Pro-Pak, you’ll be having so much fun playing with your images and combining the actions together that you will lose track of time and forget about the outside world. But hey, think of the possibilities.

Original image on the left. Image on the right created using Sepia Deep Black 3. Photos by © Kristin Reimer.

Kevin Kubota Pro-Pak [Kubota Artistic Tools V1, Kubota Artistic Tools V2, Kubota Artistic Tools V3, Kubota Artistic Tools V4, Kubota Production Tools V2, and the Kubota Formula Book] with DASHBOARD can be purchased online at: http://kubotaimagetools.com/store/catalog/product_16263_Kubota_Pro_Pak_w_Dashboard_cat_258.html.

System requirements: Actions work with Adobe Photoshop CS2 or newer, some effects require CS3 or newer 32 bit versions of Photoshop only, on Mac and Windows computers.

The Pro-Pak retails for $629.00.

♦ Upon graduating with a BFA in photography from Pratt Institute, Kristin went on to become the studio manager for the esteemed Magnumphotojournalist, Elliot Erwitt. Under the tutelage of Elliott, Kristin acquired a more capacious understanding of the history of photography and of the unique and diverse contributions of those who define the field. Her work with Elliott also provided a forum from which to create and develop her own artistic style.

In 2002 Kristin founded Photomuse (www.photomuse.com), a fine art/documentary style wedding company. Kristin is an award-winning member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA), a professional organization composed of photojournalists and wedding photographers from around the world as well as the Artistic Guild of Wedding Photography (AGWPJA) and the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP).

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Product Review: Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0

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Article and Images by Diane Berkenfeld

Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 (MTTC) is a major upgrade of the suite of production oriented filters from AutoFX Software. The software comes as a stand-alone application and Photoshop plug-in. Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 is compatible with Windows-based PCs running Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Mac OS X (all versions); the Photoshop plug-in works with Photoshop CS4, CS3, CS2, CS, and Photoshop v.7.0.

Plug-ins like Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 are great because they give you the ability to make enhancements and alter your images creatively in one step—without the trouble of having to spend hours in Photoshop trying figure out how to do so. They do save you a lot of time.

Photographers can use the filters either globally or by brushing on/off the filter effect manually, as well as using tools like the gradient path and ellipse that let you blend the effect across a photo using Bezier based control paths. The new Effect Mask tool blends the filter through special content filters and masks that give a stylized look.

MTTC 2.0 lets you combine an unlimited number of filter effects, and easily delete unwanted layers—as it works by creating a new layer, leaving the original untouched. MTTC 2.0 supports .psd, .tif, .bmp, .jpg, and .png file formats. When you save a file as a Photoshop document (.psd), the effect(s) are exported onto a layered document with full transparency. The software supports Adobe Photoshop actions, layers and last filter commands.

Screenshot of an image within MTTC 2.0. Note the dialog box with the filter options on the left.

In addition to the 60 production filters, the software includes a collection of over 300 instant effect presets.  The software’s user interface is simple to navigate, offering you the option to further enhance the presets, making the effects stronger or weaker. The filters are categorized in groups: Color effects, toning effects, smoothing, lens filters, special, sharpening, HDR filters, and portrait. You can preview either by the full screen or split screen in numerous split configurations.

Cool features:

One of the cool features of the software is that you can stack effects using Effect layers and then save that combination as a Layer Present that can be applied to other images. This allows you to create your own custom library of effects. When you add effect layers you instantly see the changes and can decide right then to delete a layer or not; no need to save the file and rerun other filters.

I really like the software because it allows you to dial back the preset if you feel its too strong, or to increase the effect if you want more of a certain effect. This flexibility means you can make any tweaks within the program—you don’t have to let the filter do its thing and then go to another menu to dial back the effect or run it again to add more strength, as some plug-ins require you to do.

The filters in Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 are realistic looking, and that’s important because you want to make enhancements that are believable. Often you want a subtle effect, so viewers of the image will not be able to tell right away that it was “Photoshopped.”

Some of my favorite filters include the B&W Conversions. The example below is of a portrait that was converted using the Soft Black and White filter. Once you run it, you can change the color filtration used. For instance, for folks who remember shooting B&W film, to get a nice contrast tone in the sky you might have used a yellow or orange filter on the lens, and to get really deep sky tone you’d have used a red filter—well you can do this digitally. Just choose which color filter you want used and you’ll see the effect on the tones in your image. I also love the Moon Glow; the Sharp Contrast results are gorgeous; the Gradient Tinting is cool; and so are the Sepia and Color Tone filters. Many of the filters add vibrancy and enrich the colors of your image and really add punch.

The original image of Michael.

Final image after converting to Soft B&W, with the yellow filtration.

AutoFX provides training videos at: http://www.autofx.com/videos-training/mystical_2_list.html and detailed tutorials at: http://www.autofx.com/tutorials/mystical_2_list.html.

Price and Availability: estimated street price of Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 is $249. Upgrades from previous versions are available for $129. Go to www.autofx.com for more information.

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.