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Posts Tagged ‘software

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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Teaser: Photoshop CS5 Extended’s Content Aware Fill

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By Photoshopman a.k.a. Gary Small

Hi everyone! Well, I know the buzz is on with the announcement by Adobe of CS 5! As one of the people privileged to work with the beta/pre-release of Photoshop CS 5 Extended, I can tell you it’s an amazing upgrade. There are not only a bunch of new tools and features, but most of the tools and functionality of Photoshop across the board have been greatly improved. It’s like a whole new program!

I was going to write a long article, covering all the new features, but since I know many of you are dying to see what’s new as quickly as possible, I decided to put out a few teasers a little at a time, just to whet your appetites. I’ll try to publish as many as I can as quickly as I can.

So on that note, here is the first installment—what I think is by far the best new feature in Photoshop CS 5: Content Aware Fill.

Content Aware Fill is like the Patch Tool on steroids. I won’t even attempt to explain the technology behind it (because frankly I don’t understand it myself!), but the way it works is incredible. Let’s say you have an object, or even a person, or just about anything (trees, cars, telephone poles, exit signs) that you want to remove from a picture. In the past, it would take hours of Cloning, Healing, and Patching. Along comes Content Aware Fill, and reduces the work to mere seconds.

Here’s a nice outdoor scene with a bride and groom by a bridge. I love the scene and would like to re-use it, or make a background image out of it. But I need to get rid of the bride and groom to do so. All I have to do in Photoshop CS 5 is select the bride and groom (I used the Lasso tool to make a loose selection), then either hit the Delete key (if you’re working on the Background layer), or go to the menu and click Edit>Fill. Then in the dialog box that pops up, click the drop down box and select Content Aware and then click OK. Then watch what happens.

Gary Small picture-soup.com

Original image of the bride and groom. Photo Ⓒ Gary Small.

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Photoshop CS5 Extended screenshot of the selection around the bride and groom. Photo Ⓒ Gary Small.

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The final image, after Photoshop CS5 Extended worked its magic with Content Aware Fill. Photo Ⓒ Gary Small.

It doesn’t always work perfectly, but in almost all cases, Photoshop analyzes the surrounding area and fills in the selection appropriately, to make it look like the object (or people) selected are replaced with the scenery they were standing in. In the same example, I used Content Aware Fill to fill in the patch of white sky in the upper left corner. It was much faster than cloning the trees or using the patch tool and with better results too!

My next installment will talk about the new “Refine Edge” command, and as a bonus, we’ll see how I combined the two to make a completely new picture in under 30 minutes! Stay tuned!


♦ Gary Small a.k.a. Photoshopman is a Professional Photographer, Photoshop Guru and master of color management. Check out his work at www.jsmallphoto.com.

Adobe Unveils Highly Anticipated Creative Suite 5 Family

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By Diane Berkenfeld

Today is the day photographers, graphic designers, webmasters and illustrators have been waiting for—the day Adobe announced the latest version of its Creative Suite. New versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and brand new web components for generating content without the need to write code were unveiled. More than 250 new features have been integrated into the Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection.

Adobe offers all 15 software titles that make up the CS5 Master Collection individually, as well as in collections designed to incorporate those programs that photographers would need, or graphic designers or web designers. These are: Creative Suite 5 Master Collection [everything but the kitchen sink —Ed.], Creative Suite 5 Design Premium, Creative Suite 5 Design Standard, Creative Suite 5 Web Premium and Creative Suite 5 Production Premium.

Adobe’s website www.adobe.com has a helpful product chooser, to help you figure out which product is right for your needs based on what you need to do, or what products you need to utilize. Check it out if you’re not sure which collection is right for you.

The fifteen different titles, available individually are: Photoshop CS5, Illustrator CS5, InDesign CS5, Acrobat 9 Pro, Flash Catalyst CS5, Flash Professional CS5, Flash Builder 4, Dreamweaver CS5, Contribute CS5, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, After Effects CS5, Soundbooth CS5, Adobe OnLocation CS5, Adobe Bridge CS5, Adobe Device Central CS5 and Adobe Dynamic Link.

What’s New!

With 250 new features we can’t list them all here, but here’s a taste of what you can expect:

– InDesign CS5 powers the transition to digital publishing with new interactive documents and enhanced eReader device support;

– New stroke options in Illustrator CS5 allow users to create strokes of variable widths and precisely adjust the width at any point along the stroke;

– Dreamweaver CS5 now supports popular content management systems Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress, allowing designers to get accurate views of dynamic Web content from within Dreamweaver;

– Using Flash Professional CS5, designers and developers can create, test and deliver Web content across mobile platforms and devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, smartbooks and other consumer electronics.

Since Picture-soup.com is devoted primarily to photographers, lets take a deeper look at what’s new in the latest version of Photoshop:

– Photoshop CS5 Extended offers improved edge detecting technology and masking in less time;

– Users will also be able to remove an image element and immediately replace the missing pixels with Content-Aware Fill;

– Native 64-bit support for both Mac and Windows;

– Next-generation high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities. When combining multiple exposures into a single HDR image, Photoshop CS5 preserves the full tonal range of a scene. The new HDR Pro offers exceptional ghost artifact removal and greater tone mapping and adjustment control. With HDR toning, users can emulate the striking look of an HDR image with any single-exposure image;

– A new Mixer Brush that blends an infinite combination of colors onto a single paintbrush tip, and Bristle Tips that offer lifelike brush strokes;

– Puppet Warp gives lets you precisely reposition or warp any image element, such as straightening a bent arm in a photo or manipulating the landscape to generate a new perspective;

– More than 30 features and enhancements were requested directly by the Photoshop community, and have been added to this release. These features directly impact the everyday workflow but may not always be at the top of the development list for a new release. These features include automatic image straightening, rule-of-thirds crop tool, color picker and the ability to save 16-bit images as JPEGs. A new customizable Adobe Mini Bridge panel is also available directly in the software for faster file browsing and management.

– Photoshop CS5 Extended includes everything in Photoshop CS5 plus tools for editing 3D and motion-based content.

Estimated Street Prices & Availability

Adobe Creative Suite 5 and its associated point products are scheduled to ship within 30 days.

Estimated street prices:

– Adobe Photoshop CS5 is $699 and $999 for Photoshop CS5 Extended.

– Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection – $2,599

– Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium – $1,899

– Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Standard – $1,299

– Adobe Creative Suite 5 Web Premium – $1,799

– Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium – $1,699

Tiered upgrade pricing from previous versions is also available. For more detailed information about features, upgrade policies, pricing and international versions, go to www.adobe.com/creativesuite.

We’ll be posting reviews as soon as we receive our copies! Stay tuned.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦ ADOBE BEGINS SHIPPING CREATIVE SUITE 5 – AS OF APRIL 30♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦ ♦

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.