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  Miscellaneous Software Reviews Photographic Filters For Photoshop

Photographic Filters For Photoshop

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Andromeda pioneered Photoshop filters for photographic effects: reflections, rainbows, motion, etc. But the offering from The TECHnik Group is nothing short of amazing.

nik Color Efex Pro! is a set of 55 digital filters, many of which work like their conventional filter counterparts and then some. The late Ansel Adams was an advocate of filters for his dramatic black and white skies and his shimmering forests. We learned from Adams that filters of yellow, orange or red could progressively darken skies, that a green filter could bring out details in the foliage of deep woods.

Unfortunately, we also learned that a yellow filter used on color film created a jaundiced yellowish-looking photo.

nik's Contrast filters work just like their conventional counterparts except they work on color images without altering the other colors in the photo. For instance, the Contrast Red filter creates dramatic dark blue skies and lightens reddish hues without altering other colors in the image.

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The image on left is directly from my camera. Middle image shows polarizing effect. Image on right shows polarizer plus contrast red which results in noise.

Even more amazing is the Polarizing filter, something previously though impossible by digital photographers. This one works almost like its glass cousin by appearing to darken skies and water surfaces… plus it is not dependent upon the angle of the light source. However, it does not remove reflections and glare like a real front-of-lens polarizer. Still, it's a wonderfully useful tool for creating natural looking polarized effects.

The nik Color Efex Pro! Sunshine filter does the impossible: transforming a gloomy, overcast day into one filled with warm, natural-looking sunlight. The image at the top of this column illustrates the difference with the inset photo being the original rainy day photo and the larger showing the sunshine effect.

All of these filters can be used in mixed combination with some very unusual results, often the addition of unwanted noise. nik Color Efex Pro! handles RGB, CMYK, LAB and grayscale images at $299.95. An RGB-only version is available fro $139.95. More detail is available from or read my product review in the special Spring Edition of Photoshop User magazine.

A Two-Bit Macro Solution

Digital photography demands experimentation. We digital photographers can mess around with ideas that film photographer would be loath to was the rest of the roll on. We can place our cameras in weird positions and use the self-timer to try images that conventional photographers would never even think about. Here's a perfect example from reader Chris Parrish of Temple, Georgia.

"I was playing around with my (Nikon} 990 this morning and came across a neat trick for doing Macro shots of very small objects! Actually, I had just finished taking a nice walk to enjoy the sunshine and take some pictures and had sat down at my computer to check out my catch of the day. While I was waiting for it to boot up I get bored so I'm fiddling with stuff on my desk. Well, I had an empty 35mm film canister (The semi-opaque white ones that Kodak film comes in) sitting there and it occurred to me that the mouth of the canister appeared to be close to the same size as the lens on my 990!

"Sure enough, it slid right on with a slight interference fit, just right! The material that the cannister is made of makes a perfect "soft box" when lit from outside. Also, when you put the film cannister on a flat surface with the lens facing down, the object that you are shooting is just about as close to being parallel to the lens as you could get. This trick also eliminates the worry of camera shake during slower macro shots."

If your camera's lens is bigger than a film canister, I would suggest checking out a sporting goods store for open top Nalgene containers. They come in a variety of sizes, just as if they were designed for various digital lenses and macro capabilities.

Another dumb digital trick...

If your camera has a front mounted flash and you want to use an inexpensive slave strobe for fill or bounce light, you may find the on-camera flash overpowering the subject. Try playing around with a piece of white paper over the flash to diminish its already low power. Or some have used a piece of opaque tape (photographers' black masking tape) to obscure part of the flash head.

It may take a little experimenting to cut down the direct flash and still have enough light to fire the slave.


Jim Patterson

Jim Patterson was a respected, trusted resource for anything to do with digital imaging and a regular digital photo columnist for Mac Design Magazine and contributor to Photoshop User magazine. He passed away the summer of 2004. Jim was frequently-published as a freelance travel photojournalist, and authored the novel, "The Thirteen." There was much more to Jim than just a writer, and he was much more to us than just a friend.

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