A Photographer’s Software Goodie Bag
NAVIGATION NOTE: Click on the product links above to jump to that review.
by Eden Maxwell
With video tutorial recommendations from lynda.com, and books from peachpit, o'reilly, and rockynook press.
Late spring, 2013
NOTE: Please bookmark this page for future reference.
ADOBE PHOTOSHOP CS6 EXTENDED
FEET ON THE GROUND, PERKS IN THE CREATIVE CLOUD
When I first saw a demonstration of Adobe Photoshop in California more than twenty years ago, I thought what an innovative digital achievement—and the ability to work with a new remarkable feature called layers was another breakthrough. Having the tools to convincingly manipulate and often improve upon 'as shot' photos was up to then science fiction.
Today with the release of Photoshop CS6 extended, ‘innovative’ has gotten even better in so many ways. For example, uses can now also edit motion based content—which makes sense given the popularity of DSLR cameras. The professionals that I know opted for spending more for Photoshop Extended, which ships with most of the Adobe Creative suites or as part of a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud, which has been a good value for many professionals who use several Adobe products in their daily workflow.
How many times have we heard this? Photoshopped has over the years earned its way into the parlance as a worldwide verb. A masterful job with Photoshop meant that the image looked natural—you couldn't tell whether the image was Photoshopped, or not.
Happily, Adobe continues to improve upon its noun-based flagship product: Photoshop CS6 (version 13) is a major release that includes all kinds of improvements—from major to cosmetic, such as a redesigned darker customizable workspace that helps users focus on the image rather than competing with the interface—to better layer naming and search conventions. If you use a minor tweak all the time, then it’s a major plus for you.
Here are a few tools featured in the Photoshop CS6 upgrade:
PRECISE CROPPING WITH OVERLAY GUIDES AND CUSTOM PRESETS
While the crop circle phenomenon continues to mystify (aliens, pranksters, you name it), it's no secret that Adobe pulls another rabbit from the magic hat in revisiting the tried and true Crop tool.
You can now get great results and better feedback while editing by using the completely updated all-new nondestructive Crop tool. You can change the size and shape of your images with the Crop tool knowing that you can easily revert to the uncropped version of the photo at any time—with no need to rely on [Command+Z].
In the past, when you cropped an image, but didn’t like the result, you would choose the Undo command, which meant that you had to start a new crop from scratch. Now, when you press enter to accept a crop, you don’t need to undo [(Command+Z] because you’re also presented with your previous crop boundary; simply click on the image to reveal the full image that resides patiently in the background, and then crop anew.
You can also use the Move tool to reposition the image within the existing crop boundary.
Changing the image's compositional format with greater precision is now faster with multiple overlays that you can select, including Golden Ratio, Golden Spiral, Diagonal, Triangle, Grid, and Rule of Thirds; and another handy feature lets you to save specific crop dimensions and resolutions as presets. These are the same overlays found in Adobe Lightroom 5.
For better compositions, users can now retouch, repair, and rework images with the improved Content-Aware tool that was designed to convincingly fill in larger areas that have been selected and then removed.
With the Patch tool selected, changing the mode from normal to content aware delivers far less repetition of detail in patched areas, providing a more random and smooth transition to your alteration. The Adaptation mode pull down menu range from very loose to very strict allows you to further adjust how well the patch is blended with the surrounding background.
The new Content-Aware Move tool also allows you to move a selected region of an image to a different location. Once the moved selection is dropped in place, instead of leaving a hole in the image, Photoshop’s content-aware technology fills in and marvelously recomposes the empty space with the surrounding generalized background.
NOTE: The Content-Aware Move tool is no panacea, as it won’t work on every image equally well. This feature works best on plain generalized backgrounds that aren’t cluttered with many different details or color gradients.
EXTENDING, NOT TRANSFORMING
Another issue that comes up is extending a portion of the image to fill in a gap. In the past, you could use the Transform tool, but in many cases, the stretched out effect would appear distorted.
With Photoshop CS6, users can extend an element in the image without distortion by switching over to the Content-Aware Move tool, and setting the mode to Extend. Users can then drag and extend a selected area in the image in the desired direction for a more natural look. This new feature also works best on images with simple backgrounds.
ADAPTIVE WIDE ANGLE ADJUSTMENTS / SMART OBJECTS
Images shot with fisheye, wide-angle lenses, or panoramas created with Photoshop’s Photomerge tool are all subject various amounts of distortion. The New Adaptive Wide Angle adjustments filter uses the physical characteristics of individual camera lenses to automatically correct and straighten curved objects in the image. This filter will also work even if the lens data isn't available.
To fine-tune adjustments further, users can override the auto lens feature with new on-canvas tools for straightening, constraining, and aligning key element in the scene vertically or horizontally.
Fortunately, the Adaptive Wide Angle filter is also nondestructive, as it works with Smart Objects; this means that in the process you won’t harm the original image and that you can return to edit your alterations later.
ADOBE CAMERA RAW 7
By now, the advantages of developing your images in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) have most likely become part of your workflow. ACR allows you to develop images captured in your digital camera’s RAW file format; this is important because RAW includes the complete unedited spectrum of colors and details captured by the camera’s sensor, which can pick up details in dark areas that are not immediately apparent until you lighten the shadows.
In many cases, you can also more precisely adjust JPG and TIFF images with ACR than with Photoshop’s color adjustment tools. Included in Photoshop as a free plug-in, ACR is for the most part the same engine driving the Development Module in Adobe Lightroom.
ACR / LOOKING MORE CLOSELY
The enhanced Camera Raw 7 (soon to be ACR 8) doesn’t initially appear to be significantly advanced. But, there are new and subtle features that can make your images look better than with previous versions of ACR.
An updated tone-mapping algorithm underpins an expanded set of easier to use tools and sliders while providing better management of key image adjustments. With finer control over the spread of tones in your images, you can now tweak a balance to reveal more detail in the highlights without losing detail in the shadows, or incurring clipping issues.
BLACK IS BLACK
New adjustment sliders Highlights and Shadows also help minimize any artifacting and sensor noise that may have crept into the image. In previous versions of ACR, you could only darken the blacks. The new Black slider is now more useful, as you can not only darken but also brighten the black values, allowing more detail to show in your image.
ACR 7 has also updated both the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush with new slider settings. In essence, you can selectively adjust areas with greater precision without disturbing the rest of your image. For example, if you’ve reduced the overall saturation in your image, you might want to give an area some needed pop while leaving the area outside the Graduated filter intact.
When working with the Graduated Filter, the area above the green line will be modified; the area below the red will be left untouched, and the area in between will gradually diminish in intensity.
Temperature and Tint sliders are new tools that are extremely valuable for adjusting color intensity in your graduated effects. Additionally, the Graduated Filter offers more detail controls: Sharpness plus Noise and Moiré Reduction.
The Adjustment Brush also provides more precise control over color correction, exposure, saturation, etc., for selective areas in the image rather than a global one.
SKIN TONE-AWARE SELECTIONS / MASKING / DETECT FACES
Human skin tones are one of those universally recognizable features that are immediately judged as natural looking or not. But, if you’re going for a more artistic expression, skin tones can be manipulated for the desired effect—in that case, you might want to select and alter a color range in the midtones while leaving other tonal ranges of the skin and the background of the image untouched.
Two new options in Photoshop CS6 allow you to quickly target skin tones for specific enhancements or preserve skin tones while you adjust the color of everything else in your image. Using skin tone selecting and face detection technologies, you can automatically isolate skin tones; in addition, there’s the second improvement called Detect Faces that offers a finer level of control, as it automatically isolates facial features, producing better skin tone-aware masks and selections. The Detect Faces options selects more grays (you can see them in the associated mask), providing softer transitions.
Both of these skin tone-detecting options are accessible via the Color Range command and are nondestructive via Smart Objects. The Color Range dialog box lets you select key colors in your image; it’s similar to the Magic Wand tool but more precise.
Here’s how Color Range works.
After you’ve made your initial selection to lift your key colors by clicking and then [Shift + Dragging] inside the image from within the Color Range dialog box, choose Skin Tones from the Select pull-down menu; this new option isolates the skin tones inside the image, and it works for all types of skin colors. Next, click the checkbox for Detect Faces to further refine the selection that will now include more grays for an organic look in the final image.
PROPERTIES PANEL, LAYER FILTERING, LAYER NAMING
NEW PROPERTIES PANEL
Adjustment layers in Photoshop are essential for modifying your images. In Photoshop CS6, when you choose or want to modify an Adjustment layer from the Adjustment panel, you are presented with the new pop up Properties panel, which is inherently useful.
One of the handy features of the new Properties panel is that it’s resizable for most adjustments. For example, when you select the Levels Adjustment layer, you can resize the Properties panel downward to reveal more options. Should you want to keep the panel small, a scrollbar will let you then reach any additional hidden options.
You can also drag the Properties panel horizontally—providing a wider spectrum of the histogram for more precise control.
The main concept about the Properties panel is that it’s now much easier to work with the various adjustment layers; all your settings, options, and masks are gathered in one convenient panel, which you can come back to and adjust again at any time.
When you’re working with complex images with many layers, navigating to a specific layer or group of layers can be a challenge. Photoshop CS6 now offers a convenient sort field to filter and locate those once elusive layers in the Layer’s panel.
If, for example, you wanted to view only the Adjustment layers inside your image, you would go the top left corner of the Layers panel. Make sure that Kind is selected in the popup menu. Then to Filter for adjustment layers, click on the second icon in; this action will only display the adjustment layers inside the image.
Photoshop CS6 offers users another first: you can now create and do video editing using footage from your DSLR and other cameras. Although this feature is not in league with Adobe Premiere Pro, you can still manage simple and creative edits.
With a new video feature set and timeline, you can enhance any clip using the full range of familiar Photoshop tools, and then render your videos with the versatile Adobe Media Encoder.
You can, for example, control transitions; clip duration and speed; fade in, fade out and mute options; motion effects; and trim settings from the timeline using the contextual pop-up dialog boxes. You can also add an audio track and give it a fade value as well.
Whatever edits you can add to still images inside Photoshop also works with video, from adding text to the power of adjustment layers. Your placed movie files are automatically stored inside fully editable Smart Objects. The new video playback engine in Photoshop CS6 supports most of the file formats out there—from high quality to YouTube to the iPhone.
AUTO-RECOVERY AND BACKGROUND SAVE
If you’ve ever run into (or at least not yet) the disastrous situation of losing your work due to a computer snafu, then you will love this new feature.
Designed to help you recover your valuable work in the event of an unexpected shutdown, Auto-Recover works behind the scenes to save your edits without interrupting your progress. When you relaunch to open the file that you had been working on, Photoshop presents you with two files: the original version before the crash as well as the recovered version with your latest edits, which you can then save and continue working.
When you’re working on a file and choose [File > Save], you can keep working on another image document; this feature works even while Background Save is saving (watch the progress bar) the largest of Photoshop files in the background.
ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD / FEATURES
Adobe is changing the way they offer products to their customers. For example, Adobe recently announced that Photoshop CC (no longer CS) is part of a major update to Adobe Creative Cloud. Photoshop CC pushes the boundaries of possibility, offering a powerful new creative process that includes greater creative freedom with new tools such as the Radial filter, Camera Raw 8 reimagined as an easily accessed filter, and Camera Shake Reduction. Adobe Photoshop CC will be available exclusively to Creative Cloud members in June 2013.
In the meantime before Photoshop CC comes online, to help nudge users into the Creative Cloud pay as you go subscription model, Adobe currently gives those users access to the 13.1 Photoshop CS6 upgrade; this Cloud only version offers a number of perks that, for example, include Auto-naming merged layers and a handy Pen tool enhancement that’s been a long time coming.
AUTO-NAMING MERGED LAYERS
Photoshop 13.1 has a modestly higher IQ when it comes to naming merged layers.
With previous versions of Photoshop, if you gave a layer a custom name and then merged it with the layer above, the merged layer would adopt the top layer name (i.e., layer 1), which meant that you lost the custom name. Now, when you merge layers in this fashion, the custom layer name is preserved—saving you a bit of time. Unfortunately, this layer-naming scheme does not yet work with Smart Objects.
PEN TOOL / ANCHOR POINT
This minor but handy Pen tool feature has been on the user request list for some time.
When working with any of the shape tools or one of the geometric marquee tools, if you press and hold the Spacebar while dragging, you can move the marquee to better register it with the desired area of an image.
The same principal now applies when drawing with the Pen tool; while pressing and holding the Spacebar, you can move an anchor point on the fly, which simplifies making that precise selection.
LIQUEFY & BLUR FILTERS
In the past, these filters only worked with pixel based images—and they still do with improvements in Photoshop 13.0. But, for Creative Cloud users, Photoshop 13.1 allows them to apply these filters to nondestructive Smart Objects, which you can modify later. For many users who rely on Liquefy and the Blur filters, this is a must have feature.
Photoshop CS6 Extended offers remarkable improvements both under the hood and in the driver’s seat for most everyone. This major release is faster, features new and exciting tools, offers improved 3D object creation, better text and shape handling, and is worthy of your investment—one that will immediately begin to pay dividends.
Photoshop CS6 Extended: US$399.00 or as part of a Creative Suite or Adobe Creative Cloud
ADOBE LIGHTROOM 5
Note: June 10, 2013—Adobe announced today that the retail version of Lightroom 5 is now available—see pricing information at the end of this review.
Lightroom 5 Update
Download Lightroom 5
Get Started with Julieanne Kost’s video tutorial series
Get help with Lightroom 5
Changes since the public beta:
- Share, publish, and organize your photos online using the Behance and Revel plug-ins; users will have to download and install the Revel plug-in.
- Over 400 bugs found and fixed!
- New Camera Support in Lightroom 5.0
There has been a fix for Upright tool, which now better straightens horizons. The feathering slider on the Radial Filter in response to user requests has been expanded (doubled), making it more useful and less hard edged on the maximum setting.
Users also report improvements in performance and speed.
Since most of the new features were available in the 5.0 beta, the information as noted below also applies to the final release of Lightroom 5.
ORGANIZE, CUSTOMIZE, AND PERFECT YOUR PHOTOS
Lightroom 5 is a fantastic digital imaging solution for photographers, and other creatives. Lightroom isn’t a replacement for Photoshop, as these programs serve mostly different purposes. Depending upon your needs, you can use and easily navigate a seamless round trip between both programs in your photo-processing workflow.
For those new to Adobe Lightroom, here’s a basic overview:
Under the hood, Photoshop is a pixel editor. Lightroom is primarily a database that catalogs your photos; it also offers a toolset to make certain modifications to your images.
The Lightroom 5 workspace is well designed and the plug-ins are organized into seven modules. Each module focuses on a specific portion of the photographic workflow, from importing and organizing images to making local or global adjustments to exhibiting photos through a variety of formats.
NOTE: Digital asset management is one of Lightroom’s main functions. When working with Lightroom, your image folders can reside anywhere within your computer system—main or external hard drives. Importing your photos into Lightroom doesn’t mean that Lightroom makes and saves copies of your photos within the program. Instead, Lightroom keeps track of your photos and the absolute path to their locations by creating editing instructions, which it stores by default in a database called a Catalog.
SEVEN LIGHTROOM MODULES
Library – View, sort, manage, organize, compare, and rate the photos in your catalog. It’s your home base for working with photos after importing them into Lightroom.
Develop – Globally adjust the color and tonal scale of your photos, or make local adjustments. All adjustments in Lightroom are nondestructive, meaning your original file is not altered.
Map – Organize your photos based on where they were taken and plot your photo journey.
Book – Build Photo Books and export them to a PDF or JPG file or send them directly to Blurb, the Photo Book printing service.
Slideshow – Create slideshows to present photos and video on screen with music and transitions.
Print – Specify the page layout and print option for printing photos and contact sheets on your printer.
Web – Create web photo galleries. These websites feature thumbnail images that link to larger versions of the photos.
PHOTOSHOP & LIGHTROOM
Lightroom and Photoshop are tightly integrated so you can easily switch between them. For the smoothest round trip, set your preferences in Photoshop and Lightroom’s External Editing tab. In your workflow, it’s most often best to make your adjusments first in Lightroom, and then if necessary go to Photoshop to further process your photos.
While Lightroom excels at asset management and global corrections, those modifications that affect the entire photo, Photoshop is best for local edits such as adjustment layers and selections. Photoshop’s ability to edit pixels means that it can do some things that Lightroom can’t, or can’t do as well, like compositing, retouching, working with layers, making more precise local corrections, and more.
A SELECTION OF IMPROVEMENTS IN ADOBE LIGHTROOM 5
Advanced Healing Brush
Now, when you need to remove areas of your image, you no longer have to rely on Photoshop for those tools. Lightroom’s new Advanced healing brush makes your images spotless with a single brush stroke—from face wrinkles to distracting street signs. You can adjust the size of the brush and move it in precise paths. Unwanted objects and flaws—even those with irregular shapes—magically disappear while maintaining a natural looking background.
If you’re first attempt with the Advanced healing brush doesn’t provide the desired result, try again. In most cases the tool works like a charm.
It’s now possible to straighten tilted images with a single click—no need to draw a reference line first, as you do inside Photoshop. The new Upright tool in Lightroom automatically analyzes images and detects skewed horizontal and vertical lines, even straightening shots where the horizon is mostly hidden.
You’ll find the Upright tool under Lens Corrections. After selecting Enable Profile Corrections and Constrain Crop, clicking on the Level button will do a marvelous job of straightening your image. The Upright tool is also handy for fixing complex perspective issues. You can also further correct your image with manual controls.
Radial Gradient Tool
The all-new Radial Gradient tool in Lightroom 5 allows you to emphasize important parts of your image with flexibility, precision, and control. You can create off-center custom sized vignette effects, or multiple vignetted areas within a single image.
Available in the Develop module, the Radial Gradient tool is in the tool strip underneath the histogram; first dial in an adjustment, say the exposure, then simply drag a circle over a local area in the image to make your selection and create your mask. Use the handles to fine-tune the size and position of the selection. You can then modify the sliders for exposure, contrast, sharpening, white balance, and other attributes to your selection.
What you’ll notice next is that your adjustments show up outside the selection. To remedy this, use the Invert Mask control (use the checkbox or Command + apostrophe) to apply your adjustments to inside the selection. If you want to create another selective adjustment in the same image with the Radial Gradient tool, click and drag again.
Spot Healing Brush
If, for example, you’re working on a portrait, you can now easily remove unwanted defects or other aberrations that up to now could be challenging to notice, such as dust on your lens; also, for example, this brush is ideal for freckles that you may want to remove or slightly soften.
With the heal mode selected, check the Visualize Spots box. A black and white preview will reveal variations within the image that might otherwise be difficult to catch unless you were zoomed in. It’s then a simple matter to click on those areas to remove those unwanted spots. For best results, make the brush only slightly larger than the area to be removed.
In the past when you were on the go, and you didn’t have your external HD with your photos with you meant that you couldn’t edit them.
Now, Lightroom 5 gives you more flexibility to work with your images without bringing your entire library with you. A new feature called Smart Previews allows you to generate smaller stand-in files. But, these previews are more than simply proxy files. Since Lightroom is a basically a database app that writes instructions to a catalog, you can make adjustments or metadata additions to these Smart Previews and apply your changes to the full-size originals later.
Improved Photo Book Creation
Lightroom 5 has also improved upon the Books module. Lightroom includes a variety of easy-to-use book templates, which you can now edit for a customized look, and even create user templates, enabling you to create a custom design for your pages, which you save to use on another book.
Text handling is also much improved using the Text tab, and you can now include page numbers. When done, upload your book layout of photos for printing with a few clicks.
Lightroom has also improved upon it’s video capabilities in the Slideshow module. By combining still images, and now video clips including music, you can share your work in HD video slideshows. Videos of your work can then be viewed on almost any computer or device.
The slideshow feature offers basic options and controls, which may be enough for your needs.
COMPOSITIONAL OVERLAYS / CROP TOOL
Using The Aspect-Ratio Overlay
The crop function is no doubt one of the photographer’s most powerful editing tools. What to show and what to hide is an art form in itself. Lightroom 5 has taken a hint from Photoshop CS6’s improvements to the old workhorse, the Crop tool. In previous versions of Lightroom, after setting a crop and then deciding to change your aspect ratio, Lightroom would unfortunately default the crop back to the mathematical center of your image instead of the previously selected center of interest.
For example, you might for printing purposes what to change a ‘that looks about right’ crop to a preset crop ratio from the dropdown menu in the Crop panel. Now, in doing so, your center of attention isn’t lost when altering the aspect ratio. Lightroom 5 intelligently maintains your crop center. This new Crop tool enhancement saves you time in that you aren't forced to revisit the previous crop and start all over again.
Cycling the Overlays
Pressing on the [o] key cycles through the six available compositional overlays—very handy if you use them. You can then press [Shift + o], which toggles you through variations that are available for some of the overlays.
Since working with Lightroom 5 beta for some weeks now, the program has been stable with no crashes on my iMac, 6GB running on Mac OS X v10.8.3. Lightroom’s new features have worked as advertised.
In addition to JPG, Tiff, PSD, Raw, CYMK, and Movie files, Lightroom 5 now supports importing PNG files, which support transparency.
I can’t vouch for Lightroom 5’s improved speed (an ongoing grumble among many users), as I haven’t tested the program with hundreds if not thousands of photos in my catalog. A fast processor, video card with 1GB of VRAM, and lots of computer RAM will naturally improve performance, as will having only one catalog (recommended) of your photos that’s then split up into collections.
Lightroom 5 offers photographers more flexibility, options, and control over their images—from True Full Screen Mode [f] key to additional search criteria for filters and smart collections. There are many more improvements over what’s described above. Lightroom’s usefulness and value has been greatly enhanced with this new release, which will not disappoint.
Operating System Requirements
Mac OS X v10.7 or v10.8
Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8
Pricing and Availability: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 is available now (as of June 10, 2013) for immediate download for Adobe Creative Cloud members. Standalone software is available at Adobe.com and participating retailers for US$149 or US$79 for upgrades.
ONONE SOFTWARE PERFECT PHOTO SUITE 7
Photographic Plug-in Nirvana / Inspiration
NOTE: Perfect Photo Suite 7.5 — a free upgrade for Version 7 users will be ready in the coming weeks and it will correctly install with Photoshop CC.
onOne Perfect Photo Suite 7 plug-ins provide a rich assortment of niche tools not available in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Apple Aperture. Additionally, Suite 7 most often improves upon existing and overlapping tools found in the host applications.
For example, while you can alter your photo in Photoshop with a number of settings for a certain look, Perfect Effects 4 (one of the seven plug-ins) may have a factory preset in its extensive library of filters with similar adjustments already made, saving time while giving you a jumping off point for further creative adjustments.
STANDALONE / PHOTOSHOP / LIGHTROOM OR APERTURE
Available in three editions, the new Perfect Photo Suite 7 from onOne contains seven remarkably useful, timesaving, and versatile plug-ins (modules) to further develop your digital images.
Suite 7 provides photographers with the means to enhance their photos through seven modules: Layers, Mask, Portrait, Effects, B&W, Focus, and Resize. You can develop distinctive images using a rich assortment of factory effect presets, layers, masks, blend modes, retouching, and other tools.
Available as a standalone application or one that integrates seamlessly with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture, onOne Perfect Photo Suite 7 is a unique set of tools that a photographer can put to good use. A mechanic has more that one type of wrench; an artist has more than of type brush. And, after all, what sets professionals above the dilettantes are their tools.
ONONE SOFTWARE IS LISTENING
The development team at onOne Software is responsive to the needs and feedback of their customers. Improving their plug-ins, introducing new tools, timely updates, freebies, webinars, and video tutorials make their products user friendly are all factors that culminate in onOne’s success in attracting photographers while maintaining an ongoing popularity among its customer base.
NOTE: onOne also routinely offers free presets for use with Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture.
WHAT’S NEW IN PERFECT PHOTO SUITE 7
REDESIGNED USER INTERFACE
Perfect Suite 7 has a new and improved user interface that shares many similarities with Adobe Lightroom. A default dark gray workspace is easy on the eyes, as it allows users to better focus on editing their images. You can modify the dark gray to a lighter shade, including black or white. The seven plug-in modules in Suite 7 are conveniently located in the upper right of the screen. Preset effects and adjustment brushes live on the left side of the workspace, while sliders and selections for manual adjustments live in collapsible panels on the right.
Perfect Photo Suite 7 was redesigned to offer improved performance, and tighter integration with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. Via round-trip editing, images can be seamlessly sent to the Perfect Photo Suite 7 module of choice from Lightroom or Aperture, where adjustments can be made, then returned to your image library. Adobe Photoshop has a dedicated built-in panel to launch your Suite 7 modules.
The round trip workflow from Lightroom or Aperture to any of the Suite 7 modules is not only quick but nondestructive. From Lightroom right-click on your image, choose Edit In, and select a module.
NEW PERFECT B&W
New to Suite 7 is Perfect B&W, which includes more than 95 built-in, one-click, black and white effects for instant results. Manual controls add additional power to recreate processing techniques such as Tone, Color Response, and Film Grain. Manual adjustments can be conveniently saved as a preset with fields for inputting relevant information to remind you what was done. You can add borders to your images from the Border panel within the B&W module, which is a feature unique to Suite 7.
Although the B&W plug-in doesn’t offer working with layers, it does allow you to select blend modes. Another minor issue here is making before and after comparisons. When loading your image into Perfect B&W, your color photo is converted to a default black and white preset. Then, if you select another preset form the library, you can’t compare the initial conversion with the new preset because the Before and After toggle reverts back to the color image, not the B&W preset.
Perfect Effects or Perfect B&W offers an inspirational starting point for your photos, which you can build upon from choices in the dropdown menu under Effect Options. Experiment and try different presets. You will be pleasantly surprised.
NEW PERFECT EFFECTS 4
Creative editing options are extended with new blending modes, paint-in effects, and an improved library of effects, borders, and textures. Effects can be found quickly and easily with an improved browser. Favorite effects, presets, and extras may be flagged to reside in your Favorites folder where they are easily accessible.
A built-in search field under Extras at the top left of the interface is new to Perfect Photo Suite 7. Type in a keyword and related presets appear, greatly simplifying in finding the right effect quickly.
STOCK PHOTO / NO MORE
In the previous version of the Perfect Suite, when you selected a preset, you were initially presented with the effect applied to a stock photo, which made it difficult to see how your image would be altered. Now, when you choose a preset, your photo is automatically used to display that preset’s effect.
Perfect Effects has a preset library with hundreds of effects organized by various categories. The effects are subtle to intense. Resizing the effects’ thumbnails makes it easy to determine how that effect worked. As you go through the presets, your original image remains safe and unchanged.
You have the option of modifying a preset or creating your own by stacking (merging) existing effects, which you can further modify manually. As with Perfect B&W, effects can be saved as presets, which is yet another time saving feature.
NEW PERFECT PORTRAIT 2
onOne has done a great job of improving this module. Perfect Portrait 2 is now more automated with new feature selection tools that make retouching easier and more intuitive.
Perfect Portrait 2 goes to work on your photo by automatically laying down a subtle skin adjustment; it also isolates the eyes and teeth from the skin, a feature that helps when color correcting skin for a natural and distinctive look without disturbing the sparkle of the eyes or the whites of the teeth.
Users also have access to presets, of which many are subtle yet effective, to get you started or to complete the retouching process. As you work, you will notice improvement in overall processing speed, minimizing lag time.
NEW PERFECT LAYERS 3
If you don’t have Photoshop, onOne Software will help you with a free version of Perfect Layers 3 where you can work with layers, masking, brushes, and filters. If you have Photoshop, Perfect Layers still offers unique tools to work with, such as the Perfect Brush for freeform masking or the versatile Masking Bug that lets you mask out an entire plane in your photo with one click.
With tools featured in Perfect Layers 3, you can create effects that aren’t possible with Lightroom or Aperture.
The new image browser and built-in search functionality make it easier to create and work with layered files. Your editing options include new blending modes, textures, borders, PNG file support, and the new edge-detecting Perfect Brush that greatly simplifies making masks.
You can download the free version of Perfect Layers 3 from here.
NEW PERFECT RESIZE 7.5 PRO
If you need to resize your images, especially increase their resolutions for print, then Perfect Resize 7.5 Pro is a must have and worth the price of the entire Suite 7 package.
Factory presets for specific printer manufacturers, paper types, and other output methods are now Perfect Resize options. This plug-in has all the necessary tools required to get the best quality enlargements for photos (and digital artwork), whether taken with a DSLR camera or mobile phone.
Perfect Resize 7.5 PRO is substantially better at enlarging images than Photoshop’s Bicubic upscaling. To get better performance when using the processor intensive Corel Painter 12, I often create my canvas at 200ppi, and then use Perfect Resize to upscale the finished painting to 300 ppi with great results for printing.
NEW PERFECT BRUSH
As previously mentioned, there’s a new feature in Suite 7 called the Perfect Brush. This masking brush is a precision edge-detection tool that lets you selectively paint in effects.
The Perfect Brush lets you apply or remove adjustments to the specific area you’re working on without crossing over into the adjacent edges. Perfect Brush is available in Perfect B&W, Perfect Portrait 2, Perfect Layers 3, and Perfect Effects 4.
INTEGRATED FRAMES, BORDERS AND EDGES
Although PhotoFrame 4.6 is out of the picture as a plug-in, you still have access to this late plug-in’s most popular frames, borders and edges. You can add these effects to images while working in Perfect B&W, Perfect Layers 3, and Perfect Effects 4.
Wacom Toggle: If you have a Wacom pressure sensitive tablet you can control certain brush parameters with pressure. Controls with a W icon next to them support this when activated.
RECOMMENDED / MINIMUM / REQUIREMENTS
While Perfect Photo Suite 7 will work with the minimum system requirements, prepare yourself for lags, especially when working on larger files. All such performance issues go away when you run Suite 7 with a recommended video card and more dedicated video ram—similar performance enhancing requirements to Lightroom 5.
Minimum: OpenGL 2.0 compatible video card with 256 MB dedicated video RAM
Recommended: OpenGL 4.0 compatible video card with 1GB dedicated video RAM
THREE FOR THE SHOW
All three editions of onOne Perfect Photo Suite 7 are available as the Standard Edition for $79.95, the Lightroom & Aperture Edition for $149.95, or the Premium Edition for $299.95. Existing onOne Software customers may upgrade to the Lightroom & Aperture Edition for $79.95, or to the Premium Edition for $149.95.
A free 30-day trial of Perfect Photo Suite 7 Premium Edition is available here.
The Standard Edition is a standalone application for those who don’t use Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or Apple Aperture. You can enhance, stylize, and retouch your photos and edit multi-layered files without Photoshop.
NOTE: You can only work in the JPG format in this edition, which has fewer presets in the Perfect Effects and B&W modules.
The Lightroom & Aperture Edition is designed for the photographer who uses these host apps as the hub of their photo management and editing workflows. These editions provide image-editing tools not available in Lightroom and Aperture—maximizing creativity while solving the most common problems in photo editing.
Lightroom & Aperture Edition users can work with a variety of image formats including RAW, JPG, PNG, and TIFF, create and edit multi-layered files, and access any of the Perfect Photo Suite 7 modules directly via a seamless round trip from Lightroom or Aperture.
After adjustments are made, images may be saved as a PSD, TIF, PNG, or JPG alongside the original image in your Lightroom or Aperture library—providing non-destructive editing. This edition of the Suite also works as a standalone application for quick touch ups and edits.
The Premium Edition offers photographers the greatest flexibility and seamless integration of Perfect Photo Suite 7 with their workflow of choice. Providing all of the functionality of the Lightroom & Aperture and Standard Editions, the Premium Edition gives users direct access to Perfect Photo Suite modules directly from within Lightroom, Aperture, and as a standalone.
Photoshop and Photoshop Elements users will love the added plug-in functionality of the Premium Edition that resides in a single dedicated onOne Panel, offering direct access to the seven module presets.
onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 7 is a wonderful set of digital photo processing tools that each photographer can use to further explore and develop the possibilities in their work.
All seven modules are convenient and well integrated to work with their host programs. Even if you use only one or two modules in your workflow, adding Perfect Photo Suite 7 as part of your professional toolkit is still worth your coin.