Plug-Ins



The purpose of this tutorial is to compare third party plug-ins, recipes and pre-sets (Nik, Topaz and OnOne). The destination of our journey is unimportant; it is the scenery along the route which is of interest to us.

Whilst we are travelling, we may take a detour to visit what the main processing software can offer.

No one software program satisfies all needs. I use two main programs for processing; I use two principal plug-in providers. Many would suggest that a uniform "workflow" solves all processing problems; I maintain that all you need is a consistent approach to be close to the real answer since no two images are the same nor need the same extent of processing.  Within my plug-in bundles I use a limited range of "recipes" and "pre-sets" for my "style" of photography.

To use plug-ins requires host software (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro) as a platform from which they are launched. This is one of the aspects which can present us with a challenge. 64 bit host software doesn't take too kindly to running 32 bit plug-ins, and vice versa.

Fortunately, some plug-in providers detect which hosts are present and load appropriately both during installation and at runtime; some providers merely support a limited range of hosts; a visit to the support pages is mandatory.

Topaz has a useful product which is an alternative to the host processing route. 

photoFXlab can be used to launch the Topaz range of plugins.  Having layers capability this product enables the user to modify the image in different ways and then blend the layers before saving the product.

Additionally the "look" of an image from sites such as 500px.com and 1x.com can be imported and applied to your image.  Presently the created layers cannot be retained; they must be merged.

Let’s look at Black and White conversion first. 

Renewed interest in Black and White Photography indicates that colour does not rule.

Click onto the “Greyscale” on the menu tab; this does your image no favours.  The image is probably muddy and lifeless because all that the processing software has done is to take average luminance values across the entire colour spectrum.  In the days of analogue Black and White film Photography we used over-the-lens filters to accentuate different colour reflectance of objects in the subject to change their apparent tones.  That’s the place to begin when you use a Black and White conversion plugin.


plur-ins original


Paint Shop Pro


In Paint Shop Pro, you can right click on your image thumbnail in the layers palette and choose duplicate.  This should always be the first step to protect your original.  Then, select the copy of the background image thumbnail. 

Image > Greyscale turns the image to Black and White

Most probably, by now you’ve decided that this does your image no favours.  The image is probably muddy and lifeless because all that Paint Shop Pro has done is to take average luminance values across the entire colour spectrum.  In the days of analogue Black and White film Photography we used filters to accentuate different colours.

So how do you choose which tones are lightened or darkened?

In Paint Shop Pro, the simplest way to achieve this is to adjust the levels to fine tune the contrast

Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Levels

plug-ins levles adjustment


Adjust > Hue and Saturation > Hue/Saturation/Lightness.

In the menu box, you have the opportunity to change to saturation and lightness of ALL of the colours either singly or in combinations.
  • Decrease the master saturation to -100,
  • Decrease blue lightness to -17
  • Increase yellow lightness to 52
  • Increase green lightness to 28
The will create a black and white image, darkening the sky and lightening the grass ...

now go to Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Curves to fine tune the contrast.


plug-ins curves adjustment


Adjust > Add/Remove Noise


plug-ins noise


Gives the grainy effect Effects > Photo Effects > Vignette just finishes the effect


plug-ins vignette



Photoshop Elements


In Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, the simple way to Black and White Photography, is to choose

Layer  > New Adjustment Layer > Levels

plug-ins elemenst levels

To enhance the contrast.

Then select the adjustment layer in the layers panel and Layer > Merge Down then
Enhance > Convert to Black and White.


plug-ins black and white


And then set the sliders to diminish the sensitivity to blue.

To get a bit of grain Filter > Noise > Add Noise

plug-ins add noise


plug-ins elements converted


NIK Software


NIK Silver EFEX Pro 2 needs all the processing power you can muster.  It needs a host such as Photoshop CS or Elements, and OpenGL 3 to maximize the graphic capability.

In Elements 11

Filter > Nik Collection >  Silver EFEX Pro 2 starts the plugin.

As the plug-in starts, the left hand side holds the presets, the right hand panel holds the fine tuning.  I wanted the black gritty sky and the burnt out grass of a pseudo IR image.

I used the neutral Black and White basic conversion and then adjusted the fine tuning to give me
  • A slight decrease in brightness.
  • The equivalent of a red filter over the taking lens at maximum strength

plug-ins nik one


plug-ins nik two



plug ins nik three



plug-ins nik black and white



Topaz



Topaz Black and White Effects 2.1 similarly needs all the processing power you can muster.  It needs a host such as Photoshop CS or Elements or Paint Shop Pro or Serif Photo Plus X6, and OpenGL 2 to maximize the graphic capability.

In Elements 11 ...

Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz BW Effects 2

As the plugin starts, the left hand side holds the presets, the right hand panel holds the fine tuning.  Again, I wanted the black gritty sky and the burnt out grass of a pseudo IR image.

I used the Traditional Collection Classic Black and White basic conversion and then adjusted the fine tuning to give me ...
  • Standard brightness.
  • The equivalent of a red filter over the taking lens at maximum strength
  • A grainy image.
  • A vignette.


plug-ins topaz



plug-ins topaz2



plug-ins topaz3



plug-ins topaz4



plug-ins topaz black and white


OnOne


OnOne Perfect Photo Suite can be run standalone or File > Automation Tools from Elements 11.  From the Suite choose BW or from Automation choose Perfect BW1.


plug-ins onone


As the plugin starts, the left hand side holds the presets, the right hand panel holds the fine tuning.  Again, I wanted the black gritty sky and the burnt out grass of a pseudo IR image.

I used the Basic Fundamentals Default Settings and then adjusted the fine tuning to give me ...
  • An increase in contrast
  • Infra-red filtration
  • A more contrasty tone curve
  • Emulation of a film known for its grain structure; pushed by two stops
  • A vignette
  • Sharpening

plug-ins onone1



plug-ins onone2



plug-ins onone3



plug-ins onone4



plug-ins onone5



plug-ins onone6



plug-ins onone bw

I like the frames and effects in the Suite, so I applied the Torn Paper frame and cropped the image slightly.


plug-ins onone crop

Have I any favourites?  The simple answer is, “No.”  Each has its advantages.

Summary

Each of the plug-ins has more to offer than the simple tour I’ve given.

In Paint Shop Pro and Elements, you can use layers to make adjustments to small areas within the image.

In NIK Silver Efex Pro 2, control to areas is made using the U-Point technology which puts control points for Contrast, Brightness, Structure and the like into the image which you control just like you’d burn and dodge and split grade.

OnOne B&W 1 and Topaz Black and White Effects 2 use brush technology to achieve burning and dodging.

You’ll need your WACOM to get the best out of these.  The Topaz product has an edge detecting or ‘smart’ brush, whereas the OnOne product needs your steady hand.  The OnOne product has too the ‘Masking Bug’ which is a sophisticated control point system.

The widest range of frames and other effects is to be found in OnOne B&W 1; Topaz Black and White Effects 2 has a limited range; the skilled worker, of course, should be able to make almost any effect in PaintShopPro and Elements.

As for toning, all of the packages have a fair range of effects to offer, either directly as presets(NIK Silver Efex Pro 2, OnOne B&W 1, Topaz Black and White Effects 2); user driven by sliders (NIK Silver Efex Pro 2, OnOne B&W 1, Topaz Black and White Effects 2); and user created (PaintShopPro and Elements)


Plug-Ins
Page Links

Black and White

Paint Shop Pro

Photoshop Elements

Nik Software

Topaz

OnOne

Summary








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