Product Review: Adobe Dreamweaver CS5

By Toni McQuilken

If you want to create or manage your own Web site, for personal or professional reasons, Dreamweaver has always been a good choice. The CS5 version has some new tweaks and abilities that continue to improve on what was already a powerful program.

I should note that I manage my own site, tonimcquilken.com, and I have used Dreamweaver to build and maintain it since the CS3 version. I’ve played with this program for many years, and while I won’t pretend to be a code junkie expert, I know just enough to make me dangerous, which is why the constant simplifying of complex processes in Dreamweaver has been, for me, a huge plus.

One of the biggest additions in the “making it easier” category with this release has been the ability to see what you’re designing in a PHP-based content management system. For the rest of you non-code junkies out there, that is basically taking content beyond a static HTML page, and giving it more dynamic design. In other words, the page is generated when a user calls it up, instead of ahead of time and stored on a server. It pulls content based on rules you set up, allowing for more interesting and interactive elements.

This was possible before in Dreamweaver, but the addition of Live View actually allows you to see the end result now, and see what changes to the code will impact the design, without having to switch back and forth to a browser. This is a huge time-saver, and for those people who want to use things like dynamic photo or video galleries, this is a serious upgrade.

Another upgrade in this version of Dreamweaver is a further simplification of CSS coding. Adobe had offered tools for de-bugging CSS code in CS4, but they’ve made that support far more comprehensive in CS5. To the point where this completely CSS-ignorant journalist is actually considering a total site overhaul. CSS has many advantages over basic HTML, but migrating and using that platform was like learning a whole new language. I won’t say it’s easy now, but the new tools, such as pop-up windows to show you exactly what code applies to what sections, certainly makes it more user-friendly.

Viewing the source code (image above) and the live code (image below)…

The final major new feature I’d like to point out is the integration with Adobe’s new CS Live function called BrowserLab. Adobe’s documentation explains why this is useful far better than I can: “While working within Dreamweaver CS5, you have the ability to interact with your page in Live View, including the ability to freeze JavaScript-triggered interactions, and then send this “snapshot” of the page directly to BrowserLab for an accurate preview in the specific browsers and operating systems you’ve chosen. Onionskin view in BrowserLab allows you to overlay the same page in two different browsers or browser versions, which is extremely helpful in determining exactly what are the differences in the way code is displayed by different browsers.”

This is another great time-saving tool for ensuring the look and feel you’re trying to convey are achieved no matter what browser your clients choose to use. There is nothing more frustrating than creating a beautiful design that displays perfectly in Firefox, only to discover it looks completely wrong in Internet Explorer. Now you can quickly see where the differences are, and made adjustments without having to track down multiple computers or systems to test against.

If you already have a site, migrating to Dreamweaver is as simple as running through a few dialog boxes to point it toward your servers and local files. If you’re creating a new site, Dreamweaver also offers a host of templates, which have also been expanded and improved in this release. And if you’re running a previous version of Dreamweaver and plan to do any CSS or PHP coding in the near future, this is definitely a release you want to check out. All-in-all, Dreamweaver is another solid product from Adobe with some great new features and upgrades in the CS5 release package.

Share

Nik Software Upgrades Silver Efex Pro

Version 2 Adds Features to Photoshop, Lightroom & Aperture Plug-In

Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2 boxshot for picture-soup.com blogToday Nik Software announced the upgrade version of Silver Efex Pro 2. According to the press release, Silver Efex Pro is, “widely regarded by photographers as the leading black-and-white software solution on the market today.” Yours truly thinks it’s a great program so I guess I’m one of those photographers the release is talking about.
Silver Efex Pro 2 brings new features to the program that offer even more control over detail, contrast, and tonality, making it easier than ever to transform color photographs into stunning black-and-white images.
New features: History Browser, Dynamic Brightness, Amplify Blacks, Amplify Whites, Soft Contrast, Fine Structure, Image Borders, and selective colorization, in addition to speed and quality improvements.
Silver Efex Pro 2 also utilitzes Nik’s proprietary U Point technology, which makes selective editing easy, without the need for layer masks or complicated selections.
Silver Efex Pro 2 installs as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop CS4 or later, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 or later (Windows and Macintosh) or Apple Aperture 2.1.4 or later (Macintosh). According to Nik Software, Silver Efex Pro 2 is the first program from the company to take advantage of the latest graphics processing units.
Silver Efex Pro 2 will be available next month. MSRP is $199.95. Upgrades from the first version are $99.95. For more information visit www.niksoftware.com/silverefexpro.

— D.B.

Share

Nik Software Ships HDR Efex Pro

Nik Software has begun shipping HDR Efex Pro, a completely new High Dynamic Range (HDR) solution designed to help photographers quickly and easily achieve a full spectrum of HDR enhancements.

Nik Software’s proprietary U Point technology is also incorporated into HDR Efex Pro, providing precise selective fine-tuning of images without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.

The software also gives photographers the ability to create dramatic HDR images from a single exposure; which is ideal for subjects that don’t lend themselves to multiple exposures, or for reprocessing previously captured single images.

HDR Efex Pro installs as a 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Windows only) and CS5 (Windows and Mac), and as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 or later (Windows and Macintosh) or Apple Aperture 2.1 or later (Mac).

MSRP for HDR Efex Pro is $159.95.

Go to www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro for more information.

For our original post on the product announcement, click here.

— D.B.

Share

Kubota Imaging Tools Bows “Vintage Delish” Lightroom Presets

vintagedelishpresets for picture-soup.com articleKubota Image Tools today announced the immediate availability of its latest package of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom presets—Vintage Delish—which includes 42 custom develop presets that will let you give your photographs the look of aged or faded films, funky cross-processing, deep vignettes, color-toned black and whites, and much more. The presets are fully compatible with Lightroom 3 for the Mac and PC. (You can use them with Lightroom 2, but not all presets may offer full functionality.)

The Vintage Delish presets cost $39. and can be purchased and downloaded from http://www.KubotaImageTools.com/VintageDelish.html.

Look for our review coming soon!

— Diane Berkenfeld

Share

Nik Software Announces HDR Efex Pro Plug-In

HDR_Efex_Pro_Boxforweb for picture-soup.com announcement articleNik Software today announced HDR Efex Pro, a completely new HDR imaging toolkit designed to help photographers quickly and easily achieve the full spectrum of HDR enhancements from the realistic to artistic.

High dynamic range or HDR photography is the process whereby you capture multiple exposures of a scene or subject (over- and under-exposing), and then align and merge them to generate a single image that enables a much wider range of colors, highlights, and shadows. According to Nik Software, HDR Efex Pro overcomes limitations in other software tools with a revolutionary all-in-one approach that enables both realistic and artistic effects to be applied within a single tool.

The plug-in is ideal for both pro and amateur photographers. HDR Efex Pro gives you single-click HDR imaging with categorized style presets, precise selective fine-tuning using Nik Software’s proprietary U Point technology, advanced alignment and ghost reduction, full access to shadow and highlight details, and new tone mapping algorithms. Color, contrast, and vignette controls enable you to further enhance your images to create amazing results.

HDR Efex Pro also lets you create the dramatic HDR look from a single image. This feature enables you to reprocess images in which either an exposure series was not previously shot or for subject matter that does not lend itself to multiple exposures, such as portraits or moving water.

Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro plug-in works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. HDR Efex Pro installs as a 32-bit or 64-bit plug-in for Photoshop CS3 or later, Lightroom 2.3 or later, or Aperture 2.1 or later.

Screenshot of an image in Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro. Image courtesy Nik Software.

The plug-in will be available in Q4 in both boxed delivery from photo specialty retailers select online and national resellers (complete list of Nik Software resellers may be found at www.niksoftware.com/resellers) and electronic download from the company’s website . MSRP for HDR Efex Pro is $159.95.

For more information, go to www.niksoftware.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld

Share

Alien Skin Releases Bokeh 2 Plug-In

Alien Skin has announced the immediate release of Bokeh 2, the latest version of its lens simulation plug-in for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Bokeh lets photographers hone in on their subjects by manipulating focus, vignette, and depth of field in post production.

Bokeh 2 accurately simulates the distinctive blurring and creamy highlights of real lenses. The company achieved this by working with lenses famous for their bokeh—including the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 and Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Macro.

New Features

This new version of the software also lets you render film grain to match the original photo, making the image look more natural. The plug-in also has been enhanced so you can see real-time changes to your image while working on it. Other new features include the ability to simulate the effects of tilt-shift lenses and add creative shapes to the highlights in your image. And the addition of factory presets means that new users can begin experimenting right out-of-the-gate.

The Bokeh 2 plug-in is compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS3 or later; Lightroom 2 or later; Photoshop Elements 7 or later; and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X3. For photographers using Windows-based PCs, you must have at least a Pentium 4 processor and Windows XP SP3 or later. For Mac users, an Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.5 or later is required. The plug-in works with the 64-bit version of Photoshop CS5 on both the Mac and PC. The company suggests a monitor with the resolution of 1024×768 be used.

Bokeh 2 retails at $199. Upgrades from Bokeh 1 will cost $99. For photographers who purchased Bokeh 1 in April 2010 or later, the upgrade will be free.

For more information go to www.alienskin.com.

Look for our review of Bokeh 2 in the near future!

— Diane Berkenfeld

Share

Product Review: Alien Skin’s Exposure 3 Plug-In

By Diane Berkenfeld

Alien Skin Software’s Exposure 3 plug-in lets you turn your digital images into the photographs you took yesteryear. Sorta. What the plug-in does, is,picture-soup.com new gear announcement exposure 3 simulate film—an extensive library of accurate film properties, both color and B&W. In addition to the film simulation, the software offers the added creativity of simulating Lo-Fi and vintage effects. Don’t have a Holga or plastic toy camera but wish you could have taken a certain photo with one? No worries, just run the image through Exposure 3 and you can turn your crisp, perfect image into the toy-camera output of your dreams.

Get Technical

The computer I tested Exposure 3 on is a Macbook Pro with an Intel Core Duo Processor, Mac OS 10.6.3 with 2 Gigs of RAM.

The Exposure 3 plug-in can be used with Photoshop CS5 or Lightroom 3. I’ve found it works faster when using it from within Photoshop than launching it as an external editor for Lightroom. Exposure 3 offers 64-bit support for Photoshop CS5 on both the Mac and PC.

If you choose to run it through Lightroom 2 or 3, you don’t need to have Photoshop on the computer to run the plug-in, however I think that most pro photographers reading this review have Photoshop. Exposure 3 is also compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS3 and CS4, Adobe Lightroom 2, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 or later, and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X3.

Alien Skin suggests Microsoft Windows users have at least a Pentium 4 processor or compatible and Windows XP SP3 or later. Apple Macintosh users must have an Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.5 or later. A monitor with 1024×768 resolution or greater is required.

Whether your workflow includes Lightroom or Photoshop, Exposure 3 offers multiple ways to alter your images without being destructive to the files. In Lightroom you can choose to edit a copy or edit a copy with Lightroom adjustments, in addition to editing the image file. In Photoshop, the software can render effects on a duplicate layer instead of the original; or be used as a Smart Filter.

The company has also improved the user interface in this iteration of Exposure. Once you launch the plug-in, you choose either color or B&W. Although not clocked with a stopwatch, I did notice previews were quicker than previous versions of the software. And because there are so many settings you can choose from, I found myself looking at the preview of one particular setting and if I didn’t like it, I immediately clicked the next one as soon as the preview was complete. I never found myself waiting for the previews before I was ready to move onto the next one.

exposure 3 screenshot for picture-soup.com review

Screenshot of the Exposure 3 plug-in launched from Photoshop CS5 on a Mac, showing a split screen. The settings listing shows the film types/Lo-Fi camera effects; further tweaking can be done by clicking on color, focus, tone, grain and age, after choosing a film simulation. Photograph © Diane Berkenfeld.

Get Creative

In addition to all of the technical improvements ‘under the hood’ so to speak, Alien Skin has added the simulation of Lo-Fi toy cameras, aging effects and more vintage films like Technicolor and old Kodachrome, in addition to other film types, toning and aging settings.

picture-soup.com image for exposure 3 review

(top left) Original image of a recording studio's sound board; (top right) Fuji Sensia low light cross process; (bottom left) Fuji Neopan 1600 dust and scratches; (bottom right) vignette soft Agfa APX 100. Photograph © Diane Berkenfeld.

If you’re looking to replicate the look of one of your favorite films, odds are you’ll find what you’re looking for in Exposure 3. There are 500 presets you can choose from. But if you want to use a certain film look as a stepping stone to a more unique look, you can do that too, because the plug-in lets you make numerous tweaks to the settings provided, and it allows you to save presets too.

As much as you may spend hours restoring images that came from a scratched print, neg. or slide, it would take you only mere seconds to add dust and scratches, or realistically fade colors to age a digital image using Exposure 3.

shots of water for picture-soup.com review of exposure 3

(top left) Original image of marshes and the far shore reflected in the water; (top right) Bleach bypass; (bottom left) EPP cross process; (bottom right) Lomo Fujifilm cross process. Photograph © Diane Berkenfeld.

What makes Exposure 3 such a great plug-in is the fact that Alien Skin has put in a lot of work to make sure the film simulations are realistic. When I shot film, I loved the look of big grain in B&W and used to shoot Kodak Tmax 3200; with regards to color, I’d shoot Fujifilm chrome film because I loved the warmth of the final images. Now I can take my digital images and give them the “look” of those films. For discontinued films, like Kodachrome, which will cease being processed by the end of the year, this means a lot. [For more on Kodachrome's film and processing discontinuation, click here —Ed.] Oh, and being able to take a photograph handheld, at whatever exposure ambient lighting allows, then simulate Kodachrome 25 or another extremely slow film sounds like a better prospect than having to wait for exactly the right moment—not to mention lugging a tripod, and perhaps using a cable release. I won’t even go into trying to find a lab that will cross-process your film without charging you an-arm-and-a-leg. Even a film-lover like myself has to admit that digital does have its advantages.

Exposure 3 sells for $249, upgrade from any version for $99.

Go to www.alienskin.com for more information.

Share

Unified Color Technologies Launches HDR Expose Software

HDR Expose product box shot for picture-soup.com itemUnified Color Technologies, the experts in high dynamic range imaging (HDR), announced the launch of HDR Expose, its next generation software for the creation and editing of HDR images. The software replaces the company’s flagship product, HDR PhotoStudio; and offers a plethora of new features, including: the addition of interactive HDR histogram, digital color readout, multiple ghost reduction options, plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture, and a new user interface. The software provides full 32-bit color editing capabilities.

HDR Expose retains all the features users have depended on: complete control of contrast, shadow and highlights while preserving the maximum color spectrum; a comprehensive toolbox that addresses some of the common difficulties in HDR photography like noise reduction and veiling glare adjustment; and image compression with Unified Color’s native file format, .BEF. The software also includes a .BEF-converting plug-in to directly return the resulting images to Photoshop for additional editing.

System requirements:

• PC: Windows XP, Windows Vista (for 20 MP image or larger, 64-bit Windows version is recommended.) Unified Color recommends utilizing a quad-core processor. Minimum 2 GB RAM, recommended 3 GB.

• Apple: Intel Macintosh 2.5 GHz dual core CPU with 2GB minimum RAM (4GB is recommended) running Mac OS 10.5.x (Leopard) or Mac OS 10.6.2 (Snow Leopard).

For more details, go to www.unifiedcolor.com.

— D.B.


Share

Alien Skin Software Announces Immediate Availability of Exposure 3 Plug-in

picture-soup.com new gear announcement exposure 3Alien Skin Software today announced the immediate availability of the Exposure 3 plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5. Exposure 3 is the latest version of the company’s plug-in that provides photographers with film simulation as well as a range of creative effects.

The first iteration of Exposure was mainly a film simulation tool allowing photographers to give their digital images the look of their favorite film emulsions. Exposure 3 adds the look of Lo-Fi cameras such as the Holga and Lomo, as well as vintage looks including Technicolor movie film and old Kodachrome that’s distressed with dust, scratches and vignettes to appear aged.

In addition to the new film styles, Exposure 3 will provide users with an improved interface, faster preview and hover help. The software offers over 500 presets that lets you give images a complex look with only a single click of the mouse. Hundreds of settings in all categories are new—including more films, color toning and aging.

Computer Requirements

Exposure 3 offers 64-bit support for Photoshop CS5 on both the Mac and Windows. The plug-in can also be installed in Adobe Lightroom without Photoshop needing to be installed too.

Exposure 3 is compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS3 or later, Adobe Lightroom 2 or later, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 or later, and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X3. PC computers need to be running at least a Pentium 4 processor or compatible processor and Windows XP SP3 or later. Apple users must be running an Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.5 or later. A monitor with 1024 x 768 resolution or greater is required.

Alien Skin Exposure 3 sells for $249 for the full version, and upgrades from any previous version are $99.

Check out Alien Skin’s website at www.alienskin.com for its large library of tutorial videos.

—Diane Berkenfeld

Share

Product Review: Digital Anarchy's Beauty Box Photo Plug-in

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.

Share