Author: Joel Wolfson
I spent 5 minutes using Topaz Glow to augment the sense of wonder by this child in a museum. This requires at least one hour in Photoshop with advanced expertise to accomplish a similar look.
The title of this article poses an excellent question. If you aren’t familiar with plug-ins, they are mini imaging programs that work in conjunction with Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and other mainstream programs to accomplish various common and creative tasks.
Photoshop can pretty much accomplish anything with an image and Lightroom also has a lot of adjustments available for editing an image. I have been using Photoshop and Lightroom on a daily basis since their very first versions. My level of expertise is high with both of these and I can do just about anything I want with these two programs whether precise adjustments with luminosity masks, conversion to black and white, special effects, or just everyday raw processing.
Why I Use Plug-ins
The short answer to why I use plug-ins is they’re efficient, save time, easy to use, and can encourage creativity. This provides some critical benefits: They leave me more time to spend behind the camera or with my family, instead of being in front of the computer and still accomplish the tasks I need or want to without the extra time in Photoshop. I also like experimenting with the one-click presets in plug-ins because it sparks new ideas and is a quick way to see different treatments of an image.
In 8 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity and BW Effects I converted a raw capture and created a black and white image with depth, shadow detail and accentuated clouds for drama in the sky. The equivalent in Photoshop requires advanced expertise and takes about an hour.
Efficiency in Learning
The other thing to consider is that the learning curve on most plug-ins is shorter than the amount of time you have to invest in attaining a similar result in Photoshop.
For example, if you learn one Topaz or Nik plug-in it’s easy to learn another that accomplishes a completely different task. Let’s say you start with learning Topaz Adjust, which does an amazing job equalizing exposure. You can go to B&W Effects plug-in, see a familiar interface and tools and do great black and white conversions. Similarly, fire up Topaz Clarity and add a sense of depth to your images. Accomplishing these 3 vastly different tasks in Photoshop would require learning a number of different advanced techniques. Add to this the fact that plug-ins tend to have dozens of presets (one-click shortcuts) with which you can accomplish the task you want plus some fantastic results you never dreamed.
It took me about 12 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity, and Detail to process this raw image to one with proper detail, a sense of depth and a natural feel. It takes 45 minutes for a similar result in Photoshop (expert level in Photoshop)
Hands On Workshop for Plug-Ins
Because I get a lot of requests to go beyond my one hour webinars on using plug-ins I’m offering a two day hands-on workshop with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops in November. It’s called Capture to Masterpiece Workflow: Picture Perfect with Plug-ins. I’ll take attendees through the whole process starting with a photo shoot in the Superstition Mountains through final results incorporating plug-ins. We’ll learn how to optimize raw images, add a sense of depth, convert to black and white, and create some images that are just pure fun where your imagination is the limit!
Take a look at the examples in this post and read the captions for the time it took using plug-ins versus the time to get a similar effect in Photoshop. Most of the Photoshop work would require an advanced to expert level.
This is a preview mode for looking at a collection of presets in Topaz B&W Effects. As you scroll you see dozens more options. There are also numerous collections of these presets, all of which offer one-click processing of your image.
Happy Shooting Everyone!
Joel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.
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