I have Lightroom and Photoshop – Why Do I Need Plug-ins?

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.

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.

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)

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.

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

headshotJoel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.
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Hidden at the Bottom- New Dehaze Tool in Lightroom

Author: Joel Wolfson

1BEFORE: This is an image I shot on a hazy day while conducting my Villages of Tuscany photo workshop a few weeks ago. It is rather lackluster prior to using the new Dehaze control in the latest release of Lightroom. See the “After” photo below.

2AFTER: Here’s the same image after using the Dehaze slider set to +56. As a result of what this slider does I also had to bump up the exposure by .30 and change the hue of the sky from a funky looking cyan to a more realistic blue.

If you scroll nearly all the way down the palettes in the Develop module of Lightroom’s latest release, at the bottom of the Effects panel, you’ll find a wonderful new slider called “Dehaze”.

Although it will provide an effect that seems to reduce haze in an image it has more uses than that. Really it’s a much more useful clarity slider than the one in the Presence section of the Treatment panel in Lightroom.

Some of you may remember Lightroom’s old Clarity slider before Adobe “improved” it, but really making it useless for more images than it helps. Thankfully, DeHaze can be used as a much better version of the Clarity slider to help add depth to an image.3

BEFORE: I shot this in May while scouting locations for my Villages of Provence photo workshop in France. This is from the raw file prior to any adjustments in Lightroom. See below for how I used the Dehaze slider to add a sense of depth and bring out details.4AFTER: Although not its intended use, I like the new Dehaze slider in Lightroom to quickly add a sense of depth to my images. For this image of the poppies I set Dehaze to +46. I also had to move my Exposure slider in Lightroom to +.30 to compensate for some darkening created by Dehaze.

In many cases it can save you the time of having to go into Topaz’s Clarity plugin (one of my most used plugins). The effect of Dehaze is similar to the effect you get using the micro and low contrast sliders in that plugin. It certainly won’t replace Topaz Clarity but it should mean fewer trips to Photoshop.

The slider goes from -100 to +100 with 0 being no adjustment. The positive direction reduces haze and negative numbers make your photo more hazy and muted. You’ll find you need to do some additional adjustments after using Dehaze in the positive direction, which is how most of us will use it. In many cases you will need to brighten your image with the exposure slider and decrease the saturation a bit, particularly in landscapes. Hazy landscapes will tend to have cyan skies and the Dehaze slider really saturates the skies. You may find yourself using the Hue targeted adjustment tool to change that intense cyan to a more realistic blue even after desaturating overall.

Check out my examples above and enjoy using this somewhat hidden but useful new slider in Lightroom CC 2015.

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Here is a link to his website.  Joel is an instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Confessions of a Pixel Pusher – Saving the shot

Author: Paul Bartell

You’re out on a hike exploring some cool areas and the morning sunlight is dramatic and providing you with some wonderful photo opportunities. You’re mind’s eye frames an image that you just have to capture, you scramble to the perfect location but the sunlight is now shining into your lens and reflecting off of the water causing a huge amount of flare in the image you capture. Disappointed, you move on to enjoy the rest of your day hoping to capture other equally inspiring images. Once home, with the image downloaded you are faced with the decision to delete the washed out image or see if you can save it, coax some life into it to become the image you initially envisioned.

watson1

Adobe Lightroom did most of the work to save this image.

Watson2

A little Photoshop work to remove the light colored waterline on the rocks and delete some of the debris floating in the water. Next a little help from a favorite Photoshop plugin, Topaz Clarity, to add some additional some depth and punch. This image is now pretty much what I envisioned that beautiful morning at Watson Lake.

Watson3

I encourage you to not be too quick to discard those images that are less than perfect, you may be surprised what a little time can yield.

Paul Bartell in an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop Trip Leader and works at Artisan Colour Inc. as a retoucher and project manager for fashion catalogs. In his spare time he loves to photograph and create photo-art pieces in Photoshop. Some of his work can be seen at: http://paul-bartell.artistwebsites.com