Everyday I get a barrage of emails from companies trying to sell me Photoshop plug-in filters and applications to help me become a better photographer. Claims such as "Salavage your photograph!", "Turn your photo into a painting!", "Perfect HDR!", and my all time favorite, "Sharpen your blurry images!". Wow, these are what I need to make better photographs right? Not entirely. Most third party add-on applications are expensive and really don't work as advertised. Filters have a tendency to make us lazy in thinking that we'll take care of any issues during post production rather than addressing them in camera. There are good filters that cost little or nothing that you can add to your workflow that address the few items Photoshop cannot fix and I'll address that later.
Experimenting with various filter affects can be fun and sometimes add to the overall image but don't let fun affects get in the way of producing a well made photograph. I review photographer's websites almost everyday to provide requested critique and the one thing I see most often are over filtered HDR images with halos, tonal graduations, and chromatic aberations not found in nature. I also see overlays that sometimes work but most times is a distraction. Relying on filters can sometimes hurt your business as some publications require the image straight from the camera to meet print deadlines. If the image is not exposed properly in the field, there is no amount of saving it, delete it and move on.
I use filter plug-ins and applications from two companies. These greatly enhance my workflow and make for quick changes affecting your turnaround.
1. Anthropics Technology (http://www.anthropics.com/) makes the popular Portrait Professional an application based on facial recognition programming that quickly removes blemished, skin issues and smooths out the face. Makeup in a computer. It's a great tool but it too can be abused as you can change eye and hair color and I've seen some dreadful results. Used correctly it's fabulous. It does cost a little extra but well worth the price. A trial version can be downloaded for free. Anthropics just released two new applications; Portrait Professional BODY and Landscpe Pro. I have not looked at these.
The NIK plug-in suite has been my go to for making changes that Photoshop still does address in an easy fashion. The suite addresses sharpening, color balance, color maintenance, B&W conversion, true HDR and a fun application that mimics older film types. The good news is that it is now free through Google.
For you arty types there is Alienskin (http://www.alienskin.com/) and Topaz Labs (https://www.topazlabs.com/). These two companies provide you with the wildest affects on the market so if this is your thing, go for it.
In summary, have fun but don't let filters and third party applications be a substitute for good solid photography.
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