Category Archives: Product Review

Exciting new Photo Editor from Topaz Labs and it’s Free!

Topaz Labs StudioExciting new Photo Editor from Topaz Labs and it’s Free!

Topaz Labs this week launched Topaz Labs Studio a full featured editor for your photos including many preset and editable filter effects and also as a host program for all your Topaz Labs Plug-ins, existing and future. Not only is it feature packed but it’s available at the best price…Free.

It has 24 Adjustment modules, all of which are active,10 are free and fully adjustable (the other 14 are active but full adjustability, if desired, are available separately or in pacs at additional cost) Along with that are 290 Preset Effects that are adjustable to taste, you can make your own presets and also share them in the community with others and pickup some of their shared effects also.

It is available in both Windows AND  Mac Os. Continue reading »

Luminar – New Photo Editor from Macphun – Release and Review

Luminar – The new Photo Editor from Macphun (Mac OS ONLY)

Today, Macphun software introduced Luminar their new all in one photo editor. (sorry Mac OS only)

The key features are the ability to design the Workspace to how you work, Adding or subtracting Modules (filters) to show only the ones you find necessary and work with often but always having those other modules  available. The other key feature, if you want to call it that, is simply…price. At $69 normal price (there are some savings I will talk about at the end of the piece) That’s pretty darn inexpensive in the world of editing software especially when you consider how much power and versatility is built into Luminar. Now I’m a big Adobe fan and have been a user of Photoshop since Photoshop 2. so that’s quite a long time. And currently a membership to Photoshop CC/Lightroom is $9.99 a month. Now for a professional like me that’s a small expense relative to the other expenses of running a business. Not everyone is a professional but what if you could get software that offers Pro level performance at a price that’s greatly affordable to people that don’t do this to earn money. That’s where Luminar comes in and very strongly. Even a Pro may find the feature set to be everything they need. Continue reading »

Macphun Tonality Pro Black & White Review

Macphun Software’s Tonality Pro Black & White Conversiontonpro_icon92

Though not a household name (Yet) Macphun Software has been making quite a bit of buzz in the Photo Editing software market since their founding in 2008. They started off making mostly photography related iPhone apps and soon moved to full featured Software for Mac, besides their apps for iPhone and iPad™ use. Sorry, Mac only, which is OK since Photographers seem to be the most loyal Apple Fans Continue reading »

Follow up to the Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 Review

Over on Facebook someone asked to show the differences between Nik HDR Efex Pro and the New Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 in a side by side comparison image.

Which is a reasonable request but there are some problems with this if you don’t look at it with a few things in mind. HEP2 not only has a new HDR Algorithm, it also has some big changes in controls. So how do you separate out what is due to the algorithm and what is because of the controls? Then on top of that even if the controls were exactly the same the images would not look similar because the beginning default image is of a lighter luminance value with the new algorithm than the old Continue reading »

ChromaLuxe MetalPrints – Product Review

Picture does not represent actual print quality

I’m probably the worst customer for most consumer products. I’m really tough on them and there are so few products or companies that I really think get things right and I just glow about their products.

  • When I had my big houses, I loved Casablanca fans, hate noisy inefficient fans to death and Casablanca always got it right.
  •  Loved my 1989 Toyota pickup. NEVER broke, Got me out of any slick location I got myself into and looked as good the day I sold it with 14 years and 200,000 miles on it as the day I bought it.
  • Even though they have gotten a lot of flack over the years, Loved my Dell computers in fact I am still using 3 – 8 year old Dells that I bought before people decided they wanted $400 PC and ruined an industry. I’m typing on one now.
  • My Canon 5D still amazes me even if it is old…I’m old, sometimes I’m amazing too.
  • I kinda like my iPhone even if I swore I would never have one. It actually is pretty cool and gets me hot babes…OK well lets just say it’s a cool phone.
Other than that, I’m not easily impressed.
So a couple weeks ago the nice folks over at ChromaLuxe asked if I would like some review samples of their – direct to metal prints – to take a look at and see if I liked their product and how it would be for my reader’s HDR Images.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them, I was already in love.
I guess I should tell you what ChromaLuxe HD Metal Panels are or maybe I should just let them tell you.

About ChromaLuxe & HD Metal Photo Panels

ChromaLuxe is the world’s leading brand manufacturer of high definition sublimatable photo panels. Through the dye sublimation process, images are infused directly into specially coated metal, wood and table top photo panels turning any image into a vibrant decorative focal point for your home. Manufacturer of the highest-quality metal photo panels in the industry, ChromaLuxe is the preferred supplier for professional photographic labs and digital print providers and the choice of professional photographers looking for the most vibrant display options for their artwork. A full list of ChromaLuxe lab partners can be found here: 

With their exceptional durability and image detail, ChromaLuxe HD metal photo panels are ideal for unique deliverables demanded by professional photographers looking for individualized, customizable client offerings or gallery displays, interior designers seeking one-of-a-kind decorative installations, or decorators of high-traffic locations such as restaurants, hotels and arenas. All ChromaLuxe HD Metal Photo Panels present an archival-quality, highly scratch-resistant surface that is waterproof and resistant to UV rays and other damaging elements that would easily destroy standard paper prints. 

For more information on the ChromaLuxe complete product line, visit


Simply put, ChromaLuxe HD metal photo panels are your images printed directly onto aluminum. 

I already have 2 in my home including a 45″ x 45″  Cluster 5- panel which you can see on the wall in this post about shooting HDR Interiors and I’ve given them as gifts too. They look absolutely outstanding 

But getting the review samples was the right thing to do, I wanted to try a really tough image that isn’t big and poppy like a lot of HDRs. It was a very subtlety toned image that really is tough to get right. I also wanted to see how it looked in all of their 4 Finishes
  • White Gloss Aluminum Photo Panel
  • White Matte Aluminum Photo Panel
  • Clear Gloss Aluminum Photo Panel
  • Clear Matte Aluminum Photo Panel
Earlier this week I received the sample panels and was not disappointed in any way. They were just as I expected, fantastic. The subtle tones of the image came out beautifully. The color were spot on (with the white substrate, more on this later) Detail was excellent. Finish impeccable. The nice thing about already having some made at one of their associate labs (Bay Photo Labs) is that I know these were not just spiffed up review samples. In real life they are just as good.
My favorite style was the White Gloss, It just does it for me and I like glossy images even though most photographers don’t. The matte image’s color was exactly the same except of course for the finish. The two Clear panels which are direct to the aluminum without white first, were less saturated in color so for me not as appealing but I like fairly high saturation in my images. However I really wonder how the clear panels would be with a Black and White Photo. I wish  had one to see.
For comparison I printed the same exact image I sent for the review samples on my Canon Pro 9000 Printer. This is a 8 Ink Dye InkJet Photo Printer. The ChromaLuxe uses a Dye Sublimation process. I printed on Canon Pro Platinum Paper at best image quality.
On first look, the Canon print was a little more saturated and the colors looked a little more like my screen Than the ChromaLuxe Not bad different just different different. But you have to bear in mind that I have gone through extensive work to get my printer to match my screen. This is something you really are not able to do with any commercial lab even with their soft proofing ICC profiles. You can get close but not as exact.
At a usual viewing distance, the Canon appeared to be a bit more sharp. Because of how Dye Sublimation works  there can be a little softness due to the process. But upon using a 10X Loupe ( how many of you have one or maybe even know what they are anymore?) and close examination. The Chromaluxe was a much more pleasing image as the added sharpness of the canon also added detail to the noise in the image. Granted no one really looks at a print this way and they really shouldn’t but to me it was interesting
I wish I would have had time to get some True Photographic process (Digital C) sample prints from Bay Labs done on both Kodak Eudura and Fuji Crystal for comparison. But there just wasn’t time plus I’m really a cheap bastard cuz I don’t get paid to do this LOL. But having compared other images done on those papers and process to what I get at home. I don’t think any one of them would have been a clear winner.
But beyond IQ, there are other things that just make ChromaLuxe images so fantastic. The variety of options that their associate labs have as far as styles and edges, frames if you desire one, Shapes even so called Luxe shapes. Different hanging options and even Cluster and Split  styles of multiple prints that fit together to form a wall of images. They are just amazing and fit into so many different Home Interior styles.
And then there is  the durability without have glass over them. Both of  the images on my wall get a LOT of sun, especially here in Southern California. They both have been up over a year and there is no sign of fading. Cleaning is easy, I use a mild window cleaning solution to get some off the dust and household cooking smoke off of them without any worry about damaging the print.
OK, I talked enough about them, you get it.
But I could see a lot of real demand for a product like this to all the HDR shooters out there. You already know I am the biggest fan of printing your work and this is just a  great way to display it. From “as the eye sees” variety of HDRs to a total grunge out, they would look great. How about this for a great Idea for those of you that shoot automotive or motorcycle  HDR images? Think of that; Metal on Metal…how cool would that be?
Anyway, Yeah I love this stuff. The people at ChromaLuxe couldn’t be any nicer or more helpful when I had some technical questions so you gotta love that. Remember though that the ChromaLuxe Metal Panels are available through their associate labs so look  at their list to find one  that you either already deal with or maybe someone you would like to. Like I said I use and am a BIG fan of Bay Photo Labs but they are for professionals only. Consumers can purchase some of the metal prints through SmugMug
OK, I’m off to write complaint letters about all the other products in the world I don’t like…but not ChromaLuxe…I love you

Product Review: Topaz Labs – Adjust 5

Topaz Labs – Adjust 5

 Recently Topaz Labs came out with their latest release for their Adjust series of software, Adjust 5. It wasn’t long ago that I review Adjust 4 so with that fresh in my mind it’s easy to see some of the new things that are a part of Topaz Adjust 5 and there are  quite a few things of note that make this a better program than it’s predecessor.

 It retains it’s Lightroomesque interface. Presets on the left, Adjustment panel on the right and preview panel in the center.


I’ll work my way around the interface to point out what is new.


Staring on the left with Presets, There are 107 new presets. All the Adjust 4 presets are still there but they have added 107 new presets and they have broken the presets up into categories instead of just one long list. The category lists are:

  • Classic Collection
  • Vibrant Collection
  • HDR Collection
  • Film Collection
  • Toned Collection
  • Stylized collection
    And a folder for you to store your presets. 

What I really like about the new presets is that they are things that I would use. Even though I still would suggest you add these effects on a separate layer for control of the amount of effect later, there are a lot of great effects that are good like they are. Finally someone said lets make some good looking presets that actually make sense instead of some things that look like a Peter Maxx poster on Crack (I thought I would throw in a reference for both old people and young. Kids, DON’T do drugs!) 

I especially liked the new HDR presets; they are so usable it’s crazy. I would rather have something like this as a starting point and then get crazier, then to start with crazy and have to tone it down. Cuz usually I just bypass crazy. And there still are some crazy presets no doubt but they have been balanced by some very useful ones. 

A new feature of  Topaz Adjust 5 is that now you can add multiple effects to your image. Say you want an HDR effect and then a toning effect. Just apply the HDR effect and then apply the toning effect. ( The apply button is new) Saves you the time of going back to Photoshop and then back in to Adjust. 


Moving over to the Adjust panel on the right; at the top is a new histogram. Moving down they have the same Global adjustments as before but with the addition of a Curves adjustment which is always handy. 

The other big change is the addition of Local Adjustments via a Brush tool. You can brush out the effects you have added which is a great feature if you don’t know how to or don’t have the ability to do a layer mask. You can also Dodge, Burn and Smooth the image using the Edge aware brush. 

Below that they have added Finishing Touches, where you can add vignettes and frames. Add some grain or change the tone of the image. 

The last addition is a Transparency Slider so you can vary the total amount of the effect on your image. Again, a great tool if you don’t like working in layer. 

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about is that some of the sliders seem backwards in their actions, such as the Transparency Slider. If you are used to working in Photoshop and transparency there, 100 is the full effect of that layer. In Topaz Adjust, 100 is no effect at all. A few other controls did the same thing like when you add a vignette, moving the slider to the right gives you less vignette, not more. I would have done it different. 


Here are a couple examples, the first with the HDR Heavy Pop Smooth and the second with the addition onto of the HDR, a Vintage preset





It’s a better program for the changes. The new presets alone are worth it and the local adjustment brush is really helpful. I think they have come a long way with this product. It’s great to get many looks and it’s great to use for single image HDR’s . Like I said in the previos review HDR without the mess

 I’d like them to fix two things; the way the adjustments work (make the controls more like Photoshop works left to right) The other thing I would like to see changed is the Preview. Its fine in the single image mode where you can click on the image to see the before and after, but in the side by side view, it’s in a vertical view. I wish they would also add the option of a horizontal view. 

So all in all well worth the upgrade. Speaking of which, it is a free upgrade to current Adjust Users 

This is a Photoshop Plug-in. Lightroom, Aperture and iPhoto users can get a free download of Topaz Fusion Express to use Topaz Adjust within their programs 

There are also plenty of Webinars at the Topaz Labs site to help you get the full use out of any of their software products.


To try or buy Topaz Labs – Topaz Adjust 5 visit : Topaz Labs

Till November 30th they have Adjust 5 at a special price of just $49.99 with the coupon code of : ADJUSTME


Product Review: onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 6

Product Review: onOne Software Perfect PhotoSuite6

Today we are going to take a look at onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6. I’ve been a fan of OnOne Software eve since I used Genuine Fractals which is now known as Perfect Resize.

Perfect Photo Suite 6 consists of seven programs in one;

  • Perfect Layers 2
  • Perfect Mask 5
  • Perfect Portraits 1
  • Perfect Effects 3
  • Focal Point 2
  • PhotoFrame 4
  • Perfect Resize 7

These plug-ins work with Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture BUT it is also a completely stand alone program if you desire

You may say; I don’t need all those programs. Well rest assured that all the programs are available separately. BUT buying these bundled in this suite basically gives you 7 programs for the price of 3, so it’s kind of a no brainier why I am reviewing this as the suite

Some of you may also ask; This is an HDR site, why do I care about any of these especially something like Portrait 1? Well, I’ll show you why you may want most of some of these programs but I also know that a lot of the readers here do HDR for fun but actually as a profession, shoot portraits and weddings. So take from this what you want and skip over what doesn’t interest you. But I think quite a bit will.

So why do I need ANY of this?

Now I know a lot about my readers and I know a lot of you LOVE Lightroom. I also know that a lot of you use Lightroom and then Photoshop Elements for some light finishing work. But what is the one thing that Lightroom can’t do and what can’t early versions of Elements do that really would be helpful?

Layers and Layer Masks

When I talked about “Blends” In this article and Kenn Stamp talked about Blending 3 HDR images together. Did you Lightroom users feel left out? Well you needn’t any longer. onOne Perfect Layers 2 allows you to take multiple images from Lightroom and mask those layers as you want. In fact by using Lightroom’s “Virtual Copy” feature you can take a single image, do two different adjustments on that single image and then take them both into Perfect Layers 2 as two layers and do with them as you please.

Perfect Layers 2

For this example I took Two separate images, I first optimized each image in Lightroom (One for the sky, one for the ground)and then brought them into Perfect Photo Suite 6 (By using the command File>Plug-In Extras>Photo Suite)













That command brings them into Perfect Photo Suite 6 and stacks them as layers; you can change the layer order by dragging one on top of the other. Then you can use different tools to mask the top layer to reveal the layer below. The main tools are a Brush and then the Masking Bug – OnOne’s Selective area tool.

So I brought these two images into Perfect Photo Suite 6 and quickly just using the brush tool I was able to mask off the sky of the top layer to reveal the better exposed sky of the second exposure I shot. So those of you that are interested in doing Blends as your means of HDR, this tool worked quickly and easily. I had my blend made in less that 30 seconds and could save that image back to Lightroom (Note that this program exports the files and re-imports them as PSD files)



















So Yeah Yeah That’s great you just had a simple horizon line to follow, it should have been easy. Try doing that with a complex mask trying to go in between things. That’s a pain with layer mask brushes and even selection tools in Photoshop do a crummy job. 

Oh I just love a dare and so does onOne. Enter onOne’s next program: Perfect Mask 5. By using the tools in Prefect Mask 5 I was able to select what I didn’t want and what I did want and with just a few quick strokes and refinements, I was able to mask this complex blend in minutes.













I simply used the Keep and Drop Eye droppers and told the programs what colors I wanted to eliminate and which one’s I wanted to keep. You can see those colors in the palates on the right

Then I just did a quick couple strokes with  magic brush on part of the sky and that was gone,

Then using the refine brush all the space between the railings was gone.


Then using the chisel tool and the blur tool I was able to refine the edges perfectly – All in very little time. Here is what the actual mask looked like in Grayscale priview mode

And here is the final image, done in just a few minutes






















Now that’s cool.

I’m going to rush through some of the other section of Perfect Photo Suite 6 because I don’t want this post to be a mile long.

 Portrait 1

The next section you can access all from the Photo Perfect Suite 6 module is Portrait one. Portrait one is for retouching of portraits more precisely faces and skin which can really be tough for portrait shooters. I haven’t used Portrait 1 yet, but I watched a demo of it at the David Zizer tour and it was really impressive. The great part was it didn’t make the skin look all plasticy as some programs similar to this do. And it would quickly and easily which is something that portrait shooters that have hundreds of files to work on really love.

Perfect Effects 3

Perfect Effects 3 is an effects browser that you can apply to your images. It has ton of presets in 14 different categories, From Black & White to Film Simulation effects, Vintage effects, Vignettes, tons of different things. They aren’t really adjustable but the presets were very nicely made that you probably won’t want to touch them.

My favorite was Daguerreotype, probably cuz I love that word.



Focal Point 2

Focal point 2 is a selective focus tool if you want to simulate a shallow DOF or want to do the Toy Camera (Tilt-Shift) effect that is popular right now.

PhotoFrame 4

I didn’t think I would like this at all but actually it was fun. PhotoFrame 4 allows you to put defeat frames or frame simulations around your image. They really aren’t so much frames as what would be called borders to graphics people. So don’t think this is going to be a bunch of didn’t frames like wood frames or metal frames like you would put your finished photo in.

This would be of better use as a Digital Mat. Like I said I didn’t think I would like this but I do make a lot of greeting cards and these borders would actually really come in handy for making those





Perfect Resize

And finally a product I have been a big fan of for years. When it was under the name Genuine Fractals (gee, wonder why they changed THAT name LOL) now it is Perfect Resize.

One of my favorite things to do with my images is have them printed and I Loves my images HUGE. I’ve printed up to 40” x 60” but a lot of print labs have a 100ppi minimum to make a print so that would mean a 4,000 x 6,000 pixel file at a minimum. And then on top of that, the common wisdom is to leave your file at the cameras resolution and any scaling should be done by the lab. Which I agree with to a point. That is what I would do for my prints up to 20 x 30.

But when I push beyond that point, I want control because I want to see what the image looks like scaled BEFORE I just paid for a $300 Print and quite honestly I don’t trust anyone. I could use Photoshop to resize and in Bi-Cubic it does a pretty good job and if I was just scaling up a bit I wouldn’t think twice about using it. But when I want to have something create and interpolate more than double the pixels. I want a program made for that job and Perfect Resize is that tool

Perfect Resize uses an “Adaptive Algorithm” so it does more than just sample the four closest pixels (as bi-cubic would do), it instead takes into account where that pixel is, such as if it is an edge and uses the correct algorithm to make that edge look it’s best.

It’s just great software and  you can make huge prints out of a good file. For those of you that like to have your images made into Canvas Gallery Wraps, Perfect Resize now has a Gallery Wrap feature that will duplicate your edges for the wrap so that you are not wasting any pixels on the wrap part. Very cool.


So there you have it. Quite a bit of software put together in a nice suite but even if you just want one part you won’t be disappointed.

If you are worried about having to learn new software, worry not. Take advantage of onOne’s onOne University where they have Video Tutorials and Webinars to help you get up and running quickly. I was fumbling around with Perfect Mask 5  so I watched a couple short videos and I was maneuvering through it like a pro

Let me just make one point so that you aren’t disappointed. This is very powerful software, as such it is really system intensive ( Especially Perfect Resize) and will use a good amount of your system resources so make sure your system meets the the system requirements so that you don’t run into problems that are more of a fault of a deficient system than the software itself. Even though my system matched their specs, I found that updating the driver on my video card helped to make the software run smoother. Updating your driver for your video card isn’t a bad idea when running any Photo software especially Photoshop CS 4 or CS 5. It can REALLY make a difference.