Magazine Article


Product Spotlight: $100 Photoshop Plug-ins Worth $1Million

Text and Images by Jeff Dorgay

If you have been using Photoshop for a long time, you might wonder how it could get any better. Well, once you try these two new add-ons you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.

Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw
If you are using one of the more popular pro digital cameras, odds are you haven’t fully explored the camera’s raw capture capability. I have found that while raw let me capture more pixels on any given chip, most of the time the camera did a better job than I could when it came time to adjusting the capture parameters.

The "before" cactus image (left) was shot with the Olympus C-5050 with the wrong light setting, i.e., the camera was set for tungsten rather than daylight, giving everything a blue cast. Using the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in, color temperature and exposure were reset and corrected, as shown in the "after" version (right). nik multimedia Dfine further reduced the noise.

All that’s changed with the new Adobe Photoshop Capture Raw module, which you can purchase and download for $100 at the Adobe site,

This is the best $100 you’ll ever spend in your digital life. The only bad news is if you work on both platforms, as I do, you’ll have to buy it twice.

With this plug-in, you can manipulate about 10 different parameters before importing images you’ve captured in raw format into Photoshop. I agree with a story I read in SP&D a few months ago that recommended backing up everything in raw format on CD or DVD so you’ll have your originals to go back to. Then just use the presets you normally have on your camera, or save any custom setting you want, in the event that you need to batch-process a lot of images shot under the same conditions.

If you need to shoot in rapidly changing light conditions, this will remove a lot of anxiety from your life. While most color shifts can be corrected, this makes the process a lot easier.

The plug-in also lets you sharpen, soften, or compensate for moiré effects right on the fly. As someone who prefers to add or subtract noise once the image has been captured, I leave these set to zero. In a production environment where minimal changes are being made, this is a big time-saver.

Last but not least, the raw plug-in also lets you interpolate during capture, allowing you to get two to three times the file you would normally get from a straight TIFF capture. I was able to get 20MB files from my Olympus E-20 and 48MB files from my Nikon D100 with great quality. Depending on your workflow, this also saves a tremendous amount of time.

NIK Multimedia Dfine 1.0
Before you put that credit card away, get to the nik multimedia site,, and buy a copy of Dfine. I have always been a fan of nik products, but they have really outdone themselves this time. Like the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in, for $100, Dfine will dramatically improve the quality of your digital images

Typically, noise reduction is just a form of blurring pixels. Dfine manages to smooth out a lot of the digital artifacts present in capture without sacrificing edge sharpness. Noise reduction profiles specific to your camera set Dfine in a class of its own. (For an in-depth analysis of how Dfine works, read the 42-page white paper on noise reduction on the nik website).

Dfine passes the five-minute test with ease. Pop it out of the box, install it, and get right to work instantly. Like nik Sharpener Pro, Dfine has the same level of functionality, optimizing the amount of noise reduction for the end use of the image. nik recommends that for best results, you apply Dfine with the full captured frame, cropping after you’ve applied the filter.

Both of the above B&W wedding images were shot with the Olympus C-5050 in low light at ISO 400. With nik multimedia Dfine and Adobe Photoshop Capture Raw, I was able to manipulate the tone curves and remove almost all noise from the images. All B&W and color images were printed on Crane Museo rag with the Lyson Small Gamut inkset.

The plug-in addresses the issues of luminance noise and chrominance noise separately. It has a "quick fix" mode that will get you about 80 percent of the way to optimum noise reduction with no brainpower required.

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