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Posts tagged “Filters

MACPHUN LUMINAR 2018 SUN RAYS AT A GLANCE

Image of a hidden garden in Windsor CastleThis week I have been trying out an updated beta version of Luminar 2018 working (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog)  – had a few problems so I am sticking with mainly the Sun Rays filter as it worked beautifully and may be the best one in program. I believe this filter is one I would use which is a very good reason why I would buy this program. The final release is scheduled for November 16th and this plug-in has been updated for both Windows and Mac users to be a full-blown RAW editor besides adding interesting filter effects. I think everyone who has looked at the new program is totally intrigued with this new Sun Rays filter. Luminar says on “Sun Rays adds volumetric lighting to create beautiful beams of light in your image. This tool auto masks the light so it passes through trees, around mountains and even wraps around objects.” What I find intriguing is that it actually adds a soft lighting effect to rather plain images. The image above was enhanced using this wonderful filter. I tried to be a little subtle with its use as it seems like it could easily be overdone. To show you the interface, I took a screenshot of the settings used for the effect on the Windsor Castle hidden garden above.

Screenshot of Sun Rays filter in Luminar 2018The screenshot shows how the image looked as it was brought back into Photoshop. You can see how natural and sunny it looked by setting the sun effect right at the corner of the castle near the dangling tree branch. I had to do some more work in PS as the green was a little overwhelming but it could easily have been done in Luminar. I will cover more of this once the program has been released. With this image a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Edgy Amber preset was applied, set to Soft Light blend mode and 41% layer opacity – note Luminar’s new LUT filter will let you use lookup tables created in PS or any you have bought. A red channel luminance Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add just a little contrast in the highlights, and a orange hue was used for a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer vignette set to 39%. Below is what the RAW file looked like before just Basic Panel changes were done before going into PS.

RAW image of Windsor Castle hidden garden

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Image of sun rising in the ForestThis is an image taken in my neighborhood right after Hurricane Irma and actually shows a little flooding on the floor of the little forest. I think you will see a lot of this “God Rays” effect in the coming months. Here are the sliders in this filter which and my setting in Parentheses for this image:

Sun Rays – X(21)/Y(20) – this allows you to set the rays wherever you want in the image

All the sliders go from 0 to 100. These sliders apply to the Rays:

Ray Amount (36) – this appears to me to be more like an layer opacity slider and is in a lot of their other filter
Look (69) – this goes from 1 to 100 and seems like a brightness slider-can bring in the “look”
Number (50) – number of beams – goes from 0 to 100
Length (53) – goes from 0 to 100
Warmth (57) – warms up the image but watch all the yellow tones as they brighten up also

These sliders apply to the Sun:

Sun Radius (30) – Size of the actual Sun dot
Glow Radius (71) – Looks like how bright the glow is as it radiates out from the sun dot
Glow Amount (73) – I do not see much difference between this slider and the Glow Radius – both have an effect
Warmth (70) – Determines how yellow your sun is and once again watch out for any yellow in the leaves for example that can get too bright

These sliders affect the whole image:

Penetration (67) – Major cool slider as it determines overall how strong this effect will look in your image
Randomize (40) – This is kind of nice to have – makes is so all the beams are not exactly the same

This image also used the Golden Hour filter (Amount 23 and Saturation 47), which is a fairly new filter. Below is a short video on how to use this filter. This beautiful forest image is from Simon Matzinger at Unsplash. If this video does not show a connection in the RSS feed, please open the actual blog where the connection is live.

To reiterate what was in the video, it can be seen how vivid the orange gets due to the high yellows in the Warmth sliders (61 for Rays and 37 for Sun). The Radius was set to a small 3 in upper right where focal point would be on a grid. I really think the Penetration slider does the best in keeping the whole color cast of the image together – it was set to a very high 79. By moving the Randomize slider, the rays can be set in different positions easily. There is a bit of brown patchiness that needs to be addressed in this image that can corrected by possibly adding a mask to the filter and painting some of it away.

Normally I would not blog about a preview release, but since everyone could download the beta, I figured I would go ahead and talk about it. The Sun Rays filter may not always look completely natural, but it can make the image much more interesting and evoke some emotion from a viewer.  I think it will take some practice to use it properly, but I believe that Luminar and the Sun Rays filter in particular have some good things going for it. Once it is released, I will do a full review of the software. I know the Mac people already have a good understanding of this software, but for us Windows users, this is new territory! For more on some of the other filters, check out my earlier blog called Now Available – Free Beta Version of MacPhun’s Luminar for Windows blog. Will catch ya later!…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Lady Syd’s Top Ten Photos From 2012

It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.

10.  Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.

9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.

8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.

7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.

6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car –  so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.

5.  Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting  this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!

4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.

3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.

2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!

1.  It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.

It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow



I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.

NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.

  • Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.

  • My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.

  • I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.

  • Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)

  • Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.

  • I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.

  • At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).

  • I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.

  • I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.

  • To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.

  • I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.


Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required,  7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd


Same Image – Different Plug-In

I decided to do this blog because I was experimenting in Photoshop trying to see if different plug-ins can get the same look even though they are very different. I started with this basic image from Camachee Cove in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a really pretty place to take images and my beloved sailboat lives there. Only the Basic sliders in Lightroom were adjusted and all the following images used this one as a starting place. Also, whenever possible I used a Smart Layer to save the settings so I could easily go back to tweak the sliders. I am becoming a big fan of doing this with all plug-in adjustments!
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Overall, the above is not a bad picture. That said, I still love the new Topaz Black and White Effect plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site) and decided to give it a whirl and see if the image feeling could be improved. Below is what was achieved using this plug-in.


Personally I loved the results (this is how I remember it) and the cool thing is that it took only two minutes to get this look and it was done! If you are interested in the settings for the Sunny Preset, my Tidbits Blog “Sunny Preset – Topaz Black and White Effects” list how to do it. There was just one further adjustment made in Photoshop which, unfortunately when adding most of these plug-ins, there is some noise created. I took the image back into Adobe Camera Raw (see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“) but any Noise Reduction plug-in would work fine also.

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Next I tackled the updated NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 (CEP4) plug-in to see what I would get. This plug-in is another fabulous NIK product and I totally love using it. I could not get it to do what Topaz B&W Effects did  as quickly and as well. I spent a long time fooling around in CEP4 trying to get this effect, especially the color effect.

The sky has a really ugly edge in the upper clouds that I could not adjust easily. This image also has Hue/Sat and Selective Color adjustment layers and still is not quite right. The stacked CEP4 filters used for this image were: High Key, Brilliance/Warmth, Graduated User Defined, and Vignette. Normally this image could be adjusted nicely but when trying to copy the Topaz B&W image, it does not do this so easily.

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Now to be fair, since Topaz B&W was used, I next tried the NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). The results are pretty nice, but they still had to be adjusted in Photoshop. Below is the final image that started as a black and white using NIK .

The results are pretty close. The image was processed in SEP2 using the High Structure preset and a Red Color Filter. The layer was set to Luminosity blend mode in Photoshop, a Color Fill adjustment layer using a a yellow-beige Fill Color (9f9f84) set to Vivid Light blend mode and 55% opacity, and a low opacity light beige edge added to the top and bottom of the image. The sky and water color is very close to the Topaz B&W results, but it took a lot longer and required Photoshop work to achieve the results, and you had to know what you were trying to do.

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Now this next image uses OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site). They have a new version coming out shortly which may make this much easier to do but overall, it gave a reasonable approximation to the Topaz B&W result.

I do not use this plug-in as much since I seem to have trouble getting the look I want and it is very computer RAM intensive. It also does not support Smart Objects at this point. In all fairness, I do believe it is a really good plug-in and it already has stacking abilities for effects. Unfortunately, at this point it does not have different sliders for the effects, but they do offer several setting choices for each filter, and several filter effects can be brushed on using a brush and mask in the plug-in. I plan on reviewing the upgrade after it becomes available. In this case, the clouds just do not have the detail and water and sky color is not quite right. There were 6 effects stacked to get the effect and I saved it down as a preset to preserve. If I was more familiar with the program, I might have been able to get a better result since there is no shortage of filters in this plug-in.

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Alright, let’s change things up a bit and go back to Topaz using their fairly new Lens Effects plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site).

It also gives a nice result even though it is a different type of plug-in. The Dual Tone Filter Effect was used as a starting point using the Green to Yellow preset. Both Regions A and B were adjusted – this is very similar to the Quad Tones in Topaz B&W Effects. That is one reason there is some similarity, especially in the sky horizon area. A Vignette was also added in the program. It is nice that you can get similar results without buying every plug-in module in the set.

Conclusion

Personally I still like the Topaz Black and White Effects result the best. I hope this gives you some idea about how similar but how different these plug-ins are when applied to the same image. I did not mean to make it look like one plug-in is better than the other, just that it really depends on what your picture is will determine how it looks finished. If you do not like the way it turns out with one of the plug-ins, try a different one – it can be totally different! Have fun experimenting…..Digital Lady Syd


Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop

Continuing on my current trend of looking into the various Photoshop plug ins available, I decided to explore the mirror effect.  I could only find three filters available.   Let’s start with the Mirror effect that is part of The PlugIn Galaxy 2.01.  This filter was originally called Instant Mirror in version 1.0, so I will keep this name to distinguish it from the others.   A demo, which displays print throughout the image, can be downloaded but is fully functional so you get a real feel how the filter works is available at  The Plugin Site.  There are 17 effects in this bundle that includes this one.  The really cool thing about Instant Mirror is that when applied,  it does change instantly -no waiting around or increasing canvas size.  And the resulting effects are pretty amazing.  Here are a few results of what can be achieved with very little effort.

The above image is a bush and mountains on Hana Highway that was taken on the back dry side of Maui, Hawaii. This is a pretty basic application of the filter – applied Mirror set to Vertical Left. The whole trick to this filter is that by right clicking and dragging on the center (+) mark, the best effects are achieved. A Nik’s Color Efex Pro Glamour Glow filter (Glow 63, Sat 27, Glow Temp 40) to make the bushes stand out more and OnOne PhotoFrame (Dave Cross 01) were applied to finish up the image.

For this image Instant Mirror was run in the Manual Mode (there are four different modes to try), setting the image to Horizontal Top, and Right Click dragging the (+).  I exited out of the filter and ran it again using Vertical Right and dragging the (+). A layer mask was applied so the leaves at the top left showed through from the layer below. I finished up with Topaz Simplify Sketch Hard Pencil effect. There is a book called “Photoshop Plug-ins” by Jim Zuckerman and Scott Stulberg that does a great job of discussing this filter in detail.

With this spica image, the Mirror Preset called Kaleidoscope No. 08 was applied to create the border. Kaleidoscope Vertical was applied next for the plant effect. Finally Topaz Detail was used to bring out the color and detail in the image.

The second mirror plug in is a free download and called Quick Mirror by Julia World.  The thing I like about Quick Mirror is the images are not distorted at all.   It is basically just a flip {that can be done in Photoshop with a Free Transform) but it is easy and more effects can be generated by selecting different part of the image.  Once again I used my London Eye image.  The basic steps to for using this filter are:   Duplicate the layer you are mirroring, create a selection around the areas you want to duplicate (I used the Rectangular Marquee Tool and made my selection from top to bottom around The Eye),  invert the selection (CTRL+ALT+I), erase selection (BACKSPACE), deselect the selection, and run the filter.  In this case, a layer mask was then added to give less of a total duplication look on the bottom and upper left.

This last London Eye image shows a creative effect that can be achieved by using the steps above but making the selection just around The Eye itself. Continue along with inverting the selection and deleting, deselecting and applying the filter. It is a pretty simple workflow to achieve very nice results – and it is FREE!  I also used Nik Color Efex Pro Reflector Filter (Gold, Light Itensity 64, Light Falloff 42, Position 48, Source Direction 0).

The last plug in I will mention is called Filters Unlimited 2.0 – a fully functional demo with 150+ effects can be downloaded but the results cannot be applied (the full version has over 350 filters).  There is a setting called Tiles and Mirrors with several different kaleidoscope and mirrored effects.  I used my original The Eye image and applied the Seamless Blend (horizontal) to the image.  The results gave great looking clouds but the fine lines were not clear, sort of a ghosting effect.  I do believe it is not that bad an effect, just not as good as the other two filters discussed.  My personal opinion is that both the Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror are great plug ins and easy to use.  You get more options with Instant Mirror but more distortion to the image when you use it.  Quick Mirror is pretty basic but gives great undistorted results.

Once again, this has been a blast putting this blog together.  There are so many effects with these filters that I did not cover.  Hope I can get time to play some more with these plug ins!


Simplifier and Simplify Filters


This week I have been playing with a few older freeware or free trial filters to see if I like any of them and are they still relevant. I ran across a free filter called buzz Simplifier, that had been packed with the Digital Camera Magazine number 17’s CD. I started reseaching this filter and found out the company that made the filter, Fo2PiX, had gone bankrupt and the filter was no longer supported. I also discovered that the Simplifier filter on the CD was listed as “SimplyFair” and created by Amphisoft in 2003 – it is freeware software and you can download it here. So it looks like Amphisoft may have given it to Fo2PiX. They in turn include it in their larger Buzz Pro 3 package. Anyway, I thought I would show what both of these filters do – I rather liked the effects although I used other filters to get the look I wanted. I am using the image above of London Eye that I took two years ago on vacation for my base image.

Quoting from Trimoon’s Blog “The Simplifier effect is based on patented Sieve transform technology, which ‘allows an image to be segmented into its component parts, in order that they may be identified, understood, labeled, and indexed.’  In essence Simplifier removes unimportant detail from a photo while preserving color, focus, shape and edge leaving one with an improved base image for applying other effects. You control how much or how little detail you wish to remove from the original photo by adjusting the Simplifier controls.”  Below it the result I got using the single Amphisoft Simplifier filter from the magazine.

I used these settings in the Simplify dialog box to get this result:
Radius 1
Square
Dark Edge 255
Light Edge 36
Spread 1

I really like the way it darkened the Ferris Wheel lines against the sky but I had to mask the effect from the sky since it gave too many edges in this area.  Using the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 collection, I selected the Skylight Filter at Strength 70% to bring out the sky, and then added a layer mask to mask out everything but the sky since this filter turned the water and buildings yellowish.  You can actually get this filter free along with the Tonal Contrast and the Contrast filters by buying Vincent Versace’s new book, Welcome to Oz 2.0.  I also used Nik’s CEP 3 Vignette to center the image on “The Eye” itself but you can make your own vignette fairly easily to do the same thing.

Now to the complicated part.  I have also used the Buzz Simplifier One filter from the Buzz Pro 3 plug in that can be downloaded here and which was made by the now defunct Fo2PiX.  (Note:  There was also a Buzz.Lite plug in offered free with several British magazines and came with three pre-set filter stacks and six filters that included: Simplifier One; Edges Mono; Edges Colour; Emboss; Radial Blur; Radial Simplifier.  The Buzz Pro 3 included everything in Buzz.Lite and more – 25 pre-set Stacks and 22 filters as follows: Simplifier One; Simplifier Two; Simplifier Three; Blur; Blur More; Bright/Contrast; Directional Blur; Edges Colour; Edges Mono; Emboss; Gaussian Blur; Highlights White; Lowlights Black; Highlights Colour; Pure Colour; Radial Blur; Radial Screen; Radial Simplifier; Simplifier HSV; Spread Black; Spread White; and Unsharp Mask.)

To use this filter, you must add effects from the Available Effects column into the Current Stack.  Simplifier One, Simplifier Two and Simplifier Three are included along with several other effects.  (There is a really nice pdf manual that explains each of the effects in detail that came with the download.) I was mainly just interested in the Simplifier filters for this post.  I started adjusting the settings and ended up with the result below.  This filter can take quite a while to load the effects you added so keep the amounts lower to preview if it slows down too much (I use Windows 7).  When comparing the two filters, the Amphisoft Simplifier has basically 4 sliders (radius, dark edge, light edge, and spread) while the Buzz Pro Simplifier filter has only one slider (remove) and a choice for light, dark or both.  I believe the Buzz filter looks much more artistic and painterly than the Amphisoft Simplifier.  I used the same layer masks and Nik filters on each image so the results could be accurately compared.  Here is a link to several images where someone had applied the Buzz Simplifier filter.

It has been suggested that Topaz Simplify has very similar effects. In fact, many people on the internet seem to think this is better than Buzz Simplifier ever was.  They say that Topaz does not crash their computers and has more sliders to get the results you want.  I created the same image with Topaz Simplify Image Crisp Edge setting – used default settings except for Simplify Size of 0.10 and Details Strength of 1.0. Only with this setting could I bring the wires in cleanly from the Ferris Wheel and it was not that great. Otherwise it does appear to be comparable to the other images. I have noticed before that the Topaz Simplify filters have trouble with colors in segmented regions (like the region between the ferris wheel wires) and often discolors these little areas so they do not match up with the background areas.  Oddly enough, this is one of the complaints I see about the Buzz Simplifier so I will have to experiment more to see.  Topaz Simplify does have a setting called BuzSim which I know does look somewhat like the other two and has similar sliders including Remove Small and Remove Weak.  I would definitely download a trial and try it as it is still a great filter to own and experiment with on your images.

Finally, I added an example of the same image using the Simplifier Three filter effect from Buzz Pro applied twice to get the rich dark sky. First I had adjusted the tone and contrast of the image and converted a layer to a sepia color at 50% opacity.

I actually liked the results of both older filters although there appears to be subtle differences between them. The ones I reviewed here still do a good job for what they were intended to do.  I believe I will continue using them even though they are older, as their looks are a little different from what can be done with newer filters like the Topaz Simplify filters.  I personally love to have choices when trying to create an artistic look.  I hope you enjoyed this post and will try some of your old filters again.  You might be surprised by some of your results!…..Digital Lady Syd