The Digital Photo Guy

More Plug-In Plugs

by on Mar.05, 2010, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Webcast

UPDATE: Just heard from Roger at LensRentals.com (see end of MMT) that they have a 5% discount going on right now. Sounds like a great excuse to rent a wide angle or macro or both and join me at the Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflower Workshop next weekend (3/13 & 14) or the following weekend (3/20 & 21). If you rent a lens from LensRentals.com and e-mail a copy of your invoice to me, I’ll take 5% off the price of the workshop. (Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts).

Duh! forgot to include the discount code: PIXEL5. Somedays, it’s better to stay in bed. I don’t know when the discount promo ends. Send LensRentals an e-mail if you think you’ll use it in the near future.

Yeah, yeah! I know today is Friday and this is a Monday Morning Tip but I won’t have time this weekend so it gets posted today. If it bothers you, just wait until Monday to read it. Sheesh! 😉

Topaz Labs releases Adjust 4

Until recently, I pretty much used plug-ins to make specific adjustments, not create a final result. When I bought the Topaz Labs bundle at Photoshop World, I was more interested in using the tools to help me tweak photos, not produce a finished, final image. But, as they say, “Even an old dog can learn new tricks if properly motivated!” (OK, so I just made that up) Maybe it’s just laziness in my old age but I’m beginning to like several presets in the new release of Topaz Labs Adjust 4. Some were available in Adjust 3 but I never really explored them thinking I could do better than some geek engineer who’s probably never seen sunlight, much less a dSLR.

Here are some side-by-side examples of Adjust 4 presets versus my normal workflow:

          

One photo in each set (I’m not telling which) is my normal workflow. The other is a Topaz Adjust 4 preset where I simply clicked a button and said, “Do it!” There’s no right or wrong but do you have a preference? BTW, one photo is an HDR produced with DP-HDR.

My favorite Topaz Adjust 4 presets for landscapes are Recovery – Highlight and Recovery – Shadow along with Photo Pop, Vibrance and Clarity. HDR – POP also works well for some photos. For portraits and critters, other presets work well but usually require some additional tweaking. For example, I find the Portrait – Smooth color is too red for most of my portraits. And, in some cases, the smoothing is too strong.

Some features I hope Topaz Labs includes in future releases are, 1) some way to tell which preset has been applied and 2) a way to hide unused presets so only my favorites are shown. As it is, sorting through 33 presets is akin to water boarding. No, check that, I’d rather be water boarded.

Two of the following comparisons aren’t exactly the same photo but you get the idea. Again, one was processed with my normal workflow and the other with an Adjust 4 preset. See if you have a preference. If you’re really curious as to which is which, leave a Comment and I’ll post the answer if there’s enough interest. (That’s blog-talk for, “Please, is someone reading my babbling!”)

     

LensRentals.com, a Class Business

Several years ago, while mulling over the purchase of a Canon 300/2.8L, I decided to first rent one. I wanted to be sure it was as good as all the reports I’d read before dropping $4000. Because I wanted this to be an all around “go to” long lens, I also rented a Canon 2X teleconverter to test it at 600/5.6. I rented from LensRentals.com in Tennessee. They sent an outstanding copy that knocked my socks off. I made the following photos with that lens at 600mm.

     

Immediately upon returning from that trip, I bought my own copy and it has been a wonderful addition to my lens lineup. However, there was a minor boo-boo regards the teleconverter. Lens Rentals sent me a Canon 2X TC Mark I, which can’t be stacked (combined) with the 1.4X Mark II that I owned. This wasn’t a serious issue as I wasn’t planning to stack TCs often. I was just curious as to how badly the image would suffer. When I reported this to Roger, the president of Lens Rentals, he apologized and promised to refund my $22 rental fee for the 2X TC. Things got busy and I forgot to follow up on the refund.

Fast forward to this week when I needed another rental. I jokingly asked the woman on the order desk if Roger would give me the $22 refund after 2 1/2 years. She was dubious but promised to ask her supervisor. I’ll be darned if the refund didn’t show up on my order. I asked Roger via e-mail if he actually remembered our conversation. He replied that he remembers all, “How could I have been so stupid?” moments.

Bottom line, if you need a specialized lens or accessory for a special trip or you want to test something before buying, LensRentals.com is the go-to place. Put a note in your on-line order that Lee, The Digital Photo Guy, sent you. I won’t get a dime but you might get special attention and Roger will appreciate your business.

If nothing else, visit the LensRentals site and read the well written articles covering many, many tips for getting the most out of your gear. As you may have noticed, just buying good gear doesn’t guarantee great photos. Ya gotta know how to use it.

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