Friday, December 9, 2011

Playing With Plug-ins In Photoshop CS5

Today's image is a bounce to the edge in one direction.  I occasionally ping pong between using plug-ins and not using plug-ins.  My thought is that there is nothing you can do with a plug-in that can't be done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 alone.  The way I think of it is sort of like the "Laws of Physics".  People can do some amazing things, but whatever someone does it can't break the Laws of Physics.  Same with plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop CS5.  Plug-ins allow people to make some amazing images, but they have to stay within the envelop of what CS5 can do.  If that's the case, why would anyone bother using a plug-in?  The answer is simple.  Ease!  If you listen to Photoshop educators like Scott Kelby, or if you've ever attended one of his seminars, he's says flat out:  "this is the way you do it in Photoshop" and shows the Photoshop way to get to an image.  He'll also say: "but this is the way I do it for my own use today", and bring up a plug-in.  In the early days of personal computers I went out and bought an Intel 286 based machine.  I mentioned it to my brother, who happens to be a EE (Electrical Engineer).  He said if he wanted one he'd build it himself.  That was like thirty years ago.  He's gone through several computers, but he has yet to build one.  Why?  Same reason.  Ease!  Being a EE, I'm sure he could have bought the individual components, plugged everything together, and assembled a computer.  But he hasn't.  Plug-ins are a crutch for those who don't know how to create an effect in raw CS5 (not CS5 ACR).  They'll push buttons until they wind up with a good looking image.  I'd prefer to know what the plug-in is doing and then let the plug-in do its job and get me someplace much quicker that recreating the wheel.  To find out what plug-in was used for today's image, hit the "Read More".

I've downloaded several free plug-ins and tried some with 30 day trials, but haven't bought too many.  For one thing it's an ROI (Return on Investment) thing with me.  A plug-in that costs $199.00 better be something I'll use on a daily basis.  A $100.00 plug-in would have to used at least a couple times a month.  Something costing less than $50.00 falls into the category of something to play with.  I don't know how it is today, but a buddy of mine was an engineer for National Semiconductor back in the 70s.  He said they had a hierarchy of being able to buy equipment to make semiconductors.  If the payback was within one week, no problem.  Two weeks and it would take several levels of approval.  A month and forget about it.  That's not pots and pans we're talking about.  That was machines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That's kind of a high bar to cross.  Same (to me) with plug-ins.  Unless I can quickly justify it, I'll stick with getting there with CS5 itself.
Today's image bounced around pretty good before getting to where it ended up.  It started in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 for initial adjustments.  Then it went to CS5 for straightening.  It was straightened there rather than in LR3 because I wanted to add to the size using Content Aware Fill rather than cropping it after squaring it up.  Next it was back to LR3 for more fine tuning.  Back to CS5 to remove some power lines running through the image. 
Next came the plug-in.  Topaz Labs' Topaz Adjust.  They recently had it on sale for $39.XX, so it fell into the "play with it" range of justification.  And play with it was what I did.  I'd take a look at one of the Presets and figure out how I might be able to get close to what the Preset was showing.  For most, I thought I could come pretty close.  A couple stumped me, but looked pretty interesting.  I finally settle in on one called Dynamic Brightness in their HDR Collection.  I thought it gave the scene a nice "pop".  I looked around to see if I wanted to add another effect, but was pretty happy with what I saw with the one Preset.
Then it was back to CS5 and a bounce back over to LR3.  In LR3 I used the Adjustment Brush to do some selective shading of the image to create a path for the eye to follow.  I also increased the contrast in the roof, brought up the reads and oranges a little and sharpened specific parts to add emphasis.  Once that was done it was back to global adjustments with overall sharpening and putting on a vignette.
The last part divides, depending on what was to be done with the image.  To print it for framing it went directly to the Print Module in LR3.  For output for today's post it went back to CS5 and to File/Save for web and devices.  The control of the output is finer there than in LR3 (IMHO).