Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cool PhotoFrame 4.0 Tip

In playing with PhotoFrame 4.0 I was pleased to see the cool background they had, but despite looking at the videos on the web site I couldn't figure out how (within PhotoFrame) to create a frame that punched a hole through a background like the photo shown above. Thanks to Brian Kraft at onOne Software, I finally know how now. Here's the directions:

  1. Add background
  2. Add instant frame
  3. Go to Frame menu and select "Invert"
  4. Change the instant frame color to "Transparent"
  5. Make sure your options are set to "Apply to new layer"

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PhotoFrame 4.0 Holiday Pack Releases

Just in time for the holiday season, onOne Software has released a holiday pack for PhotoFrame 4.0 which features 25+ new frames including some very cool layouts like the one shown in this article. Go get your holiday pack here, and refer to my review of PhotoFrame 4.0 for details on how to get a discount on this cool new product. You can even try to make your own, like I did below, but trust me you'll want to use the cool new ones created by 'the pros" at onOne!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

REVIEW: onOne Software's Photoframe 4.0 Professional Edition

PFRAME-pro_BOX_2-web_copy

Truth be told, I wasn't very impressed with version 3.x of this product. I felt the UI was way too cumbersome, the frames were so cheesy that I couldn't understand how any real photographer would use them, and time spent using the product didn't justify the output. As a result, I just never really used this product. In fact, onOne Software even contacted me after my review and asked me to share what it was I didn't like about the product, and I didn't hold back. I explained how I thought the frames were cheesy, the user-interface sucked, and the results were something I'd be embarrassed to have my name associated with. They said they heard my feedback loud and clear and felt they had an answer to my complaints. With the 4.0 release, I can honestly say that they were right. They've come up with something that I'd actually use and I'm excited about this cool new product.

LaurenFramed

What's Changed

Well to avoid sounding like a press release as I had in a previous post, I'll just list what I've observed the best new features are of this product:

  1. All-new UI with a usable way to view frames.  One of the things I hated about the previous release was that I had to scroll through a bunch of acid burn frames with the only differences being something minor like color. The worst part was that there was no live preview, so it was a hassle to see what the frame looked like on my frame - no more. Now all frames are automatically shown in a preview area with resizable thumbnails and a mechanism for filtering or ranking what is shown. The short story is that you can now find good frames fast and instantly see what they look like - as you would expect a program like this to do!
  2. Better Quality Frames - Try as I did, I just couldn't find frames in the previous release that I'd actually use on my photos. In fact, there's only one occasion where I've ever used one and that was on this photo where I was trying to hide a defect in the image and this preset was the only thing I could tolerate.
  3. Great Layer Support - This stuff works as you would expect where the frame is a layer that can be turned on and off.
  4. Improved Performance - I've found the performance of this release to be quite usable compared to its predecessor.
  5. Layouts - These are fantastic and shown here in the first two frame images I am using. They are basically pre-build composite frames that are really cool, but they are currently only in the Wedding and Senior Portraits groups, but this is where I see the future being very bright for this product. These are things I'd really use!

AudreyFramed

So What's it Really Like Ron?

The new user experience is great because you are immediately shown a preview window of all of the frames in thumbnails and you can filter down the noise really quickly by typing in keywords or selecting groups. This is a really great design, but to make it even better they've added the ability to rank your frames. This is a nice touch, so the productivity of this version goes WAY up.

Once you start working with your image and frames the sky is the limit and it is all easy to understand since it uses the same layers concept as Photoshop. The tools are a little quirky in places still (i.e., my copy wouldn't allow me to reduce the size of my image using the slider, so I had to type manual figures or do a ALT+Move to reduce the image) and it definitely works better with smaller files, but overall these are  little bugs I suspect which will be addressed in the first update. The bottom line here is that after you get used to what frames are available and you know what you are looking for, it doesn't take long to get great results fast.

Another great thing they do in all onOne products is include a great library of video tutorials, and this version is no different. As a result you can quickly see how to do any task in the product with a nice real world demo.

WeiMingFramed

But wait, there's more...

The problem with most frame software is that you get tired of the frame choices pretty quick, so the only solution to this problem is to include a ton in the product. This of course makes it hard to know what you have available, so less is more. onOne heard me loud and clear on this one and they've done the best compromise by only including the better frames and making additional frames available online so that you can get fresh frames in the future. I can see this catching on with the community and some really great frames for Christmas, etc... coming out. I love this approach and I think it will really make this product more useful over a longer period of time.

In addition to the cool layouts, they've included some really cool backgrounds like brick, fabrics, etc... (some of which were used in the layouts) as well as the most awesome set of film frames I've seen to date. There's some really good stuff in the box here, so I'm very excited about using these frames on upcoming projects.

Conclusion

With great power comes great complexity, so there's plenty more here that I need to learn. However, I'm happy to see that even without much knowledge I can get some very cool results in a hurry. I like PhotoFrame 4.0 quite a bit and I highly recommend it for those who are looking for something more than just the simple cheesy frame templates we find on the web all of the time. This is a cool product with some exciting stuff to come as the community embraces it and starts to build some great frames for the holiday season.

Don't forget that if you use coupon code RMART20 you can save 10% off when you buy directly from onOne Software. You can also try out a free demo  and watch some cool videos of this baby in action so  you too can see just how cool this stuff really is.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

REVIEW: Nik Software Viveza 1.0

NOTE: A 15% discount on Nik Software for readers of this blog by entering the code rmartinsen when you order online or call to place an order. This offer excludes 3rd party software, bundles and upgrades.

ATTENTION CS4 Users: Mandatory updates are required for Nik Software products to work with CS4.

Every so often a cool little product comes along that just makes you so much more productive that you wonder how you lived without it. It's rare, but it happens. In this case, the cool app is Nik Software's Viveza.

If you've kept up with my blog since the beginning then you know that I bought Nik Software's Color Efex Complete 3.0 and gave it a sorta okay review. I've actually come to love it now and I find myself trying to use it for nearly every photo I run through Photoshop - it's that good.

U-Point®

What makes this product, and others like Color Efex so good? The first thing that comes to my mind, especially in the case of Viveza, is its U-Point technology.  This is basically a smart mask created automatically for you that isolates a part of an image based on the color that you place the point on. From there you can adjust how big of an area is impacted by the changes you will make. The easiest way to understand what is happening here is to see an effect mask (taken from Color Efex) where I used a positive U-point control on my son's face and a negative one (to exclude) on my daughters face:

Viveza only has the concept of positive masks, and by holding down the control key when adjusting the image circle you can see what elements of the image are being modified by your adjustments.

The cool thing here is that with no tedious masking, you are able to apply your changes in an instant. Anyone who has done masks in Photoshop can clearly recognize what a time saver this really is!

Now would be a good time to check out a great video of what Viveza can do!

What Makes Viveza Good?

So now that you have an idea about U-Point, I can tell you that Viveza is quite simple in that it allows you to place U-Point controls on a portion of an image and modify the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Hue, Red, Blue, Green, and Warmth settings for that masked area. While this may seem trivial at first, it is very easy to see how powerful this can be. Some good examples can be found under the video lessons on the Viveza home page. Here's one example where I used Viveza to partially desaturate the background and to enhance the skin tones of the kids (hover over for a before and after):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

Here's another example where I created more depth by darkening the background and I improved the skin tone with a saturation adjustment:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

and here's yet another where I took a nice red smoke-stack and ruined it by making it green to prove a point:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

And in this case my point is quite simple - just because you can doesn't mean you should! :-) You can do some cool stuff in Viveza, but it is easy to get carried away and start making perfectly nice images quite garish by going nuts with the saturation adjustments.

I want to make another important point here too in that I spent no more than 2 minutes on any of these photos and all of the masking was done automatically by Viveza. This is powerful stuff and definitely a time saver!

But Color Efex has U-Point, why do I need Viveza?

I'm still struggling to understand why Viveza isn't just a filter included with Color Efex because as a stand-alone product it is a one trick pony. However, that's the way Nik is choosing to sell them so let's do a quick test to see how this blah picture of the Ireland country-side:

can be enhanced using Viveza:

versus Color Efex 3.0's Sunny Day filter (hover for Viveza/Color Efex comparisons):

Mouse over to see Viveza, mouse out to see Color Efex

As you can see, for something like this you can get similar results with both products, but I found Color Efex to be the better tool here. It was also significantly quicker in Color Efex to get my desired results.

The Viveza version has a sky with a bit more blue (perhaps too much) because I had to manually adjust the blue channel in Viveza, whereas the Sunny Day filter in Color Efex 3.0 gave the image a more overall natural look and feel.

In the end, I'd have to say that Color Efex offers slightly better results with a more natural look and feel to my image above.

Conclusion

Overall, I like Viveza and it is great for quick minor edits, but what I don't like is the price. For what you get, I think the value is questionable, even though the product itself is very good. If it were a simple add-on to Color Efex as a new filter for maybe $40 (max), I'd probably get it and feel good about the price paid. However, as a stand-alone product its purchase price is going to be hard to justify.

I give this product a big thumbs UP for what it does, but a big thumbs down for the price, so my conclusion for this product is "recommended" for those who have used the demo on their real-world pictures and determined that what it does is worth the money.

NOTE: A 15% discount on Nik Software for readers of this blog by entering the code rmartinsen when you order online or call to place an order. This offer excludes 3rd party software, bundles and upgrades.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.