Category Archives Plug-ins

OK gang, two quick things:

(1) You know my new strict rule; if a company offers us (you, me, my readers, etc.) a “This Weekend Only” deal, it has to be a real killer deal, and it has to be exclusive to the readers of this blog (not just another regular discount they offer just anybody).

(2) I’m only letting companies offer these deal if I know them, and think their products rock (even though I know that his somewhat limits how many companies I’ll be able to get to do deal for you like this).

This week’s deal has both: an exclusive deal, never offered before, on a kick-butt product. The deal is on a group of six Photoshop plug-ins called the Topaz Photoshop Bundle.” The star product in this bundle (in my mind anyway) is Topaz Adjust—which I featured in my Gonzo Gift Guide this year—and it, by itself, it worth the price alone, but you get five other plug-ins as well.

Here’s the deal:
They are offering you guys, “This weekend only” the bundle of all six plug-ins at $119.95, which is $60.00 off their regular price of $179.99. They swear this is the biggest discount they’ve ever offered, and that’s exactly what I was looking for—their biggest discount ever.

To get this special deal, you’ll need to enter the coupon code SCOTTKELBY at checkout

To learn more, watch the video above (I snagged it from their site), which talks about the plug-ins, and I can’t speak for them all, but I use Topaz Adjust all the time, and it so rocks!!!! (I learned about it in the first place from other readers of this blog).

This deals ends at 12:00 Midnight EST this Sunday. Also, this deal cannot be retrofitted on previous purchases or extended past the firm weekend deadline, so in short; no whining.

Thanks much to the Eric and the gang at Topaz for offering such a cool deal.


Hey gang—the huge success of last week’s deal really paid off, and we’ve been in contact with a number of companies who are willing to give you guys a “This Weekend Only” special discount.

This week, the fine folks over at OnOne Software are offering readers of my blog $200 off their new “Plug-In Suite 5” which includes the most recent versions of their award-winning Photoshop Plug-ins:

  1. Genuine Fractals for resizing
  2. Mask Pro for removing unwanted backgrounds
  3. PhotoTune for color correction
  4. FocalPoint for selective focus
  5. PhotoTools and PhotoFrame for amazing photographic effects

The suite is regularly $599.95, but until this Sunday (Nov. 22nd) at midnight EST you can take $200.00 off using the following Coupon Code:


Thanks to Mike Wong and everybody at OnOne for making this smoking “This Weekend Only” Deal available to my readers!

After my review here on the blog of the Lucis Pro 6 plug-in (link), I had a number of readers asking if I had tried the Topaz Adjust plug-in, as they felt it gave a similar high-contrast look for a fraction of Lucis Pro’s nearly $600 price tag (Topaz Adjust sells for $49).

So, I downloaded the Topaz Adjust Photoshop plug-in a few months ago and have been using it when I got the right type of image to edit, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the plug-in and give some examples.

DISCLAIMER: If you hate this high-contrast, under saturated, over-sharpened looking effect, please just skip this post altogether.

Initial Thoughts
When I first started using Topaz Adjust, it was still on version 2 and while I liked the effects themselves, the interface was….well….it needed some work. Luckily, the latest version (version 3), is a big improvement when it comes to Interface issues and most of my gripes from the previous version have been addressed.

While I know that both Lucis Art’s plug-ins and Topaz Adjust do numerous effects, what people seem to be buying these for primarily is the extreme contrast, almost illustrated, hyper-sharp look that’s so popular, so I’m going to focus on that area of the plug in.

The Results
Taking the plug-in through its paces:


First, let’s look at our unretouched original (above), then let’s open the Topaz Adjust plug-in (shown below).


The resizable filter window (shown above) has a number of presets along the left side, and it has a decent-sized thumbnail so you can see a preview of how a particular effect will look before you even click on it. (You click on the thumbnail to apply a look. You can scroll through the effects and see them applied in the larger preview window using the Up/Down arrow keys on your keyboard, which is very handy.)

If you find a preset you like, you just click OK, and the filter is applied (it took 24 seconds to apply the filter on a 12-megapixel image on my MacBook Pro laptop).


The image above has the preset “Psychedelic” applied, which I thought looked fairly close the same effect you’d get with the Lucis Pro filter.


The effect seemed a little over the top, so after I applied it, I went immediately under Photoshop’s Edit menu and chose Fade, then I lowered the intensity to just 60% (as seen in the image above).

If you want to tweak the settings, there are a row of tabs under the main Preview window where you can tweak the Exposure, Detail, Color, and Noise.

Once I saw how the effect looked, I thought it would be interesting to see how the Topaz Adjust effect compared to the Lucis Pro plug-in look, so I went back to the original unretouched image and tried the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in (shown below).


Here’s the Lucis Pro 6.0 Interface window. I lowered the Enhance Detail amount to 60 and clicked OK.


You can see the effect looks fairly similar (shown above). I also wanted to compare the effect using the same image I had used in a previous article (the image is of rapper 10-Minute).


Here’s the original image (above), right out of the camera.


The image above has the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in applied at that same setting of 60.


Here’s the same original image but with the Topaz Adjust filter applied (using the same Psychedelic preset). You can see the obvious green color cast on this image, so I hit “undo” and then went back to the filter to tweak the settings.


Here’s the same filter with just one setting tweaked: I clicked on the Color tab and lowered the Adaptive Saturation amount to zero. How did I know which slider to adjust? I didn’t. I just dragged each one back and forth until I found one that did it. I know—pretty high-tech, eh? ;-)

The Bottomline
While the underlying mathematical algorithm in the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in will probably produce a technically better image with less noise, they both create a somewhat similar effect. However, in my opinion there are three big advantages that the Topaz Adjust plug-in has that really tip the scales in its favor big time.

  1. The affordable $49 price tag. That’s nearly $550 cheaper than the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in. Yikes!
  2. The fact that it doesn’t require a hardware dongle (like the Lucis Pro plug-in does), is huge. In fact, the whole hardware dongle thing with Lucis Pro is a deal killer for me right off the bat, and I know a lot of people feel the same way.
  3. The thumbnail previews, and ability to toggle through them live, is a big advantage and makes the tool that much more usable.

Thus far, the plug-in has performed flawlessly for me (not a single problem on two different machines), but as I mentioned; it’s not the fastest plug-in in town. That’s really shouldn’t be an issue, unless you’re applying this look to a few hundred photos (and I’m praying you don’t).

NOTE: The most common way I use this plug-in, is to duplicate the layer; apply the filter on this duplicate layer, then hide this layer behind a layer mask (Option/Alt click the Layer Mask icon), then just reveal the effect where I want it by painting in white with a soft-edged brush.

While both plug-ins will do much more than I’ve outlined here, if you’re looking for this particular look, and you want a plug-in to do all the heavy lifting for you, it’s hard to beat what Topaz Adjust offers at such an incredibly affordable price.

You can download a free fully-working trial version from the Topaz Labs website, and give it a try yourself.


Today I am the happiest camper in the forest, because Adobe has made me love my Apple MacBook Pro laptop again. They released a free downloadable plug-in for Photoshop CS4 which disables the trackpad gestures on Apple’s new MacBook Pro Laptops. No longer does my canvas rotate 40 or 50 times a day when I least expect it, and my document doesn’t zoom out to a 1% view 30 or so times a day.

No longer do I spontaneously string together groups of colorful adjectives, spoken at a high volume, as my blood pressure attains new heights. No today, there is nothing but love for Adobe, and now for my MacBook Pro as well. It’s a good day.

If you have been experiencing similar trackpad issues (which caused you to temporarily take on the vocabulary of Joe Pechi in the movie Casino), here’s the link to download the plug-in. Thank you Adobe. You had me at “disable.”


The image above is from a promo shoot I did last week for rapper “10 Minute” and I wanted to apply a “Dave Hill” like look to the images, but I cheated—I used a plug-in. (click on it for a much larger view).

Now, let me say this up front: From the research I’ve done, I don’t believe photographer Dave Hill actually uses a Photoshop plug-in; I believe he creates his look without a plug, using a series of layer blend modes, High Pass Sharpening, Skin Smoothing, and Dodging and Burning (and I am working on that whole Photoshop-only workflow as we speak, and will do a post on it when I’m finished), but since I needed to get this job done fast; I used the Lucis Art Pro 6.0 plug-in, and I feel like it got me pretty close to the look (a mini-review of the plug-in is coming up tomorrow in the 2nd and final part of this post).

First things first: I was able to use something that I learned previously when researching this look; when Dave Hill says a lot of the look is in the lighting—he’s not exaggerating. This look requires a specific type of lighting, and if you don’t light it that particular way (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the plug-in, or the Photoshop-only technique, just won’t look right. It’s a formula that requires a combination of both the right lighting, and the right Photoshop moves.

We’ll start with the shoot, and I gotta tell you—-it was a train wreck (and that’s being kind). First, we got to the location a little late, so we were already losing daylight. Then once we got our strobes set-up in place, we realized that we forgot to pack flags (large black 24″x36″ panels that you use to keep the light from flashes placed behind the subject from creating lens flare), so we had to run back to the studio and grab them.

Once we got our flags on the set, then we learned that we had a lighting problem—there’s something wrong with our main battery pack—-we accidentally dropped it a while back, and it needs to go in for service, but since it usually works…….well…it didn’t, and we didn’t have time to track down the problem.

Anyway, it just wasn’t working, and now we had maybe 15 minutes left to shoot (the sun was nearly down, and we were already under a roof, so light—or lack therof–was really becoming an issue). Luckily, my assistant (and general boy wonder) Brad Moore had thought to bring some Nikon SB-800s and 900s as a back-up, with some lightweight stands and an umbrella. So, we quickly tore down the strobes and we went with off-camera flashes. It’s not the ideal set-up for this shoot, but we had to get it done.

There are a number of ways you can set-up the lighting, and it will change depending on location, your subject, blah, blah, blah but basically you want two flashes behind your subject —one on each side—bare bulb (we would have used two strobes with just reflectors—no softboxes—if all had worked as planned). You want hard, bright light coming from behind skimming the edges of both sides of your subject (see the set-up image below–click on it for a larger view).

Ideally, you’d put them fairly far back—like 10 or 12 feet back, up high aiming downward (the farther back you go, the sharper the light), but since he was down in front of the car, we had to quickly improvise and we wound up having to place them right up on “10” (that’s short for “10 Minute.” By the way; we were lucky—he was a really great guy; incredibly patient, and when we got ready to shoot, he just turned it on. He really couldn’t have been better to work with).


So, here was the lighting set-up: Our main light was one SB-800, mounted on a lightstand, and shooting through a 43″ Optical White translucent Westcott shoot-thru umbrella. This was aiming down at “10” and was off to my right side (as seen in the photos above and below).


In the image above, you’ve got a better view of the SB-800 shooting through the umbrella, and you can see how the flags work to blog the light from the bare SB-800/900 in back.

We had two more Nikon flashes on stands just behind and on either side of him. We had them down pretty low, and we had spent so much time trying to fix the strobe situation, we didn’t really have time to try and position them just right, so we just played the hand we were dealt. (Note: Some photographers shooting with this lighting set-up use a Ring Flash as their main light instead of a regular strobe with softbox). I triggered the flashes using an SB-900 sitting in my camera’s hot shoe—it didn’t fire—I just used it to trigger the other SB-800s and 900.

Now, I do want to make this clear; what I just detailed is NOT the recommended lighting set-up to get this look, and certainly not a “here’s how to do it.” It’s just a “here’s how we did it.” Ideally, we would have used more powerful strobes, and had the time to aim and position the lights correctly, but….sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

There’s nothing too interesting here. It was shot with a Nikon D3, with a Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens in Manual Mode at f/6.3 at 1/60 of a second at 400 ISO. My actual focal length was 31mm, so I was shooting pretty wide. I told you it wasn’t too interesting.

tiOh, another thing we messed up; we forgot to bring music to the shoot, so Brad quickly pulled his car up right next to where we were shooting, and put in the new CD from T.I. (from his new album Paper Trail, shown at left) and cranked up his car stereo. The funny thing was; it was the filthiest thing you ever heard! The lyrics we so explicit, when it started we were all just cracking up  (and Brad was hugely embarrassed—it was the first time he popped it in his stereo, which made it all the better). I’d be setting up to take shot, and then this T.I. song “Every chance I get” came on (Here’s the linkwarning; even the preview is explicit), and and it was so nasty Snopp Dogg would probably blush. You just had to shake your head and laugh or you’d die from embarrassment (especially with all the people we had on the set).


Here’s the before shot (shown above) of the shot you see at the top of this post.


ABOVE: Here’s another where you can see the side lighting a little better. While the side light looks kind of subtle here, look what happens after you run the plug-in (see below). NOTE: The plug-in isn’t the whole technique (but the whole thing only takes about 5 minutes at best), but it certainly does a lot of the work, as you can see below.


Anyway, the shoot part was kind of a bust, and I’m even embarrassed to show you the unretouched shot (shown above), but I felt I needed to, especially for Part Two tomorrow, which is a step-by-step on the post processing, and includes my mini-review of the Photoshop plug-in Lucis Art Pro 6.0. In the meantime  here’s a link to 10 Minute’s site (Warning: Explicit lyrics).


Here’s a holiday deal with a kicker: If you buy OnOne Software’s Photoshop Plug-in Suite 4.2 (which is already $100 off), before December 18th, 2008, you’ll get Matt Kloskowski’s “Photoshop CS4 Power Sesssion DVD” as a free bonus.

Hey, $100 bucks off, and a killer DVD (normally $69.95 by itself). If you’re really slick, you can use this offer to buy one thing and get gifts for two different people. Here’s the link for details.