Category Archives Plug-ins

Welcome to the online version of my “14th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide,” which is featured in this latest issue of Photoshop User magazine.

I know it’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this for 14 years, which must also mean that I’ve apparently amassed a huge collection of stuff that’s now horribly outdated. This is precisely why it’s so critical that I create a new “Holiday Gear Guide” each year, and sell the old stuff on eBay to pay for all my new stuff. It’s a vicious cycle and one that I’m certain drives my wife crazy. But don’t let our holiday gift discord dissuade you from making the same mistake I have, because it’s the holidays and time to unwrap a bevy of spectacular holiday gems that are perfect for the petulant photographer on your holiday gift list. 

As always, these items are gifts and gadgets that I use myself, and not only have I fallen hopelessly in love with them, but like a pacemaker or the new chicken sandwich from Popeyes, I also now find it hard to go on living without them. My job here is simple: Transfer my dependence on these items to you this holiday season, therefore completing the circle of life. 

Just remember, giving one of these gifts by itself isn’t enough. The real magic of the holidays is when you can use social media to make others feel less adequate by taking cell phone pictures of all the stuff you bought, and all the stuff you got and sharing it online. It’s what separates us from the animals. 

The Rules

These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide—it’s just two rules actually. To be listed here, they have to be: (a) products that I use myself; and (b) if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I’d recommend to a close friend without hesitation (especially if I wasn’t that crazy about this particular friend—more of an acquaintance, really). 

Also, to make things easy, we added direct links to all the products I picked so you don’t have to wonder if you’re getting exactly the right one. (Note: Depending on the product, clicking on the links below will either take you to the manufacturer’s website or if the product is available at B&H Photo or Amazon, then clicking on the links will take you to those websites.) 

As is my sacred holiday tradition for more than a 14th of a century, I’m breaking things into three distinct categories: 

  • Stocking Stuffers: But you can use these as actual holiday gifts if this person has ever asked you for a loan.
  • Great Value Gear: Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, so it will look like you spent more than you did, and they’ll think you’re actually a better person than you are. So essentially, these are the perfect gifts.
  • Cha-Ching!: Stuff you’d buy for the Disney executive or Wall Street hedge fund manager on your Holiday gift list. These will often require a credit check in advance and putting up some sort of collateral.

STOCKING STUFFERS

PhotoPills (for iPhone & Android)

PhotoPills is the app every landscape, nature, or travel photographer should have. It’s like having your own photo assistant out in the field with all the answers to things such as, “When’s sunrise?” “What time is blue hour?” “How long should I keep the shutter open on this long exposure?” and a ton more. But beyond just numbers, it can do everything from tell you exactly which day and time a full moon will be over a particular mountain or lake you want to photograph, or which direction the sun will be coming from at any date and time in the future. Plus, it has a built-in augmented reality feature that can even superimpose the Milky Way’s position over a scene so you’ll know exactly where to set up and compose your shot. It’s easily worth $100, but it’s only $10. It’s truly a killer app! 

Price: Incredible deal at $9.99 (link)

Endangered Beauty by Carol Freeman 

The tagline for this book is “Images and Stories of the Rarest Species in Illinois,” but this book is really for anyone who loves great wildlife photography. Carol worked on this inspiring book for more than 20 years, and it’s just stunning from cover to cover. Goodreads calls it “…a glorious tribute to some of the most amazing life on our planet.” For a $50 donation to the Team Green Environmental Network, you not only get a printed edition (180 pages softcover) of Carol’s wonderful book, you also get her printed 2020 calendar as well. So you’re getting the book, the calendar, and donating to a good cause, so there’s something in this one for everybody! 

Price: $50 donation (includes both her book and calendar) (link)

A Nice Roll of Gaffer Tape 

Buying someone a roll of tape as a stocking stuffer may sound like just one step above a lump of coal, but that’s only because you may not realize the magic and wonder that gaffer tape can bring to the life of a photographer. Developed in Hollywood for use in movies and TV shows, this tape does something very special: When you remove it from a wall, equipment, your mother-in-law, etc., it doesn’t pull off paint (or skin) or leave a sticky residue. That’s why photographers love it—it’s easy to tear, easy to use, and doesn’t mess up stuff when you’re done.

Price: A roll of ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape (2″ x 55 yards) at B&H goes for $20.59 (link)

Rick Sammon’s Bestselling Book, Photo Therapy Motivation and Wisdom: Discovering the Power of Pictures 

Over the years, Rick has written 40 books on photography, and this is his bestselling book ever. Ironically, there’s not a single photo in the book—it’s all words, but powerful words they are. People absolutely love it, and so will the photographer on your holiday gift list. Really great stuff (at a really great price)! 

Price: $15.99 (link)

Think Tank Photo Secure Pixel Pocket Rocket (Black) 

I love mine because it securely stores all my memory cards, including CF and SD cards, and the design is just right on the money. There isn’t a photographer that wouldn’t love finding this one in their stocking (and if they don’t like it, they really weren’t your friend in the first place now, were they?). Of course, if you really feel close to them, you could always fill those empty card slots with actual memory cards, in which case you should move this entry from Stocking Stuffers to the Cha-Ching! category. 

Price: $21.75 (stylist black with gray trim, but also available in bright obnoxious colors) (link)

Platypod Stackable Gooseneck (2-Pack) 

If the photographer on your holiday gift list has a Platypod (and if you were really paying attention to last year’s Gift Guide, they do), then what better follow-up gift could there possibly be than the new two-pack of flexible, bendable gooseneck arms. These allow you to mount things such as small portable lights or flashes, or a microphone directly to your Platypod and place them wherever you’d like. The folks from Platypod brought some of these to the PHOTOPLUS Expo in NYC back in early November, and they created a sensation. They not only sold out of every one they had, they even sold their sample. So cool! 

Price: $30 (link)

Focus Pyramid: Autofocus Lens Calibration Tool

If you’ve ever heard your photographer friend say something along these lines, “Ya know, this lens used to be really sharp,” then the Focus Pyramid is for them. It helps them use the in-camera adjustment to get their lens back to being super sharp. (Over time, lenses can lose some of their sharpness for a variety of reasons, like being tossed 700 times into a camera bag, or dropped, or being dipped in molasses, etc.) This will help bring it back to its former glory. Plus, it’s very easy to set up and use. 

Price: $24.95 (link)


GREAT VALUE GEAR

Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials Backpack 

When I was at a workshop up in Canada, one of the participants had this backpack. I fell in love with it, and I ordered one as soon as I got back. It’s just about the perfect size for those times when you don’t want to lug the whole kitchen sink with you (which for me these days is pretty much always). It’s light, so cleverly designed, and still holds a good amount of gear without overloading you. Really well built and thought out. They will super dig it (and super dig you, too!). 

Price: $199.75 (link)

B&H Photoo Gift Card

This is always the perfect gift, because B&H Photo is the greatest camera store in the world, and whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, they have it, in stock, ready to ship. They’re the magical unicorns of camera stores. Get them a gift card from here and they’ll follow you anywhere. 

Price: Starting at $25 (link)

Westcott X-Drop Vintage Gray Canvas Backdrop by Glyn Dewis

Photographer, retoucher, and KelbyOne instructor Glyn Dewis has really made a name for himself through his inspirational and touching portraits of World War II veterans, The 39-45 Portraits Project. This backdrop was designed by Glyn himself, so you can get the same style portraits with your subjects, even if they weren’t in any world wars. 

Price: $119.90 (link)

ON1 Photo RAW 2020 Photoshop Plug-In

The folks at ON1 have been on a roll, and they have fans of their plug-ins all over the planet. Part of the reason is their new AI stuff is pretty incredible. Of course, as the name says, it’s a RAW photo processor, but it’s really so much more, wrapping organization, special effects, RAW processing, and more into a plug-in that your photographer giftee will lose their mind over! It’s really incredible what ON1 has done. You’ll be a champ for picking up this one! 

Price: $99.99 (link)

Samsung Portable SSD T5 1TB Drive

This drive is so incredibly small and lightweight, but it holds a freakin’ terabyte of data and it’s faster than a greased pig (and you know how fast greased pigs can be—well, if you don’t, they’re really, really fast). The person you give this to can take their high-res images with them on vacation, and use the drive to back up images, too. These drives are just incredibly awesome. No way they won’t love this! You can even get a 2-terabyte version for around the same size and weight, but throw another hundo on the fire (totally worth it). 

Price: $199 (1 TB); $299 (2 TB) (link)

The LitraTorch 2.0

This tiny little rechargeable light is kind of like the GoPro of little lights. In fact, it would be awesome with a GoPro camera, or for doing selfies with your phone, or for bright continuous light for iPhone videos. You can even connect it to a drone for drone lighting. It’s waterproof, and you can even mount it anywhere using the Platypod Gooseneck (see above). It just so tiny, and yet it’s surprisingly bright and flexible, plus there are a ton of accessories for it, and it’s pretty cheap. Well, inexpensive anyway. 

Price: $90 (link)
Add the LitraTorch Filter set to add lots of colors (includes holders): $35
(link)

Photography by Mark Wegner as displayed in The Gallery at KelbyOne

A Fine Art print from Bay Photo

You can either get a gift card for the photographer on your list so they can get one of their images printed, or you can give one of your own prints as a gift (which is a very personal gift). Either way, you’ll love the quality of Bay Photo’s Fine Art Prints. Want to give somebody a really memorable gift that’s more than just the product itself? This is it! 

Price: 16×24″ Fine-Art Print: $56.40 (link)

Photo by Erik Vlietinck

Luminar 4 Photoshop and Lightroom Plug-In

This is a special-effects plug-in that just keeps getting more and more incredible! It does everything from replacing skies to adding sunbeams to your photos to retouching skin to any one of a bunch of stuff that’s totally cheating. You’ll be a star for giving this one! You can order version 4 of this bad boy right now and save a few bucks, too. 

Price: A killer deal for $99 (this is a special deal that expires soon), plus you’ll get some pre-sets, too (and they’re normally $49 just for the presets!) (link)

3 Legged Thing Ellie PD Universal L-Bracket (Metallic Slate Grey)

This is the updated, newly advanced, “more better” version of their super popular Ellie L-Bracket. When shooting on a tripod, it lets you switch your camera from wide to tall in about two seconds. This is very popular with landscape photographers, who love these to death. The price is right, and it’s available in a lovely metallic slate gray or putrid orange (don’t get it in orange!). 

Price: $79.99 (available for preorder with delivery set for the end of November) (link)

XP-PEN Deco Pro Medium Graphics Drawing Tablet

If you’ve always wanted to buy a really nice graphics tablet for your photography friend (a tablet and pen are the pro retoucher’s tools of choice), but the price has kept a good one out of reach; that’s all about to change. Earlier this year I got my hands on the new XP-PEN Deco Pro tablet, and I have to say, I was blown away at the quality for the price. Personally, I like the smaller size tablets (one I can easily fit in my laptop bag or backpack and it takes up less room on my desk), so I’d go with the Small Deco Pro (9×5″), but if you think they’ll want something bigger, go with the Medium (11×6″). They’ll dig the way the double wheel works. Absolutely amazing for the price! (They’ll think you paid way more!) 

Price: $74.99 (Small); $90.99 (Medium) (link)


CHA-CHING!

Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead

You might be thinking, “I dunno, Scott, $415 seems like a lot of money for a ballhead,” but I can tell you that’s only because it’s a lot of money for a ballhead. But, at least it happens to be the greatest ballhead in the entire recorded history of ballheads. It’s the single greatest ballhead ever, and you’d be the single greatest gift-giver ever to give one of these to the photographer on your gift list. You’d instantly elevate yourself to “most valued friend or relative.” They’ll cherish this one for many years because it will last forever (even after the Great Gas War of 2046). 

Price: $415 (link)

1.4x Lens Tele-Extender 

Every photographer wants to get close to the action, and this will help them by taking their existing lens and getting them 1.4-times closer. It’s like getting a longer lens for a fraction of the cost, and as long as you buy a quality extender (and I’d only list quality extenders here anyway), there won’t be any real visible loss of quality. These are so awesome and, after buying a friend one, he’ll look upon you with awe. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but they’ll definitely want to nuzzle you (but I’m not sure that’s a good thing!).

Price:
Sony FE 1.4 Teleconverter (for E-mount lenses): $548
(link)
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (for EF-mount lenses): $429 (link)
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III (for F-mount lenses): $496.95 (link)

Canon RF 24-240mm F4–6.3 IS USM Lens

This is my new go-to travel/walk-around lens and I absolutely love it! Wider than most all-in-one lenses like this (most are 28mm), it’s very lightweight, beautifully designed, and sharp as the dickens. (See how I worked a Charles Dickens reference in there? I know. It’s a gift.) Anyway, this is one kick-butt lens and now it goes with me on every trip. Perfect for the Canon EOS R mirrorless user on your holiday gift list (plus, the price is actually pretty amazing). They’ll lose their minds when you give them this! 

Price: $899 (link)

Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

The 85mm range for portraits and weddings is a pretty magical one, with its look and style, along with those creamy out-of-focus backgrounds. The f/1.8 range is also the range I recommend (rather than the heavier more expensive f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses, because their depth of field is so incredibly thin that if you’re not 100% right-on-the-money with your focus technique, you’ll wind up with a lot of out-of-focus shots). With an f/1.8 like this, you’ll save money, it’s much lighter, and you’ll get a lot more shots in focus. I mean to say, “They’ll get a lot more shots in focus.” You’re not buying this for yourself now, are you? ;-) 

Price: $749  
Canon
(link)
Nikon
(link)
Sony (no VC)
(link)

Profoto C1 Plus (Serious Lighting for iPhone Shooters)

Beautifully designed and built (like all Profoto gear), this super-portable studio strobe (it fits in the palm of your hand) lets iPhone photographers light their subjects like a pro. This is what I’d call the first “serious” flash for serious iPhone shooters, with its soft light and slick design—it’s just so cool! It works with iPhone 7s and up, and you can control the strobe with Profoto’s free app. It has flash and continuous lighting options, and you can even control the light’s color temperature and power output. You can get some nice accessories for it as well, such as gels, a grid, and a dome that snap on its magnetic mount. If your photographers are serious about their iPhone portrait photography, they’ll love this on a crazy level. It’s a can’t-miss gift. 

Price: $499 (link)

Tether Tools ONsite Power Bundle

If the photographer on your gift list shoots on location, man are they going to love this! It’s a small, specially designed battery power pack and adapter from the folks at Tether Tools that let you power and charge your laptop, camera batteries, flash or strobes, phone, and most any other USB devices, all while out in the field where you don’t have access to an AC wall outlet. It’s really pretty brilliant, and while I put this in the Cha-Ching! section, the price is actually a bit less than Cha-Ching. It’s more “Cha-Less-Ching” at a little under $270. It’s really well made and cleverly thought out. 

Price: $269.98 (link)


STUFF FROM US

One of My Fine-Art Prints

The gallery YellowKorner sells three of my fine-art prints of classic interiors at various sizes (you can get some really nice large sizes) and styles and I, for one, would be honored if you saw fit to give one as a gift. Imagine how tickled I’d be if you gave three or four? Or even three or four hundred? The mind reels, doesn’t it? Anyway, they’d make a great addition to your collection (says the author, so his opinion is somewhat tainted, but correct nevertheless). If you purchase one, please post a pic on social and tag me in it so I can share it, as well. 

Price: From $145 (link)

My New Book, The Natural Light Portrait Book

This one is literally on press now and will be available before Christmas. It’s my new book completely focused on how to take really amazing natural-light portraits, and it uses the same style and layout as my Digital Photography Book series: Just one topic per page, so it’s quick-and-easy to digest, and you can turn right to the page you want, for the thing you want to learn, and boom! You’re off and shooting. Be one of the very first to get a copy by pre-ordering now. 

Price: $28.83 (paperback); $23.99 (Kindle) (link)

My Other New Book, The Landscape Photography Book

It just came out earlier this year and it’s already in its third printing (meaning, the first two print runs of the book completely sold out). It’s my bestselling book in years, and if the photographer on your holiday gift list shoots landscapes (and at some point, we all shoot landscapes, right?), they’ll get a lot out of this book. Well, so I’ve been told. 

Price: $18.27 (paperback); $17.36 (Kindle) (link)

A One-Year KelbyOne “Pro” Membership

You’ve probably heard again and again (or you’re already a member and you know firsthand) about all the incredible 700+ online courses, the online community, the webcasts, the magazines, and the discounts that are part of a KelbyOne Pro membership. Now you can share all that with a photographer you super-dig. It’s only $199 for a year, with full access to everything! They’ll devote the rest of their natural life to let you know how thoughtful, caring, and generous you were to change their life in such a meaningful way. Okay, that’s perhaps a best-case scenario, but I think they’ll love you for it (and so will I). 

Price: $19.99/month; $199/annually (link)

A One-Year KelbyOne “Plus” Membership 

If they love online training, we have a special membership level that focuses on the online classes themselves (with access to more than 300 courses), but it goes for just $9.99 a month. Give ’em a 12-month membership and they’ll love you all year.

Price: $9.99/month; $96/annually (link)


Well, there ya have it, folks. Remember, it’s not how many gifts you get. It’s about how many gifts you get me! ;-)

Happy Holidays!

-Scott

Hi, everybody. Sorry I missed out blogging on Friday – my wife and daughter flew up to New York City to meet me Friday morning (I was already up in NYC on business), and I got all caught up in that. We had a blast (saw two awesome shows: ‘Wicked’ and ‘School of Rock’ and took a hilarious tour of NYC called ‘The Ride’ – highly recommended).

Anyway, I’m back and of course, on Friday (as luck would have it) all hell broke loose when Google added a disclaimer to their download site for the free Nik Collection of plug-ins, that they would no longer be supporting it moving forward. If a new OS from Apple or Microsoft is released and it breaks the Nik Collection from working, they’re not going to fix it. Or, if a new version of Photoshop or Lightroom stops it from working, they’re not going to fix it. Or if a stiff wind comes along, and it breaks the Nik Collection they ain’t fixin’ it). Tip of the hat to DPReview for uncovering that.

Well, long time Nik Collection users are (me being one of them) are pretty much freaking out, so I thought I’d do a quick Q&A about it here on the blog-a-roonie:

Q. Didn’t Google pretty much say the same thing when they first released the Nik Collection for free? 
A. They did. They said, in kind of a soft-sell way, that they weren’t going to support further development of the collection.

Q. So we kind of already knew this?
A. Yeah, we pretty much did. I wrote about that in my Q&A the day they made the initial “free” announcement, back in March of 2016.

Q. So what exactly did you say in that Q&A about it?
A. Well, I answered a “Q” with an “A” (see below).

Q. Does this mean that future updates for this collection have ceased?
A.
Based on what I’ve read, I absolutely think that is the case, but I haven’t confirmed it with anyone inside Google yet.

Q. So, what if I download it today, and then there’s a major Mac OS or Windows update down the road and then it doesn’t work anymore. Will Google do an update to fix it?
A. Not as best as I can tell, so use it today and enjoy it for as long as it works.

Q. Will Google ever release a Nik Collection Version 5?
A. I would love that, but based on their post about why they are making it free, it seems fairly clear that their desktop plug-in days are over (that was my take on it anyway).

Q. So, how much longer will it still work?
A.
For some folks, it’s already too late. I’ve seen posts and gotten emails from people who have told me straight up that when they updated something and the collection stopped working. They have some sort of configuration (maybe it’s a particular graphics card with a particular OS update, of what-have-you), but it broke their Nik world. I hate to hear that (and I worry about it myself because I’ve been a Nik Collection user for years. In fact, I did an entire KelbyOne online class on how I use the Nik Collection (and released it just a few days after Google made their “Free” announcement).

Q. So, if they already alluded to the “we’re not updating this stuff anymore” situation when they released the free version, how come everybody is freaked out now?
A. Because Google added the “we’re not updating this stuff anymore” text right to the downloads page itself, so it’s more official and scary looking. Plus, I think we all hoped that Google wouldn’t really just leave us hanging like that and that they actually would, in fact, update the software when push came to shove.

Q. Yeah, but you’re saying people are already having issues with the Nik Collection working?
A. Right. So, push has already come to shove – and apparently enough people with problems contacted Google for help that they felt they needed to put a disclaimer on their downloads Website.

Q. Maybe Google is understaffed and doesn’t have someone available that could patch the software?
A. That’s entirely possible, but at last count, Goggle had around 62,000 employees (but that’s from last year. It’s probably more by now).

Q. So they have 62,000+ employees, but they can’t spare one to simply fix this plug-in that is beloved by so many people?
A. Apparently not. If Google wanted to assign one, or even one thousand, Google certainly could and probably not even notice they were missing — but apparently, they don’t want to devote even one single engineer to fix it, or they would, right? This is a business decision for Google (no longer supporting the Nik Collection), and I get it — it doesn’t fit into their plans/strategy moving forward. I’m not happy about it, but I do understand it.

Q. But isn’t there a petition on change.org asking Google to at least to a maintenance update?
A. There sure is. Here’s where you can sign it.

Q. Did you sign it, Scott?
A. Absolutely!

Q. So, do you think if enough people sign this petition, it will convince Google to change their mind?
A. No. Not a chance. I believe that Google has no interest in the Nik Collection whatsoever. I believe the most work that has been put into the existing Nik Collection since 2012 was them putting up the notice that they’re not going to support it any longer.

Q. This reminds of when you said on “The Grid” right after Google bought Nik Software — you didn’t think Google bought Nik because they wanted to get in the business of selling plug-ins for Photoshop. I remember you saying that.
A. Yup, I did. I said I felt they bought Nik pretty much just for their Snapseed mobile app (which is awesome), and that I didn’t see them continuing to develop the Nik Collection as desktop plug-ins.

Q. And at the time, how did the Google/Nik folks react to you saying that?
A. I believe it was the catalyst for them installing a dartboard set with my photo on it.

Q. Yeah, I heard about that. Didn’t they even send two Google/Nik employees to be guests on The Grid to refute what you were saying?
A. They did, and they were masters at not answering my direct questions about will there be a Nik Collection 5. I made the joke on air that they were so skilled at not answering the question, that they should consider becoming politicians.

Q. So did they ever release that Nik Collection version 5?
A. Senator, I plead the 5th on the grounds that I don’t want to yell “I told you so!” so loudly that it knocks their dartboard set off the wall.

Q. Maybe, since Google doesn’t want it, they’ll give it to Adobe, and they could add it to Lightroom or Photoshop?
A. Ahhhhh, if only the software industry worked like that on any level. What a wonderful world it would be. It’s more likely that Google would assign 200+ engineers to update it than it would that they give it to Adobe or anyone. That’s not how multi-billion dollar software companies roll. I don’t want to whine too much – they did give us for free what was once a $499 collection of plug-ins (and they added another plug-in to it; the Analog Efex plug-in that everybody was hoping for. Stop snickering). ;-)

Q. So, all that aside, where does that leave us now?
A. We’re pretty much hosed. It is over. If your Nik Collection hasn’t stopped working yet, it’s like I said, “Enjoy it while you can” because it’s death is a-comin’.

Q. So, what’s your plan?
A. You might have already noticed that I’ve been transitioning over to using MacPhun’s Luminar plug-in. It has a lot of the same type of effects as Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 (which was their plug-in many pros I know relied upon — that and SilverEfex Pro for black and white conversions). It’s only been out since late last year, but it’s already had over 4-million downloads on the Mac alone, so it’s pretty much just taken off.

Q. Yeah and that’s why I didn’t switch to them earlier — they don’t have a Windows version.
A. Well, now they do (MacPhun announced it a week or so ago, and it’ll be shipping very soon).

Q. So, it’ll be on both Macs and PCs now?
A. Yup!

Q. Well, are you going to do a class on these as you did on the Nik Collection?
A. I’m on it. In fact, I’m in the studio taping it this week.

Q. How does it compare to the Nik Collection?
A. I think it compares closest to the Nik ColorEfex Pro 4 plug-in (well, it should be – some of the guys from MacPhun used to be “the guys from Nik Software”).  It has many of the same types of effects I went to Color Efex Pro 4 for, like: glows, detail enhancement, bi-color gradients, high-key effects, black and white conversions (not quite as good as Silver Efex Pro, but still good), Advanced Contrast, Structure, Polarizer, all that stuff (though it doesn’t have a straight-up Bleach Bypass effect, I think there’s a preset that gets close, but I will miss that effect from ColorEfex Pro 4. It doesn’t have “Tonal Contrast” by name, but it has the look (they call theirs “Structure”).

Q. Anything it does better?
A. It has lots and lots of presets (a lot that comes with it, and others that are downloadable), and the user interface is better (except for the pictures they use for the presets icons – they look very “consumerish” to me). It has a good Layers feature, so that’s pretty huge for Lightroom only users and their masking tools are really good. It’s got a spot healing tool that’s not bad (again, if you’re Lightroom only), and you can use it as a stand-alone app if you like (it doesn’t have to plug-in to Lightroom or Photoshop, but that’s how I use it exclusively).

Q. Anything worse?
A. It loads a lot slower when you first launch it. I’ve whined about it to them like a thing that whines a lot. I imagine it will get faster soon due to a bunch of whining [not just mine alone, but I can whine with the best of ’em when it comes to software], and if not, the whining will continue, (but much louder).

Q. So, if you’re telling us about which plug-in you’re switching to, I’m picking up a vibe that you feel like the Nik Collection might be ‘going away.” Am I right?
A. No. that’s not the ‘vibe’ I’m putting down. The vibe I’m putting down is the ‘death vibe.” Google said it — they are not supporting the Nik Collection any longer. It’s over.

Q. Scott, now you are starting to freak me out because maybe I’m reading between the lines here, but it sounds to me like you’re hinting that the Nik Collection may not have a very bright future.
A. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying “it has no future, and is dead now.”

Q. Maybe I’m jumping the shark here, but it kinda of sounds like you’re intimating that the Nik Collection may stop working for some people some day soon.
A. It has already stopped working for some folks now, and the reason is — it’s dead.

Q. But it sounds like you do think that Google will step in and save the day by assigning some engineers to do a maintenance update so we can keep using the Nik Collection, right?
A. No. I do not think that on any level, nor have I ever thought that, not even for a minute. I hoped it. I wished it, but that train has left the station.

Q. So, if I’m reading you right here, you just said Google is ‘training’ someone to update the Nik Collection? Is that what I’m getting from this?
A. You need to talk to someone.

Q. Are they at Google in the Nik Collection update department?
A. Sigh.

Well, folks, I don’t know what else to say. The train has left the station. The horse has left the barn. That dog don’t hunt. Fill in your own folksy phrase for “it ain’t gonna happen” here: ______________________. Hey, we still made images before the Nik Collection was even around, and we’ll be making ’em after they’re gone — we’ll just use a different set of plug-ins. Life goes on.

I hope you found this Q&A somewhat:

a) Helpful
b) Cathartic
c) Karmasutric
d) All of the above

Here’s wishing you a day where all your plug-ins work in perfect peace and harmony [insert gong sound here].

Best,

-Scott
Seat 11C, 33,000 feet
Feel free to move about the cabin, inc.

 

Trinity 5sm

1. An Early Morning Shoot for my Book “The Great Indoors”
It’s hard to believe this amazing church is right here in the US — it’s the gorgeous Trinity Church in Boston. I found out about it just two days before I arrived in Boston (many thanks to my assistant Lynn), and we were able to get access to shoot it.

The only chance I could get to shoot it, was early in the morning right before my seminar in Boston (which for someone who likes to get to his seminar very early, was a bit worrisome to me, but it was walking distance from the convention center, so I went for it). The folks at Trinity Church were amazing (thank you Donna!) and I had such a great time shooting, and learning about the history of the church, which was built in the 1800s.

I took a bunch of shots (including the one you see above, taken with a Canon 5D Mark III with an 11-24mm super wide-angle lens. Shot down low on a 3-legged-thing travel tripod, with a Really Right Stuff Ballhead.

I’ll share more shots from the Trinity Church as soon as I get done editing them (the one you see above was only edited in Lightroom – no plug-ins or anything fancy — just my “Seven Point System.” 

guru2

2. Call for Entries: The Photoshop World Guru Awards
If you’re going to the Photoshop World Conference 2016 in July this summer (July 19-21st), you’re invited to enter your images and designs into the prestigious Guru Awards competition. You can submit images for judging for free (this contest is only open to registered Photoshop World attendees, which is actually a good thing, because your chances of winning in a category are amazingly good!). There are a number of categories, from retouching to photography; compositing to illustration among others, and you can enter up to three images total. You can get all the details right here. Good luck, everybody!

3. You’ll Laugh. You’ll Cry. You’ll Kiss 56-seconds Goodbye!
Check out the trailer (above) from just-released class on the now totally free Google Nik Collection of plug-ins for Lightroom and/or Photoshop. I’m getting such great feedback on the class, and I hope you’ll give it a look (if you’re not a KelbyOne member already, sign up for the 10-day free trial and you can watch it right now). Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/234VYGd

Secret title on old paper

4. The hidden advantage of Lightroom’s built-in HDR
I shared a short clip from that Nik Collection class about Lightroom and a hidden advantage you get when you combine your bracketed images in Lightroom (and it’s not what you think). If you’ve got a sec to check out the video (it’s short), jump over to LightroomKillerTips and check it out.

That’s it for today, folks. Hope you have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week!

Best,

-Scott

nikcol3

On the heels of Google last week making the entire Nik Collection of plugs-ins absolutely free, I’m doing a online class that will release this Thursday (March 31st) that not only teaches you how to use the collection, I show:

(1) How I use them in my workflow
(2) Exactly which ones are my favorite filters and presets
(3) Which ones I don’t use at all (and why)
(4) Which one, if I was stranded on a desert island, would be the one I couldn’t live without and why
(5) All sorts of little tips and tricks that will help make your experience faster, better, and more fun.

I’ve been saying for years that for so many pro photographers I know, they will tell you that the Nik Collection is their secret weapon — so if you’re a KelbyOne member, I hope you’ll check out my brand new class coming this Thursday.

Again, a big tip of the hat to Google for making these plug-ins available to us all for free, and here’s hoping upon hope that while it looks unlikely, that if there’s a major update to either the Mac or Windows OS some awesome engineer might update it (perhaps on his own, as some rogue engineering doing good outside the walls). Then he or she could be the new hero of “The Resistance.” [vague Star Wars reference].

Full Details coming Thursday
Don’t forget to come back on Thursday to get the direct link to the class — can’t wait to share this with you!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Hey, did I mention I’m teaching my full day seminar up in Boston on Wednesday? Hundreds of Boston area photographers are already signed up, but it’s not too late for you to come, too!

nikcol2

OK, not everybody, but I was surprised to see how many people were complaining after Google’s awesome announcement that they were making the entire Nik Collection of plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom, available for free download. FREE!

Of course, there are lots of questions after this announcement, so let’s do a quick Q&A on the topic to take us into the weekend.

Q. What is the Google Nik Collection? 
A. Here’s how Google themselves describe it:

The Nik Collection is comprised of seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities — from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects, to image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details, to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.

Q. So, you use these plug-ins?
A. Absolutely. Daily. I’ve been telling people for years that the Nik Collection is the pro photographer’s secret weapon.

Q. So let me get this straight — Google takes this amazing plug-in collection, which they were selling for $149, and they announce it’s now free, and some people are already hatin’ on them?
A. Oh, Absolutely. Welcome to the Internet, where lots of people are literally just waiting to be outraged about something. I’ve always said if you stood on a street corner and passed out free $100 bills, you could literally count the seconds before someone came up and said, “Are you kidding me? Where am I going to break a $100 bill? Can’t you give me five $20s instead?” 

Q. Like, what kind of stuff are they saying?
A. Stuff like: “So if I bought it in 2015, I’m f#@$d right?” or “…bit pissed as i paid full wack just over a year ago and not even partial refund. Will be the last google product i buy if they just keep giving things away”  or “Very disappointed, I bought it in 2015. Nice you make it free but you should refund your previous licenses.”

Q. Haven’t they had the use of this software all this time, before it was free?
A. Yes.

Q. So why are they so mad?
A. Apparently Google didn’t have five $20s. (see my answer to the 3rd question above).

Q. Isn’t this awesome that they’re giving this incredible plug-in package away for free?
A. I think it is. A lot of folks who could never afford it will now have access to it. I think that’s awesome!

Q. Does this mean that future updates for this collection have ceased?
A. Based on what I’ve read, I absolutely think that is the case, but I haven’t confirmed it with anyone inside Google yet.

Q. So, what if I download it today, and then there’s a major Mac OS or Windows update down the road and then it doesn’t work anymore. Will Google do an update to fix it?
A. Not as best as I can tell, so use it today and enjoy it for as long as it works.

Q. But that’s not fair!
A. You’re right. You should ask Google for your money back from that free download. Oh…wait…

Q. What if I bought it back in February? 
A. Google said they are automatically giving full refunds to anyone who bought the collection in 2016.

Q. Are you certain about that?
A. The older I get, the more I realize I’m not certain about anything, but that’s what they said in their post.

Q. What if I bought it back in December and I missed the cutoff?
A. Then you only had to pay $37.50 a month to use it until now, which for this suite is totally worth it, but that is still kind of a bummer. I’ve bought stuff the very week before it goes on sale. It happens, but you’ll get past it.

Q. Can’t I write angry comments about how unfair that is?
A. Absolutely, and you should use a lot of cuss words!

Q. Will that help?
A. Not one bit.

Q. Will Google ever release a Nik Collection Version 5?
A. I would love that, but based on their post about why they are making it free, it seems fairly clear that their desktop plug-in days are over (that was my take on it anyway). However, if they do one day come out with a new version, I imagine they would charge for it; I would definitely buy it, but I imagine it would be worth it.

Q. So, do you know something secret here?
A. I do, but it’s not about version 5. The secret stuff I know is about the supposed 1969 Apollo moon landing, and the plane that never crashed into the Pentagon, and the JFK assassination, but I’m not at liberty to say, because they’re watching me. They’re always watching.

Q. Were there any nice comments on Google’s announcement post?
A. Thankfully, there were many tucked in and around the whining. Some very grateful folks, and I was happy to see that.

Q. What was your favorite?
A. This one from Ray Akey:

“Funny to see all the reactions on this one. Free software is good for everyone, no matter what, especially when it comes from a company known for their excellent plugins because a lot of shareware and freeware is crap! Personally, I have only used SilverFX and it is a pretty nice piece of software. I’ll glady download and check this out. Thanks Nik and Google! Whiners: Poo!”

Q. That guy rocks, right?
A. Right! I love his attitude.

Q. So, where can I download the free Nik Collection?
A. Here’s the link.

Q. Should I write a mean comment here on your blog for taking the side of the non-complainers?
A. Believe it or not, there are bigger fish to fry in the world today than you complaining that somebody is getting something for free that you had to pay for a year or two ago. Instead, you should be happy that a good thing happened to a lot of photographers all over the world through this gift from Google. If you bought it beforehand, you should be thankful for the time you got to use it and how awesome it made your images look; you should not expect that Google will ever provide a free update to this free software, but know that you’ll still be able to somehow carry on.

Be thankful that there are brilliant geniuses that created this software in the first place, and that Google is so successful they can give it away to us for free, and instead of focusing on the negative side of things, why not take a deep breath, be glad you’re alive; enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday. :)

Best,

-Scott

 

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).

Disclaimers
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.

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