Product Roundup: 11 Plug-ins, Actions and Presets

December 25, 2015

By Theano Nikitas

Even the most skilled photographer or videographer will often opt for third-party plug-ins, presets, actions and effects to enhance their imagery and workflow. We pulled together some of our favorite add-ons that we think make great additions to any digital toolkit. 

Corel ParticleShop

This magical plug-in from Corel utilizes Corel Painter brush technology to simplify tasks that would otherwise be impossible or take an expert hand (and many hours) to create from scratch. Bundled with a starter pack of 11 brushes, you’ll get a feel for the types of artful effects you can add to your images. After that, you’ll likely want to add supplemental brushes from one or more of the optional Brush Packs. Each comes with 15 brushes broken down into categories such as Hair, Fabric, Light it Up, Storm, Smoke & Steam, Dust & Debris and even a Superhero pack for playful children’s portraits. Corel ParticleShop is cross-platform and works with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom CS5 and newer, as well as Elements 13 and CorelDRAW, Photo-Paint and PaintShop Pro X7 and newer.

Prices: $50, $30 each for brush pack

On1 Photo 10    

Don’t let the name change fool you. The latest version of On1’s software, like its predecessor, Perfect Photo Suite 9.5, offers a range of editing options as a Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom or Aperture plug-in or standalone app. On1 has streamlined some of the workflow (the Perfect B&W module has been integrated into Effects), pumped up performance and increased the responsiveness of sliders and tools thanks to new algorithms and more efficient use of the latest video cards. You’ll also find improvements like the ability to mask an entire filter stack at the same time and the addition of a haze reduction filter. And, for additional convenience, Photo 10 offers an option to view sub-folder images automatically while browsing without having to drill down and open each folder manually.

Prices: $120 (full), $100 (upgrade)

DxO Filmpack 5

DxO Filmpack 5 goes above and beyond standard emulation options with specialty “designer” presets including Sepia, Lo-Fi and Nostalgia. Toning and filter options offer additional creative touches. The Elite Edition costs more than the Essential Edition but you’ll get several dozen more presets, advanced color and black-and-white controls, noise reduction and creative effects (frames, textures and light leaks). This cross-platform application functions as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom, Apple Aperture and DxO Optics Pro, as well as a standalone application. 

Prices: $69.95 (elite), $39.50 (essential) 

Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks 3.1  

Videographers will love this plug-in. It’s easy to use and the latest version offers more than 200 customizable Look presets, a trackpad mode, tools to create film stocks and an update to the Colorista tool for color corrections. Import additional look up tables (LUTs) from other grading applications to extend the 14 new LUTs that are bundled with Magic Bullet Looks. Compatible with a variety of host applications (including Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Apple Motion 5, DaVinci Resolve and more), this plug-in is packed with features to help you create amazing videos. 

Prices: $399 (full), $99 (upgrade), $199 (academic)

Greater Than Gatsby Innocence Collection 

Designed for child, newborn, family and portrait photographers, this set of Photoshop actions covers it all. The bundle includes Innocence Retouch and Innocence Workflow (also available separately) for a full complement of actions for skin retouching and enhancement, makeovers for eyes, mouth and hair, along with overall color and artistic enhancements. The site offers tutorials, a helpful recipe guide for the Innocence Collection (although you can tweak your own combinations) and, if you’re a little behind in updating your copy of Photoshop, the actions are compatible with versions back to CS2 through CC. Be sure to check out the company’s other actions (including a few free samples) and Lightroom presets.

Prices: $120 (collection), $75 (retouch), $75 (workflow)

Totally Rad Replichrome III: Archive

You’re not likely to find the same film emulations that have been collected for this set of Lightroom, Photoshop and Camera Raw presets anywhere else. Even long-time film photographers will have to dig deep into their memory banks to remember some of these unique color and black-and-white options from Kodak, Konica, Centuria, Rollei and Patterson and others. Interestingly, Totally Rad has included multiple versions of each film, each created with both Noritsu and Frontier scanners. A Tweak Kit is included, providing users with tools to customize grain, sharpen and tone, with preset options for adjusting skies, saturation, contrast and more. If you prefer the look of more standard films, check out Replichrome I and II. 

Price: $99

Lens Distortions Light Hits   

Captured in camera, this collection of soft and subtle rays of sunlight is the real deal (i.e. they’re not anamorphic lens light flares). The collection consists of 30 curated clips encoded in ProRes at a frame rate of 23.98. Clips range in length from 3 to 28 seconds and are available in 4K or 2K. Compatible with Premiere, Final Cut X, Avid and After Effects, Light Hits are easy to use—just drag and drop one or more onto the timeline, set a blend mode and, if necessary, apply a little color grading and viewers will never know that the light was added in post. Lens Distortions also offers other video effects, Photoshop actions for still images and a free iOS app (with in-app purchases) to add filters to your social media images. 

Prices: $99 (4k), $79 (2k)

MCP Actions Newborn Necessities    

Originally designed for newborn editing and retouching, targeting newborn-specific challenges such as skin redness and jaundice, this set of 65 actions work well for a wide range of subjects—from newborns to brides and everyone in between. In addition to color conversions, you’ll find exposure enhancements, skin tone corrections, hazy overlays, vignettes and much more. Available for Photoshop CS2-CS6 and CC, and Elements versions 6 to 14.

Price: $150

Seim Natural HDR  

HDR has gotten a bad rap and with good reason. Many photographers (and software developers) take HDR beyond its intended purpose of increasing dynamic range to creating high-intensity images. But photographer Gavin Seim, the creator of Natural HDR Lightroom presets, markets this application stating, “No More Nasty HDR”—and that says a lot about this software. With more than 35 presets, Natural HDR provides the tools to go subtle or edgy; you can mix and match, adjust the preset effects to fit your esthetics, whether you’re working on a tone-mapped bracketed sequence or a single image. Natural HDR is available for Lightroom 4, 5, 6 and CC.

Price: $49

Macphun Creative Kit 2016     

Mac users take note: Macphun has upgraded its Creative Kit, adding the creative filter FX Photo Studio to the Complete Kit bundle. This six, Mac-only app bundle includes the Pro versions of Tonality (one of my favorite black-and-white conversion applications), Intensify, Noiseless, Snapheal and Focus, in addition to FX Photo Studio. You’ll find updates to several of the apps including batch processing for Tonality, Intensify and FX Photo Studio, a new interface, new tools and, importantly, luminosity masking in Tonality. You’ll also find tons of advanced features and support, including RAW, 8- and 16-bit TIFF, PNG, JPEG and much more. The apps are compatible with OS X 10.9 and higher, along with Adobe Lightroom (4-CC), Photoshop (CS5-CC 2015) or Apple Aperture. 

Price: $150 (complete kit)

Alien Skin

Alien Skin has an exciting new program due out before the end of the year—Exposure X. We don’t have too many details yet but we know that, in addition to Exposure’s excellent film emulation presets and textures, there’s a new user interface, it’s fast and Exposure X can be run as a plug-in or standalone program (Mac and PC). It incorporates a new intelligent file management system to keep your images organized and easy to access. Stay tuned for more! 

Prices: $149, $99 (upgrade)

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