Category Archives: Software

Exposure X4 Launches & YouTube


Yew Tree Tarn, The Lake District. Nikon D800, 24-120mm Nikon lens at 70mm, ISO100, 1/6″ at f/9.0

Exposure from Alien Skin is one of my long-time favourite processing tools and yesterday they launched Exposure X4. I’ve already got my upgrade and I can see a few enhancements and new tools. You can find out more about the enhancements on the Alien Skin website where you will also find a free trial version to download.

Despite the new tools and features, I’m not really blown away by any of them and I didn’t know if they justified the price of the upgrade. The Smart Collections is a nice addition and I can see Exposure is becoming more of a Lightroom replacement, but it’s not exciting me. Then I found the exception which is hard to quantify; Alien Skin has just described it as RAW processing enhancements.

Having processed the shot you see above with the software I thought that’s not bad. The RAW file came from a Nikon D800, so I thought I would try some RAW files from the Fuji. And that’s when I the results stopped me dead. The RAW conversions are incredibly clean. There isn’t a wiggly worm pattern anywhere to be seen and the detail is incredible. Even RAW files shot with the 18-135 lens look amazingly sharp and detailed.

Fuji X-T2 with 18-135 lens at 135mm. ISO400, 1/45″ at f/11.0. Capture sharpening only applied as part of processing in Alien Skin Exposure X4.

If you’re a Fuji RAW file shooter, do look at the trial version of Exposure. I would be interested to know if others also like the results.

Tomorrows YouTube Video

To celebrate Exposure X4’s launch I decided to answer the question I’m often asked about Exposure “what’s a good workflow”. The video will demonstrate this using Exposure X4 and goes live around 15:30 UK time.

Here’s the link to my YouTube Channel if you haven’t already subscribed.

Create Your Own LUT’s for Photoshop with 3D LUT Creator


Creating Your Own LUTs for Photoshop with 3D LUT Creator

Recently I have been discussing LUT’s as a way of enhancing photography in Photoshop and Lightroom. But where can you find these powerful LUTs from?

Well, you can create your own by combining and tweaking the LUT’s that come with Photoshop and then exporting these. Unfortunately, that’s quite limiting in the range of effects.

Another option is to download free giveaways from the web. But, people don’t give away their best work for free. When you look closely, the most impressive LUT’s usually cost a lot. This isn’t surprising because it can take a lot of effort to create some of these effects.

Since the middle of last year, I have been investigating options that would allow me to apply colour adjustments to images (not video) which I could then save as a LUT file. Whilst there’s a few tools on the market, they appear to be geared towards the film industry (hardly surprising), and the cost is rather prohibitive. If I had £30k+ to spend on software, I would be using it to buy camera equipment.

Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by the company behind 3D LUT Creator, asking if I would review their product. I turned this down (I was too busy at the time) but I did download the free version of the software. After some experimentation I was impressed. But this isn’t a review of their product. Instead, I published a video demonstrating how easy it is to create colour grading effects and produce LUT files which you can use in Photoshop.

Please keep in mind, this is a very simple example and you can do much more with this software.

And no, I’m not being paid for this. I only ever discuss products I’m impressed with or have purchased myself and I think might interest others.

If you want to subscribe to my Youtube Channel, here is the link https://goo.gl/GCZq33.

Can Affinity Photo Replace Photoshop?


Reservoire at Crowden. Fuji X-XT2, 18-135 lens. All processing in Affinity Photo.

It appears a lot of people are looking for a Photoshop alternative at present. One question that comes up increasingly is, can Affinity Photo replace Photoshop. Only the other day a book cover designer emailed me with this very question. Now the features needed for that work are a little different to photo editing, but you can see the answer on my You Tube Channel.
But in this post, I want to look briefly at using Affinity Photo for photo editing, comparing it to Photoshop.

STOP NOW if you’re now reaching for close button, screaming Affinity Photo is only for the Mac. Affinity Photo is now available for Windows and that’s the version I’m using today. It was discounted at the start of the New Year and I decided to buy a copy. I now have all the versions including the one for iPad.

When you first start Affinity Photo, it’s not the most user friendly of interfaces. It probably matches Photoshop very well in that respect.

The default Affinity Photo interface when first opened

When you start to look around, it looks like most of the features are buried within a menu system or one of the side panels. This is very similar to Photoshop and if you look closely, you can see a lot of parallels between the two. A few tools I use regularly in Photoshop are Layers, Blending Modes and Channels, which I’m pleased to say are all present, they just work a little differently. In fact, everything I seem to use in Photoshop appears to be present in one form or another. It may not be immediately recognisable, but it is present.

To better test the features of Affinity Photo, I decided to process recent Landscape image from my Fuji X-T2. This was captured as a RAW file and was opened from the File menu using the option “File | Open…”

Affinity Photo with the Develop Persona active

Once the RAW file was open, Affinity Photo switched from the “Photo Persona” to the “Develop Persona”. I indicated the different personas in the top left of the diagram using a red box and arrow.
These “personas” change the view of the interface and the tools available. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, you can think of the “Photo Persona” as being like the default Photoshop workspace. The “Develop Persona” is more like Adobe Camera RAW, which also starts up when you select to edit a RAW file. Just like Adobe Camera RAW you will see the adjustment controls in a series of tabs on the right side of the screen (highlighted here by the red box).

As I worked my way through each of the panels, everything is here I would expect to see in Camera RAW, plus a few other things. The quality of the adjustments appears very good in general. Zooming to 100% on a 23” HD resolution monitor allows me to see and evaluate more detail than on my Mac 5K Retina display. Whilst the Retina display is beautiful, it hides problems because of its resolution. What I could see when using the Affinity sharpening and noise reduction tools impressed me. The detail and sharpness when processing the Fuji XTrans RAW files appears excellent. Noise reduction was also very good and preserved a lot of detail whilst removing noise effectively. Here you can see a section of the image magnified to 100%.

Section of the image magnified to 100% in the Develop Persona

It’s also possible to make selections in Affinity Photo, like the Gradient and Adjustment Brush tools in Photoshop. These are called Overlays in Affinity and are easy to use, but don’t feel as polished as in Photoshop. They lack some of the adjustments I would like to apply selectively such as sharpening and clarity. Despite this, they’re very useful and I like the “Overlays” panel where you can easily switch between the different selection’s.

Having applied all your adjustments, click the Develop button to generate the image. The interface then switches to the Photo Persona. Once here I started to add adjustment layers and fine tune selections using masks. I didn’t find this as intuitive as Photoshop, but I suspect an element of this is my lack of familiarity.

Layers window in Affinity Photo Develop Ppersona. Here you can see the Layers and Layer Masks for the image being processed.

Having completed the adjustments, you need to Export the image. The save option in the menu saves the image in the Affinity Photo format for future editing. Exporting converts the image to one of the popular (and not so popular) image formats.

Export options to convert the image to a standard image format.

Overall, I would say most if not all the photo adjustment tools you will need are present in Affinity Photo. It’s certainly one of the best options I’ve seen if you want to move away from Photoshop but still need to use the same features. Although it felt unfamiliar and a little limited in a couple of areas, I didn’t feel that I was making a significant compromise by using it.

Best Fuji Profile for Green


The Peak District. Fuji X-T2, 18-135 lens, ISO200, f/13.0, 1/60″.

If you’re a Fuji shooter who uses Lightroom to process your RAW files, I’m sure you will appreciate the excellent Fuji Colour Profiles. Although Lightroom provides a default Adobe Standard profile, it’s often worth experimenting with some of the other Fuji profiles found in the Camera Calibration tab.

In the past, I have tended to favour the Provia profile for most of my images. Recently though I have found the Provia effect a little too strong. This is especially true where there is a lot of green in the image such as grass or trees. The images end up being too saturated with emerald green grass which is difficult to correct.

Now I have a new favourite profile for the Landscape scene. Where there is a lot of green in a picture shot during the day, I’m finding the “Camera Pro Neg. Std” profile produces better results. This profile seems to provide a much more realistic starting point for the typical landscape scene. Whilst it tends to be a little weak on the saturation, it does produce much more realistic and natural colours, especially for the greens in the scene.

If you shoot Landscape scenes in RAW with a Fuji, I would encourage you to try this profile.

And the Next Book is…


Elizabeth Tower example, processed in Photoshop

On Friday, I shared a fairly traditional image of the Elizabeth Tower in London. Some people also know this as Big Ben, although Big Ben is the bell inside the clock-tower. Then over the weekend I was working on my next book (“Mastering Photoshop Masks”) and decided to use the image for one of the worked examples. The image above is the result of the editing example in the book. It demonstrates how you can use masks to create very interesting effects in Photoshop.

I’m expecting to release the book in September and have already finished the first draft. This example used a series of layers and blending techniques, together with a simple mask of the clock-tower. I’m not going to say too much more about how to create the image, you’ll need to wait for the book for that. Anyway, I hope you like it as it shows what can be achieved, quite quickly when using Photoshop. The original looks a little boring now in comparison.

I think I might also work on an Affinity Photo version of the book.

New Affinity Photo


I’m sat here playing around with this photo. Nothing new I suspect your saying to yourself. This difference though is this is on my iPad. And even better, it’s not Adobe Photoshop Express, its Affinity Photo for iPad.

When I opened my emails this morning I found one from Serif that I had been waiting for. It was the launch of the new Affinity Photo for iPad. I quickly logged in to the App Store and found the software. My immediate reaction though was disappointment. It was only scoring a couple of stars.

A closer look at the comments revealed what seemed to be a lot of people suffering compatibility issues and giving the app one star. I’m using an iPad Pro 9.7 which is only a few months old so I decided to take a chance and purchased the software for the introductory £19.99. Boy, am I pleased that I did.

Now for the downside. The interface is complex and a little difficult to get used to. But if you preserver it becomes quite easy and in some cases intuitive. That said, the reason I think it’s complicated is that this is one powerful piece of software. You would be forgiven for thinking this is a full computer application.

This software blows any other photo editing app (that I know of) out of the water completely. Period. Game over.

I’m stunned by what this software seems able to do.

I’m not going to say much more at this point but I hope to do some articles on it in the future once I get familiar with the functions and features. If you want a closer look, here is the link to the Affinity site

https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/photo/ipad/

Alternatives to The Creative Cloud 4


Today, I’m going to continue my series looking at alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. I do this because not everyone is happy to rent their software on subscription. Personally, I quite like the renting arrangement as it gives me access to the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.

Despite being a big fan of Photoshop, I’m going to share an alternative that is equally as impressive and flexible, yet costs less than Adobe Elements. The software is Affinity Photo from Serif.

Affinity Photo used to be Mac only, but recently launched version 1.5 which is also available on Windows. I believe the regular price for the software is just under £50. When I purchased my copy, there was a 20% discount available which made this an absolute bargain.

Some people refer to Affinity Photo as being a Photoshop Clone. Personally, I don’t think that it’s a clone, it just offers similar tools. If you know how to use these tools in Photoshop you should have no trouble at all using Affinity Photo.

Here are a few of the features that have impressed me:

There is an excellent RAW converter which includes brush and gradient tools for selective adjustments.

Affinity Photo screenshot 1
Screenshot of the RAW Converter

Once you have developed your RAW file you are then able to apply manipulations with the many tools in Affinity. As with Photoshop, Affinity supports the use of adjustment layers and masks. The following screenshot shows just some of the adjustments available.

Affinity Photo screenshot 2
Some of the adjustment tools in Affinity Photo

In the following screenshot, I have applied a black and white conversion filter followed by a Curves adjustment to create an Infrared effect.

Affinity Photo screenshot 3
Example Black & White Conversion

In addition, a great selection of adjustment layers, there is a great range of filters provided. At this point, some of you might be saying but what about special features such as Panoramic blending that are found in Photoshop. If you are, then your also in luck. Look at the following section taken from the File menu in Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo screenshot 4
Section of the Affinity File manu showing some further tools. Reminds you of Photoshop doesn’t it?

I could go on and on but if you’re interested in a very competent replacement for Photoshop, I would suggest visiting the Serif website and reading up on Affinity Photo. It really is an excellent piece of software.

I’m very much looking forward to the iPad version being released.