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DxO Announces Availability of the Nik Collection by DxO 2018 v1.1

I’ve been a longtime user and fan of the Nik Collection. So that’s why I’m happy to see that DxO has continued developing the software after they acquired the rights to develop the software from Google. Prior to Google offering it for no fee for a while (when it was sold by Nik Software), the Collection cost hundreds of dollars, and in my opinion is still worth hundreds of dollars…as long as you use it of course :). The cost of the 2018 v1.1 bundle today is $69.

Photo by Sweet Ice-Cream Photography. Graphic courtesy DxO.

Featured in the latest version of the Nik Collection by DxO are the following seven plugins (Descriptions courtesy DxO):

Analog Efex Pro, a classic lens, camera, and analog film simulator.
Color Efex Pro, for color corrections, retouching, and creative effects.
Dfine, which reduces noise in digital images.
HDR Efex Pro, for editing HDR images.
Sharpener Pro, for increasing the precision and detail of digital images.
Silver Efex Pro, a black-and-white converter inspired by dark room techniques.
Viveza, for locally adjusting color and the tonality of specific areas within the image.

Nik Collection by DxO can be opened with a number of other programs, including DxO PhotoLab 2, Serif Affinity Photo, Skylum Luminar, and other image processing software that features an export menu to a third-party program (or that’s compatible with Photoshop plugins).”

As I mentioned earlier, the cost of the Collection for Mac or Windows users is US $69 (£59 / €69). Users who purchased Nik Collection by DxO after June 2018 may update their software for free, and you can find a free 30 day trial HERE, as well as link to purchase the collection.

SUGGESTED WORKFLOW

I found this page very interesting on DxO’s website regarding a suggested workflow when using the plugins in the Collection. I generally use only one or two of their plugins for any one image, but it can be helpful to see what they recommend. For many more specific tutorials, I recommend entering the specific plugin name and tutorial into the search bar on YouTube.com. Below is one specific video tutorial by Serge Ramelli that covers both Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro that I found particularly good.

Official technical support from DxO for the Collection is available in the following languages:

English
French
Japanese
German

And the software is available in the following languages:

English
French
Italian
Spanish
Japanese
German
Portuguese
Chinese
Dutch
Korean
Polish
Russian
Thai
Turkish

As I noted above, the current cost of the Collection for Mac or Windows users is US $69 (£59 / €69), and users who purchased Nik Collection by DxO after June 2018 may update their software for free. You can find a free 30 day trial HERE, as well as link to purchase the Collection.

Alien Skin Software’s Exposure X3 Overview and News on Exposure X4

One of my photographs inside Exposure X3 after I applied a mask and lightened the rocks and road in the foreground. Photo © Andrew Darlow

There is definitely no shortage of image processing software on the market today (especially software that can convert RAW camera files in ways similar to Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). It’s amazing how many companies are working to make the process faster and/or more feature-rich, which is great for anyone who works with photography or other artwork.

In this article, I’m going to highlight Alien Skin Software’s Exposure X3, a non-destructive RAW editor and organizer. I will include some videos that I found very helpful as I navigated the interface and worked on some of my images. I will also list some of the software’s features that really stood out in my mind. At the end of the article, I will talk a little about the next version of the software, which will be called Exposure X4.

Exposure X3 First Impressions

If you are a longtime Lightroom user like me, I think you will feel comfortable with many aspects of the user interface inside of Exposure X3. The software can be run in standalone mode, as a Plug-in inside of Photoshop, or as an external editor in Lightroom or a number of other applications. I chose to run it in standalone mode (by launching the application from my Applications folder), and it was up and running in just a few minutes. One of the things that took time for me to get my head around was that there is no catalog needed to use the editor, but it acts very similarly to Lightroom, which requires a catalog. This means that you don’t have to import images; you just navigate to them and start working.

I recommend just dragging and dropping a folder that has images into the main editing window, and it will appear under the Folders panel. Because of this, I highly recommend not dragging in any files directly from your desktop. Instead, place them in a folder first, since the application will be adding the files it needs to a new folder inside the folder that is holding your RAWs, JPGs, PSDs, etc.

Video Tutorials

Below is an excellent overview of Exposure X3 by photographer and host of the Candid Frame, Ibarionex Perello. I’ve always enjoyed Ibarionex’ interview style, and his vast knowledge of various editing tools makes this video a very useful resource.

Below is a very good 6 minute overview of how to edit using Exposure X3:

I also really liked this portrait-based tutorial of Exposure X3:

And for many more video training tutorials from Alien Skin Software, visit this page.

Standout Features

The main reason why I’m writing this article is because I was very impressed by many of the features that are inside the application. Here are just a few of them:

• Layers (Yes, layers!) This is at the top of the list because it allows layering similar to Photoshop, but nondestructively using a RAW file, meaning that you don’t have to create an 8- or 16-bit PSD or TIFF file to work in the application. This is a big deal because a 30 megapixel RAW file created by a modern DSLR or Mirrorless camera (to make the math easy), will become a 90MB TIFF in 8-bit and a 180MB TIFF file in 16 bit if you export it to work in another application. The Layers feature allow you to try different effects on different layers and use masking to adjust parts of an image. The main things you can’t do is have two different images on two separate layers. However, because RAW files can generally handle big exposure moves, you can place the same image on two layers, make adjustments to areas like skies or foregrounds on the top layer, and then mask out a section so that you get the best parts of each layer (or you can add the layer, then create a mask, then make the edits, as I did in the example I describe below. You can also add lighting effects to a layer, including radial or linear gradients. That makes turning the effect on or off just a simple button click.

Exposure X3’s Layer Panel with my original image layer (bottom), a masked layer, and then a number of Presets shown separately in Layers (note that they are currently red, which means they are not activated).

• Color Filters Under the Color panel is the Color Filter tool. It’s a quick way to add toning just as if you were placing a translucent filter over your image. And when used on a layer, it’s particularly powerful. And I really like the tool tips that come up warning you, for example, that the mask needs to be inverted on a layer to see the effects of the color filter.

• Customizable Panels This one blew my mind! Imagine being able to set up your workspace much like you can do in Photoshop with its windows and panels. And with a simple click, a line will go through the name of the panel and it will be hidden from view.

• Overlays Exposure X3 has an Overlays panel that offers many creative options. The main sections are Border, Light Effect and Texture. I would think that in addition to photographers, designers (especially book cover artists) would love using these effects for a wide range of different uses. For my needs, I’m drawn to the border effects. I’ve purchased other software for hundreds of dollars just to be able to create different borders, and they were much more difficult to use. In Exposure X3. you just choose an image (I recommend creating a new layer for it), and start experimenting from scratch, right in the Overlays panel, or by using Presets that incorporate the Overlays.

This 18 second slide show shows how my image started out (I chose a version in which the sky was well-exposed, so the rocks and road were too dark). I then created a new layer and a layer mask (the mask is shown in red). I then brightened the rock and road using the tools in the Basic panel. After that, I had fun creating the images you see above. They were extremely easy to make using Exposure X3’s built-in Presets.

• Presets, Presets and more Presets! Did I mention that there are a lot of Presets that come pre-loaded with Exposure X3? They are absolutely fantastic, and greatly increase the value of the software in my opinion. Many Presets emulate the look of black and white and color film types, and I got lost in them for quite a while. I should also note that in addition to exposure, color, etc., Presets can be saved with Exposure X3’s incredible Overlays (see above for more about Overlays). This is heaven for any designer or photographer who loves the look of distressed images like those that have scratches, or the look of platinum-palladium prints that have been created by hand coating papers or other substrates. Once you find a look that you like, you can tweak it and then save it as a Preset.

Another nice touch re: Presets is that each preset’s effect can be tested on a full screen image just by hovering over it. When you want to apply one or more presets to an image, I recommend clicking on the brush icon (located just above the Layers panel) and checking the box under Preset called “on a new layer” so that you can keep adding presets to your layer stack (see screen shot above under “Layers”. That allows you to have multiple Presets on multiple layers. You can turn them on and off, and you can dial the opacity of any of them to reduce the effect. This is similar to having multiple Virtual Copies, but without having to keep track of multiple images inside of the application. I should note that you also have the option of making Virtual Copies if you like.

There is another excellent way to see multiple presets applied to the same image and placed side-by-side (a maximum of 6 different presets can be shown in this way). It’s called Audition mode, and of course, there’s a video tutorial for it (see below) :

• IR Panel This is another fantastic option inside Exposure X3. IR stands for Infrared, and the tool emulates the glow that you often see when using infrared films. It’s ideal for both black and white and color portraits, or for any other photograph or drawing to which you’d like to add a “dream-like” feeling.

 • Export Profiles  A very nice “added touch” that the developers included in Exposure X3 is a collection of Export Presets for a wide variety of social media and popular photo portfolio sites like Zenfolio and SmugMug. These can be very helpful and save a lot of time and disk space when you need to export your work out to a folder before uploading to one of those services since the resolution and JPEG compression is already set for you (though you can edit the settings and save a new Preset).

Exposure X3 Pricing and 30 Day Free Trial

Alien Skin Exposure X3 is available in two configurations:

• Exposure X3 (US $149), and the

Exposure X3 Bundle (US $199), which includes Exposure X3, Snap Art, and Blow Up. Blow Up is an incredible application that can enlarge your images quite a bit while retaining good detail and minimal or no visible artifacts. No software that upsizes your images is perfect, but if you give it a good quality image to start with, there’s a very good chance you will be impressed by the results once you dial in your settings. Snap Art is an application that focuses on transforming photos or other artwork in many different ways. For example, you can make a photo look like an oil painting, watercolor, etc. It normally sells for US $99 by itself. For more on Snap Art, visit this page.

If you’d like to try out Alien Skin Exposure X3 for free for 30 days, visit this page.

Exposure X4 Information and Upgrade 

Alien Skin Software recently announced that a new version of Exposure named Exposure 4 will be coming soon. The company also announced that it will be sending free copies of Exposure X4 to anyone who purchased Exposure X3 (or the Exposure X3 Bundle) on or after July 1, 2018. If you purchased any version of Exposure before July 1, your current license code qualifies you for an upgrade price of $99.

Here is a list of new and/or updated features that are slated for Exposure X4 (Source: Alien Skin Software’s Blog)

  • Improvements to Exposure’s RAW processing system.
  • Perspective and keystone correction to minimize or eliminate optical distortion.
  • Enhanced light effects that you can move and rotate freely anywhere in your image.
  • Smart collections that automatically populate based on photo criteria that you choose.
  • Faster file exporting and launch times.
  • Lightroom migration tool that brings your Lightroom organizational metadata over into Exposure.
  • Monitored folders that support tethered shooting workflows.
  • New printing presets.
  • Support for new cameras and lenses.
  • Expanded workflow options for image copying and exporting.

Conclusion 

Overall, I am extremely impressed by Alien Skin Software’s Exposure X3 application and look forward to what’s coming in Exposure X4. I can definitely see people using this application as a replacement for other RAW editors and organizers. Will I be giving up Lightroom? No (at least not for now). I currently still prefer to use Lightroom for the vast majority of my culling, editing, keywording and printing, especially since I’ve been using it for over five years, and my main catalog has over 400,000 images. But I will definitely turn to Exposure X3 when I want to edit images using the application’s powerful Layers panel, or when I want to explore the application’s incredible Preset and Overlay options. I can see a lot of Lightroom users doing the same.

If you’d like to try out Alien Skin Exposure X3 for free for 30 days, visit this page.

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(Full Disclosure: Apart from being provided a license code for the Exposure X3 Bundle, I was not compensated in any way for writing this article. I plan to purchase Exposure X4 when it is released, and look forward to sharing my experiences with it. Please note that this article contains affiliate links to the Alien Skin software site, which means that I may be compensated if a purchase is made, but pricing will be the same as if you had navigated directly to Alien Skin Software’s site. If you would prefer not to use my links, just visit your favorite search engine and type in: “Alien Skin Software Exposure X3”

How to Take a Screenshot on an iOS Device with a Single Screen Tap

There are many reasons why you might want to take a screenshot on your computer or smartphone. One of the main ones for those who love taking pictures is to crop a photo quickly (just pinch to zoom, take a snapshot of the photo, and a new cropped version of the photo will appear in your “All Photos” list.) The problem I was having recently was that I kept putting my iPhone 7 Plus into sleep mode instead of taking a screen shot when I pressed the sleep and home buttons at the same time (that’s the traditional way to take a snapshot on an iOS device). It seems more difficult now for me than it was when I used an iPhone 5S as my main phone.

Below is a step-by-step procedure for setting up your iOS device so that you can take a screenshot in one screen tap (well, I should probably write “screen push” or “extended tap.” If you have a chance to try it out, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

img_2471intro

The AssistiveTouch icon shown in the bottom right of an iPhone’s 5S screen, which makes it possible to take screen shots (and do other tasks), with two quick taps. Devices with 3D touch can do the same action with just one press.

I was also looking for a way to “bookmark” my favorite podcasts while on the go by taking a screenshot of the episode that’s playing in the Podcasts app. Taking a screenshot shows the exact place in the audio file or stream where I would like to return in the future. I was hoping Siri could help me with this, but I don’t think there is a way to take a screenshot using Siri (please let me know if you know of a way to do that). When I asked Siri to take a screen shot, she told me: “That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.”

Here are the steps to take a Screenshot on an iOS Device with a single Screen Tap (Please note: A Device with 3D Touch is needed for a single screen tap, but any iOS device with Assistive Touch should work fine if you are willing to tap twice):

STEP 1: Go to Settings>General>Accessibility. (See Fig. 1)

Fig. 1: Accessibility

Fig. 1: Accessibility

STEP 2A: Scroll Down to AssistiveTouch and Turn it On. (See Fig. 2 and Fig. 3)

Fig. 1: Accessibility

Fig. 2

STEP 2B: One More Thing Re: 3D Touch

If you want to make the 3D Touch “Push” action more sensitive (it takes less effort to make a screenshot), choose Light from the “Light, Med, Firm” scale in the 3D Touch menu. I find that Light is perfect whether I’m holding the phone or whether it is in a holder/mount.

STEP 3: Turn on AssistiveTouch, then press Customize Top Level Menu. (See Fig. 3)

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

STEP 4: Under 3D Touch Action, Choose Screenshot from the menu items. (See Fig. 4)

Fig. 4: Choose Screenshot under 3D Touch Action
Fig. 4

STEP 5: You will then see a white button with a black square background around it (about the same size as an app icon) appear on every screen you use (See Fig. 5). When you touch it, it gets much more contrasty, and it will then fade back to about 20% opacity. You can place it just about anywhere along the border of your device’s screen. Quick Tip: You can delete an app in the space where you place the button (or reorganize your apps in iTunes so that it doesn’t overlap with any of your apps).

img_2471

Fig. 5: Notice the black square with the white button inside on the bottom right of my iPhone 5S’s screen. It gets much lighter when not pressed. Photo © Andrew Darlow

STEP 6: If the white button is annoying or you just want it to temporarily disappear, you can set up a triple-click action to turn it on and off under Accessibility>Accessibility Shortcut (it’s the last item in the list, as shown in Fig. 6). Then choose AssistiveTouch and triple click to your heart’s content!

Fig. 5: AssistiveTouch under the Accessibility Shortcut menu

Fig. 6: AssistiveTouch under the Accessibility Shortcut menu

If You Don’t Have 3D Touch on Your Device

Many iOS devices don’t have 3D Touch (you can tell that you don’t have it if the 3D Touch Action line is not shown on the screen in Fig. 4). However, you can achieve almost the same result, but you will need to press the screen twice. Once to open the Assistive Touch control (by pressing the white button) and once to choose Screenshot. You won’t be able to see the Screenshot icon by default in the menu (shown in Fig. 4), but you can add it quickly by pressing on any of the icons there (or add a new one by pressing the + key). Then choose Screenshot from the list of items.

Here’s an example of a screen shot captured during the show (at 11:28) from one of my favorite Podcasts, Mac Geek Gab (I highly recommend subscribing to the show (or just listening online) if you use any Mac or iOS device). The show is packed with practical advice, tech tips, gear reviews, etc.

A screenshot from the Mac Geek Gab podcast.

A screenshot from the Mac Geek Gab podcast.

I hope that this was helpful to you and I welcome your comments!

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