I’ve been browsing editing sites for some image enhancement techniques and stumbled upon some free goodies that I’d like to share with my readers. Somehow, it’s absolutely free.
I gave it a shot, and it seemed like a reasonably good set or presets and brushes for the Lightroom and Photoshop. Some time ago I wrote an article about the cinematic effect, and I’m really eager to compare with these free presets. The intent of this post is to have a look at the few tools without doing any sort of a full review and to get an idea if it’s worth investing time into these tools. Let’s form an opinion about the whole set of products.
Image Enhancement Presets
I won’t be looking at the portrait, and other irrelevant to me presets, just landscapes and possibly a bit of travel. You might be wondering if presets are any good at all as every photo is unique, etc. I use presets all the time for my Real Estate Photography photo processing, and it saves me hours, literally. Of course, you still need to fine-tune the photo after the preset, but it gives you a good starting point.
There is a whole bunch of presets, and it’s hard to choose, so let’s start somewhere. So, I’ve downloaded a few Lightroom landscape presets from this link: http://fixthephoto.com/free-lightroom-landscape-presets. The little thing I liked right away is a brief explanation on when to use specific presets. This approach makes sense.
Lr preset #2 “Medium contrast for dark”
As the explanation states, it should be used for the underexposed image. Let’s see.
I must admit, the result is pretty good without blown highlights and with reasonable colors. The darks are too dark but I can fix it, and this preset saved me a couple of minutes. Someone less experienced could win 10 minutes easily.
Lr preset #5 “Medium colors”
They recommend this preset for the genuinely flat landscape photo processing with some haze and trees.
Again, decent results for just a single click. There is no magic here. I guess, the magic is in the paid presets, but these free presets do what they are meant to do without going crazy about the colors, saturation, and contrast. I’ve spent around 10 minutes in ACR to achieve the same result.
These presets are relatively straightforward yet handy. They do not pretend to be a magic button to transform your snaps into the world-class masterpieces, but they do an excellent job on fixing contrast and general color issues. I wasn’t able to find the “artsy” presets to do cinematic effect or something similar though. I guess those are paid. If you are at least an advanced level retoucher, you can do the same easily but if you are just starting out, these presets could be very handy.
Processing Photos With Brushes
I’m not much of a painter, but just a few months ago I started using brushes too. I use pre-generated clouds for some of the photos, for the clear sky. It’s not that I do it all the time. In fact, I just have a couple of photos with this kind of editing. But I did figure out the potential.
Let’s put aside the discussion if the photo still stays a photo after such manipulations as we are just trying to see the technical scope and measure possibilities. I used this link: http://fixthephoto.com/free-photoshop-brushes.
It may seem that it’s easy to draw fog by hand, but that’s only until you try it out yourself. It’s easy to pick a transparent white brush and make a few strokes, but it takes times and practice to make it look natural. The Fog brushes from here: http://fixthephoto.com/fog-brushes-photoshop-free only differ in shape, so it’s a good idea to download a few and combine the results for the most natural look. The big downside for me is that some of the brushes have hard edges and you either need to stretch it full width or use erased on the corners.
I’ll definitely download these brushes and use in my landscapes. Typically, I use a dehaze filter with negative values to add haze, but these fog brushes add another dimension to the shot.
I’m very skeptical about the overlays as they never seem to look realistic. But, surely, let’s give them a go as well. Who knows, maybe in the end it works out. I’ve downloaded a few, and it appears they are just images with colored spots on the black background. Apparently, you put them on the photo in Lighten mode, and then those spots appear. Let’s see. The bokeh presets are here: http://fixthephoto.com/free-photoshop-overlays
Bokeh overlay #2
I thought some city lights would work nicely for this kind of bokeh and picked one of the few shots I have with blurred night city.
Looks more or less fine. Maybe I picked the wrong shot or had to position the flares better but some of them look off. Otherwise, it’s an easy way to add some interest.
Bokeh overlay #4
According to their description, this bokeh works better for the daylight. This photo had some bokeh to start with and I wanted to improve it even further. I’ve decided not to change the colors of the flares because daylight can also give a little yellowish bokeh.
Bokeh Overlays Conclusion
I’m in no way a portrait photographer, but I tried the other day to create these things in Photoshop manually. I’ve spent an hour or two, and it still looked like kids drawing. So I guess the right way is to photograph them in advance and then re-use. These overlays look fine and natural enough. The only thing is that the downloaded images are very small and I had to upsize them which degraded their quality. I understand that they shouldn’t be sharp, but I’d like to control how much clarity they should have.
Typically, the rain overlays get applied to the portraits. But that’s of no interest to me, so I’ve decided to try the landscapes for that. Again, the images are small and need to be scaled. But because they are nearly transparent, it’s not an issue. The raindrops are dark gray on the black background in the overlays so it may not immediately work for your shot in the Lighten mode. I had to apply Auto Contrast to make the water trails white and then adjust the transparency of the layer.
Rain Overlay #5
Rain Overlay #2
Each overlay has a description, and it’s easy to pick one for your needs. This one is also for landscapes, but honestly, I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work for the portrait.
Rain Overlays Conclusion
Well, these image enhancement overlays are as good as they can be for the rain photo processing. But I still feel it looks a bit artificial. Maybe it’s due to the wrong scale I have selected or just because I know they are human-made. I can’t tell. It looks good, but I’m not sure if I’d post such a picture on the 500px.
I’m pleasantly surprised with the tools provided. They fulfill what they announce and work reasonably good in most cases. All in all, I’m keeping the fog overlays for sure and some of the lens flares too for the future image enhancement edits.