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Plug-ins - are they really worth the $$$?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Armanius, May 19, 2011.

  1. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    I've seen tons of very nicely processed photos utilizing plug-ins like Silver Efex. But I've also seen tons that are processed solely utilizing Lightroom or Aperture's tools.

    Do the plug-ins actually offer anything that one can't re-create on his own in LR, Aperture or PS?

    Or are the plug-ins merely glorified "presets" of LR (or Aperture or PS) that someone else already came up with, and which merely makes my life easier?j

    I ask because the price of some plug-ins are outrageously expensive (if they are in fact just glorified presets that I should be able to recreate in LR).

    Your thoughts are very much appreciated.
     
  2. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Compare the cost to the cost of the lenses and cameras and they're minor. In my world the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Others, will of course, have their own opinions. I use Color Efex and Silver Efex with Lightroom.
     
  3. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Thanks BB.

    But do they provide you with something you can't do on your own in LR?
     
  4. ajramirez

    ajramirez SC All-Pro

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Antonio
    I use Silver Efex through Photoshop CS5. Worth every penny and then some. It is a much more powerful tool for B&W conversions that the B&W adjustment layer in PS5. I would recommend you download the trial version and give it a whirl.

    Regards,

    Antonio
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Briar

    Briar SC All-Pro

    Oct 27, 2010
    Scotland
    Karen
    If you have lightroom I would recommend you download the trial version of silver efex pro and compare the results you can achieve with your own images to answer that question. I was always happy with what I could achieve with just photoshop elements until I tried the silver efex trial. I loved silver efex but wasn't sure about splashing the cash. I tried going back to just editing b/w in photoshop elements but was never able to get the same effects. Thanks to Ray I managed to get sep2 at a good price, but I'd have paid the full price here in the UK for it because it really is that good.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Armando, try the trials. Everyone is different. Personally, I was not able to get the same quality of black and white with LR, while I am sure there are LR users who'd say that they can and do. Don/Streetshooter nagged me for a year to get Silver Efex, and I finally did...and because there was a good deal, I got Color Efex too and find it very fast and intuitive, as is Silver Efex...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Armando - I used to do all of my B&W in Aperture before I got Silver Efex. Once I had Silver Efex Pro for a few days and started getting comfortable with it, I started turning out nicer B&W images than I had been with just Aperture. Then I started doing experiments where I'd take a single image and do the best I could with it with Silver Efex and then with Aperture and then do the next one in the opposite order. I was consistently getting better results in Silver Efex. Then I started trying very specifically to match the results from Silver Efex using Aperture alone. In some cases I could with a LOT of tweaking and adjusting - I would get them just about identical. Other times I couldn't get there - sometimes not even close. But even when I could, it would take a LOT of effort and I never would have arrived at that result if I'd started with just Aperture - it took Silver Efex to show me the possibility that I could then TRY to match with Aperture. That told me all I needed to knew. So now I use Silver Efex for all of my B&W work. It feels very intuitive - like a darkroom without the dark and without the chemicals and wet trays of slimy liquid...

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    I have found Silver Efex and Color Efex to be big time savers. You can get basically the same effect on your own if you spend enough time, but that process can get kind of old after a while.

    The odd thing I find is that Silver Efex and Color Efex aren't just reciprocals of each other. They operate as though they were developed by two different teams even though they both come from the same company. Color Efex seems by far the more "efficient" piece of software and operates much faster than Silver Efex, even though both appear to be similarly powerful piecers of software. It might not be as noticable on a newer computer but on my four year old notebook the difference is huge.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    For me plug-ins are huge time savers. As to whether they are worth the money...tim eis the thing I have least of so anything that saves me time is worth it for me. I bought True Grain and and buying Silver Efex because I like to shoot BW and for me they are more intuitive to use than the buit-in tools in LR or Aperture. I agree that downloading the free trial is always a good way to go. You get to use the plug-in and see for yourself. I will say that I was skeptical about Silver Efex until I tried it. That's what convinced me (of course working for a university and getting faculty/staff pricing didn't hurt either).
     
  10. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    You will be able to recreate in LR or Aperture but the thing is, do you want to?
     
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  11. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill Shinnick
    Another plug-in fan here. I have the full Nik Suite for LR and the full Topaz lineup for LR & PS plus Perfectly Clear from Athentech. I also have PTLens and Photomatix.

    I must admit to being a software Junkie though. I have some overlap between products but often the suite is not much more than a single plug-in eg Silver FX is $199 and the full LR/Aperture suite of 6 plug-ins is $299 and 15% less with Amin's discount from mu-43.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    olli
    Yes, many of the available plugins are indeed outrageously expensive. I've downloaded and tried most of those available for LR and seen little advantage in any of them. The only exceptions were some from Nik. The only one of those that I used to any extent was Silver Efex. However, I haven't bothered to update it to version 2 and won't be either. And, if I didn't already have it I wouldn't buy it.

    Obviously the kind of photography you do determines whether you believe certain plugins offer value for money. If you are a fan of black and white photography you may consider SEP to be value for money, but I only occasionally work in black and white so for me it's not.

    When I do choose to work in black and white the tools in LR can do anything I need. Of course, whether the same is true for you might depend on the look you are after - there may be some looks that you can generate in SEP that you can't reproduce to the same degree in LR. Regarding the question of time saving, to me this is a matter of knowing your software. SEP may be quicker and more intuitive than LR for B&W conversion - as it should be since that's its only purpose - but if you know LR well enough there's not that much of a difference.

    The primary reason why I rarely use SEP and have little interest in plugins generally is that they are plugins in only a very limited sense of the word. What this means is that you can open them from within LR, but that's all. NIK and other plugins convert your RAW to a TIFF file. Edits you make, once you close the plugin and go back into LR are fixed. Even if you reopen the edited file again in the same plugin you can't undo anything. (I know SEP2 has a history browser but as far as I understand it is only available while a file is being edited, not when it is closed and reopened). To me this undermines one of the greatest features of LR - my RAW files are open to constant reinterpretation without having to restart the process.

    Now it maybe that for your style of work some of these plugins would work for you, but I have become less convinced of their worth over time, especially as I have come to know LR better and know what it can do. And even if they do work for you they are still outrageously overpriced. $199 for SEP2 is an absurd price even with 15% off when LR itself only costs $299 and is often available for much less.
     
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  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    One thing I'm not yet sold on with the plugins are the borders and the more extreme filter effects. I find that they sometimes distract you from the content and can take away the individuality of an image. They also aren't much help if you have a tightly framed image.
     
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  14. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Hmm, when I come back into LR after Color Efex or Silver Efex, I can still edit and do. Granted, I can't undo what I did, per se, but I certainly do continue to change and refine once I have the TIFF file using the LR controls.

    I have only used the borders about once or twice with Silver Efex because they take away from the actual edges of the image. I am still trying to find a good border - as in a mat - method. As for the pre sets in Silver Efex, taste is such an individual thing. Sometimes I use one to start off but I have never left it as is. Sometimes they're helpful to give one a different way of looking at one's image...even if it means that you say to yourself - "That's not for me!". I will say that recently with a portrait I did of my daughter in very low light that one of the more extreme presets did give me the idea to go with a more extreme processing which turned out quite well from my point of view. I can't say if I would have gone so deeply in that direction or not, without the prompting of seeing it that way... Again, I did not leave it in the preset but it was a jumping off point, in that case.

    Try a trial but make sure you give yourself ample time to actually try the different softwares - that's my advice, again.:wink: Each of us has our own vision and how we interpret what we see is part of our own creativity - thank goodness we are all different, or our pictures would be pretty repetitive.
     
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  15. Jeff Damron

    Jeff Damron SC Regular

    66
    Sep 2, 2010
    Kentucky, USA
    I have to join in the near unanimous recommendation to do the trial of Silver Efex. Most of my finished pictures are black and white, and while I was happy with my results before SEP, I am happier now. There are plenty of pre-sets, but there are plenty of controls too and I typically don't use the pre-sets. Not sure if it is still going on but after my trial I bought a copy of the original SEP from B&H for $120 (instead of downloading for $199) and it came with a free upgrade to version 2. It was definitely worth that price to me.
     
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  16. jimmy2thou

    jimmy2thou SC Regular

    44
    May 6, 2011
    Marbella, Spain
    I find plug-ins useful mainly as a time saving feature. When I am editing a lot of photos, I have a workflow which seems to go smoothly with my Photoshop actions and/or Nik Silver Efex as well as others. The main thing in the Nik plug-ins is the selective adjustment feature. In a way similar to dodging and burning, but again quicker. The other favourite of mine in Silver Efex is the structure slider. So quick and simple! The vignette is also useful, but I am having to control myself with that one as it's too easy to vignette everything!! :)

    As a quick example, I edited a photo of a flower. A quick conversion into black and white.

    In Photoshop, my version involved filters black and white. I adjusted the sliders to my liking. Next was the shadows and highlights. I put both shadows and highlights to 25, which gives a similar effect to structure in Silver Efex. After that, brightness and contrast to suit. Then a square selection inside the border of the image. Select - modify and feather to 250px. Repeated this and chose 100px before select inverse and fill with black for that vignette I seem to keep using. The result:

    [​IMG]

    Using Nik Silver Efex. I opened Nik, adjusted the structure and contrast and added a vignette. The result:

    [​IMG]

    Not massively different, but just a lot quicker and easier using a Plug-in. :)

    So, that's a thumbs up for Plug-ins from me. Even though the effects can be done without them, it takes more time. As photos, therefore results differ, a Photoshop action won't work on all your images the same. With a plug-in, it's a quick adjustment and you're done! :)

    James
     
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  17. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Jimmy, thank you for this. Very instructive!