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Review of Intensify Pro

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Review of Intensify Pro

Software from Macphun to correct/enhance images


Macphun have just announced a minor update to their Intensify Pro application. This, coupled with Keith’s recent move to OSX 10.9 on his Mac has meant that he could explore some of what this package can offer for editing and enhancing images.

The [Apple Mac] software works as a standalone application or integrated with with Elements, Aperture and Lightroom.

intensify pro

Keith is looking at the software working as a Photoshop plugin here – this needs the Pro version (~$60) If you just want the basic App, then it’s under $20. The Pro version does add a few other refinements to functionality.

For the full functionality with all applications visit Macphun‘s web site.

Adjusting and enhancing images

Buying Software from Skylum

Skylum Luminar  ... [review] 

We have a code northlightimages10 - that will usually get you a 10% discount on current MacPhun/Skylum offers.

Aurora HDR - (review) | Tonality Pro (review)
Intensify Pro (review) | Noiseless Pro (review)
Snapheal CK (review)
Tonality Pro 'City Light' - article and free presets made by Keith for Architectural B&W

Looking for a non-lightroom solution? Macphun have outlined their plans

If you buy the software via a link on our site, then we receive a small commission, which helps in the running of the site. We have no commercial connection with Macphun, and believe strongly that readers should be aware how we run the site.

There are many plugins I’ve looked at, that offer different types of image enhancement and adjustment. It is ultimately a matter of finding a technique that works for what you want.

Intensify Pro sets itelf apart by including many aspects of masked adjustments, in a way that I find simple to use, but (with a bit of care) not unduly limiting even if you are used to masked adjustments in a package such as Photoshop or Elements.

Note – I’ve used quite a few B&W examples here. Macphun now have a plugin, Tonality Pro, which is specifically aimed at B&W picture creation.

We've reviews of many MacPhun/Skylum apps. See the Macphun or Skylum Category in the dropdown menu at the top of the right column.

The lack of layer adjustments is the main reason that software like Lightroom and Aperture don’t have any place in my workflow. I’ve used Photoshop for over 20 years and thinking in layers is pretty ingrained.

Here’s one of my photos of the River at Snape, black and white conversion carried out in Intensify Pro.

The river at Snape

Note that I do most definitely recommend Lightroom or Aperture as potential solutions for people getting into digital photography and wanting a bit more than the alleged ‘creativity’ of Instagram ;-)

There are different ways I might approach handling my RAW image files (such as DxO Optics Pro), but when it comes to editing individual images, I want more flexibility, so it’s got to be something like Photoshop Elements or Photoshop

I’m currently at CS6, waiting for something else to come along that isn’t subscription based, but that’s a whole different matter…

Intensify will handle RAW files, but I’ve not covered this aspect, given all the specialist RAW processing software I normally use.

Intensify Pro – What do you get?

The software will install as a trial version. This needs activating once you have purchased a copy.

Intensify Pro splash screen

The plugin installs for any supported editing package.

installing software as a plugin

An optional quick tips window will be present at first.

software help and tips

There are a lot of different resources available from Macphun covering aspects of using the software.

Using Intensify Pro

I’ll show an assortment of image adjustments here, looking at one colour image of the river at Snape, in Suffolk.

There are so many potential adjustments and settings that I’ll just say that if you see something you like, then have a go with the demo, on an image of your own.

Basic controls are along the top, with adjustment options at the right.

The simplest way to experiment is with one of the many presets. These are composed of collections of adjustment settings. Move your mouse over the image to see some of the adjustments (there are a lot).

You can save modified versions of presets, or collections of your own making as custom presets.

An important warning is in order though…

Be careful clicking on some image presets if you have recently eaten ;-)

The adjustments don’t just go up to ’10’ with this plugin – you can set them considerably higher.

This is the default for the amusingly named “Enhance Landscape” preset…

However… move your mouse over the image below to see the effect ‘turned down’ to a more reasonable setting

I’ll try and stick to more reasonable examples henceforth, but if you really like effects such as the one above, then they are in there for you.

A much more subtle preset for enhancing Sky detail (mouse over to reduce the ‘Amount’ setting).

‘Structured Scape’ (mouse over to reduce the ‘Amount’ setting).

There are a range of ‘Black and White’ adjustments too, such as this more dramatic one.

dramatic B&W image conversion

I’ll return to black and white conversions later, to show some additional ways of using the software.

You can always view the before and after versions of your image, and there is an optional ‘navigation’ window. This is useful, since for many effects it’s worth zooming right in to see what’s happening at small scales.

before and after split view

Photoshop layer blend modesIncidentally, if the results come back into Photoshop on a new layer, you can change the blending mode.

In the example shown [the CS6 layers display], I’ve changed the mode to luminosity, so the B&W image I’ve created can be used to adjust the colour version underneath.

You do need to remember to duplicate your image to a new layer before running Intensify Pro, since there is no option to actually have the results returned as a newly created layer.

I’ve written elsewhere about using B&W conversions to alter colour images, but this is really just to say that there are always lots of different ways of using such plugins.

If you get the demo of the software, just experiment – there is rarely just one ‘right’ way to work.

Below, the ‘Calm Day’ preset (mouse over to reduce the ‘Amount’ setting) – notice a bit of vignetting has been added in this one.

Layers

One of the most powerful features of Intensify, is the ability to stack adjustments as layers.

Think of altering image brightness and contrast – you could do these as one operation, or you could have one layer adjusting brightness and another altering contrast. The real advantage comes from when you want to apply the brightness and contrast adjustments to different parts of the image.

There is a simple description of this in the article I wrote about the making a B&W print – it covers many aspects of using layers and masking them [in Photoshop].

I’ll start with a simple example, where I’m adding a graduated fill to the mask for a layer.

Move your mouse over the image below, and you’ll see how the adjustments are only being applied above the line.

The top and bottom lines mark the transition from ‘fully on’ to ‘off’ for the transition.

You can move the centre point, rotate the axis and vary the distance between the two outer lines.

Once you’ve set the fill, you need to apply it, before you can go on working with other layers.

gradient mask settings

The graduated tool is very useful for clean skylines such as this image, however, if you’ve buildings or trees, you need to be careful not to have the filter applied where it’s not needed.

This is one reason I would hardly ever use a graduated filter on any lens – especially this shot, taken hand held with a 17mm shift lens [2x images stitched from up/down shift].

I find it easier to brush-in my mask.

You can see the brush below, and the area around it where I’ve already ‘painted in’ the adjustment (note too the pattern in the layer mask icon).

It’s possible to add several different layers. There are three in the image below.

The masks for the layers can be painted in, as needed to activate and deactivate parts of the filtered layer.

If you mouse over the image below, you can see how you can turn off the visibility of a whole layer (the slider next to each layer is the amount of the effect – as shown in the earlier preset examples).

Adjustment settings

I’ve collected a few examples using a B&W image, to show some of the effects of the adjustment sliders.

Basic conversion to black and white is a simple desaturation, but the vibrance setting does affect this (mouse over to change the setting).

Two of the B&W presets give an idea of the range you can get – mouse over for alternative.

I note just how much sensor dust is shown up in one version. It’s perhaps best to clean images before filtering, if you want a look like this..

Pro-Contrast (mouse over to change the setting)

Highlight Structure (mouse over to change the setting)

A mix of structural adjustments

Micro Sharpness is great, but be sure to zoom to 100% to keep an eye out for any unwanted artefacts (mouse over to change the setting)

Fortunately, there are ways of fine tuning sharpness (mouse over to see the effect).

With such sharpening consider using it on a layer of its own and using masking to only paint it in where you need it.

More layers

When working on B&W images I found it useful to start with the basic colour->BW conversion as layer 0, and then add additional layers as needed for different effects.

Here’s a three layer example (mouse over to change the layer visibility).

The example below now has layer 2 masked, just to affect the sky (mouse over to change the visibility setting).

Options in the standalone application

There are a couple of additional option in the standalone program I’d note. These remind me that the software is not primarily aimed at a pro market (even if the results it produces certainly can be).

You can share images directly to a range of sites – none of which I’d normally post any of my commercial images to. The only one I happen to use (Google+) is missing.

There is also a print service, which given I’m in the UK, a price of $20 suggests I should move along…

Conclusions

The range of editing options is tremendous, covering many other plugins that I regularly use.

Buying Software from Skylum

Skylum Luminar  ... [review] 

We have a code northlightimages10 - that will usually get you a 10% discount on current MacPhun/Skylum offers.

Aurora HDR - (review) | Tonality Pro (review)
Intensify Pro (review) | Noiseless Pro (review)
Snapheal CK (review)
Tonality Pro 'City Light' - article and free presets made by Keith for Architectural B&W

Looking for a non-lightroom solution? Macphun have outlined their plans

If you buy the software via a link on our site, then we receive a small commission, which helps in the running of the site. We have no commercial connection with Macphun, and believe strongly that readers should be aware how we run the site.

Sometimes you look at a plugin and think that it’s worth remembering for a specific type of image. This though, is one of those plugins that has potential to be useful for a great deal of my images.

I’ll need to experiment further to see what can be done with this one – quite a lot I suspect.

The adjustments are not all excessive – you don’t -have- to turn all the volume settings up to eleven.

Don’t be put off by some of the tawdry examples on the Macphun web site – there is a fashion for such images in some quarters, just skip over them to some of the more subtle examples.

I’m just looking at this as a plugin for Photoshop, where there are a host of other plugins and tools available for editing. However, using Intensify Pro with Aperture or Lightroom is a different matter, since it offers functionality (such as layers) that just isn’t there in the application.

If I were using Lightroom or Aperture, then this package would be a real boon.

Glitches?

Sometimes, when opening from CS6, nothing happened other than a little window opened, saying ‘Plugin Started’. Well it may have started, but that was all it was doing – I had to click on the application in the Dock, to get the main editing window to appear.

Things I’d like to see
  • There is no option (in Photoshop) to return the results as a new layer.
  • Smart filter support might be useful to allow fine tuning in some workflows.
  • The plugin seems to have no configurable preferences at all?
  • For example, I’d like to not have the currently fashionable ‘Dark Gloom’ look to interface elements, if I wanted a lighter look.
  • Prints – $20 in my example suggests that this is a US only feature – why show it to me in the UK?
  • At the moment, actual conversion to B&W is a simple desaturation. A channel mixer style coupled with all the the contrast and structure adjustments available would make for a very powerful B&W imaging tool.
  • Sorry Windows persons… this is Mac only at the moment.

You can make comments and ask questions about this review below.

Summary

Excellent image editing tool with layers support, offering powerful and quick enhancement to images.

Works as a standalone or plugin application.

We've reviews of many MacPhun/Skylum apps. See the Macphun or Skylum Category in the dropdown menu at the top of the right column.

System requirements

  • Mac OS 10.7 and above
  • Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor
  • 4GB RAM and more
  • Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5, CS6 or CC; Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, 5 or later; Apple Aperture 3.2 or later,
  • Photoshop Elements 10 – 12 (App Store version is not supported due to Apple Sandboxing)
Image formats handled
  • RAW images 8-bit, 16-bit (Including .NEF for Nikon and .CRW2 for Canon)
  • PSD (Intensify Pro)
  • TIFF 8-bit, 16-bit
  • PNG
  • JPEG
  • Possibility to save progress (.MPI)
  • RGB 8- and 16-bit

The latest update added:

  • Integration with SmugMug
  • Macphun Print Lab
  • Mavericks Support
  • RAW Updates
  • UI improvements

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