There's a new Sheriff in town, and his name is Intensify!
If you are like me, you are a creature of habit in some respects. When it comes to photo-processing, that is definitely the case with me. Over the last couple of years, I have generally been following the same workflow for the majority of my images. I won't name the product that I've been using - and it's still a great one, so keep that in mind - but I have to admit that I was growing tired of doing the same thing. There was no learning involved anymore, and that's not good. I want to keep learning. Stagnate and die, they say.
I was feeling stagnant.
So recently I have been looking around and giving some thought to what I could do to inject a little more creativity and fun into my workflow. I have been experimenting with some other software products, in hopes of both inspiring myself and giving myself an outlet to get different, more creative results.
Well, look no further, as I have found what I needed: Intensify from Macphun.
(Note: If you decide to buy this product, please see below for a 10% discount code.)
This is one fun, exciting, and awesome product. I might also add that it is reasonably priced, easy to use, and incredibly capable. Trust me, this is fun stuff and well worth it!
So in the interest of sharing what I know so far (and I am still learning, as this product is relatively new to me) I wanted to put together this review and share a bunch of screenshots so you can get familiar with it as well.
Here are the tech specs from their website, should you need to know. And you can read about it all here: http://macphun.com/intensify
So without further delay, let's get started. Here's an image that I shot in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a HDR built out of 5 exposures, and the HDR was created in Photomatix (which used to be my go-to HDR editor, but now I use Aurora HDR PRo by Macphun exclusively). As you can see, it was relatively flat coming out of Photomatix (which is actually how I want it at this stage). As I mentioned above, I have been using another product almost exclusively, and while I liked the end result, it wasn't very interesting. It was still flat, and somewhat boring. I wanted to give it some punch.
Enter Intensify by Macphun!
So here is a screenshot when I first import the photo into Intensify. Note that you can use the Pro app as a standalone editor, or as a plug-in to any major host: Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Aperture. Great flexibility for those of us that use those other programs.
The first thing you will likely notice is the list of Presets down the right side. Notice that the "Presets" button is selected (it is in Yellow). You can also skip Presets and instead click on "Adjust" wherein you can make any adjustments you want yourself. More on that later.
You will also notice the buttons across the top of the image. Starting from the left, they are: Open Image, Save & Share, Order Prints, Navigation Window (like a Loupe), 100% (Original Image Size), Zoom In, Zoom Out, Fit to Screen, Quick Preview (click to see original, release to return to current version), Compare (side by side comparison of Before/After), Undo and Redo. That's a lot, but it's all simple to understand and use.
Continuing across you have Move Mode, Draw Mode, Erase Mask, Gradient Tool and Help. You can also see a section right below that for Layers. Yes you can create up to 5 layers, each with adjustments in them, and then determine the Opacity of them using the slider.
The layers section is very easy to use. You literally just click on the plus sign "+" and it will add a new layer, which is titled Layer 1. Your original base image is known as Layer 0. Here's where the fun begins.
When you are clicked on Layer 1, you will notice that all the selections/adjustments that you have made thus far are returned back to the basic setting (i.e. they are reset), but only on the new layer. But your Layer 0 still contains all your adjustments, so you haven't lost the progress you made thus far.
This allows you to make NEW adjustments on Layer 1 which will start from where you left of on Layer 0. In other words, these are incremental adjustments to where you left off on Layer 0. I hope this isn't confusing you - it's actually very easy.
Then with the Opacity slider you can determine how much of the new adjustments on Layer 1 you want to show through. This gives you a lot of flexibility to try new things without losing the look you have on your original Layer 0.
You can essentially experiment quite a bit with multiple layers, then "blend" them together using the Opacity slider until you get the look you want. So far, I have been using just 2 layers but you can do more. It's really great to have this extra functionality included!
Let's get back to the Presets section.
So as you can see, there are a LOT of presets, which is great in my opinion. They give you a lot of possibilities and a lot of ideas. Here's a list of all the Preset categories, which each contain multiple preset options: Architecture, Black & White, Creative, Detail Enhancement, Image Tune, Landscape, and Soft.
This is a one-click adjustment sort of thing. Click it, adjust the amount of the Preset to your liking by moving the slider, and you are literally all done. How easy is that?
Here's a close up screen shot of each of those Preset menus:
Note that you can also "Favorite" each by clicking on it, which will create a yellow star on it and save it as a Fave for you. Then all your Faves show up in your Favorite menu, giving you quick access to the ones you use most. Easy.
And here are some screenshots of a few of the Presets with the image included, showing how the Preset affects the image (click to enlarge each image for a better view).
As I mentioned above (and as you can see in the menu screenshots above), there are a LOT of choices here. These are just a few that I was playing around with while writing up this review. I definitely recommend that you spend some time on the Preset Tab and just mess around. If you don't like something, it's easy to click on Reset (bottom right corner) and revert back to your original. Then go experiment with another one! You can spend all day here playing around, so make sure the family is busy before you get started. :-)
Here's a Before and After comparison for ya...using the HDR Vivid Preset.
NOTE: You can see a bunch of dust spots in the above images, but they are NOT related to using Intensify Pro. I obviously had quite a few spots on my sensor when I shot this, but they are easily removed in Lightroom/Aperture/etc when you are finished making adjustments in Intensify Pro. Bad Jim! Get your sensor cleaned, man!
Now, while I love the Presets, I tend to want to control everything myself, so I have been using the "Adjust" tab more often than not. While this isn't necessary all the time, it's just how I am, so let's delve into that tab a bit, shall we?
The Adjustments Tab
If you have ever used Aperture or Lightroom (or any of those types of products), then the Adjustments tab and the corresponding menus will be immediately familiar to you. This is where you can create fine-tuned adjustments to your photos. This is where I live.
Going down the left side, you will see the following sections, in order: a Histogram, Color Temperature, Basic Tune, Pro Contrast, Structure, Details, Micro Sharpness, Vignette and Opacity. Here's a collection of screenshots to show you these in detail.
This should all look very familiar to those that have been processing photos in other programs. And if this is new to you, trust me that this stuff is easy. You literally just move the sliders left or right to get the look you want. It doesn't get easier than that. But if you are nervous, you always have that Preset section to revert to, with its one-click adjustments.
However, if this is new to you, I still recommend that you spend some time on the Adjustments tab and get familiar with it. This software is very powerful and making fine-tuned adjustments is part of the fun of this stuff. But don't be intimidated.
In the screenshots of the Adjustment menus above, you can see various numbers, which indicate the amount of that adjustment you have made. These are the actual numbers I used in my final photo.
I generally use the Color Temperature and Basic Tune areas to make some global adjustments across the entire photo, and it works well.
I will say that the Pro Contrast section is really well done. By segmenting Contrast into Highlights, Midtones and Shadows, you get a lot of fine-grained control of the Contrast settings in the image. I usually move the sliders around there a LOT to get the look I want. Also, take note of (and USE!) the "Offset" option under each of the Contrast sections.
While I didn't touch the Offsets too much in this photo, I have been using them more and more in other photos and it is VERY POWERFUL. It essentially allows you to accentuate or dial back the Contrast within the area of the photo that it corresponds to: either the Highlights, Midtones, or Shadows. It's a great implementation and well worth a little extra effort of moving sliders to get the look you want.
Here's a Before & After screenshot of this demo photo:
And here is the final version of the photo, after I removed all those nasty dust spots and did a little brush work in a few spots (I like to use Skin Smoothing in Aperture to soften skies and water, as well as a Detail brush to punch up the buildings and Sharpen a bit).
Well, there you have it my friends - my review of Macphun's Intensify Pro. It's quite an awesome product, and it came along at just the right time for me. I needed something to kickstart my post-processing creativity, and I have found it - yay! :-)
Have fun out there, and let me know if you have any questions!
Note: I am an affiliate with Macphun Software and if you buy any of their products by clicking the ad below (or this link: http://macphun.com/products), you can use discount code JimNix to receive a 10% discount on your purchase of any of their Apps or their Creative Kit + Bundle.
If you do this, I receive a small commission which I reinvest in the ongoing maintenance of this site. Thanks for your support!
And just for fun, here are some more images I have created using Intensify Pro - enjoy!