Plug-in and Simplify

Lisa Snider

Posted November 19, 2012 in: Meetings 

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Calvert Photography Club met for its monthly meeting in our new home, at Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 90 Church Street, in Prince Frederick. A special thanks goes out to Robbin Haigler, for all of the hard work she did in finding the location, which is centrally located in Prince Frederick, with room for our club to grow. 

President Guy Stephens opened the business portion of the meeting by announcing that our club has been selected by Peachpit Press as the “User Group of the Month.” A blog post will be written about our club, which will be featured on-line. Guy will share a link to the blog post once it is up.

GuyOur September Photography Boot Camp was a wonderful success, so plans will be made to have an annual “basic” workshop, as well as an “advanced” topic for those who would be interested in that. In the meantime, Vice President Jeff Smallwood will host a Photo Basics Class at the Calvert Library on November 26, 2012, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. The class is free, and open to public, but registration is required through the library. Guy will also be hosting a second topic at the Calvert Library, Mobile Phone Photography, in either January or February of 2013, for those who are interested. 

The Solomon’s Island Fall exhibit, which is currently up, will be coming down early to allow room for the Christmas Exhibit which the visitor’s center has planned. The next opportunity that club members will have to submit their work for possible display will be for the winter exhibit.  Photos submitted for this exhibit should feature winter themes such as snow and Valentine’s Day. Club members should watch for Guy’s
e-mail soliciting entries for the display. 

In other business, our nominating committee, composed of Sharon Shifflett, Nick Iascone, and Lin Moos, has identified candidates for our upcoming club elections. The positions which will be voted upon are the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The following individuals have agreed to run for these positions: President – Jeff Smallwood; Vice President – Megan Snider and Karl Barth; Secretary – Lisa Snider (incumbent) and Ursula Lawrence, and Treasurer,
Bonnie Bryant (incumbent). Guy then opened the floor up for possible further nominations; none were put forth, so this is the roster of candidates. Guy also mentioned that he will remain very active with the Board of Directors, in his role as Past President. Voting will take place via an on-line ballot, which will be sent out to all members in good standing (those with their dues paid up). The winners of the election will be announced at the December meeting, and will be put in place in January, 2013.

Worth noting are the addition of three ballot questions which, if approved, will require a change to our current by-laws. They are (1) raising the dues by $5.00 per year, to help offset the monthly fee to Trinity United Methodist for our new monthly meeting location; (2) realignment of the club year, from March to March, to January to January; and (3) getting rid of the term limits for the President and Vice President roles, which is consistent with how other camera clubs in our area operate.

Club members should also be on the lookout for a brief member survey, which Guy will put forth, to gauge ideas for future trips, members’ interest in topics, etc., for the coming year. 

In the absence of Treasurer Bonnie Bryant, Robbin gave the Treasurer’s report. Members are reminded that club dues which are outstanding should be paid to Bonnie ASAP. Once dues are paid, be sure that you have provided your e-mail address to Bonnie. This will ensure that you are added to our club e-mail list for future communications, such as the ballot for our upcoming elections. There is a club sign-in sheet which is circulated at each meeting; be sure that you sign the sheet. Bonnie also maintains the monthly snack sign- up sheet – please see her to add your name to it. Bonnie has a volunteer for the December snack, and is accepting volunteers for the meetings in the new year. Finally, we now have 65 paid members in our club.

We closed out the business portion of our meeting with Spencer providing an update on our lending Library. Spencer advised that the list of great new books is growing – he has new books available for loan on such topics as commercial photography, software specific titles, and beginner’s photography, among others. Be sure to login to the members’ only section of the web site to view the titles, which are available for loan for a period of 2 months. Remember, too, that both Peach Pit and O’Reilly Presses offer free books to our club members, for only the price of writing a review of the book for our club’s blog.

Today’s program was presented by President Guy Stephens, in conjunction with member T.O. Galloway, who kindly agreed to present a portion of the program entitled “Plug-ins.” Guy began his presentation with the definition of a plug-in – it is a “software add on” to a host application, which offers a streamlined set of steps to simplify a task, or extends the functionality of the program. Plug-ins may do image editing, provide filters and effects, may reduce noise and correct offer lens correction, improve workflow by offering streamlined import/export/backup functions, or provide ease of publishing and printing. Common platforms used which accept plug-ins include Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (PSE), Lightroom and Aperture. Common plug-ins which members may be familiar with include Photomatix for HDR, Alienskin, and Nik Software.

Guy presentsPlug-ins which may be right for you to use depend on the platform you use, your workflow, your needs, and your style. A google search of your platform will provide you with a list of plug-ins that are compatible with your platform. There are trial versions available of most plug-ins, which are worth experimenting with prior to your purchase. On-line videos can often be found, also through Google, which give you the steps for use. You can also sign up for free webinars providing plug-in instruction, which often offer a purchase discount after completion of the webinar. Nik software typically offers a 15% discount, and Topaz offers a generous 30% discount.

Guy uses Nik plug-ins, which feature “U-Point” Technology, great for localized enhancements, and he went on to discuss and demonstrate several.

Dfine 2.0 by Nik reduces digital noise in a picture, by analyzing a photo and giving you a thumbnail of proposed enhancements which you may tweek, as need be, or select as is. 

Viveza 2 by Nik allows you to make localized adjustments to a photo much more simply, by selecting a control point, and effecting changes to just a portion of a photo, such as color, brightness, contrast, saturation and structure, to bring out the detail.

HDR Efex Pro 2 allows you to merge 3 images, taken at 3 different exposure settings, into one image which helps bring out the detail in the photo. This sometimes results in an image which more closely reflects what is seen or, if the effect is exaggerated, can result in an “other worldly” or painterly effect. The end result is based on the photographer’s tastes, and how far they push the plug-in. 

Color Efex Pro 2 by Nik offers an extensive set of filters which may be applied to an image. Examples of available filters include the classical soft-focus effect, vignette filters, black and white filters, and more – a total of 52 filters are available to choose from. It is also possible to “stack” filters, one on top of the other, and then save the stacked filters as a “recipe,” to obtain repeatable results.

Silver Efex Pro 2 is wonderful for converting your color photos to Black and White, and then tweeking the results and/or applying presets to a photo and then tweeking. You can also choose to mimic old black and white film types which you may like.

Sharpener Pro 3.0 is wonderful for output sharpening, for printing and for the web.

Most plug-ins from Nik can be bought individually for $99.00-$199.00 each, or as a complete collection, which is often more economical, if you will use several.

T.O. Galloway then discussed and demonstrated some of the plug-ins which he uses, from Topaz Labs. Topaz offers more affordable plug-in options, which do similar things.

Topaz Lens Effects offers different types of lens – such as selective focus, Bokeh effect, pinhole, toy camera, fog, fisheye, etc., which can be fun and creative.

Topaz DeNoise 5 is a noise reduction tool which is similar to Dfine 2.0 by Nik, but does not offer the U-Point technology, for really specific picture portion selections.

Star Effects adds a star pattern to existing light sources, which sources may be selected in a picture and turned on, or off.

Topaz Remask 3 allows you to cut out an element in a picture without having to be very precise.

The presentation was very informative and piqued the interest of many club members, including myself. Now which plug-in should I ask Santa to bring, or maybe the whole collection? Have I been that good this year? 

While I pondered this thought, the club took a 5-minute break to enjoy the refreshments provided, and briefly mingle before the slideshow presentation.

After the break, Tammi Gorsak treated the club to her slideshow, featuring her summer vacation to the Smokey Mountains. Her photographs, set to a breezy tune, were lovely.   

Upcoming events were discussed next by Robbin. Our next field trip is set for Saturday, December 1, to Flat Iron Farms and their holiday display. General admission is 5:00 p.m., but Robbin is in negotiation with their staff to see if we can gain early admittance – by 3:30 or 4:00 – to take pictures of the barns and landscape before dark.
Watch for a future e-mail from Robbin with all of the specifics.

Our next photo assignment is “feast,” to be interpreted as everyone sees fit. Finally, as we are moving toward the winter, and the chance of inclement weather, Robbin advised that the church (our new home for club meetings) is generally closed when the school system is closed. As we meet on Saturdays, it may be advisable to call the church, for the most accurate information, and listen to their voice mail message, which is updated by the church secretary. 

The last segment of the meeting featured 6 submitted images taken by our club members depicting this month’s shooting assignment, “Patterns.” As our meeting was running a bit long, and we had only Jim Rogers of our official critique team in attendance, each image was allotted 2 minutes for the critique session. Bill Conway graciously offered to help Jim with the critiques, as well as other club members, who volunteered their thoughts and ideas. Each offered what they liked about the image, as well as offering constructive criticism, where appropriate.

In closing, remember that “a photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject, or lend it atmosphere.” – Bill Brandt, photographer

About Lisa Snider - Lisa is a passionate photographer who loves nothing more than picking up her Canon camera and heading out to see and capture her world. She took her first photographs using her Dad?s Kodak Instamatic film camera at age 10, and has been telling stories with her pictures ever since.


Great write-up on the meeting, which was a fun and educational one! I'll probably have to wait to invest in plug-ins anytime soon, but I definitely feel better informed about what they are and how they can help.

Comment from Megan on November 20, 2012

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