Mac users, your options have expanded yet again for post processing software. For a while, Adobe Lightroom (LR) and Photoshop (PS) were my preferred and only post processing programs for my images. LR handled all my global exposure edits and general sharpening and noise reduction needs. You could also get away with some basic spot healing and clone stamping, and thanks to the brush tool, selective/localized area adjustments. PS was always reserved for super precise editing with composites, masks/layers, and eliminating various artifacts or annoying trees/photo-bombers. Well, I’ve officially added another program to my workflow. Intensify Pro, by Macphun is, in a word – AWESOME. Intensify Pro combines elements from PS and LR for incredibly powerful and selective adjustments to exposure, contrast, sharpening, noise reduction, and structure. It’s a very simple program to understand and you can easily pick it up and know what to do.
Firstly, everything is based on sliders like in LR. Recently, LR went from a 0 to 100 scale for its’ adjustments. I like this a lot because everything is separated into distinct groups and the scaling makes sense. Intensify went the other way. A number of adjustment sliders start at 0, in the middle, and then you can either add or subtract by moving the slider accordingly. Where this really comes into play is sharpening and noise reduction. Instead of having them as separate sliders, Intensify made them into one. Go above zero and you increase sharpness, go below and you apply noise reduction. Sounds simple and effective and a little boring. Now here comes the mind-blowing part. The adjustments are available on a global level, and they’re also available to just highlights or shadows. Are you freaking kidding me?! This would usually take some messing around and tweaking in PS to achieve, and now I can just move a freaking slider and control sharpening or noise with this level of precision? Unreal.
Oh and by the way, this isn’t limited to just sharpening and noise reduction. Intensify applies this control to contrast and structure. HOLY CRAP! The time it takes to open this program and make these adjustments is more than worth it, especially because I’d have to spend A LOT more time in PS to get the same adjustment control. LR can’t even touch this level of localized control.
Adding to the feature rich offerings, you can do all of these adjustments in layers. Obviously layers are useless without a brush to designate the localized area. Guess what? Intensify offers that too. The brush works more like the brush tool in PS, where you can adjust brush size and hardness and apply it willy-nilly, as your heart desires. The brush in LR adds an algorithm that tries to apply adjustments to similar pixels only, which I think is Adobe’s way of eliminating the selection or masking tool used in PS. You end up with a lot of little holes in your mask because of it, but it works well for big area adjustments. Intensify doesn’t offer a masking or selection tool, but I think for the adjustments being made and the control you have in the sliders, you can get away with it.
My biggest complaint about the brush tool (or really the entire program) in Intensify – you have to pick the “Eraser” tool to remove or modify the brush stroke. Instead of just holding the Option key, like in LR and PS, to reverse the brush, you have to click on another tool. This is a waste of time. Yes it’s just a simple matter of moving your mouse across the screen, but I’m lazy, and when I can just click a keyboard button and continue chugging along? It’s really annoying. Intensify did add a nice feature though to their brush and eraser tools that I would love to see in PS and LR – an extra ring to show the feathering. When using a soft brush in LR or PS, you don’t really know where the brush is truly being applied and where the blended, feathered soft sides are either. Intensify shows two circles with their brush/eraser. The inner circle designates the true brush, and the outer ring shows the furthest extent of the feathered region. It’s simple, informative, and stupid useful.
I’ve used NIK filters for a lot of my work, mostly for sharpening, noise reduction, HDR, and black and white work. Well, Intensify has taken over the sharpening and noise reduction job. And just like NIK, Intensify works as either standalone software or as plug-ins for LR, PS, Aperture, and Photoshop Elements. As a standalone, you can share your photos to Flickr and Facebook, and export files in whatever format you like. This program handles RAW files by the way. Intensify offers some presets, but I’m not sure I’ll ever use them. I can see where they’d be fun or useful for other photographers though. The program has a number of other smaller features, but the ones I mentioned were my favorites.
Now for the list of things that I don’t like. First of all, and this one is super nit-picky, is that I wish the keyboard short cuts were the same as PS and LR. As humans, we’re already ADD enough and have a difficult time remembering simple things like how to do a Fourier Transform to figure out the rate of a particular biologic system (seriously, even as an engineer that crap is difficult). We don’t need more keys to remember and I’m sure Adobe doesn’t have ownership of B as the brush tool! Thirdly, under Details and Sharpness, you have the Masking slider. Great tool! Except I can’t tell how much masking I’m actually applying because Intensify doesn’t do the crazy, awesome black & white conversion when you hold the Option key to see what’s being affected or not. So you have to pixel peep and really pay attention to what’s being modified or not. These and the brush/eraser tools conundrum are the only serious complaints I have with this program after using it for a few weeks. Are they deal breakers? Absolutely not, they’re just little things that I know Intensify could do better and fix in an update.
Macphun offers a 15-day free trial so that potential users can see if they like it. I don’t see many people not buying this $60 program though. I’ve shown it to several friends and they all bought it quickly after trying it. Intensify Pro is just a very simple and incredibly powerful tool. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for easy, precise control of detail, contrast, and structure in your images.
Here is the link to their webpage so you can investigate more and download the free trial as well.