Some of you may remember that, while I am a big fan and user of Photoshop and Lightroom, I also have a fondness for simple, inexpensive software that is fun to use while maintaining very high image quality. So, when I was contacted by the folks at MacPhun to take a look at their FX Photo Studio software for Macintosh computers, I jumped at the opportunity.
The basic interface is pretty clean and straight-forward. Once you've loaded an image to work with, it's displayed prominently, with thumbnails of the various effects in a "filmstrip" display below. It's an easy matter to slide across the effects until you find a look you like. Clicking on an effect in the filmstrip "previews" the effect in the main window.
At this point, you can use the slider to adjust how intense the effect is, and choose to apply the effect to your image, or to cancel. There are over 150 effects supplied with the software. I particularly like the Ancient Canvas effect, so I've marked it as a favorite by clicking on the star in the lower right of the frame.
With so many effects available, it can get a little cumbersome scrolling back and forth through the filmstrip. Fortunately, the folks at MacPhun have thought of this -- the effects are grouped by categories, and you can easily view just the specific types of effects you're after.
While I'm at it, there are a large number of "frames" available as well, and they're organized similarly. The frames run the gamut from "traditional" looking picture or art frames to grungy "art" photo edges. I'm not real big on the fake picture frames, but I do like the artistic edges (and I think I'd like to see more of these). They can be applied and adjusted just like effects. One thing that sets these edges apart from most of the others I've seen is that when you vary the size of the frame, the actual content of the frame changes. Subtle changes in size can result in a similar frame size with a greatly varied pattern.
It's possible to quickly compare your changes against the original image, and the comparison displays can be either side-by-side, or the original can temporarily replace the effected image by simply clicking a button.
The editing tools work exactly as you'd expect, and the Shadows and Highlights controls have enough range to simulate HDR and tone-mapping effects.
Using the Edit Mask button, it's even possible to limit edits to only portions of the image. This feature, by the way, is also available when applying the effects! When you discover a combination of effect, frame and settings that you particularly like, they can be saved as a preset.
When you're done with your masterpiece, you can save it to disk, or easily share it with a couple of mouse clicks.
The short of it is that, in just a few minutes, you can make some really neat adaptations of your images.
Transforming this panorama took only a few minutes of adjustment, adding an effect and a frame.
Applying the same group of effects (using the preset I made earlier) and some different cropping to this image produced this image.
In this instance, I used the advanced masking options to ensure that effects were not applied to the orchid. A couple of different effects were mixed for this image, and a frame applied.
I really enjoyed using FX Photo Studio Pro. Like Snapseed (which I commented on some time back), I think it's a great value and a lot of fun to play with. I'm sure that it will figure into my workflow somewhere regularly. FX Photo Studio Pro also passes one of my favorite software tests with flying colors. I call it the "no manual test". If I don't need a manual to be able to use the software, it's well designed. I'm sure that they have a PDF manual somewhere. But, I have yet to find it or need it.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks. First is that it's Mac only, and I use both a Mac desktop and a PC laptop (and I do most of my work on the laptop these days because I'm so seldom in my home office). And second, it's not available as a plug-in for Photoshop. But, even with those two drawbacks, I'd certainly recommend it to a friend.
For the Mac, there are two versions of the program. FX Photo Studio Pro can support a wide variety of file types (including RAW) and allows editing of images up to 32MP. FX Photo Studio is limited to JPEG images up to 16MP.
FX Photo Studio Pro is available for Macintosh computers on the App Store (or through their own web site) for $39.99. FX Photo Studio is available for $9.99. Additionally, FX Photo Studio is available on the iTunes App Store for iPhones for $.99. An iPad version, FX Photo Studio HD, is $2.99.
I've added the iPhone version to my iPhone 3Gs, and I'll be sure to share the images from that as well. I'm sure that I'll use it even more next fall, after I've moved back to an iPhone as my active cell phone.
NOTE: MacPhun solicited my review of this software, and provided me a copy of both FX Photo Studio and FX Photo Studio Pro for the review. I purchased the iPhone version.