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Intensify Pro is a Mac only image editing program from MacPhun. With apologies to Windows users (I really wish this software was available for PCs as well) let’s dive in and see what this software can do.
One of the reasons that you buy plug-ins is to take advantage of the ways you can use them to increase mid-tone contrast and enhance detail. Indeed, this is the main reason to buy Intensify Pro because it allows you to do this quickly and easily and with far more functionality than is offered by Photoshop or Lightroom.
To demonstrate the power of Intensify Pro I’ve selected an image that is very flat but has a lot of texture in the image to work with. You can see it below. The version on the left is more or less straight out of the camera. The version on the right was created by increasing Exposure, Contrast and Clarity in Lightroom’s Basic panel, and adding a slight vignette in the Effects panel.
Here’s a close-up so you can see the effect that increasing Contrast and Clarity has had on the texture and detail.
Now let’s open the photo in Intensify Pro and see what we can do with it in comparison to what is possible in Lightroom.
First, the layout. Your photo is displayed in the centre, there are various tool buttons along the top, and the controls for working with Presets and making adjustments are on the right.
There are 68 presets in total (yes, I counted them) and you can select any one of them to use as a starting point or click the Adjust button to go straight to Adjust mode.
One of the problems with presets, and indeed with any program that lets you make adjustments to contrast and detail like Intensify Pro, is that it is very easy to create an image that looks over-processed.
Intensify Pro provides a simple solution to this. Each preset comes with an Amount slider that lets you adjust the strength of the preset on a scale from zero to 100, much like the Opacity slider in Photoshop layers. So if you like a preset, but feel the effect is too strong, you can adjust the strength until you are happy with the result.
Here are some of the presets in action. All of them were applied to the original photo at full strength without any further adjustments.
After selecting (or perhaps not selecting) a preset you can move to Adjust mode. This is where you take control and use sliders to apply adjustments and enhancements to your photo.
The first three Adjust panels echo the sliders found in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. There’s nothing new here, these are for making adjustments to the photo before you get to the sliders that are unique to Intensify Pro.
You’ll notice the absence of a Clarity slider. It is replaced by the Pro Contrast, Structure and Detail panels. These allow you to much the same thing, but with far more control and versatility.
The Pro Contrast panel is where Intensify Pro starts to get interesting. Pro Contrast increases contrast without losing detail, and there are three sliders so you can apply it to the highlights, mid-tones and shadows individually. Under each of these is an Offset slider, which works in tandem with Pro Contrast sliders to control the brightness of the image. So, for example, if you increase Pro Contrast in the shadows and find that the image becomes too light, you can increase the Offset to make it darker.
The Structure sliders are for enhancing areas of low contrast, revealing texture and details. There are two levels: Global (targeting small areas) and Micro (targeting really small areas).
There are three sliders, enabling you to target the highlights, mid-tones and shadows respectively. The Strength slider gives you control over the strength of the effect and Softness slider control over the crispness.
It is really easy to overdo the effect and create something that looks completely unnatural, similar to some of the presets I showed you at the beginning of the article. Care is required, and I found that the Structure sliders worked best when I used the Pro Contrast sliders first.
These enlargements show you the effect of the Structure sliders.
The Detail sliders are for enhancing detail. The three sliders (Small, Medium and Large) control the size of the details affected. The Large slider has the greatest effect on the image and the Small slider the least. The tabs at the top let you apply it as a global adjustment, or to the shadows or highlights.
Like Structure, the Detail sliders require care as it is easy to overdo the effect. There is an additional Masking slider to help keep it under control. If the effect is too strong, you can move the Masking slider right to limit the areas affected.
The final three sets of sliders let you make other adjustments, such as sharpening or adding a vignette. The Opacity slider lets you reduce the strength of the effect you’ve created. This does the same job as the Amount slider in the Presets panels. Use it if you realize that you’ve overdone the processing.
So far I’ve looked at all the sliders in the context of global adjustments (adjustments that affect the entire image). But Intensity Pro also lets you create masks to apply the effects to a smaller area (local adjustments).
Local adjustments are important because most of the time you will want to emphasize texture and detail in certain parts of the image, but not others. A subtle touch is often key to effective post-processing, and local adjustments help you achieve that.
Here’s the final example (below). The image on the left shows the result of a series of global adjustments. I like the effect on the door, but the effect on the surrounding wall is overdone.
The image on the right was created using masks and layers. I used the mask to limit the adjustments made in the first image to the door. Then I created another layer and applied a softer level of adjustment to the wall. Finally I added a vignette to make the sides of the image darker. The result is a more subtle increase in contrast and detail that emphasizes the texture and detail of the wooden door.
Intensify Pro is an excellent program, and I’m looking forward to working with it more. I feel I’ve only touched upon its capabilities in this short review, as like all plug-ins it takes time to explore the features and learn how to get the best from it. Hopefully I’ve given you a good idea of what it can do. The best way to see for yourself is to go to the MacPhun website and download a trial of the program (look for the grey Try for Free button above the menu).
There are two versions of the program. Intensify is a standalone app aimed at casual photographers. Intensify Pro also works as a plug-in with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Aperture and contains a few more advanced features aimed at professional photographers. The details are on the MacPhun website.
For those of you who are interested, Intensify Pro was recently upgraded by MacPhun and contains the following new features. If you already own the software, go to Intensify Pro > Check for Updates to download the update. This list is from the press release:
Macphun Print Lab – Intensify photos can now with a few clicks be turned into personalized products like postcards and notecards, delivered direct to recipients. Affordable, high quality gallery frames and canvas prints can also be ordered, perfect for gifts to friends and family. The Macphun Print Lab is powered by MILK Books.
Integration with SmugMug – SmugMug is one of the world’s leading photography communities with millions of users worldwide. Images can be exported directly from Intensify to SmugMug portfolios for viewing, sharing and printing.
RAW Updates – Intensify now supports RAW formats from all the most popular cameras. The native RAW processor supports 16-bit images and opens files faster than in any other app.
Mavericks Support – Intensify is now taking advantage of all the powerful features of Apple’s latest OS, Mavericks. Support for the new Notifications feature will enable more timely communications with customers about updates, new features, free presets and more.
UI improvements – Additional shortcuts to the user interface provide quick access to the most important tools and features.