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The people at Pixel Genius (Martin Evening, the late Bruce Fraser, Mac Holbert, Andrew Rodney, Seth Resnick and Jeff Schewe) produce terrific production tools for use within Photoshop – PhotoKit, Photo Kit Color, and Photo Kit Sharpener.

PhotoKit automates a variety of tasks including color correction, color to black and white conversion, toning, and basic sharpening. PhotoKit Sharpener automates some of the most sophisticated sharpening routines ever devised. They’re so sophisticated they were licensed and modified for Adobe’s Lightroom.

Installed as a Plug-In and accessed through the File menu under Automate, PhotoKit is essentially a package of custom Actions, though the individual components of these effects can’t be modified like typical Actions. All of the effects are rendered onto new layers, so your existing layers aren’t changed, and the new effect layers can be further adjusted with Opacity, Layer Mask, or even Blend Mode. This is an excellent scenario, allowing users to take control of the effect, with the only draw back that the creation of new layers can significantly increase file size if many effects are used to process a single image. One way to reduce the resulting file size is to merge the new layers, either into a single layer or into fewer layers clustering similar kinds of corrections (i.e. merging all color corrections together and then merging all sharpening layers together).

PhotoKit automates the staples of image correction – tone and color correction, dodging and burning, color to black and white conversion and toning, and a set of photographic effects including grain, fog, and diffusion. It even offers basic sharpening and noise reduction routines. All of them can be executed with a few clicks of a mouse. Because it’s simple to use you might think the effects it generates are simple too, but they’re surprisingly robust.

PhotoKit Sharpener makes a very savvy delineation between three stages of sharpening – Capture (to compensate for image softening due to lens or scanner – PhotoKit’s sharpening routines are ISO sensitive), Creative (encompassing local or selective sharpening), and Output (which is optimized for substrate and size).
PhotoKit employs the three types of sharpening that have become mainstays in advanced routines – Luminance, High Pass, and Edge sharpening. Luminance sharpening uses a blend mode of Luminosity to sharpen the brightness values of an image only (like sharpening in LAB mode without having to change Modes), reducing unwanted saturation artifacts. High Pass sharpening makes a duplicate layer filtered with High Pass and set to a Blend Mode of Overlay to accentuate contrast in contours and planes, reducing the tendency to produce noise in smooth midtone regions. Edge sharpening creates a mask to target sharpening to areas of significant contrast, particularly edges, even more precisely, holding back sharpening from smooth midtone regions altogether. (I’m particularly impressed that they’ve devised a way to control the width of the bright halo from the dark line separately.) You’d work your way progressively up the scale from Luminance, to High Pass, to Edge sharpening as noise became an increasingly significant problem. Most of the routines for all three types of sharpening employ the Blend If sliders in Layer Styles to hold back sharpening from deep shadows (where noise often becomes pronounced) and bright highlights (which are often blown out or driven specular by ordinary sharpening routines).

When you first hear about PhotoKit you might be tempted to say, “I could save myself the money and create a set of Actions myself.” Avoid the obvious cliché, “Time is money.” Instead, consider who wrote these routines. These are truly professional correction routines. A great deal of research and development has been done by some of the top professionals in the industry to design PhotoKit. Fraser and Schewe literally wrote the definitive book on sharpening – Real World Image Sharpening.

I don’t use PhotoKit correction routines religiously on all of my files, only because there are times when I want to customize every step made for a particular image. I’ve found I use them frequently for my basic editing needs where I don’t want to invest a great deal of time. After using PhotoKit I’ve found I process more of these types of pictures than I did before using Photokit. That’s what PhotoKit is all about – productivity.

I recommend you try it yourself. You can download a fully functional version for free and take it for a test drive for one week. At the end of the week when your trial version expires you can reactivate it by purchasing it. Don’t try it when you’re frantically busy. I recommend you try it on a week when you have a little time to really explore all of its features, which though easy to use are extensive.

Learn more about PhotoKit here.

Find out more about the tools I use here.


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