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Are the Brightness and Contrast sliders in LightMachine the same as in Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro?

The Brightness and Contrast sliders in LightMachine work much better on photos than the well-known Brightness/Contrast filter. They also work much more effectively than than the Levels and gamma sliders from many graphics applications. They don't cut off shadows or highlights and also doesn't suppress the contrast in the image. Their algorithm was specially developed for adjusting photos.


What is the difference between LightMachine and other Shadow/Highlight tools?

Here are some advantages of LightMachine compared to other Shadows/Highlights tool:

  • LightMachine reveals deep shadows better. Most Shadows/Highlights tool don't fully reveal some deep shadows.
  • LightMachine doesn't touch the highlight areas when correcting the shadows and vice versa.
  • LightMachine keeps the contrast of brightened shadows and doesn't make them look faded.
  • LightMachine doesn't boost the saturation unnecessarily.
  • LightMachine doesn't produce artifacts along high contrast edges.
  • LightMachine lets you adjust the contrast of the shadows and highlight areas independently.
  • LightMachine lets you adjust the saturation of the shadows and highlight areas independently
  • LightMachine lets you adjust the local contrast and color of the shadows and highlight areas independently.
  • LightMachine lets you remove halos with its Anti-Halo slider.
  • LightMachine doesn't produce halos when adjusting the highlights.
  • LightMachine doesn't incorrectly desaturate an image with extreme shadows like other tools.
  • LightMachine also lets you darken the shadows and brighten the highlights.
  • LightMachine lets you lets you see the shadow/highlights mask and adjust it more flexibly.
  • LightMachine doesn't decrease the effect intensity with higher Radius values as is the case with other tools.
  • Larger Radius values in LightMachine don't decrease the shadow brightening or highlight darkening like the Radius slider of other Shadows/Highlights tools.
  • And many more ...


What about the Lighting Effects filter of Photoshop and the Lights filter of Paint Shop Pro? Why do I need LightMachine's Virtual Studio feature?

The Lighting filter in Photoshop CS and previous versions has such a small fixed preview that you don't really see what you are doing when placing the spots. The Lights filter in Paint Shop Pro only lets you apply five spots and renders relatively slowly. Both filters also affect the surrounding areas, which is often inconvenient for photo corrections. The spot types they produce are more useful for artistic light effects and not that effective for selectively brightening only certain areas. Additionally they don't let you control the contrast of the light spot, which is often important to achieve realistic soft light effects.

LightMachine's Virtual Studio Pro mode was specially developed for photo corrections, so it offers all the tools needed for that purpose. You can place an unlimited number of spots, use light as well as shadow spots and adjust their reflection behavior as well as many other properties. Also, its virtual light avoids blown highlights and other problems that can occur with artistic light effect plugins.


Selectively colorizing image areas without a selection is already possible in Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. What does LightMachine's Colors modes make different?

Available selective color correction tools don't manage to turn a color into its complimentary color. For example, they can't turn a blue dress in a photo into a yellow one, they can't turn a cyan or turquoise T-shirt into a red one and they can't turn a violet or magenta skirt into a green skirt. LightMachine on the other hand is capable of doing that. It also lets you adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of these image areas. Most tools don't offer such a feature. Finally, LightMachine is able to create a smooth transition between these image areas and the surrounding areas. All in all, LightMachine gives you unlimited control for selective color correction, so that your creativity isn't limited as it is by other tools.


When I remove the shadows in some of my photos a lot of noise becomes visible in these areas. What should I do?

If noise is made visible when lifting shadow areas in LightMachine, you can use a third-party noise reduction tool to remove that noise. A future version of LightMachine may also include a noise reduction feature.

Noise is a common problem when you capture photos with a high ISO setting or a low-cost camera. Also, please remember that some cameras are more likely to produce noise in the shadows than others. Setting your camera to its highest quality setting (for less JPG compression) can help to avoid unnecessary noise in the shadows.


Is LightMachine a replacement for your ColorWasher plugin? Do I need ColorWasher if I have LightMachine?

The only similarity between ColorWasher and LightMachine is that both let you manipulate colors and brightness in images, but that is also where the differences start. Both plugins were created for quite different image processing tasks and complement one another nicely. For some images you will only need ColorWasher, for others you will only need LightMachine and there will be times when you need both.

Essentially ColorWasher is a color correction tool whereas LightMachine is a brightness correction tool. ColorWasher is for correcting color casts and general brightness problems. LightMachine is for correcting shadow/highlight problems, simulating lighting conditions and color-based adjustments. LightMachine relies heavily on masking while ColorWasher works on the whole image. ColorWasher almost automatically achieves great color cast corrections on the whole image. Its brightness and contrast options help to improve the color correction. LightMachine on the other hand corrects photos that were taken under difficult light conditions and lets you selectively adjust the brightness in certain image areas. Its options for correcting color shifts in the shadows or highlights areas help to improve the brightness correction. The Color modes in LightMachine don't perform color corrections. They do selective brightness adjustments and replace one color with another.

So while both tools can adjust color and brightness in images, they do that in a very different way and also produce very different results. Both tools achieve great results in their own respect. ColorWasher is for quick-shot corrections of photos while LightMachine is a more specialized tool for more difficult photos that need more devotion. Add our FocalBlade plugin to ColorWasher and LightMachine and you have an unbeatable trio for enhancing your photos.


Should I use the Plugin or Standalone version of LightMachine?

If you mainly edit your images in an application, e.g. Photoshop, Elements or Paint Shop Pro, you should choose the Plugin version. For quick image processing without extensive editing, you could additionally use the Standalone version. If you do not have or use a plugin-compatible application, you should go for the Standalone version.

Here are some points that should help you find a decision:

Advantages of the LightMachine standalone:
1. The standalone runs on its own. The plugin requires that you have a host application, e.g. Photoshop, installed.
2. The standalone starts up faster. Launching Photoshop (or another host applications) and running the plugin takes much longer.
3. The standalone lets you edit multiple images non-destructively and save the results in one pass with the Batch command. In Photoshop (or other host applications) you usually only work on a single image and need to exit and rerun the plugin for every new image. If you batch process images in Photoshop, you cannot go back and edit the effect of a previous image.
4. The standalone consumes less memory than Photoshop (or another host applications).

Advantages of the LightMachine plugin:
1. You can open and save all image files that Photoshop (or another host application) supports.
2. You can use other features of the host application, e.g. layers and brushes, that the standalone does not offer.
3. The 64-bit plugin lets you use more than 3 GB of RAM. The standalone does not allow that at the moment.


What is the difference between the Standalone and Lightroom version?

Essentially, the Standalone version is more flexible, but does not cooperate seamlessly with Adobe Lightroom. The Lightroom version is more convenient to use in connection with Adobe Lightroom. So the main point is whether you are using Lightroom or not.

If you use the Lightroom version, you need to select images in Adobe Lightroom before you run the LightMachine Lightroom version. You also cannot change the image format or location where the images are saved. That is handled by Lightroom. The Standalone version on the other hand lets you open and save images from/to any location as you please. You can also close and open images any time without exiting.

It may take more time for the Lightroom version to start up, because Adobe Lightroom always converts RAW files to TIFF before it runs external editors like the LightMachine Lightroom version. If you are editing TIFF or JPEG images in Lightroom, there is no start up delay. The Standalone version lets you open RAW files directly without any delay.


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