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::: Alien Skin Bokeh - Review :::
 
Welcome to our product and services review.
Read reviews of the best products, services, trade and consumer shows right here.

Return often and see what our editorial staff thinks of some of the hottest products on the market. Remember, if we don't think it meets our "Featured Product" standards, you won't read about it here.
 
  Software Review



Alien Skin Logo



Bokeh Box Shot

Mouse Over Images Below
To See Bokeh Effects


Giraffe - Before and After Bokeh
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
Lion Cub
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
Horned Beast
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
African Bird
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
African Child
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
Red Rose
Mouse Over To See Bokeh
Pink Orchids
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Bananas



© 2009 International Press Association & Alienskin.
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Alien Skins Bokeh, A Way To Make A Good Photo A Masterpiece

Ease of Use • Superb Results • Value Priced • Free Video Tutorials • IPA 5 Star Rated

Their latest upgraded, plug-in suite can give the pro or beginner a new way to get great bokeh, equal or better then the bokeh you can get from your favorite lens.

Review by Len Rapoport - 4/15/09 - Bokeh Author, Terence Tay

They call it a lens simulator and a Photoshop plug-in, but I call it a truly remarkable new suite of effects from Alien Skin that every photographer should have installed on their computer. You must know by now that I am a big Alien Skin fan and always look forward to seeing their latest product introductions so I can try them out. I have reviewed many including Snap Art, Exposure 2 and Image Doctor 2, but I had so much fun with this one that I have already posted samples to our IPA Facebook group and Fan pages and of course links to this article.

When I started in photography back in the late 50's early 1960's (yes, you guessed it, I have been around awhile) I used to shoot with my Nikon FTn or one of my other cameras using the 50mm F1.4 or F1.2 lens that came with the camera body. I never really used a zoom and frankly, back then, they didn't have very many at all that were any good. So the most popular fixed lenses purchased then were the 28mm wide angle lens and usually a 135mm or a 200mm telephoto lens and then we were set.

I even had a 500mm Soligor Series 7 mount mirror lens that I used on the beach in Belmar, NJ, to photograph all the pretty girls each summer. This lens was an F5.6 or F8, fixed lens so you could only use it on the beach because, it needed so much light for a decent exposure (I was to shooting at 250th second). I do remember the great bokeh on that mirror lens. Those early beach photos, taken with this lens, had a very cool circular pattern in the background soft areas, apparently caused by the mirror reflecting in the lens.

Many of these and other early photos I shot then, had a soft blurring look with creamy highlights ("Bokeh"). Of course back then there was no Japanese term for the soft, out of focused areas on the outside of our lenses depth of field. Understanding the importance of a nice bokeh in photos, has started a return to the normal, fast lenses, that are being used by most of the digital wedding and portrait photographers and once again has become their lens of choice

So why do we need the Alien Skin Bokeh software if you can simply buy a 50-80mm F1.4 or F1.8 lens? Because most of us have the zoom lenses that came with our digital cameras and many of us still want the versatility we can enjoy using our zoom lenses. Millions of amateurs and pros also pack a point and shoot digital camera and may or may not know how to control the depth of field when they use these cameras. How many people even understand what Depth of Field means?

The pro, that needs to make some of his photos look like they were shot with a fast lens with a shallow depth of field, will find Alien Skin's Bokeh a great tool to make these photos even better. The amateur will also love this software because of its ease of use and remarkable results. The learning curve takes a few minutes to get going and once you have selected the area you want to apply the Bokeh too, it is fast and easy to do.

For this review I decide to take some of my older shots, ones from a safari I was on in 2004 to Kruger National Park in South Africa. At that time I had a simple Olympus point and shoot 5.2 Mp camera and I took my Nikon F100 with a very long zoom lens. I found, I was using my Olympus more then the Nikon because of the ease of use and the visual confirmation I got which I found important when shooting some of the fast moving wild life there.

One of my limitations using this camera was the really small 3X zoom lens on my digital camera, and the small LCD that made it hard for me to evaluate the depth of field of each photo, so it was a trade off between film and digital. I used the film camera when I needed to use the 300mm zoom lens and the Olympus for all other shots.

Bird

Many factory settings to choose, or you can manually adjust the effect and save it for future use.

Giraffe


As you can see from these samples, the Olympus gave me excellent results and frankly, better in many cases then the Nikon. Although I loved being able to review the images and the great freedom using the Olympus, I didn't have the control I wanted. Now with Bokeh, I can revisit some of my early shots and do what I couldn't do when I first took them. You can see how amazing they look now that I have applied the Bokeh effects. Over the years I have shot lots of travel and photojournalistic style photos because of all the shows and events I cover for our web site. I have always had to settle and never felt I had the creative freedom as I do now. You should note that I have decided not to attempt to make my use of Bokeh in these shots (other the the African child) to simulate a true representation of the depth of field. I was actually going for a more artistic look to the photos to make them appear a bit surreal. Alien Skin has informative tutorials and examples showing realistic depth of field achieved with Bokeh.

Another challenge for me, is shooting flowers while on location. I love the beautiful varieties of flowers I come upon when traveling to the many exotic locations I have visited. I find that controling the depth of field while hand holding my camera is hard to accomplish, especially when shooting a close up. You either end up with a blur in the shot when the flowers move (or you do) or you never quite get the blur where you want it. You can see some samples of Orchids I shot at a local show. You can see how Bokeh can be used to make these shots really sparkle. Busy backgrounds make these photos OK, but Bokeh can turn them into great shots. See the one sample on the left showing a simple but real improvement on one of these photos.

Now I can fine tune the degree of bokeh using the simple presets and selection tools in Bokeh. They are listed by lens type, lens opening and the degree of blur you may want. There are so many presets that you can either select your favorite lens and match the results you would get with that lens, or manually adjust it to your own creative taste. One other feature no lens can give you and that is a number of Bokeh patterns like diamond, hearts, circles and others that can really add a custom look to your photos. Now you might think that you can use some of the Photoshop Blur tools to do the same thing and you may to a limited degree, but you will not get the professional and true simulations of your favorite lens using Photoshop alone. Click here to see a number of samples showing Photoshop vs. Boken blur.

Now lets talk a bit about vignetting. This is a technique used by photographers to draw the viewers eye to the center of the photo. It has been used for many years in portrait work, weddings and other photos. This effect can be achieved through the use of expensive pro filters or through the use of Alienskin's Bokeh software. Note: there is also unwanted vignetting that can occur when shooting with certain wide angle lenses, but for our purpose we are talking about intentional vignetting.

vignetting


Easy to use sliders allow you to control the intensity, color, size and also feather your vignette's

 

screen shot

In past reviews I have always said that Alien Skin products are really easy to use even for people with a limited amount of time, or Photoshop know how.

I now have to modify this statement a bit. With their new informative instructional videos, incredible samples, PDF manuals and great customer support, it makes the learning process not only easy, but a heck of a lot of fun.

No need to feel anxious learning how to use Bokeh as you might with other programs, it is truly a snap to learn.


I have used the Bokeh vignetting on most of my sample images in this article. It was not my intention to overdue its use, but rather to illustrate how effective these two effects can be individually or together.

By framing these images using the vignette, I have now drawn the viewers eyes to the main subject area of the shots. One of the nice features using the Bokeh vignette filters is the ability to select the color of the vignette effect and the degree of the effect.

child

Look at my sample shot of the rose. I decided to use a red vignette and adjusted the intensity of the effect so it was subtle. On the photo of the bananas and others, I simply used the default setting which was black. Want to see how easy this is done, watch the video here.

Another option is to either select the image area using your selection tools, masks or the new and wonderfully easy to use Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop CS4. Watch how easy this is to do in this Alien Skin tutorial video.

Visit their complete Tutorial Video section by Jim White.

See videos that offer a complete overview of this product and individual videos creating vignettes, a Lensbaby effect, making selection areas, getting a fast lens look, radial tool usage and some other creative tutorials like making your real photos look like they are a miniature models, changing a light pattern on a garment into hearts and others, very cool stuff and all free.

"Alien Skin offers many tips and examples on their web site, making the learning curve fast and easy "

I always like to use my own examples when working with Alien Skin software so I can experience what it is like using and understanding the products as my readers might.Listen, if I can use these then anyone can. That said, you really need to visit the Alien Skin web site. It is an excellent place to start and you can view their Bokeh examples page, where you will find a wonderful display of photos processed with Bokeh. You will also find Case Studies, Reviews like ours, a complete PDF manual, requirements, both system and host programs (will work with various Photoshop programs and Corel® Paint Shop Pro® Photo X2 and they even have a forum so you can post your questions and get answers from their staff and others.

On my iMac 24" Silver, operating with 4 GB of ram and Leopard OX, with Photoshop CS4, the rendering flew. You don't need the fastest processor out there either, unless of course you are working on huge files, but even then it flies. Bokeh is available for both Mac and PC.

I found that many of my good but not great photos really looked so much better using Bokeh. As you will see it can change the way you think when shooting your photos and certainly open your eyes to the possibilities now available to you once you have taken those photos.

" I find Alien Skin products so user friendly that any PC user, Mac or Windows will appreciate the well thought out software that Alienskin produces. No better value, when you factor in the free trial versions, their incredible support. The learning curve is so fast especially with their free manuals and video tutorials. When you buy Bokeh you have already become an experienced user before you shell out a dime. In today's tough economy you can't ask any company for more."

I encourage all of our readers to visit the Alien Skin web site and review all of their products. Visit our main reviews page and read our reviews on other Alien Skin filter suites, which we hope will make your decisions easier. If you aren't sure if a particular suite if right for you, take it for a free test drive. Go to their Demos page and download this or other Alienskin demos you want to try out. You will have 30 days to try them out and frankly after two or three days, you will want to buy them all.


Users can purchase the complete Bokeh suite for only $199.
Please mention you read our Review


Bokeh and Alien Skin receive IPA's top 5 star rating and our
Featured Product Recommendation.

RatingStar

 
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