Review: Photomorphis Creative Presets
As a fine art photpgrapher, I have never felt encumbered by the need for journalistic accuracy in my images - quite the opposite. There's generally an atmosphere in a scene that I'm responding to when I capture the image, and it is something I strive to recreate for the viewer. The aim then, is to share an emotional experience rather than a faithful visual recollection. To that end, I'll use whatever creative tools I have in my toolbox to get to the effect that I'm striving for.
Much as I love traditional analog film and the darkroom, there's no doubt that the modern digital workflow affords an unprecedented degree of creative control over the image in post-processing. Beyond the typical darkroom processes like dodging and burning, the best photo processing software now offers in a digital format, a vast array of subtle and sophisticated creative tools that marry the skill of the photographer and the fine artist.
The company Photomorphis for example, offers an excellent and extensive library of these creative digital image tools that can be purchased and downloaded directly from its online store. These include a collection of artistic presets, each of which typically combines multiple, individual effects to create a particular look and atmosphere. For example, a specific preset might combine a subtle background texture such as crumbling stucco, along with a tinted gradient, filters to control the contrast and sharpening, and a subtle darkening vignette to complete the effect.
It is important to note that the Photomorphis presets themselves do not come with the software that you need to apply them to your images. These presets require the OnOne Perfect Effects software, so to be able to use them in your work, you'll need to purchase and install Perfect Effects if you have not already done so. The good news for the large community of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop users (among whom I number myself) is that the OnOne software integrates seamlessly with the Adobe applications and feels very comfortable, familiar and intuitive to use either by itself, or in combination with them.
The Photomorphis presets are sold in sets, often assembled around a particular theme. The "Retroluxe Vintage" presets for example, offer a variety of retro-themed looks that include vintage Hollywood sci-fi movie hues, aged film look, futuristic blurs and zooms, stylized borders, gritty surface textures and dramatic vignettes.
The image shown at the top of this article was created using one of the Photomorphis "Modern Classic" presets and I have divided it diagonally so that you can see the result of the preset in the left half and the original image in the right. This old, dark farm stable, full of cobwebs and dusty gear, had a particular atmosphere that I wanted to capture when I took the shot. I initially tried processing it as a grainy black and white, but ultimately it was the Photomorphis preset that really gave me the kind of grungy "noir" ambience that I was looking for.
In this second image, I used a Photomorphis preset also from the "Modern Classic" collection in order to enhance the mysterious ambience of the dark silhouette that appears in the background through the spray from a fountain. I took this photograph in Washington DC and you can see that the silhouette of the Cenotaph is also clearly identifiable in the background. Given this image's shadowy ambience and its distinctive location, I felt that the facelessness and mystery of the sometimes dark and covert machinations of governments, would be a strong interpretation for this image, and the photomorphis preset delivered just the effect I was looking for. I actually titled this image "Dark Forces" in my portfolio in keeping with this interpretative theme.
One of the things I really love about the Photomorphis presets is how customizable they are - in fact, one could say that they aren't really "presets" at all in the strict sense of the word. The real magic of these presets is in the layers of which they are composed, with each component of the preset (a tint or texture for example) having its own layer.
When you are in the Perfect Effects control panel for a Photomorphis preset as shown here, you will see controls that allow you to adjust not only the overall application of the preset to your image, but even the various parameters for the individual component layers. So for example, one layer might contain a vignette and clicking on that layer gives you access to all of the controls for adjusting the size, position, strength etc. of the vignetting. You can even switch off a layer to see how the image looks without it and remove it completely if you decide that you don't want it.
The combination of the really nice, intuitive interface for Perfect Effects and the extensive customizability of the Photomorphis presets, presents the artistic photographer with an incredible creative tool. The installation of the presets could not be easier either. If you have Perfect Effects already installed, simply download your purchased presets, unzip the downloaded file if it is zipped, click on the self-installing file that it contains and you're good to go - no fuss, no drama.
I would say that the more I have used the Photomorphis presets, the more I have gotten to love them. There is a bit of a learning curve at first, while you are still figuring out how all the preset layers work and how they can be customized. Most people will probably start out using the presets "off the peg" as it were, which sometimes works well and sometimes does not. If you do decide to try the Photomorphis presets, I would urge you to invest a little time in looking under the hood at the component layers and twiddling with them to see how they work. There's little risk in this as you can reset either the effect or your image with a single click at any time, so experimentation is not only safe, it is actively encouraged! By way of introduction, there are also some really nice free video tutorials available on the Photomorphis website.
There's really a lot to like about the Photomorphis prests. They are easy to use and it is very clear that a great deal of artistry, thought and care goes into their creation. If you want to take your photography down some new creative avenues that you might never have considered, I would recommend trying the Photomorphis presets. One complete set of presets for Perfect Effects will only cost you about US$10 at the time of writing, and you can purchase them directly from the Photomorphis web site with minimal hassle.
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