Thursday, March 25, 2010

Helicon Filter for Free

I stumbled across Helicon Filter (HF)image editing software for free. I already use Lightroom 2.0 and Photoshop CS4, but free always gets my attention. I had heard about Helicon Focus, which allows the combination of images taken with different DOF's into 1 focused image, but I was not aware of the image editor. The software is set up with workflow in mind. The interface opens with a row of tabs across the image window. The tabs are: Noise Reduction, Brightness, Colors, Aberration, Sharpening, Distortions, Crop/Resize, Frames, Text, Retouching, Save. You can follow the tab sequence to work on your image. You do no have to use every tab. It appears that you can choose any tab at anytime. But, the order that is presented makes sense. For instance, you will want to do noise reduction before sharpening.
What I have found is that the that the noise reduction and sharpening are better than the LR2 built in functions. Therefore I am now using HF as an external tool in LR for NR and sharpening. The only drawback is the Save function in HF. It only allows saving the image as a JPEG or BMP. Since I have LR setup to send a TIFF image to the external editor, that TIFF file doesn't get updated. I save the edited image as a JPEG. The image must now be added back to the LR database. I do this using the folder synchronization tool in LR2. Then I remove the LR2 generated TIFF file if I don't need it for anything else.
The Frames and Text functions in HF are useful as well. The free version on has a few frame options - but they are well done. You can easily add copyright information using the text tool.
I have only had HF for a month and am still learning the program. I find the process of noise reduction and sharpening easier and faster than loading PS from LR2. You may want to check it out.