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optikVerve virtualPhotographer plug-in Review

Matt Grayson takes a look at optikVerve's virtualPhotographer, a fast, free effects-adding plug-in.

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Possibly one of the best kept secrets in photography, the virtualPhotographer is a free plug in for Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro users to essentially do their job for them.

Released in 2004, virtualPhotographer is designed to make the software tools available in your editing suite easier to use. It was one of the first filters to enable one-click application of effects which speeds up editing time which surely means more time spent taking pictures? Surely that's a good thing.

optikVerve virtualPhotographer: System requirements
  • Windows
  • Windows Vista, XP, ME, 98
  • Host image editing program required
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3 or older, Photoshop Elements, Corel Paintshop Pro X2 or older
I used Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 as virtualPhotographer isn't compatible with Photoshop CS4 yet. I've contacted optikVerve to ask when an update will be available and Peter Rowe replied: "We run in 32bit but mode CS4 requests are for 64bit. We should have a 64bit version this summer that runs on Vista 64. This will also be a 16bit image processing plug-in. If the Mac platform is stable at that time we will port to it."

optikVerve virtualPhotographer: Installation and use
The download is free and takes around three minutes from clicking the red button on the website. I didn't have a plug ins folder available in the Corel system folder so had to create one. Once that was done and the editing suite is rebooted, it works fine. If you have any trouble then you might need to enable plug ins in file>preferences>file location. Go to Plug-ins and make sure that they're enabled.

optikVerve virtualPhotographer
This is the main window of virtualPhotographer. No flashy intro pages, just straight to it.
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
The second tab allows you to add the film types and adjust the strength.
A separate window will load up with your image in the main window. To the left is the navigation pane with three tabs for making adjustments called Main, Film and Style. The first tab changes the picture between basic settings such as colour film, black & white, extra or favourites which won't be active until some are loaded in.

This all appears pretty basic until you then start to scroll through the drop down tab at the top once you've made a main change. For example, within colour you have 51 settings to choose from while black & white has 76 settings. A slider beneath these allows to you to add or detract exposure compensation.

As changes are made, the image in the main pane will preview the changes so you know what's going on. Below that is a zoom function, click to 100% or fit to screen, cancel and process. The half and half button in the middle takes the right side of the image out of the processing and shows you the original. Arrow buttons to the right of the drop down tab scrolls through the options without having to click back into it which means you save a bit of time.

The second tab is for film type settings and here you can choose from two positive choices and two transparency film choices. Setting two is a slightly boosted version of setting one and below this you can adjust the brightness and contrast then change the film speed to add grain. There's also a handy grain adjust if you like the film speed but it's giving you too much or too little grain. Personally, I don't like the grain that's added to the image as I think it looks a bit too false.

That's a problem that you'll come across on a lot of the choices that are available although bear in mind that one man's pleasure is another man's poison. The options have been expanded and refined a lot since I first discovered the program and they do seem to be a lot more realistic.

optikVerve virtualPhotographer
Finally you can add style to the image and film type. You can go back to previous pages if you wish.
The final tab is for adding certain styles to your image such as warming it up or cooling it down. The green punch is a nice option for landscapes but also works quite well on the right type of portrait. Another slider below adds or detracts to how much of the style is shown on the image.

You can add effects such as contrast, soft focus, polarise, different coloured casts and cross processing to name just five options of the 32 available. After that, you can still change it to black & white then add style to the choice.

I think these have room for improvement as there's no “noir” style available for strengthening shadows or a true black and true white option for ultra-contrast. I always seemed to get blown out highlights and grey or dark shadows which then messed up the eyes.
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
optikVerve virtualPhotographer
A lot of work done on photographs these days is by using layers or selected areas. These can be processed by virtualPhotographer by selecting the area you'd like to have processed in advance. Once you've launched the program it'll only process the area you want and it's the same with layers: just highlight the layer you want to process and launch the program.

Saving any changes to the Save to Batch button will allow you to load up an image and the changes will be made to the image straight away.

optikVerve virtualPhotographer: Verdict
I started using this program a few years ago when I wasn't overly efficient in Photoshop and continued to use it for basic adjustments when I was selling photographs. Basic adjustments are made faster while the batch processing and favourites setting makes it even easier if you have a signature style.

For a free download it's worth getting it as it takes up little space, is easy to use and above all it's fun!

optikVerve virtualPhotographer: Plus points
Easy to use
Quick to install
Fast options
Vast menus

optikVerve virtualPhotographer: Minus points
Black & white needs improving
Grain doesn't look too realistic




optikVerve's virtualPhotographer is a free download from the optikVerve website here:

optikVerve virtualPhotographer

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16 Jul 2011 12:30PM
I don't quite know how I ended up on a 2009 review but however it happened I'm glad I did. I hadn't realised that VP had upgraded - my version was 2004 I think!!!! Have downloaded the latest one, wow, what a difference.

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