Creative and correction filters have long been an important accessory for professional photographers. For example, pros have used filters to darken a blue or overcast sky, to add a soft touch to portraits, to correct the color in poor lighting conditions, and to add a color tint to a portfolio.
Amateurs, too, have enjoyed the benefits of screw-on and slip-in filters, which have helped them turn snapshots into great shots. Adorama, B+W, Cokin, Hoya and Tiffen offer a wide range of creative and correction filters. Camera manufacturers, including Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Olympus and Pentax, also offer a range of filters.
Today, traditional filters are still popular. But filter use is no longer limited to the camera lens. Many of the effects created by traditional creative and correction filters, plus new innovative creative filters, can be used to enhance pictures at home in the comfort of the digital darkroom. Digital filters are available in what's called a plug-in for a digital imaging program.
Joe Farace, digital artist and author of "Plug-in Smart," says digital filters are part of a software class called plug-ins. After installation in a digital enhancement program, they are "plugged-into" and become a functional part of it. Once installed, a plug-in allows the program to accomplish something it couldn't normally do. Adobe Photoshop created the original plug-in standard, but compatible filters can be used in many other imaging programs including Adobe's PhotoDeluxe, Corel Photo-Paint and JASC's Paint Shop Pro.
Here is a look at just a few of the plug-ins for digital imaging programs.
Eye Candy. (www.alienskin.com). Effects include adding motion streaks, flames, smoke, shadows and even a melting effect to objects in a scene. You can also add a drip, chrome and cutout effect to a selected object or text.
Nik Color Efex Pro! (www.tech-nik.com). Dozens of user-controlled creative and correction filters are available in this program. You control the degree of the effect on picture. Filters include: graduated, color tint and bicolor -- all in several colors. There are also several midnight filters, which make pictures look like they were taken at midnight, and a sunshine filter, which makes pictures taken on overcast days look like they were taken on sunny days.
PhotoGraphic Edges (www.autofx.com). Simple as it sounds, a creative edge can greatly enhance a picture. Edge filters, some of which look like torn paper, are available from rough to soft.
Photoshop (www.adobe.com). Adobe Photoshop offers one of the most extensive ranges of user-controlled filters. They include a wide range of artist brush, pen and pencil filters. Photoshop also offers a lighting direction filter that lets you control the direction of the lighting in a picture. There is also a lens flare filter that lets you add lens flare to a scene.
Test Strip (www.vividdetails.com). This plug-in creates the kind of test strips photographers have long produced in traditional darkrooms. What's more, it offers a metamorphosis feature that improves an image based on user's response to a series of side-by-side, on-screen comparison images that are generated from the original photograph.
No doubt digital filters, like traditional filters, are fun to use. However, like traditional filters, if you use any one of them too much, all your pictures will start to look alike. So, even though you may be awed at first by a particular effect, use it sparingly. Try as many filters as you can -- and have fun creating your own works of art.