☙ Editing Photos and my Favorite Tools – What are your favorites?

When I started my career in photography, it was not a digital world—it was an analogue world. I was initiated into the art and process of photography by Don Battle at Santa Monica College. One of my first jobs in the industry was at a Hollywood mainstay called Tom’s Chromalab. I was their film duplicator and I learned the art of retouching and printing the old fashioned way.

As you know, back then, film development and printing were a chemical process. Nothing was instant but for the image in your mind’s eye and the confidence in your knowledge of setup, lighting, exposure, and the capabilities of film and paper…Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Pan-x, Tri-X, Fujifilm, Ektar 100, etc… Each film type had its particular characteristics, a personality of its own. I feel lucky to have learned the art of photography from those days.

On the other hand … the digital world has exponentially opened up vistas of creative possibilities. Now, I can edit dozens of images in a day that would have taken a week in the analogue world. I can shoot dozens of variations to cover every possibility, every angle, every lighting condition whereas in the old days I had to find and “see” that perfect shot and be confident I could capture it in maybe 3 exposures at most (we’re talking about 4×5 shots BTW). It was all about the setup, the planning, the experience of knowing what you had to do to get the end result you were looking for. Man, things have changed. Young photographers wonder why I take so few shots in a session. It’s my old training…but enough reminiscing.


This is Bailey. She is a Hollywood acting dog
visiting Pacific Spas & Sauna in West Los Angeles.

A little bit about my system

Nowadays, I am fully entrenched in the digital workflow. My main programs are from the Adobe CS6 line: Photoshop extended, Bridge, and Camera Raw 8.1.

My computer systems include a MACPRO with a 32in Cinema Display and a second monitor, a Wacom Cintiq 13HD tablet, a Canon Pixma Pro9000 MarkII, an espresso machine, and good headphones to listen to Jimi Hendrix.

My mainstay plugins for Photoshop are Imagenomic Portraiture and Noiseware. Yes, I do use plugins.

This is what Imagenomic says about their product:

Portraiture is a Photoshop plugin, (also works with Lightroom and Aperture) that eliminates manual masking and pixel-by-pixel manipulation to help in portrait retouching. It intelligently smoothens and removes imperfections while preserving skin texture and other important portrait details such as hair, eyebrows, eyelashes etc. Portraiture’s built-in Auto-Mask feature helps you quickly discover most of the skin tone range of the image automatically and, if preferred, you can manually fine-tune it to ensure optimal results. For finer control, you can specify the smoothening degree for different detail sizes and adjust the sharpness, softness, warmth, brightness and contrast. You can capture your own signature workflow in a custom preset tailored to your specific requirements and photographic portfolio.

Noiseware restores image fidelity by eliminating digital noise and unwanted artifacts introduced by high ISO photography and less than optimal environmental conditions. Unlike most image processing software techniques that utilize simple methods (such as median filters) to treat digital noise in images, Noiseware features a sophisticated yet fast noise filtering algorithm. Using the adaptive noise profile capability and sharpening function, Noiseware greatly reduces the visible noise while keeping the details in the images.”

Imagenomic offers what I believe to be superior algorithms in their products. While I can accomplish everything without plugins, they do speed up the process.

My second most important time saver plugin is Topaz ReMask3. Anytime I need to mask or cut out an object, I use ReMask3. The interface is not very elegant but it is fast and effective. Where this plugin really shines is in resolving hair extraction. It is definitely a productivity improvement tool. The image above is an example of how this tool shines. I do a lot of compositing and while I try to shoot with this in mind, sometimes it is not possible to have the ideal background or lighting. So, I really welcome ReMask3 as my go to plugin. Be sure to watch Greg Rostami’s tutorials on YouTube to get the most out of this plugin.

My third tool is Kubota Tools Action Dashboard 4 with the Artistic Tools V2 package. Kubotatools has a whole suite of actions and plugins. But, for my style of work, I chose the Artistic Tools V2 package. It includes over 50 image enhancing Photoshop actions such as: Digital Fill Flash brush for lightening areas of an image, Smokeless Burn brush for darkening areas, vignetting, general color pop, soft glows, effects that give you the look of the movie The Lord of the Rings, as well as some beautiful black & whites and sepia tones. There are a lot of everyday productivity actions included and while I don’t generally use them, I am often glad to have the more artistic actions available. However, there is one problem: you must have an internet connection to run the Action Dashboard 4.

Finally, I use Colormunki Photo to keep all my monitors calibrated. Something that you should do no matter what monitor you have, how many you have, or even if you are working on a laptop. Calibrating your monitors will take the guess work out of the equation to better images. If you have a Wacom Cintiq digitizing tablet you can calibrate that as well.

Do you have any favorite tools, plugins, or actions?

That’s it for now.

Prepare with practice and photograph like a professional.


Victor Osaka, Photographer


3 thoughts on “☙ Editing Photos and my Favorite Tools – What are your favorites?

  1. Thanks for these tips. I’m still in the beginning of my digital photography career, and mainly use Adobe’s Lightroom. I do like the look of the Noiseware plugin for Photoshop however.

  2. Pingback: My Homepage

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