I’ve always been a huge fan of tonal contrast and clarity related plug-ins. For years I’ve used Nik’s Color Efex Pro for Tonal Contrast. But I’ve also been a big fan of onOne Software and plug-ins. Like most photographers out there, I’m a hardcore Lightroom user. I like Lightroom for a bunch of things. But when it comes to special effects, portrait retouching and just overall finishing touches I’ve always turned to plug-ins. One of the things I’ve liked about onOne, was the fact that it’s a “suite” of plug-ins. So if I wanted to add an effect, sharpen, retouch portraits and even convert to black & white, I could do it all from Lightroom in one place (without having to open several different/separate plug-ins). Plus, onOne has realized that people are going to use Lightroom. It’s still growing by leaps and bounds among the photography community (both pros and hobbyists). They’re not developing against it. Instead, they’re developing plug-ins based on things that you’d want to do once you leave Lightroom.
Anyway, back at Photoshop World in early September they announced the new version of their suite – Suite 8 (it’s out in beta now if you want to download it). I’ve been a beta tester and been able to give some feedback through the process and I have to say they totally nailed it with one of the areas that I find people use the most – tonal contrast/clarity-like effects.
For me, Tonal Contrast plug-in effects have been one of the main finishing touches I use on my photos. I like it for the detailed, sharpened, and overall contrasty effect that it gives. Whether you’re a portrait photographer and want to enhance all of the details in the photo and the backgrounds, or you’re an outdoor photographer and you want your clouds, rocks, and trees to look ultra-sharp, Tonal Contrast definitely helps out.
onOne has always had Tonal Contrast, but in Suite 8, they’ve changed it to Dynamic Contrast. The name change mostly comes because it is indeed dynamic. It’s not just blasting contrast at your photo like most of the others do. You can use the plug-in to dynamically add contrast in to certain areas and parts of your photo. For example, if I want to add contrast in to the clouds, I can adjust the “Large” setting because the clouds are the larger details in the photo. For the most part, it won’t affect too much of the rest of the photo.
(click to see it larger)

If I wanted to leave the clouds alone, and add contrast to the smaller details like the mountain in the background, then I can adjust the Small or Medium settings depending on the effect I’m going for.

And what’s really great, and something I totally didn’t expect, is that you can limit the effects to color or tonal ranges. There’s a setting that let’s you apply the effect to certain parts of the photo. If you’re into Luminosity masking, this is way cool because it’s a very similar effect since you can limit effects into the highlights, shadows, mid tones or just about any other part of the photo. Now, if you’re a total luminosity mask geek, then this probably isn’t for you because you like to do it the manual way. But if you’re just looking for a quick easy way to get great results, this is definitely something to check out.

Anyway, you can try out the beta for free by clicking on this link. The actual full release comes out in November, but this will definitely keep you busy for a while. Have a good one!