There are no shortages of plugins to help photographers and digital artists streamline their workflow and help fine tune their look. Tiffen Dfx-3 offers an amazing amount of digital filters and user manipulatable options in one plugin. Is it useful to have this many options in one plugin, or is it too much? Well, depending on your needs and budget, this may be the only photoshop plugin you’d ever require. Read on for examples and my tip of the iceberg review on this amazingly filter packed plugin…
Firstly, Tiffen Dfx-3 is offered as a plugin (PS, LR and Aperture) or as a standalone program. I’ve been using the plugin inside Photoshop CS5, so I can only share my experience with it from this angle, but I’d imagine the breadth of this program translates just as wholly, regardless of the platform or host.
Okay, I’ve been playing around with this plugin pretty extensively for about three weeks and I still feel overwhelmed with the task of trying to explain it. It is immense and feature rich. At first, it is hard to figure out where to start, but with a deep breath and a few clicks, the plugin starts to come into focus. Never mind that the plugin has many (I lost count, but near a hundred I’d guess) native presets, but each and every one of these presets have controllable parameters and many have up to hundreds of sub filters (film duplicator, digital filter settings, etc). If there is a problem to be remedied in a photograph, Dfx-3 has a solution, or 5. Finding them may be trickier, but they’re there and live under categories. A jack of all trades type of plugin as it were and the more that I play with it, the more I realize how handy it can be.
The interface is complex but intuitive. Dfx-3 allows photographers to use multiple filters on one image file by way of integrated layers (a la photoshop) with blending options (again a la photoshop, ie: screen, multiply, soft light, etc), masking as well as adjusting opacity for each individual filter layer shown on the left hand side of the screenshot above. This may be a bit much for someone not used to working in Photoshop, but with a little effort to learn, you quickly realize how amazingly useful this is. You get to add layers and adjust their effect as you would in Photoshop directly in the plugin! This is pretty damn cool. When using Dfx-3, I will still first duplicate whichever layer I’m working on inside Photoshop before running Dfx-3 on that duplicated layer. Dfx-3 will not automatically output your results on it’s own layer like Alien Skin plugins do (which I love) so remember to duplicate your layer before you run the plugin to apply it to that duplicated layer. Other than that, the amount of control in regards to blending or adding multiple effect filters is unparalleled to any plugin I use, and I use quite a few.
The results range from simple and concise, to sky’s the limit. If you need to apply a colored lens filter (like you would have back in the film days for instance), you can choose from a plethora of existing choices, and then tweak any of those choices to your heart’s content. If you want to add a fill light to your subject, you can all while manipulating the intensity and placement. Want to add a bleach bypass layer, or add a Kodak Portra 160 treatment layer, a texture layer from the collection of preset textures within the plugin? No problem. From exposure fixes to artistic filters, Tiffen Dfx-3 provides a remarkably large library of applications in a single plugin.
If I were to suggest this plugin to a particular photographer, I’d say it would truly benefit at least two sets of shooters that I can think of.
First, I believe it would benefit a photographer without any or many existing plugins. This one plugin has so much going on, while it may be bested in certain areas by other more specific plugins, it does a good job at providing a very complete set of filters, fixes and artistic accoutrements. For instance, I use Alien Skin’s Exposure 3 for my color and black and white film replication filters, but Dfx-3 has almost as many offerings. The grain and pure film replication is better in Exposure 3 for me, but Exposure 3 costs almost as much alone and the film replication is one of dozens upon dozens of categories that Dfx-3 offers. I’ve used Nik Color Efex Pro for years, but Tiffen’s Dfx-3 offers many similar effects, plus so much more. Does Dfx-3 have u-point technology? No, but it has an EZ Selection mask which does better for fine detail as opposed to globally changing parameters based on tone like U-point does. I’ve been finding more and more reasons to push my Nik Plugins further and further down the pecking order and aside from Silver Efex Pro, I don’t even really use them anymore. Dfx-3 offers the largest single library of digital filters that I’ve seen in a plugin.
Secondly, for shooters like me that like to have as many tools available to them possible. I am one who appreciates and often intentionally keeps it simple, getting it right in camera, not wanting to spend hours in front of the computer post processing, but on the other hand, I am a huge fan of digital file manipulation. I don’t like to think of myself as a one trick pony, but one who attempts to learn a variety of skills to be able to more diversely offer solutions to project output or artistic idea. Visualizing the end shot, be that a simple lighting set up, or all out composite monstrosity, I want to know how to be able to do it all and have the tools to be able to help me more easily do so. Will I use Tiffen Dfx-3 for every shoot? No. But, for the shoots that I need it, it will easily carry its weight.
You can download and try the software for free directly from Tiffen’s website HERE and I would suggest doing so. It’s free to try and fun to play around with. Most any software plugin is available to try for free so the beauty of the times we exist in is that we can use these tools before forking out the cash. This to me means that software developers have to really offer value. Why would we buy something unless we’ve done our homework and determined that it is a good value? Rhetorical questions aside, I would absolutely suggest anyone interested in this plugin, download the free trial and watch a few of the videos (on the site via the link above) which will do a good job at getting you started. Dollar for dollar, you might be hard pressed to find more for your money in a plugin.
While it may not offer the best singular solution depending on the specific application, it certainly offers more solutions than any one plugin I’ve ever used. If you need a plugin that has an answer for just about any challenge, a one plugin solution, I think Tiffen Dfx-3 is it.
You may say that I tend to speak highly about the plugins that I review, which is true. The reason is that I don’t review the plugins that I don’t feel offer a good value, or are plugins that I’d use myself. This is one of those plugins that I will certainly be using for a long time. So, just to be clear, I’m in no way affiliated with Tiffen. They’re not paying me, nor holding a gun to my head. I just like this program and I think you might too. It’s free to try, what do you have to lose?
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Thank you for reading through and let me know if there are any collaborative projects you would like to discuss. I’m always game to try and connect and network with other photographers and bloggers. Hit me up!