About a week ago I didn't even know this software existed. I found out about it from some photography podcast and I decided to give it a try. MacPhun Software, the creator, generously offers a 15 day fully functional trial (no watermarks) which can be downloaded from here. There are some tutorials already available but in typical fashion I use those only when I really need it. It is also a good test of how intuitive the software and user interface is for a first timers. I downloaded the whole Creative Pack and only hope I can try the rest out before trial period expires. I am kind of busy these days. I developed this photo of young Rongbu Sherpa in Tonality Pro and it was the first photo and first time ever I used the application. I started of from Lightroom. Blacks are little crushed but that little glossy spot on his nose prevented me to increase exposure. As you can see on histogram there is very few highlights but they are not clipped. Photo was taken inside fairly dark room with some soft light coming from window. I think the photo represents the mood and environment well.
Anyway, installation is straightforward. Drop the application into Applications folder in your Mac (as far as I know there is no PC version). When launching the application I get a notification that if I want to use software as a plugin, the host software has to be installed and Tonality will look through applications to find them. Currently Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Aperture are supported. I guess the can scrap the latter. Tonality Pro also works as standalone application and thus it has it's own proprietary file format that you can use to save your work without loosing any of your edits.
User interface is nice and clean. No clutter. Something that I am used to from Nik plugins. Nothing new here but as they say why change something if it works. Dark grey doesn't distract and it feels generally pleasant. At this point I am wondering an middle grey option would be nice to have too. There is a toolbar on the top. Large image viewing area, presets and on the right there is the holy grail...abundance of settings where magic happens. Easy, simple, great. I feel like home already.
For beginner users there is plenty of presets to choose from. Even for seasoned professionals they can quickly create a good starting point or a way to experiment . Of course the software wouldn't be complete without ability to create own presets.
I am not a big preset fan and I usually prefer to start from scratch however, these film presets are pretty cool. I can find a favourite film stock and apply the look with a click. Of course everything can be changed or dialled in to your taste.
Where this piece of software stands above it's competitors is that it offers ability to use layers. This way it is possible to implement a modular approach to image development. I can do my basic global adjustments in one layer and more granular adjustments in subsequent layers. Notice in this image I did structure and eyes correction on their own layers.
Where this piece of software stands above it's competitors is that it offers ability to use layers. This way it is possible to implement a modular approach to image development. I can do my basic global adjustments in one layer and more granular adjustments in subsequent layers. Notice in this image I did structure and eyes correction on their own layers. If any setting section was adjusted on particular layer, it turns yellow and gives quick visual information about what has been done to the image. Wait, there is more. Each layer can have it's mask which determines where in the image are those settings being applied. On top of that there is a global opacity slider for each layer.
And this is still not everything. We have layer blending modes available and this is bringing use even closer to Photoshop world. Here I applied a crazy tint and subsequently put into overlay mode to illustrate the point. Interesting way of working is combining the power of layers and presets. A different preset can be applied to each layer and the masked out with brush which gives the artist endless creative possibilities. Some presets even allow to keep/bring back the color and easily create cheesy black and white images with some colored areas. Not my cup of cake though.
For advanced users there is zone system implementation available. It works pretty much same way as in Nik Silver Efex Pro. That means it works great. It is easy to inspect what zones different image parts fall into and once particular zone is turned on it shows overlay on top of the image making it easier to push pixels away or into the selected zone.
One thing I didn't like is the brush. It has just very basic settings of opacity, size and softness. There is nothing like density or especially flow that is very useful. And I haven't found any preferences or setting which would determine how the brush behaves in conjunction with pen and tablet. On this example there are two brush strokes, both with big soft brush. Only difference is that the left one is 100% opacity and right one about 50%. Pen pressure seems to determine the size of the brush. But as the pressure decreases the softness does seem to decrease too. With brush set to anything less than 100% there is a strange hard line being rendered as you can see on right brush stroke. As I mentioned there is no flow available so the brush effect cannot be built gradually up unless pen is lifted from tablet. One last thing I found little annoying is that in some cases I only saw the stroke once I lifted the pen from tablet. This might be due to performance on some effect heavy layers. It is usable but I think there is a room for improvement in this area.
After the edit is finished it is easy to see where the image came from and the final piece. There are few ways how to do it. Here I am showing the side by side comparison.
Generally I really like this little application. It does few things in a similar fashion as competitors but some features are unique to this software. Especially use of layers and the way they are implemented is pretty cool. Nothing that couldn't be done in other plugins but this implementation seems very straightforward to use. The brush is the only major week point I have found during 20 odd minutes I used the software. Improvement of this tool would be excellent. However in 20 minutes it is really hard to get really under the skin of Tonality Pro. Perhaps brush adjustment and preferences are there somewhere. I just didn't find them. As a final word I can say, kudos to MacPhun Software for creating great application that I am sure will get better. And finally here is the colour version and black and white finished one.