IntensifyPro, Public Domain Images and Productivity

photosgraphicsetcWe need images, but is public domain worth the trouble?

Images are difficult to do well and fast.  And we need lots of images for the best and most engaging articles or posts.  Or for our ebooks.  Or for games and apps.  Or…lots of other info, education or entertainment products.

One of the most popular suggestions I’ve heard is to get free images from public domain and use them to at least round out our content, if not as the complete content.  Right.

That is neither fast nor easy.  Using the public domain is most often a tedious search process, during which you may come up with the images you want, but find it takes forever to make them useable.  Many are either amateurish or out-dated.  Poorly composed.  Have horrible lighting.  And so on.

Sure, there are some sites that have great images.  But then there are the legal issues such as how do you know that the person who uploaded the image really owned the original copyright?  Do people lie?  So for safety’s sake you find yourself sticking to places like federal government sites and archive.org.

What can you do to improve low quality images?

Photoshop can do a great deal for you in rescuing the images you like.  And there are some tricks for making production faster.  I want to tell you about a product I’ve been using for the Mac.  It’s called IntensifyPro, by MacPhun. It comes as a standalone or as a plug-in for Photoshop.  I’ve used it both ways, but it’s faster to integrate it with Photoshop.  It does an amazing job just with its presets, but I can modify the settings in more ways than I can count.

Here’s an example of a photo I just grabbed from the National Park Service and was able to improve considerably in just five(!) minutes. (Not enough to make it a good photo, but enough to show how fast the process works.)  The photos and effects are clearer if you view a larger image, so be sure to click on each image to see the expanded view.

1. The original photo of a Bryce Canyon sight.

bryce public domain 2

(Click photo to see large view)

2. After applying the shadows/highlights filter.

bryce public domain 2 shadowsl

(Click photo to see large view)

3. After applying the “structured landscape” filter using IntensifyPro (and cropping the edges.)

bryce public domain 2 final

(Click photo to see large view)

As you can see, it can be quite fast to radically improve your images with the right tools. (Did you remember to click on each image so you could actually see the photo?)  I don’t know if this particular photo will be useable for more than an object lesson, but at least it was handy for practicing and demonstrating how to improve public domain stuff.  I just wanted to show you the speed of the improvements.

Yes, IntensifyPro is best used for making good photos great.  MacPhun has plenty of evidence on its site to show how that’s done.  But if it can improve a poor photo this much — in just a few minutes — just think what it can do for so-so public domain stuff and your own mediocre old vacation photos.  I’ll show more on that on a future post.

Photoshop? Filters? What else?

Now, I’m a Mac user and only make brief forays into Windows when I must.  I’m sorry that I don’t know a Windows equivalent of IntensifyPro to recommend.  You’ll have to search that for yourself.  And remember, you can do everything IntensifyPro does just by using Photoshop.  It just takes a great deal longer and requires lots more hands-on experience with Photoshop.

Also remember that there are plenty of filters for both Mac and Windows that do amazing things.  That save you time and work.  That increase your productivity.  If you’ve made the investment of time in learning Photoshop (or GIMP), invest a little more in finding filters that work for you.

I’m for doing things as fast as I can while keeping the quality of what I do as high as possible.  How about you?

Notice: I have no relationship with MacPhun (the makers of Intensify and IntensifyPro) other than being a customer and user of the product.

Is My Cell Phone Smart Enough?

Recently, I reached the point that I knew I had to have a smart phone of some sort, ready or not. I’m trying to redesign and update my website and needed to decide if I should make the site itself a mobile-friendly one or if I should have a separate mobile version. I can’t really do either one without having a smart phone to test it on.

So, as a Mac-lover, I went first to my carrier for an iPhone. I had shopped online, comparing all the various plans from the three carriers that offer iPhones. I thought I understood what I was getting into. I mistakenly understood that “Family Plan” and shared minutes meant “shared on everything.” So, the pricing seemed high, but not unreachable. Then I found out how much it would cost for service to two phones. And other expenses I hadn’t factored in. Because the only thing shared is talk time.

After I picked myself up from the floor and prepared to leave — without any iPhones — the nice young salesman said, “Well, come back and see me when you’re ready to do this.” I replied, “I sure will. Along about the 12th of never.”

Are you kidding me? How do people afford the outrageous costs of these gadgets? Especially families who get them for their kids, too.

Oh well, don’t get me started on the problems I have with American value systems. This is about smart phones.

Anyway, I waited about a month to get over my outrage and looked into alternatives. I found a pretty good one. But it has some drawbacks to go with its positive attributes.

I bought an Android phone for the T-Mobile monthly, no-contract system. I was able to get it for a good price through Amazon.com, and have been pleased with its functioning so far. I figured that for my particular usage, it was best to have something I could try first and see if it worked all right.

I was heartened when reading the reviews of the phone. The first review was titled “Who needs an iPhone?” So, after reading that and the other glowing reviews, I gave it a try. As someone who has an iPad, I was pleased to find that I already know how to use an Android phone because its OS operates much like the iOS.

Of course, my issues with getting an iPhone were about the costs involved with the services (including the costs of insuring an expensive phone.) With the T-Mobile service, I get unlimited talk(!), messaging(!) and data(!) for $50 a month. I still think that’s awfully high. But, there’s no contract. The other services cost so much more and the two biggest have no options for unlimited data.

But wait! Before you jump up and run out to get on T-Mobile, investigate further. Look at their coverage areas compared to the others. They are much more limited. You’re probably o.k. within the confines of most cities, but traveling can be a problem. I’m keeping one of my AT&T regular cell phones so that I can be better assured of getting a connection when I need one. So far, I’ve gotten good service for both voice and data in in my area, but I don’t know how far outside the city that extends.

T-Mobile did make sure to warn me before I got their service that their coverage area is far less extensive than AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. But I’d already made the comparison. Do your research. My smart phone is working well for me. It may not serve your needs.

Meanwhile, my new smart phone is plenty smart. If you want one like it, you can get one at Samsung Exhibit II 4G Prepaid Android Phone (T-Mobile)

Time Saver/Multitasking Tips — Exercise and Use Your Computer

Among the exercises I do, I spend at least 30 minutes daily on either my stationary bike or on a stepper. I prefer the bike, but the stepper has allowed me to put my laptop on a kitchen counter and keep working while exercising.

Recently, I found a great gadget that lets me use my bike and compute at the same time. It’s called the “SurfShelf Treadmill Desk and Laptop Holder” and I got it at Amazon.com.

According to its manufacturer, it fits 99% of all stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers. I can see how it would. It’s very simple to understand and install. Putting it together and attaching it to my bike only took a few minutes.

The SurfShelf people explain that even though it looks like ordinary clear plastic, it is made of 100% Polycarbonate — which is same used to make bullet-proof glass. They assure you it won’t ever break. And just in case you’re not so sure about its quality, they offer a no questions asked money back guarantee.

I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and am very pleased. Basically, it’s like installing a little shelf on your exerciser. You just put your laptop on it and strap in down with the included Velcro strap. Of course, since it is a shelf, you can use it for your iPad, a DVD player or a book. I just think of it for my laptop because it’s so great to reclaim 30 minutes of previously lost work time.

Of course, you don’t have to work. You can surf the web, watch videos, update Facebook, answer emails or anything else that would make exercising more fun.

Get your own at Amazon SurfShelf Treadmill Desk and Laptop Holder.

Here’s a video showing installation and use: