We quite liked onOne's Phototools 2 when we reviewed it back in July, but if you're still not convinced you may want to try the free Lite version of the software first...
OnOne Phototools 2 Lite
We quite liked onOne’s Phototools 2 when we reviewed it back in July, but if you’re still not convinced you may want to try the free Lite version of the software first. It looks and acts exactly same, but with just 15 filters included it serves as more a taster of the full program.
The download isn’t available as a standalone option – instead it plugs in to versions of Adobe Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom. And while the full version’s effects are more geared towards professional portrait photographers, those included here are decidedly more in the fun category.
Among these there’s one for simulating a cross-processing effect (be it E6 to C41 or the other way round), and a separate one for the Kodachrome effect, while the Impressionist filter gives images an instant Monet treatment. Best of all, you can apply these in any combination you wish and adjust the strength of each, for some truly unique – if not always successful – effects.
There are some more sober options, too. The Digital Fill Flash filter does a stellar job of lifting shadowy areas – ideal for slightly underlit portraits – while the Graduated Blue option offers three degrees of strength to give blue skies a little more depth. There’s also a surprisingly good instant HDR filter for those not wanting to go through the more traditional and time-intensive tone-mapping route.
Considering the raft of filters and processing options already available in CS versions of Photoshop, the software is unlikely to add any real value in itself, so it really is best viewed as an introduction to the full version. In any case, when you consider that it's free it would certainly be cheeky to expect anything more.