The Best Photoshop Plugins for Photographers
Photoshop is one of the most powerful photo editing programs available. This has been the de facto established industry standard for many years. Other photo manipulation programs and graphics software can offer just as much, but Photoshop has always been a top draw.
Because of its popularity, many developers have created plugins to extend the functionality of Photoshop. These plugins have a myriad of different uses – from brushes and textures to pre-set filters and HDR merging. To show you just what you can do with Photoshop, we have gathered a host of excellent plugins from companies such as Skylum and Topaz Studios.
How Plugins Can Improve Photoshop
You must first understand how plugins can benefit your work on a program such as Photoshop. The best Photoshop plugins will improve your efficiency. You should be able to work faster and get things done in less time.
For example, let’s say you installed Photoshop plugins that contained pre-set filters. Instead of spending hours editing images and applying different effects, you could simply use these pre-set filters and create similar effects in a few seconds. Alternatively, what if you installed a plugin that automatically retouched photos? Instead of removing marks and cleaning up your work, you could use the plugin auto retouch feature and batch process your images!
Aside from efficiency, Photoshop plugins also improve your creativity and options. You can have so much more to play and work with – the possibilities become endless.
Best Photoshop Plugins for Photographers
The plugins for Photoshop we have listed below cover a myriad of different uses. From photo effects and photo filters to black and white photography, textures and more. We feel the plugins represent the best of what you can find for Photoshop and can really boost your photographic editing skills:
1. Skylum Plugins
Some of the best Photoshop plugins come from Skylum. Skylum has an extensive history of creating graphics editing software. Their flagship products Luminar, Aurora HDR and Photolemur all have plugin options for Photoshop.
Luminar is a powerful photo editing program and the plugin for Photoshop does just the same. You can use this plugin to provide enhanced editing capabilities to your photos. It is possible to edit basic photo parameters such as hue, saturation, and contrast. You can also use other tools such as lens correction and noise reduction.
Aurora HDR is one of the best HDR merging programs available. The Aurora HDR plugin for Photoshop allows you to create exceptional HDR snaps in just a few clicks. You can use a myriad of pre-set HDR effects and settings. Alternatively, you can use Aurora’s automatic HDR tool to create the best HDR composite possible from your chosen bracketed shots.
Photolemur is an awesome editing program that gives the user simple automatic edits. The Photoshop plugin can automatically process your photos to create some superb and jaw-dropping results.
2. Fluid Mask 3
Creating a mask in Photoshop is an important skill. Masks are used to either cut sections of a photo out or to apply effects and filters to only certain objects. Vertus Tech has created the Fluid Mask 3 Photoshop plugin. This tool is simply fantastic and provides an unparalleled level of control and accuracy over masks. Using the tool you can easily cut out an object such as people – it even works well with tricky details such as hair and fabrics. It is viewed by many as the best cut out masking tool on the market.
3. Exposure X4 by Alien Skin
Alien Skin has produced award-winning Photoshop plugins – their flagship product is the Exposure X4 plugin for Photoshop. Exposure is an important aspect of photography. You must achieve the right exposure to create a balanced photo. Exposure X4 gives you ultimate exposure control and is certainly one of the best plugins of its kind.
Using these Photoshop filters you can adjust many aspects of your photo. You can alter the highlights and shadows, saturation, hue and brightness. Furthermore, you can also edit the overall exposure of the photo. Finally, you can make improvements to the image quality through noise reduction and sharpness tools. Finally, this tool gives you great photo management features and can really help with your workflow.
4. Topaz Plugins
Topaz Labs are well-known for their excellent range of Photoshop plugins. They have created a myriad of high-quality plugins for use by professionals. There is an associated cost, but the end product is worth it. Topaz DeNoise, for example, is an excellent tool to reduce background noise. You can use Topaz Denoise to use a higher ISO for clearer end results. Alternatively, Topaz Lens Effects can add a myriad of awesome effects such as motion blur, color filters, bokeh and vignette to your images. The full list of plugins are shown below:
- Topaz Adjust
- Topaz B&W effects
- Topaz Clean
- Topaz DeJPEG
- Topaz DeNoise
- Topaz InFocus
- Topaz Lens Effects
- Topaz photoFXlab
- Topaz ReMask
- Topaz ReStyle
- Topaz Star Effects
5. Infinite Color Panel
The Infinite Color Panel is one of the best color plugins for Photoshop. This plugin deals exclusively with the colors within a photo. It can be used to generate stunning and vibrant photos bursting with color. You can use a host of automatic and randomly generated pre-sets with your photos. The renders created are exceptional quality.
Using this tool you can also edit various color properties by using one of the following tools – curves, color balance, selective color, gradient maps, and color lookup. All of these features make color editing a breeze. If you want to use color grading or selective color within your final composites, this tool can deliver.
Editing portrait photos can be time-consuming and a chore. You have to take care of minute details and look for any imperfections. PortraitPro can help reduce your stress whilst developing your portrait photos. These Photoshop filters and tools can retouch your portraits in no time at all. There are four different tools available – introduction, skin smoothing, makeup, and advanced layers.
The skin smoothing tool removes any blemishes and imperfections, it can also remove unwanted wrinkles – this is excellent for professional portrait shots. Alternatively, the makeup tool lets you apply simply makeup to your subjects such as lipstick and eyeshadow. Finally, all of this is possible through an advanced layers management tool.
7. Nik Collection
The Nik Collection is a set of plugins developed by DxO. There are 7 plugins in total, each of which has something different to offer. The plugins include:
- Color Efex Pro
- Silver Efex Pro
- Analog Efex Pro
- HDR Efex Pro
- Sharpener Pro
DFine, for example, is a tool that can help with noise reduction – using this plugin you can remove background noise from photos whilst retaining the quality. Alternatively, the Silver Efex Pro tool gives you black and white functionality. You can use the Adobe plugins pre-sets to change your color photos into stunning B&W composites.
8. Digital Film Tools Plugin Collection
Digital Film Tools is a producer of magnificent photo effects and Photoshop tools. They currently have a catalog of 10 different plugins for Photoshop. First, we have the “Rays” plugin. If you have photos that include natural sunlight, you can use Rays to create awesome light rays from this light source. Secondly, we have the “PhotoCopy” plugin. If you have a particular filter or style you like, you can copy and reuse it using this plugin. Thirdly we have the “light” plugin. This awesome tool can be used to add natural light sources to photos that do not have any. These are just a few of the tools and there are many more in this collection.
9. Filter Forge 8
Filter Forge has gone through many iterations and the current version is Filter Forge 8.0. These best free Photoshop plugins give fantastic functionality in a range of features. There is a filter editor, online filter library, tiling texture creator and filter maps to name a few. If you need to apply textures and renders to your photos then this is a great choice. You can easily apply photo effects and photo filters using a few clicks.
The textures are fantastic and cover a range of natural and man-made materials such as fabric, metals, and woods. Moreover, you can apply some awesome pre-set photo styles to your images such as a watercolor effect. This plugin is really easy to use and can also be used as a standalone program too. In total, you have access to over 12,000 different effects and textures.
PSKiss (Photoshop Kiss) is a superb developer of the best Photoshop plugins. They offer a multitude of different best plugins from image filters and photo effects to black and white filters and color profiles. If you look through their shop you can see just what exciting Photoshop plugins you can find.
The Night Palletes plugin, for example, gives you a range of pre-set edits suitable for creating gorgeous night shots. Alternatively, the Mono-Tone 1 Presets are perfect for marketing and artistic shoots – you can convert your images into a myriad of mono-tone styles. Finally, another example is the Preset Bundle for Lightroom and Photoshop. This contains some excellent portrait filters that can add extra depth to your human-based photos.
11. Kubota Image Tools
Whilst working with photos you may have to create promotional material, artistic shots or marketing. To add style and substance to your photos, you can add textures, borders, actions and more. Adding those is an easy way to make your photos look artistic. Kubota Dashboard allows you to access hundreds or creative tools instantly.
For example, Texture Tools Industrial from the Kubota Market is a fantastic photo filter set that can work your photos into something exceptional. There is 50 texture to choose from in total. Each texture represents a different metal surface. Examples are textures include Barium, Bezerk, Zinc, Xenon, Uranium, Spin and Sulfur. Each texture is high quality and can be applied easily.
Furthermore, you can change the opacity, tone down the color, and paint the filter as you see fit.
12. Layrs Control 2
When using Photoshop, you have to work with layers. By using layers you can manipulate different objects and parts of your photo without disrupting the whole image. Layrs Control 2 is an awesome plugin specifically created for layer management. If you are working with photos that have a multitude of layers, these plugins for Photoshop will really help.
Using Layrs Control 2 you can easily manage your layers. There are several different tools within the plugin include layer name editor, remove unused layers, flatten all effect layers, delete empty layers and rasterize smart objects. As you can see, tools such as delete empty layers can really help clean up your photo management.
Guides are an important part of Photoshop. Guides can help with image element alignment. Moreover, they can help with image balance and ensuring that vertical and horizontal lines are straight. Griddify is a simple but highly effective tool that allows you to overlay a range of custom grids to your Photoshop workflow.
Out of the Photoshop plugins for photographers featured this is one of the most functional. You can apply different grids in a matter of seconds. This can help with your photography composition and editing. It is possible to choose from a myriad of pre-set grids that suit different types of photos such as Wide Angle and portrait.
14. Ximaic Photoshop Plugin
Image noise can be a huge problem for photographers. Background noise can make a photo appear poor quality and grainy. Ximaic Photoshop Plugin can help eliminate background noise and is a superb noise reduction tool. This complex noise reduction plugin has seven different modes available – media, Gauss, DWT, CWT, DCT, NLM, and Non-linear.
Each different setting allows you to reduce noise in a different way. It is possible to fine-tune each setting to and adjust just how much noise reduction is applied. The main point is that image quality is not compromised. Other plugins offered by Ximaic include the Quantizer, GrayDither and ColorDither toolboxes.
15. Mehdi Plugins
The Mehdi plugins are a fantastic selection of Photoshop plugins for photographers. These filters for photos and effects have been created by a French development company. Each different filter is simple but can change your images in a superb array of ways. One of the best free Photoshop plugins within this set is the Contrast Balance 1.1 plugin. Using this tool, you can edit the contrast of your photos. You can use a myriad of sliders to create an improve end-photo. The following are some of the other plugins available within this package:
- Absolute Color
- Curves 3
- Edges Fix
- Grain Natural 2
- Eraser Classic
Absolute Color, for example, is a simple but effective Photoshop plugin that can totally transform the color of your photos. Sometimes, you may want to change the color of selective objects – by using an absolute color you can perform this task.
When using the plugin, you are presented with a hex color swatch – it is divided into 6 sections – click on one section to restrict the colors within it. There are two different settings within the plugin – preserve lum and invert hue – these give additional usability. Although Absolute Color is a simple plugin, it really does create a powerful end effect.
16. ON1 Resize & Effects Plugins
ON1 is actually a powerful photo editing program in its own right. They also create plugins for Photoshop – resize and effects. Both of these Photoshop plugins are powerful and bring convenience to your editing workflow.
ON1 Effects is a fantastic Photoshop filters plugin. By using this plugin you gain access to hundreds of pre-set filters within a single click. The filters are categorized into different sections such as landscape, black and white photography, faded & matte, film and hipster. It is possible to alter the parameters of each filter too which gives excellent control.
ON1 Resize is the essential image resizing tool. If you are working with different print media then this is one of the best plugins available. You can quickly resize your images to a variety of resolutions in a few clicks.
17. GRFX Studio Pro
Auto FX Software presents their fantastic GRFX Studio Pro Adobe plugins. This is an excellent piece of software that is compatible with both Windows and MAX devices. It is built for speed and power and can utilize a computer’s processor to make editing on Photoshop a breeze. Within the GRFX Studio plugin, you can find a staggering number of pre-set filters. You can apply these filters with a single click and transform your photos into something fantastic. Filter groups include black and white photography, edge wipes, vignettes, monochrome, color expressions and more. The filters are grouped into categories and can fulfill a wide range of photographic styles.
There you have it – 21 fantastic free Photoshop plugins for photographers and more. Why not give one or more of these Photoshop plugins a try? If you work regularly with this program you can benefit greatly from their usage.