If you’ve been reading my column for any amount of time, you’re familiar with the fact that I try to give out some great advice on creating fun and cool graphics with techniques that aren’t overly complicated. That’s just my style—the simpler, the better! So for this installment, it’s kind of a 3-for-1 deal: one column, three quick ideas, regarding three applications, designed to do more than increase your graphics knowledge. Enjoy!
APP 1: optikVerve’s virtualPhotographer Photoshup Plug-in
Application No. 1 is Photoshop plug-in virtualPhotographer from optikVerve Labs. Here is the philosophy behind this cool plug-in, according to optikVerve: "virtualPhotographer is designed to allow photographers familiar with traditional camera usage and terminology to easily create photographically rich and artistic results from their digital images."
The first bit of good news is that—regardless of what the company says—you don’t have to know a lick about photography to get awesome results. The bad news for some of you is that it’s not a Mac-compatible plug-in; at present it’s for PC users only. But on to more good news: In one click (you know me, I’m all about one-click productivity) you can change the look of an image to become absolutely spectacular with minimal effort.
To begin, navigate to the company’s website to download the plug-in. Follow the simple instructions for installing and launching. Once installed, you’ll find virtualPhotographer in your Photoshop menu bar under by going to Filters > optikVerve Labs.
Now it’s time to play. Open a photo, and then select the virtualPhotographer filter. Once you’re inside the plug-in, you’ll notice a Presets window (Figure 1, below). Simply choose the drop-down menu and you’ll find all sorts of predefined looks, from Dreamy or Romance to Glamour and Paparazzi. Once you pick a look, you can make simple adjustments by moving the sliders such as Film Speed and Photographic Styles (warm, cool, subtle, etc.) or adding color effects such as Black & White or Sepia.
Everything is customizable, and it’s so easy to use—and the results are so stellar, that you’ll instantly fall in love. Also, if you’re looking for more presets/extras, just head on over to the downloads page and add them to your arsenal. I give virtualPhotographer 10 stars!
APP 2: LogMeIn
Have you ever found yourself away from your studio but needing access to a particular file that’s only available on a machine back there? LogMeIn is the answer, and better yet, it’s free and both Mac- and PC-compatible. BusinessWeek described it as "Simple and secure access to your computer from just about anywhere." I absolutely love this application.
Sure, there are other programs out there, such as Timbuktu, that offer similar functionality, but this one is so simple to use that I’m hooked. Understandably, LogMeIn does have some other "fee based" options that give you more control, but with the free version, I have no trouble logging into my studio computer from home, on location, or even in a different country.
To get set up, go to www.logmein.com and create an account. Once inside the application, you’ll be given the option to add your computer to your list (Figure 2, below). For instance, my studio computer is called "RED." When I log into my account from home I simply click on the icon with that name. LogMeIn prompts me for RED’s password, I type it in, and in a couple of seconds, I’m looking at RED’s desktop, regardless of where I’m logging in from.
LogMeIn also gives you the ability to share your computer with others, do tech support on other people’s computers by sending them an invite, and many other great things. For example, I do a lot of digital signage for a large corporation in Dallas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to access some of my files from home to take care of something for this client. With LogMeIn, as long as I have internet access where I am, I can log in to RED, browse my computer, and email or FTP to my home computer. I can even work in Photoshop from 30 miles away! This is another winner in my book.
APP 3: LinkedIn
How big is your network of friends, family, and colleagues? LinkedIn is another freebie that gives you the ability to connect with others. The concept is that other connections are simply 1, 2, or 3 degrees away from you. For instance, as of today, I have 156 personal connections in my list; that’s my first degree of connection. The reality is that each of those people also has connections—their connections are 2 degrees away from me—that number is roughly 5,500 possible contacts. Hop on over to the third degree (i.e., my friends’ friends of friends) and that number skyrockets to 523,300 possible contacts that I can reach through my network of friends.
To see my personal profile, go to www.linkedin.com/in/lancegray (Figure 3, below). You’ll see my current position, past employment, education, a summary of my business, and one of the best features of all: Recommendations. This is an area where people who you know or have worked with can post recommendations for your work. It’s one thing for me to talk about the great work PixelPops does, but when you have a nice list of past clients telling the world of your wonders—well, that’s just plain awesome!
Again, everything is controlled by you, so you can choose to display however much you want or don’t want people to see. I’ve found that LinkedIn—especially the Recommendations area—has helped many of the prospective clients that call PixelPops to get a sense of comfort, knowing that others are freely sharing their thoughts about us.
LinkedIn also gives you the ability to get icon links for your own website so people can see your public profile. So again, sign up to get a free account (and feel free to "link" to me) and search for other colleagues. As my fellow columnist Shawn Lam summed up LinkedIn’s effect, "By expanding your network, you expand your net worth."
Lance Gray (lance at pixelpops.com) is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas, simply email him.