We all know Red Giant Software from its video effects plug-ins for After Effects and Final Cut Pro, but until now the company did not develop ‘real’ Photoshop plug-ins. With real I mean that in the past you could use some of Red Giant’s plug-ins on images, using a bit of imagination, but you always needed something outside of Photoshop. With the Photoshop plug-ins you get Knoll Light Factory and Magic Bullet Looks functionality inside Photoshop.
Knoll Light Factory allows you to add lens flare artefacts to your project, in this case to your image. Contrary to what you would think, Knoll Light Factory can add some drama to an otherwise averagely interesting photo. More to the point, it allows you to add very accurate effects in terms of blending in with the photographic scene you’re trying to improve.
Knoll Light Factory is a Smart Filter, so it won’t destroy your layer unless you forget to convert the layer to a Smart Filter layer in the first place. The plug-in opens with a large number of presets to choose from, but presets are easily customised using the Master Controls as well as the controls for each virtual lens ‘element’.
What makes Knoll Light Factory really interesting is that it offers a number of capabilities you won’t find in other Filters of this kind. First of all, there’s the Tint Layer. That one allows you to set the hue of the lens flare effect according to the colours in a different layer. You can use the layer of the image you’re improving, which makes the effect blend in with the scene giving it a natural look, but you can also add a wild coloured gradient layer and use that as Tint layer.
What happens is when you drag the lens effect across the image, the hues of the Tint layer will determine the tint of the lens effects, giving it a dramatic look. But Knoll Light Factory doesn’t stop there. There’s also an Obscuration layer. This one depends on a layer below the image layer holding a black and white ‘painting’ of areas that you want the lens flare to be obscured by. The layer will serve as a mask, but can’t be a real mask, oddly enough.
Whatever the reason for this, it sure works easy enough, and the results once again were quite stunning –leaving the scene to look very natural. Finally, there is a background layer that can be used to view the lens effect over a different scene –a gradient colour or solid colour, for example.
After playing around with Knoll Light Factory for a couple of hours, I was really enthused by this plug-in. It gives much better, natural-looking results than any other comparable plug-in I’ve seen so far and it offers more control in those areas that you want to control without adding fluff that only makes the results look amateurish to say the least.
Changing the controls for each lens element immediately shows visual feedback, but I felt little need to change these settings after using the presets, which means Red Giant has done its homework well and has equipped the presets with natural-looking lens effect elements (like the Glow Ball, Spike, etc).
To wrap up this review, I believe Knoll Light Factory is an excellent and valuable addition of a photographer’s tool chest. If you shoot jewelry, or anything else that can do with a bit of visual spice like a subtle or dramatic lens flare, this plug-in does the job while leaving you in control of the end-result in ways that I have yet to see with other plug-ins that offer comparable functionality.