I recently went out to the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment Plant, located in Muskegon, Mich. Sounds…smelly, right? Well, there was a reason for this — snowy owls are known to be spotted there. Last year, I went out with fellow Photofocus author Cathy Seaver to check them out, and we found about several of them during our time there. This year, we were excited to capture them again, especially with snow on the ground.

However, we weren’t that lucky this time around. Our search for snowy owls failed, but we did see some other great birds in the process.

The problem was, everything looked so grey and uninspiring. When you’re at a wastewater treatment plant, it’s not like they have pretty trees and clear blue water. Instead, everything is very brown, grey and just…blah.

Enter ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019.

We stumbled upon a large pack of ducks. And when I say large, I mean probably about a hundred or so. As we began looking for perspectives to shoot from, we found smaller clusters of ducks on islands sitting in the water. As I moved up to one, they started to flap their wings and fly away. Now, I’m by no means a wildlife or bird photographer, but I thought this was pretty cool to capture.

Photo out of the camera, unedited

I decided to take this and a few other photos into ACDSee, and see what I could come up with to make them a little more of a piece of art.

Black and white

This year’s ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio release features much improved black and white tools. You can now adjust the contrast of each individual color, and specify the brightness range that the contrast adjustment will target. So, if I wanted to boost up the purple areas of my black and white image, I could do so, and then balance out the contrast for a more suitable image.

You can also add colorization to the image — allowing you to add a tint to your image — as well as adjust the brightness of the colors in your image.


The Effects panel has three areas — Photo Effect, Color Overlay and Gradient Map. Photo Effect works similarly to a LUT (look-up table), where it presents you with a preset of sorts that applies a certain effect to your image. It can change things like color and contrast, or play around with the tone curves in your image, depending on what you select. You can adjust the opacity so it can just have a subtle boost to your image, or you can crank it all the way up for something a bit more unique.

The Color Overlay tool does exactly that — it lets you put a color on top of your image. You can control the opacity here too, so it’s not shining red or blue.

Finally, the Gradient Map tool lets you determine that colors for both the shadows and highlights in your image. You can get really funky here…

Color LUTs

In the Edit screen of ACDSee, you’ll also be able to add a color LUT to your image. Similar to the Photo Effect edit in the Effects panel, this applies a custom look to your image. There are 10 LUTs included with ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate, and you can import your own from literally any source.

In my image, if I add the Film LUT to my photograph, it’ll create some cooler tones along with some darker blacks.

What’s cool is that you can also selectively add a LUT, through either painting it on with the brush or by choosing a gradient. So if I only wanted to apply the Elegance LUT to the lower portion of my photograph, I can very easily do that.

Final thoughts

As you can see, the editing and stylization possibilities are endless with ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019. Between photo effects, black and white conversion and LUTs, you have a great toolset to bring a unique look to your photographs. Combined with the basic RAW editing tools, you can create something that’s truly a work of art.