I’m not one to rely too much on third-party plug-ins. I try to keep things simple, and usually stick with Lightroom and Photoshop. Macphun’s Intensify is an exception. I use it regularly in my workflow. A plug-in for Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Apple Aperture, it is unfortunately only for Mac users.

I use Intensify for three reasons—at times it is quicker than me figuring out similar enhancements in Lightroom or Photoshop; it provides greater controls over adjustments than other plug-ins I have experimented with, and it augments my artistic vision, taking me to the next level in my images.

I initially started to use Intensify, over other plug-ins, because it allowed me to work in layers. I could mask out or include adjustments, use the brush and eraser tools, and change opacity with a slider. I was even able to adjust the size and softness of a brush.

Once I started using Intensify I realized there was a lot of power in its tools. I was quickly and efficiently able to make key enhancements to my images, adding depth and drama while fine-tuning texture and details.

Generally I use Intensify to subtly add enhancements to my images, which is more my style. However the tools are there, when I want to have some fun and go a little more extreme in my processing. See below as examples of subtle changes and a little more extreme.


A Little More Extreme        oxford-compared

Intensify’s adjustments are contained within two panels:  Adjust and Presets.

The Adjust panel includes five categories, each with a series of options controlled by sliders:

  • Basic Tune, adjustments for color, color temperature, exposure and contrast,
  • Pro Contrast, sliders for highlights, midtones, and shadows,
  • Structure, providing enhancements to low contrast areas,
  • Details, options for different sizes of details,
  • Micro-Sharpen, to improve sharpness with radius and de-halo sliders,
  • Vignette,
  • Opacity.

One feature that has made a difference in my images is the “Offset” slider in the Pro Contrast category. Once I adjust for the highlights, shadows and midtones, I use the Offset slider to fine tune each of the Pro Contrast settings.

The Preset panel has exactly what it sounds like, lots of Presets. I counted 71. The Presets are grouped into seven categories, with each category having a number of Preset choices:

  • Architecture,
  • Black & White,
  • Creative,
  • Detail Enhancement,
  • Image Tune,
  • Landscape,
  • Soft.

You are also able to create your own custom preset and group your favorite Presets so that they are easily found.

My Intensify workflow usually begins by going to the Presets. I quickly click through the options, seeing the effect on my image. By comparing the impact of the different Presets on my image, I determine how I want to proceed and what choices I will make. The Presets, when first clicked, are always too strong for me. I adjust the Opacity slider to get closer to the effect I want. After I use the Presets, I go into the Adjust panel and decide if it is necessary to further fine-tune any enhancements.

Once in a while if I know specifically that I want to improve Pro Contrast and Structure, I do the reverse. I go to the Adjust section first, and then to Presets. By way of example, in the following image I did just that.  I used a B&W adjustment in Presets, changing the Opacity of the adjustment, after I made enhancements in Adjust. Again, my changes are subtle.


berlin-street_afterI always work in layers in both the Presets and Adjust panels, creating a layer before I make any adjustment. Then I am able to mask away what I don’t want to include plus I can stack up the layers and use different presets at the same time or break apart Adjust enhancements.

Because I am a long time Lightroom and Photoshop user, I tend to process my images fully in both Lightroom and Photoshop, and then access Intensify through Photoshop. Some of you might prefer to go right into Intensify from Lightroom or Photoshop early in your processing of an image. Even though I will have fully processed my images in Lightroom and Photoshop, nine times out of ten, going through the Preset Sliders, at a very low opacity and masking out changes as necessary, I will improve my image, even if by only a very small amount. By comparing different results, my creative eye looks for enhancements I might not otherwise have considered. This works for photographs of people, not just landscapes or cityscapes. havana-compared

There is no way to really know if a plug-in is for you until you try it. Everyone works differently. My recommendation is to download a trial version and see what you think. It is pretty easy to learn. I suggest checking out the education tools available on Macphun’s website.