Updated on 5/20/2014 – Version 1.0.2
Intensify enables photographers of all skill levels to create powerful images using precision tools for enhancing detail. By offering superb control of contrast, structure, detail and sharpening across tonal ranges, Intensify is able to reveal otherwise hidden details and deliver the highest quality results no matter the style of image.
Intensify is the first product in a new line-up of softwares by McPhun targeted at professional photographers, and is available in two versions: Intensify sells for $19.99 and is only available on the Mac App Store; Intensify Pro, which adds the ability to run as a plug-in to popular host applications as well as several other features, has a suggested retail price of $59.99.
Intensify was named to Apple’s Mac App Store “Best of 2013” list and has ranked among the top 10 paid photography apps in the Mac App Store since its initial release in November 2013.
Even though MacPhun Software sells Intensify Pro as a detail enhancement software, what I find it is a complete package of image enhancement. In fact, Intensify Pro supports layers, smart brushes, RAW file format, and has tools that range from basic image tuning to various levels of contrast, detail and sharpness enhancements.
Intensify Pro in Action
When you open Intensify Pro, you are presented with a clean and well laid out interface. On the top there is a navigation bar with common zooming tools, a pup-up navigation window and before/after buttons. On the top right there are undo/redo buttons, and a set of four tools: the Hand Tool for moving your entire image within a window, the Draw Mode, the Erase Mask and the Gradient Tool.
Using the Draw Mode and the Erase Mask, you can craft masks using brushes. You can set brush size, opacity and softness, and you can clear and invert the mask. You can also toggle a show mask button that shows a red overlay of your mask over the image. The Gradient Tool allows you to create, well, gradients in your masks. This set of tools is very similar to Lightroom masking capabilities.
The masking capabilities are quite good, fast and reliable. This, paired with the layering capabilities of Intensify Pro, allows quite complex adjustments to images. What I miss here is a sort of feature like Lightroom’s auto mask or Perfect Photo Suite’s smart brush, and this could be a nice addition to a future release. Also, unlike Lightroom’s gradient tool, once you’ve positioned your gradient and applied it, you can’t move it anymore, but you can always reshape it using brushes.
On the right column of the interface there is the “core” of the software. On the top there is a layers panel where you can add and remove layers, set their opacity and toggle their visibility. Under the layers panel there are two buttons to switch from a presets view or an adjust view.
There is a good number of presets organised in folders. However there isn’t a preview of presets, but they’re applied instantly when you click on them. Also, under each preset there’s an opacity slider to tune their intensity. The default presets are quite over the top for my tastes, and they’re unusable at their default opacity, but they may be a good starting point. Obviously you can create your own presets and folders.
The Adjust view is where the “beast” is hidden. The depth of control over your image is amazing!
The first two panels are basic and common to a lot of softwares. You can fine tune colour temperature, exposure, overall contrast, highlights and shadows, vibrance and saturation. Quite identical to Lightroom’s Basic panel in the Develop module. There isn’t a colour picker to set the white balance though.
After this Basic Tune panel, there are the three core panels of Intensity Pro: Pro Contrast, Structure and Details.
In Pro Contrast you can adjust the contrast separately according to tonal ranges. You can set the contrast for highlights, midtones and shadows. Also, under each slider there’s an offset slider to adjust the median value for the contrast tonal range.
It is intimidating at first and it takes a while to understand that offset slider, but after a little trial and error, the power of this contrast controls allows you to set the contrast precisely in a way no other tool allows you to do. Even the Pro Contrast filter in Google’s Nik Color Efex Pro isn’t as deep as Intensify Pro!
Structure and Details
Structure allows you to enhance low contrast areas of the image, helping reveal texture and details. You can control two levels of it: global and micro to target small or really small elements of the image.
You can control it separately for highlights, midtones and shadows (if you’ve used Google Silfer Efex Pro you know what that means). A softness slider allows you to set how soft or crisp this details should be, deciding how artistic or realistic the image is.
Details allows you to make the image crispier. You can act globally, on highlights or shadows on small, medium and large details. I find the effect of Details is quite strong, and it’s easy to overdo it. To obtain a natural effect I use it sparingly. However, the amount of control you have here is intimidating (in a good way!).
The Adjust view also contains a Micro Sharpness panel that allows to sharpen the image, and a Vignette panel to fine tune a vignette effect on the image. I don’t think I will ever use them in my own workflow, but they can be useful in some cases.
What’s new in the 1.0.2 release
The new Intensify release adds additional RAW file support for more cameras, more fully integrates features from Apple’s latest Macintosh OS (Mavericks), introduces the MacPhun Print Lab (powered by MILK Books) and adds the ability to export images to SmugMug, increasing the software’s sharing capabilities.
This is a small update. The big improvements are in the sharing capabilities with SmugMug and the MacPhun Print Lab, which I don’t think are really useful to the professional photographer. Being Intensify Pro an addition in the workflow (not a substitute for Lightroom or Aperture), I think they should focus in improving the editing capabilities rather than integrate it with SmugMug and such. This is a free update, so it’s ok. We’ll wait for the version 2.0 for something exciting.
Beware of colour spaces
MacPhun has solved the color spaces issue I pointed out on the initial release, and now it works correctly with ProPhotoRGB!
Before concluding, I want to write about a strange behaviour in handling colour spaces that looks like a bug. If you work in ProPhotoRGB in Photoshop, you can open correctly the image in Intensify Pro, but when you send it back to Photoshop, it somehow fails to save it with the correct profile, and you have to convert it manually. This tells me Intensify Pro doesn’t work in the original colour space of the image, and I don’t like it! This happens only with ProPhotoRGB. I tested it with AdobeRGB images and it worked well. I hope MacPhun will fix this soon, because if they want to target professional photographers, they should know they much prefer to work in ProPhotoRGB for masters (a bigger colour space), and convert in sRGB only when exporting image copies for the web.
Intensify Pro is a great piece of software. Even though it doesn’t have groundbreaking technologies built in, in fact all the functions are already seen here and there in other plug-ins, Intensity Pro allows an unprecedented depth of control over contrast and detail in a single package.
It’s incredible, and quite intimidating, how deep the controls in Pro Contrast, Structure and Details go. Add to this the snappy performances and stability of the software, and you know that MacPhun has done a great job for its first professional package.
Here is a sample before/after of a recent image of mine, on which I tested
You can buy Intensify Pro here with a 10% discount using the coupon “DAVIDE2014”.
About MacPhun Software
MacPhun Software is a California based Mac app developer focusing on consumer photography and professional digital imaging markets, serving over 22 million customers worldwide.
First established in 2008 with a mission to create innovative photography software, Macphun’s products such as ColorStrokes, Snapheal, Focus 2, Intensify and Fx Photo Studio are consistently ranked among the top 15 in the paid photography category on the Mac App Stores around the world. The company has recently launched another new app–Lost Photos–a unique free app that enables anyone to re-discover forgotten photos in their email, save them to a folder on Mac or share via social networks.
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Disclaimer: if you purchase the software using one of the links in this article, I might earn a commission. Rest assured that my review is honest, and that it express my real opinion of the product.