Macphun has given us a number of great photo editing options over the years, such as Snapheal to FX Photo Studio. And just like those two apps, Intensify gives you simple but powerful photo editing tools in a convenient, no-nonsense interface. Aptly named, Intensify is designed to help you bring out the details in your photos, whether it’s recovering landscape details lost to haze or just making an otherwise drab cityscape pop.
Unlike some programs of the HDR editing variety, however, Intensify’s adjustments are natural looking and can be infinitely altered through a powerful combination of sliders and masking.
First things first, as the versions of Intensify can get a little confusing. Intensify is available from the Mac App Store for $30, while Intensify Pro is available from Macphun’s website for $60 (though it usually goes on sale, so keep an eye on that price). The version difference is due to an App Store limitation that prevents plugiins, so Macphun’s solution is about as elegant as you can get. Both apps do mostly the same thing except for one key difference; the Pro version lets you use Intensify as a plug-in from iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements. Obviously the plug-in version is much simpler to use when you have an existing photo management tool like Aperture and need a simple solution for editing.
Once you’ve gotten the proper version installed and the right plug-ins enabled, you can easily pull images from your photo manager into Intensify Pro. There, you have a pretty minimal toolbar setup across the top to control view, side-by-side previews, and masking/layers (more on those in a minute). Over to the right is a palette of seven preset categories and full manual control over four main image elements: pro contrast, structure, details, and micro sharpness.
The presets come in helpfully-labeled batches like architecture, black & white, and landscape, while individual preset names are labeled for easy access based on the type of image you’re editing. Architectural Details is a simple preset that helps you bring out micro details on virtually any building surface like bricks, paint, or even reflected details in water, while the Gloomy Day preset is perfect for enhancing the cloudscapes and washed-out details from inadequate sunlight.
Each preset can then be further adjusted with a suite of slider controls for which Macphun deserves some major props. The sliders not only have a toggle that shows where on the sliding scale a particular adjustment is, but they also use a handy yellow fill to give an approximation of just how much of the control is applied.
A Pro’s Details
With its heavily preset-based interface you’d think Intensify was aimed only at point-and-shoot amateurs, but it’s got the technical chops to be a solid tool for serious amateurs and even some pros. The plug-in architecture provides you an easy way to edit your photos without disrupting your storage scheme, and the app has the ability to read and edit RAW files from most major camera manufacturers, 8- or 16-bit TIFFs, and .psd files, which gives you a pro-level tool with amateur-level ease of use.
The attractiveness of preset-based photo tools is often diminished by their blunt application to an entire image. Intensify Pro offers the ability to easily paint in masks so you can control what part of your image is affected by the preset; either paint in the desired area or erase out the part of an image you don’t want altered. Layers let you further refine your adjustments, so you can apply a variety of presets to a complex scene for the best possible outcome. I didn’t find a preset I liked for architectural details shot on a gloomy day, but applying the Natural Enhance Landscape to the clouds and Architectural Details to the buildings in my shots produced some stunning images.
For the more precise photographer, the ability to roll your own adjustments and create presets is Intensify Pro’s standout feature. Out of the four image elements—Pro Contrast, Structure, Details, and Micro Sharpness—I found the first two to be most useful in really helping my images pop while still looking natural. Pro Contrast gives you very discrete control over the individual contrast of highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in your images, while Structure provides the same discrete control over fine details like the texture of fabric. For many images I turned immediately to these two controls, while relying on Aperture to handle more basic tasks like color temperature, exposure, etc. Of course, I could have done those same things in Intensify Pro, but Aperture’s adjustment stamping ability sped up my workflow.
Macphun offers a trial version of the app to let you test drive it for free, and you can also upgrade an existing version of Intensify to Intensify Pro if you decide you need the plug-in capability. While not a fully featured image editor like Photoshop, Intensify Pro offers plenty of features and a great price without the steep learning curve. If you want to make your images pop without deflating your wallet, Intensify Pro is a solid tool with plenty of advanced capabilities.
Buy Intensify Pro
Provides: Image editing via standalone app or plug-in for Aperture, iPhoto, Photoshop, and Lightroom
Minimum Requirements: Mac with OS X v10.7+ and 4GB RAM