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Make Your Pictures Pop and Move

If you’re a Mac user and like to make your pictures pop (and move!), then check this out. Developed in conjunction with HDR guru Trey Ratcliff, Aurora is one of the better dedicated dynamic range editors on the market. It’s worth watching the HDR for Black & White and HDR for Portraits tutorials and downloading the free trial to try it for yourself. When used subtly, it’s a technique that can be applied to more than just landscapes and interiors.

Sunglasses an optional extra 😎

Our jury’s still out on .gif style animated images. With the rise of video content, isn’t it time photographs (literally) moved with the times.?. Or do you you lose the essence of a photograph, a moment frozen in time, in doing so. A more pragmatic view would be there’s room for both, and if you’re producing images for commercial online content, the combination of an ideal sky (using Fluid Mask of course!), some added zing with Aurora, and then adding movement with Plotagraph is undoubtedly going to win you clients. Decide for yourself – this deal gives you a 3 month membership.

Posted on: May 25, 2017 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Discounts & Promotions, Reviews

Jim LaSala featured in LensWork

LensWorkCongratulations to Jim LaSala, whose documentary work in Haiti is featured in the latest edition of LensWork Magazine. As well as an interview with Jim, one of his images also made the cover. LensWork is a bi-monthly print magazine that’s also available as a digital version.. “about Photographs (rather than cameras!)” … how refreshing!

We’ve previously featured some of Jim’s work from Haiti on the Vertus blog, as well as his use of Fluid Mask. You can also see his video masterclass using Fluid Mask in his digital studio on our YouTube channel.

Posted on: May 12, 2014 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Reviews, Testimonials

Explosify Your Workflow!!

rpg_keys_logoWhat are RPG Keys? An award winning programmable custom keyset, compatible with all major image editing software which will drastically speed up your workflow. We’ve got a special deal for Vertus customers, only through this link:      save $48 and get a 60 day trial for just $10!!

What is your time worth to you?  It’s the one thing you’ll never be able to create more of, or claw back.  It’s also finite (you really do ‘spend’ time, so about the most previous commodity we have). The answer for me depends on what I’d doing with that time, and editing and post-processing RAW files does not come high up the list of things I’d like to ‘spend’ my time on. Anything I can do tweaking my workflow to minimise the time spent is a big win as far as I’m concerned, so when I heard about RPG Keys a small lightbulb went on in my head…. It’s now turned into a million watt spotlight! Read more about how RPG Keys works for me below…

What’s the deal? Pay $10 to cover shipping, and you can get the 16 key set on an extended trial for 60 days. You’ve then got the option of continuing to use RPG keys as a subscriber at $19 per month, or buy the keyset outright for $349 (save another $50). There’s no contract, no commitment. If you don’t want to continue using it, just return the keyset after the trial period.

Do the math: I’m saving over 12 hours per month on time spent editing. Signed up on the subscriber model, works out I’m paying $1.47 for every hour I save, and that’s only on simple editing and correction work. I can only imagine what this tool could do for wedding photographers and re-touchers. If someone came to you with the proposition: for every $1.50 you give me, I’ll give you an extra hour in the day, you’d take it, right..?..                   Here you go!!

RPG_Keys002How RPG Keys works for me: A high proportion of my clients are still newspapers and magazines commissioning editorial for print reproduction, so the work they want me to do on the images I deliver is minimal. Adjust exposure and black point / highlights recovery to ensure there’s no clipping in the histogram, tweak shadow / highlight levels , white balance when needed and I’m done.

Despite that, Even the smaller jobs call for 2 or 3 hours editing, doing the minimal adjustments that the delivery spec’ calls for. I was already using the key command short cuts within Aperture, my primary image editing software, and had further customised within the ‘commands’ menu. But it’s the ability to change a slider adjustment value (with a choice of 3 different increments, using the option buttons) with just one press of a button, that’s really sped things up. No more dragging sliders!

It took less than an hour setting up the keypad – assigning functions and slider values to the keys, straight from the RPG presets. Then tweaking that and re-arranging the keys (which handily just pop off, so no need for a second set of blanks). I now have a key-set customised exactly to how I want it. As with any change, takes a bit of getting used to, and perhaps slowed me down initially but it was worth persevering.
I now find myself ‘touch typing’ my way around the 16 key set and have cut my editing time by about one third, and that’s with just about as basic a setup on my keys as you can get. I haven’t even begun to explore the full functionality that RPG Keys offers – programming macros, actions,  etc. If you’re doing more complicated work in Photoshop (more retouching than just correction), I can see that the efficiency saving that could be made using the bigger keyset could be seriously (work)life transforming.

For me, RPG Keys is a no-brainer. I’m working smarter not harder and saving at least 3 hours a week for 48 weeks a year…  that’s nearly an entire working month I now have free to do whatever I want to be doing… which is currently spending time with the new arrivals in my family, and that time is priceless….                  ~ Sam Friedrich,

Check out the RPG Keys demo’ on YouTube

Try the KeySet on a 60 day risk free trial for $10


Posted on: September 22, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Discounts & Promotions, Reviews

Lenstag – helping protect your kit since 2013

LenstagBeing expensive, portable and highly resalable, your Camera gear is mighty attractive to thieves. Lenstag goes some way towards minimizing the ease with which stolen kit can be sold on. It’s a free service that just might reunite a treasured lens or body with it’s rightful owner.

A simple registration process – name & email,  and you’re ready to list the individual items in your camera bag and upload a picture of the serial number as proof or ownership. This is verified by a human and you’re done. Then if the worst happens… you mark items as stolen and Lenstag will create a google indexed listing that will appear in search results should the serial number be searched for. This will go a significant way to making the selling on of stolen gear via auction sites etc just a little bit harder, the developer hopes to one day adapt this system for incorporating into Police databases  – indeed the Finnish police have already endorsed Lenstag unprompted.

So if you haven’t already…  it’s time to Lenstag you gear!!

Posted on: September 10, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Reviews

Painting with Pixels…(the art of Fluid Mask)

“These images are not painted with paint….They are painted with pixels.”

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Digital Artist Michael Flynn uses Fluid Mask to realise his artistic vision:

“Sometimes I see images or get ideas in my head, and not being much of a painter I wondered why not make these images out of existing photos. And so I do.” 

There’s some obvious Dali influences in this one, I’d be willing to bet the old grandmaster of surrealist art would be experimenting with digital art himself if he were around now..

All The Way Down © Michael Flynn

All The Way Down

“Some of the images you see here have samplings from as many as a hundred photos.”

That’s a lot of compositing! Good to know you’ve got Fluid Mask in your arsenal to minimise the time you need to spend masking.

Outside the Box

Outside the Box

You can see more of Michaels’ work at, where you can also purchase limited edition archival Giclée prints.  





Posted on: July 27, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Reviews

The holy grail of camera attachment systems..?

Get 10% off any order over $20 at Peak Design by using coupon code: pdvertus.

Camera Straps. I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘standard issue‘ that comes with my Canon DSLRS’s. Does the job, but often too garish for my liking, there’s times when I’m trying to be unobtrusive, they scream ‘expensive camera gear’, and having spent many thousands on their lenses and cameras, they’d have to pay me if they want me to advertise for them (Canon, I’m open to offers).

Then there’s other specialist companies making camera straps, and I’ve tried a fair few of these. Their selling point is comfort. They’re both wider and thicker to achieve this and also will have some elasticated ‘give’ in the strap. For me that’s also their downfall. Even just walking at a brisk pace tends to start a bounce going within the strap, encouraged by the weight of your camera (worse when you’ve a zoom attached). I tend to carry a camera over one shoulder (so I can carry two), but end result is the camera bouncing off my shoulder, unless I catch it as it goes. Not good! (Can I also not recommend not using metal rings to attach straps to the camera body. Been there, done that, and have the erosion marks etched into the body of a 5dMK1 to tell the tale).

So it’s been a bit like a quest for the holy grail, (or the perfect camera bag, but that’s another, far longer story).. you know it’s out there.. somewhere… well that search maybe over.. Ladies & Gentleman, I give you… Peak Design 

I first came across their products on Kickstarter back in December 2012, looking for a hand leash for my Sony NEX-7 (above). I liked the look of the whole system enough to go for the complete bundle: cuff, leash and capture clip. The whole strap system is built around their anchor points (below, on a DSLR), a quick release system that actually works, removing the fear of accidentally unclipping mid-use which under tension, the old style rucksack buckles are prone to (this has also happened to me previously. Also, not good. At all).

Peak Design Anchor System

This is complimented by their Capture Clip, a reliable quick release system to keep their camera secure but at hand locked to your belt/ rucksack/ wherever.  I don’t do much shooting in extreme conditions, but good design realised using quality materials makes this the only strap and stow system I’ll ever need. For me, mission accomplished. Now I just need to find the perfect camera bag…

~ Sam Friedrich, professional photographer.  

The good folks at Peak Design are offering Vertus customers a deal. There’s a 10% discount on any order over $20 waiting for you by using coupon code: pdvertus at their checkout.

Posted on: May 20, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Discounts & Promotions, Reviews, Testimonials

Focus On: Jim LaSala. How Fluid Mask helps him realize his vision

Jim was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and currently resides in Flemington, New Jersey. Inspired by photographers such as George Hurrell (the master of Hollywood glamour photography during the 30’s and 40’s) and Ansel Adams – “his ability to visualize how the final image will come alive, has certainly helped me in understanding how to take what he has done in the darkroom and apply it to my digital darkroom.” You can see this in Jim’s black&white work (below). As well as a Moab Master, Jim is a multi award winning fine art Photographer. His workflow setup sees him using Adobe Lightroom as a primary batch editing and file management tool and for basic correction…

“My next stop is Photoshop, where I spend the rest of my life (so addicting). It is here where I can take my fine art visions to a new level. There are some third party plugins that I have been using for quite sometime and have been an important part of my process.”

“I guess now I can talk about a subject that always comes up when I am doing programs and workshops. Extraction, masking, removing the background or whatever else you want to call it. I have tried them all. They all seem to have there good points and unfortunately they also fail in other areas. Photoshop’s extraction has come a long way and although they want to be able to be the best in everything, it falls short. OnOne’s Perfect Mask is another program that I just have a hard time mastering……(Fluid Mask) is my weapon of choice. I remember being blown away while watching a demonstration on how Fluid Mask was making extractions painless. My fine art photography may call for replacing a sky or photographing a model with a specific background in mind…This is why Fluid Mask has played such an important role in my imagery. It helps me to realize my vision. The power to handle transparent objects is just incredible. I wish I could tell you that all you have to do is push a button and poof it’s gone, but Fluid Mask is the closest thing to just that.”


“One of the questions I’m always asked is why I always use the plugin version and not the standalone application. Well, its very simple. By using the plugin I have the power of using my history brush to make my extractions as perfect as possible. Another thing to remember is after extracting  your image and you are looking to now use a second file (for ex: a new sky), make sure that you bring the sky into your extracted image. If you move your extracted image into the new sky, you lose the ability to use the history brush…… Lastly, have a plan in mind when extracting. Although I use a powerful tool like Fluid Mask, I’m still going to plan on making my life a little easier. I will be thinking about what the final image will look like. What type of background will I be using. It is then I can determine how to photograph my subject.”

As well as Still life and fine art images, Jim has been passionately involved in documenting the people and their lives in Haiti.


I first became involved with documenting Haiti by accident. I was asked to donate one of my pieces of artwork for a benefit. One Heart for Haiti became involved with helping build a school in a place called Grand Vincent. ….. Well, I found out that they were making a trip there in June of 2010 which was just a few months after the earthquake disaster. The rest is history. I am making my fifth trip there this March. The country and people of Haiti have touched my heart and have given me a whole new look on what hope, love and faith is all about. It has been a tough few years trying to keep the needs of the people of Haiti in the news. I continue to have hope that through my images I can help keep the story alive.”

“Let us not forget the unique profession that we are blessed to be part of. With just a click of a shutter we have the power to make a lifelong statement.”

Wise words indeed. Thanks to Jim for taking time out to talk to us, and sharing how Fluid Mask works for him. See more of Jim’s work at,

We love to hear from Fluid Mask users and share their work and masking tips. Want to be ‘focused on’?? Drop us a line on

All images © Jim LaSala

Posted on: March 17, 2013 Discussion: 2 Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to..., Photoshop, Reviews, Testimonials

Fantastic Fireworks


Sometimes all you need to create unusual images is an understanding of how exposure and focus will affect your capture, and a willingness to experiment. These long exposure pictures were taken by Canadian photographer David Johnson at the Ottowa International Fireworks Show earlier in the year, with the abstract effect achieved totally in camera


He shared with us how he achieved the effect:

“The technique I used was a simple refocus during the long exposure. Each shot was about a second long, sometimes two. I’d start out of focus, and when I heard the explosion I would quickly refocus, so the little stems on these deep sea creature lookalikes would grow into a fine point. The shapes are quite bizarre, some of them I was pleasantly surprised with.”

Davey we applaud your creativity!

Posted on: October 15, 2012 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Reviews

(Re)touching lives through photos

You know how photos and albums are always at the top of any list of ‘what would you grab from your home in the event of a fire?’, well imagine that on a national scale.

Here’s a TED talk worth 10 minutes of anybodys time. Becci Manson is a professional photo retoucher based in NYC. She tells the story of how volunteering in the clean up after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and Tsunami, led to her and local volunteers, together with a global army of over 500 colleagues she recruited online, cleaning and fixing lost and damaged photos found in the wreckage, restoring those memories to their owners.

“[Photos are] our memory-keepers and our histories, the last thing we would grab [in a crisis], and the first thing you’d go back to look for.” (Becci Manson)

Truly inspirational.

Posted on: October 10, 2012 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Digital Imaging News, Reviews

Best of the web – Digital Artists

We’re back, with the first in an occasional but regular look at digital image makers and artists who inspire us.

Natalie Dybisz is better know as her alter-ego Miss Aniela, a self taught fine art photographer based in London, England. With over 5.5 million views and counting of her Flickr Site, she is testament to the power of the internet to bring fresh talent to the worlds notice. In the tradition of the artist turning their gaze inwards, she started her career concentrating on self portraiture but with a modern twist – using composite images, with post production and image manipulation an integral part of the process,  to create often surreal, always interesting and arresting self portraits –

“Self-portraiture has been my passion in photography and is the reason why I got into the art”

Reverie (2008). “Resembles how I felt the other day, when I let the events of the  24 hours glide past me in a day-long reverie.”


Tentilla (2011). “I wanted to shoot something in my garden before the electric autumn colours of the plants subside, but little did I know I would become my own electric plant. I knew the picture was going in a surreal direction, and it took on many forms as I worked on it. On a whim I masked out the top half of my body, and it became a much more powerful shape, the tentacles spoke to me and that was it.”

 Imaging software and masking is just another tool, (like a camera), in the creation of  Miss Aniela’s work, but it’s integral to her creative process –

 “I like the complete independence and control you get with using a digital camera, Photoshop and yourself as a model.”

Their evening banter (2008). “This composite, more than ever, epitomises my general boredom with single shots, here being a complexly-woven society of six clones (five full bodies, but also the ‘one that got away’) trying to emulate the dinner scene in the painting on the wall…. definitely of one my proudest, if not the proudest, composite of mine..”

 “I am an ‘amateur’ who became pro, not through formal training but through sheer curiosity and passion alone. It is a great reward to be able to inspire other people to try the same.”

Miss Aniela is now teaching others, offering workshops in the UK for fashion orientated photography, here’s an image reminiscent of her previous work, and see a video from the day.

You can see more of Miss Aniela’s images on her website and flickr site. We hope that her work will inspire Fluid Mask users, with their creative hats on, to explore the limitless possibilities that digital post production allows.

All images © Miss Aniela, reproduced with kind permission.

Vertus HQ



Posted on: September 28, 2012 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Photoshop, Reviews


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