studio artist presets


These images are my attempt to get a photographer’s perspective on Synthetik’s rather brilliant piece of software, Studio Artist 4.0.4. The package contains a rich selection of presets that can re–present a photograph. I’ve tried to catch those presets here.

Dive right in by using the menu on the right.

A photographer’s perspective

image: an image

If I were to take a photograph through a piece of muslin, or net curtain, I’d get a smeared white overlay on the image. It’s got a rather dreamy quality. This is an effect. Photographers are always interested in effects, for both artistic and technical reasons. Some effects are made when the photograph is taken, or when it’s subsequently processed—and it’s very important to avoid the ones you don’t want. Normally, an effect is applied to the entire image.

From a photographer’s perspective, Studio Artist is a package of sophisticated and rather clever artistic effects. As a photographer, I want to know what it can do to an image.

The problem with effects

There are a good number of packages on the market to provide special effects to photographers. In my personal opinion, these can be categorised to:

— solve technical problems;
— recreate analogue effects, such as grain;
— digitise darkroom effects: cropping, correction, etc.;
— lazy copy–the–crap me–too stuff.

It’s the latter category that annoy me. These effects are marketed with the claim they provide creative tools to the photographer, but they always seem to be tired me–toos, offering much the same absence of ideas as the other guys. They almost always market the product using the word creative, yet there’s nothing creative in copying another company’s rubbish. They are to photography what alternative medicine is to health.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, if this were a serious piece of writing, I’d come up with some examples of what I’m complaining about. But it isn’t, and, anyway, I’ve been inspired by the copy–king laziness. Actually, this piece is about what I do like, not what I don’t.

image: an image

I find the real world offers more interesting effects that most of these products. For example, all the images on this page are photographs. The only effects applied are dark room effects: cropping, straighting, and contrast. I find the results far more interesting than effects packages, and all I did was what every photographer ought to do, I opened my eyes.

My photography uses mold, windows, water, and other real world things. For a long time, I’ve wanted to find a way to reproduce the same process on images of my choice. Most commercial effects packages offer a deeply unimaginative and dull range of rien: they offer nothing. Most, but not all.

The exception I’ve found is Synthetik’s Studio Artist. Synthetik offers espresso to their competitors’ dishwater. They offer antibiotics to their competitors’ homeopathy. Perhaps this is because Studio Artist comes from a completely different place to the photography software companies. Perhaps it is because the company was created by someone who is clearly passionate about his subject.

Studio Artist is a rich and sophisticated package. What I do here is castrate and hobble the potential of their product. You do not see the process by which these images are created. You rarely see the components that create the images. I make no effort to control the effects, I use the defaults throughout. The presets are designed to be combined, I’ve combined nothing.

It is the only package I know that might offer me the chance to make my choice of photographs moldy, and do so in a couple of minutes rather than twenty years. Perhaps I could chose what reflections to put in the skyscapers’ windows without having to build a 200 metre thing–to–be–reflected first. Perhaps I could chose which reflections appear in the water, perhaps I’ll no longer be limited to fixed examples of architects’ brilliance. Perhaps I can define the water’s behaviour, rather than waiting for the right waves in the right wind in the right light—and that’s an example of the real reason why many photographers are interested in, and disappointed by, many supposédly creative effects.

In Studio Artist, you can design and implement your own effects. Perhaps I might explore this in my own work. There are some things I want to do that I’ve been unable to do, such as follow up on my moldy photographs. This product might be my route forward. I don’t know.

Where might this go

There’s often a group of people who hold that such–and–such technology doesn’t represent the true art, whatever that art is. I agree it’s important not to lose existing skills, but I go no further: my head is simply too big to fit in the luddite bucket (yup, I said that: after all, this site is called arts and ego).

Studio Artist offers the adventurous photographer many roads. One road it does not offer, though, is to turn a photograph into a painting. An essential part of a painting, particularly an oil painting, is the physical texture of the paint. It will be a few years yet before printing technology can offer both texture and colour. Right now, you can use ordinary printers for full colour, and 3D printers for texture, but not both together. That will come, but it’s not here now. I am where I am.

Studio Artist does give the photographer access to the appearence of texture. That I can use. Texture says something.

I do intend to explore programming of presets at some point. There’s some natural effects I’ve photographed that I’d like to be able to reapply to any image, not just that happened to be there at the time. I don’t know whether I can recreate any of them with Studio Artist, but I intend to try.

The process

image: an image

All the presets were applied to the same base photograph, which you see here. It’s a reflection of Raymond Moretti’s “Le Moretti”, a statue at La Défense, which I took in May 2014.

I let each preset run until the canvas was covered, or it had finished. I often repeated a preset that left a lot of whitespace, so some images are versions of their predecessors.

Entropy seems to be an important part of some presets. When certain presets are run, the results may differ from a previous run of the same preset with identical settings. That’s one reason why these images are a guide to the feel of a preset, not an absolute statement of what the preset produces.

Partial application

It’s not unusual for the darkroom process, or its modern digital equivalent, to apply an effect to a particular part of an image. For example, an interesting corner may be overexposed because it was in the sun, so that part of the photograph is carefully underdeveloped when printed. An effect does not have to apply to an entire image to be important.

Studio Artist is perfectly capable of applying effects to a chosen region of an image, and allows you great control over the application, too, through the use of a stylus (which is much better for detail than a mouse).

However, the goal here is to show what particular presets can do, so I’ve not selectively applied them. Each preset is applied to the entire image, without intervention beyond controlling start and stop. I want to let photographers see what Studio Artist could do to their photographs.


These reference images are organised as per Studio Artist 4.0.4. The presets were reorganised after that release. The sections can be found in the menu to the right. Each section has a number of categories, which themselves contain images produced by the presets. Many categories have a number of pages of images. The menus expand and contract to reflect those categories and range of images.

These reference images only give a hint of the capabilities of the software. I’ve made no attempt to mix textures, direct or control the presets, record any movies, or do anything of the many other things that can be done. I simply want to catalogue the basics before I go on to explore the potential.

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