Optics Allows Photographers to Add Particle-Based Effects to Their Photography

As the artificial intelligence race intensifies among photography software companies, Boris FX is filling a completely different niche with their editing software Optics. With their latest release, Optics users now have access to their powerful Particle Illusion generator, which can create thousands of useful emitters like explosions, smoke, fire, and other particle effects. Today, we take a look at the new Optics 2022 release which is available as a plugin for both Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as a standalone application. 

As a photographer who creates images in many different genres including weddings, commercials, advertising, headshots and portraits, and social media work for all of Fstoppers’ platforms, I’m always looking for new software that can help me achieve a final deliverable product quickly and easily. If you follow the Fstoppers Youtube Channel, I’m constantly trying new software and testing new features as they are released. By far, the majority of editing software we test usually focuses on trying to improve what other software companies have been doing for decades.  This includes processing raw files, manipulating exposure, retouching skin, and simplifying complex mask selections. Now and then, we run across a piece of software that attempts to solve a unique problem, and Boris FX Optics is one of those programs.

What Is Optics

Optics is a relatively new program that was just released over a year ago (you can watch my initial review video below). Boris FX, the parent company behind Optics, is a well-established leader in the video and special effects world. Here at Fstoppers, we’ve been using their video effects software Continuum since we first started our YouTube channel back in 2010. When Optics was announced, Boris FX was looking to supply many of these same video effects to photographers so they could easily create effects, colors, and visual assets quickly and easily.

Some of the effects Optics gives photographers since the software was first released include:

  • 600+ historical film stocks and film looks
  • 126 optical lens flares found in Boris FX Sapphire collection
  • 800 gobo lighting patterns and projections
  • Masking tools including EZ mask
  • Lighting effects include light rays, lightning generators, glows, and light leaks
  • Text and graphic design effects 
  • Stylized overlays and grunge effects
  • Blur effects and defocus looks

Of course, Optics can be used to process your camera’s raw files and do basic exposure and color adjustments too, but by and large, the software is aimed at giving you a ton of creative tools that are simply not available anywhere else. 

New Particle Engine for Photo Editing

By far, the most exciting new feature found in the newly released Optics 2022 update is the Particle Illusion generator. This effects processor is a small part of the overall Optics software, but I think it might be one of the most exciting and powerful tools in the entire suite. 

If you click on the Particle Illusions category within Optics, you have access to over 1,7000 particles presets that you can modify and apply to your images. Some of the most useful effects are smoke, fire, water, explosions, dust, sparkles, and some pretty crazy sci-fi effects. In using these effects myself, Optics has done an incredible job at allowing you to manipulate these effects easily with the Parameters field on the right-hand side of the effect, but if you want to dive deeper and change every aspect of the particles, you can click the Launch Particle Illusion button and open a secondary editor that houses every single tweak-able element of the effect. 

In the above image, I was able to add some fog on top of a photo of Lake Matheson in New Zealand. If you followed our Photographing the World behind the scenes, you might remember we hiked an hour into this location 4 days straight to try to capture the mountains, stars, and a reflection on the calm water. Elia Locardi was hoping to also capture the cool fog we saw on day 2 but by our fourth attempt, we were able to capture all of the elements except the fog. Optics makes it easy to add subtle smoke, fog and haze to your images.

In this example above, I took an already snowy scene and added both out-of-focus snow and small, blizzard-type snow. I also added some smoke haze in the background to give a more intense snowstorm feel. 

All these effects can be rendered in real-time, which means each adjustment you make will be unique to your image and not reproduced in other people’s work. Also, unlike buying and comping stock images into your work, these custom-rendered particles are added non-destructively, meaning you can always open Optics and tweak the assets in your projects at any time. 

My Experience Using Optics 2022

As I mentioned above, I find myself producing all sorts of images. Some of them, like my wedding photography, do not require any sort of special effects or rendered elements in them at all. However, at times, I do find myself adding light-painted swooshes, dust, snow, debris, sweat, and other “particle” elements to my work, especially with advertising, commercial, and conceptual work. For these types of images, I’ve found Optics to be a worthwhile plugin to have available in my workflow. Over the last year of using Optics, it has saved me a ton of time and has saved me money from having to buy high-res stock images. 

This software is pretty powerful, and at times, I have to admit it can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t exactly know the direction you want to go with your edits. I’ve spent a lot of time playing around with all the effects and understanding the capabilities of Optics, but that being said, I do know that the time I’ve spent diving deep into the effects has also made the software easier to use and navigate, especially when I need to revisit and edit an effect I’ve used before. 

The pricing model for Optics isn’t that bad either. With Optics, you have two different pricing options: you can either pay for the software outright for $149 or you can pay a subscription fee of $99 per year or $9 a month. I prefer buying the software outright and having those fees upfront, but I do like that you have either option. If you bought Optics in the last year, you can simply install Optics 2022 and gain access to the Particle Illusions engine for free.

Speaking of pricing, since we have a working relationship with Optics (and many other software companies as well), all our readers can use the discount code “fstoppers-optics22” through Boris FX’s Optics website to save 20% on your purchase or subscription. 

The only major complaint I have with Optics is depending on how deep you dive into the software, some of the adjustments can be slow to load. We’ve all used photo editing software that is extremely slow to render and use, and Optics isn’t that slow, but depending on your computer specs, but it can take 5-10 seconds to load certain effects or launch the particle illusion editor. Considering I use Optics as a plugin within Photoshop and usually only spend maybe 5-10 minutes of my edit in Optics on any one photo, I don’t find it to be that big of a deal, but I did want to mention it because at times, it is noticeable. 

Anita Shire

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