The Soft(ware) Machine


Alas, the classic Black Cat edition of Burroughs’ novel is missing from my library.  Not sure what made me think of it, but I was working on the image below in Photoshop, using the wondrous Magic Bullet plug-in PhotoLooks and thinking how the PC is a dumb machine…it’s software that performs all the magic. Strip away the cryptic code and mutant poetry and your laptop is nothing but a paperweight. So I was thinking “magic,” not the viral mayhem that throbs inside the works of William Burroughs. Free association, I suppose—and worth every penny.


But the real subject at hand—Magic Bullet PhotoLooks—does bend the mind a bit. If you’re familiar with the sparkling array of software from Red Giant Software  for digital video then you’ll adapt quickly to the cinematic nature of the effects and their application. The above photo of a hub cap shard  found on the highway is treated to the “Star Filter Tight,” while below I explore the infinite possibilities of ”Deep Copper.”


The danger of launching Looks lies in the discovery of a wow-ism, i.e., a particular “look” that so mesmerizes that you’re compelled to overuse it. Indeed, I’ve applied the “Star Filter” to several recent photos for Zoom Street. In my own defense I must say the effect worked perfectly and elevated the design several notches. That said, you may hear me scream—“Stop me before I filter again!”—thanks to the addictive properties of this application. Addiction? So that’s what summoned the memory of The Soft Machine.


And as you can see, I discovered a very appropriate “look” for the above cover variation.


The combination of presets and customizable tools makes this application enormously powerful. It’s not surprising that it includes a collection of “Horror” looks, since the plug-in is like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, filled with delightfully wicked possibilities for bringing a dead image back to life.

I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Magic Bullet PhotoLooks has the inner eye (and the soul) of a photographer. Its optical processing engine calculates light values in the same way that real light and lenses behave so you can fine-tune and make subtle tweaks that heighten impact without appearing like a “special effect.” If you want Hollywood effects they’re here, but so much more.

Alas, describing the process of using this software pales in comparison to “entering” this unique realm for yourself. Head to the link below and a great discovery (if not downright addiction) awaits you.