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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Auto FX GRFX Studio Pro: A Brief Review

I own Auto Fx Gen 2, which I utilize from time to time as a Photoshop plug in. I won’t say that I am a ‘power user’, nor do I own all the available modules that can be utilized within the software. I have used it mainly for its ability to apply light beams and weather effects, though it can do much more - however, for me those seemed to be the standout effects that were not easy accomplished by other software programs that I am familiar with.

Gen 2 is being ‘retired’, as it reportedly will not be functional with the new Mac operating system. I am glad to say that Gen 2 still seems to work perfectly on my Windows 10 / Photoshop CC 2019 system. However, while all support is going to be discontinued for this software, there is currently a sale on their new software version - GRFX Studio Pro - with an offer to try it free for 30 days.

So I decided to give the trial version a whirl. What follows is my opinion only……to me it felt like unfinished software.

First, the older Gen 2 software works on 16 bit images, but not as a smart filter. I expected this new rewritten upgrade to function as a smart filter, but, alas, it doesn’t. At least not yet, though the company says that they have such functionality planned for the future.

Secondly, another significant problem in my mind is that the plug in doesn’t ‘respect’ color spaces or profiles. Therefore, when you open an image in the plug in it looks visibly different than it does in Photoshop and yet the software offers color effects that one can apply. But how will they look back in Photoshop? The colors of the image visibly change when the effect is applied and it is brought back into Photoshop and into a color managed workflow. Well, that is a bit unsettling, especially when one can’t go back and readjust the effect as a smart filter.

Thirdly, I just find the older version easier to use. If I am uncertain as to the purpose of a certain slider or control I can just hover over it with my cursor and get helpful tool tips. Not so in GRFX Studio Pro….and some of the slider labels are not necessarily intuitive (though they are the same as the older Gen 2). Also, at least on my system, some of the drop down menus are a bit buggy. Though they sometimes drop down cleanly and hide what they ‘drop down’ over, more often than not they drop down without being ‘opaque’ and obscuring what is behind them, thereby making them difficult to read because the labels are interspersed with the words and controls they drop down over. By no means a deal breaker and perhaps limited to just my system…..hard to know.

Another little irritant is that midway through the trial Auto Fx released an update and included more free effects. It was then that I noted that there is no ‘search for updates’ button within the software that I could find!

Finally, I did not see a way to ‘port over’ any modules from Gen 2 to the newer software. I suspect that such modules will likely be offered for purchase in the future. Even better would be if they were free of charge as updates to the software, but perhaps that is hoping for too much. We shall see.

In this ‘day and age’ premium priced software should, in my opinion, be functional as a smart filter and respect color management. I can see upgrading to GRFX Studio Pro if Gen2 is software that you find very useful (and for some things it really is) and you utilize an operating system on which the older Gen2 will no longer function. As for me, am going to continue to use Gen 2 (which also doesn’t function as a smart filter etc) as it seems to work on my system. I might have purchased the software for the excellent light beam/ray generation functionality alone if I did not already own the Gen 2 software. However, given my situation, I have no plans to purchase GRFX Studio Pro unless and until it is improved considerably.