topaz

4 July 2014

Topaz Detail Review

Posted in: review, topaz|

If you follow my blog you probably know that I use Topaz Plug-ins quite a lot. Today I would like to review one of them – Topaz Detail which I often use for sharpening and enhancing details in my images.

Honestly speaking, for a long time I wasn’t big fan of Topaz Detail – results I got from it where often grungy and my images didn’t look realistic. So I preferred to use other tools to enhance details in my images. However, after I learnt to use it properly my images became much sharper and now contain more detail.

What is Topaz Detail for?

Topaz Detail plug-in, currently in version 3.2, is a tool for enhancing details in your images. From small textures, to larger detail like droplets in macro photos, to very large like rocks in mountain scenery or features of a building. I use it mainly for landscape and architecture photos but it works really well also for animals or portrait photography what you will see in a few seconds. Basically it suitable for any kind of photography where there are details that you would like to make more pronounced.

Apart from ability to enhance details Topaz Detail also allows to improve exposure, tones and colours in the image. Most of the time I don’t use this feature (as I have other tools for that) but it’s a nice addition for people not having other plug-ins that deal with colours and exposure like Topaz Adjust or Nik Color Efex for instance.

User Interface

Interface of Topaz Detail 3.2
Interface of Topaz Detail 3 is very pretty and intuitive. On the left you can see presets, in the middle there is preview image and on the right there are adjustments. In the bottom-left corner of preview image there is also a preview for currently selected preset. Note that this preview goes away as soon as you move your mouse from the preset name.

GUI is very nice and similar to other Topaz Plugins so if you’re familiar with them, using Topaz Detail will be very easy for you. And even if you haven’t used any plug-in from Topaz team you will quickly understand how to use it as GUI is very intuitive.

It can be broken into a few sections:

  • On the left there is a window listing presets, both built-in and custom ones. For convenience presets are grouped into a few categories (you can create your own too) like Creative Detail Collection or Stylized Detail Collection,
  • In the middle there is a preview image showing effect of the adjustments. Of course you can zoom in and zoom out,
  • On the right there is a window with sliders that let you adjust details in your image very precisely.

You can adjust strength of small, medium and large details separately what gives great flexibility and power. I mainly adjust small and medium details, what when done right has the effect of sharpening the image, because increasing strength of large details seems to increase clarity of the image and to control clarity I prefer to use Topaz Clarity as it gives me more control.

Moreover you can limit your adjustments to shadows or highlights. And finally you can create layer mask limiting scope of the effect even further.

I mentioned built-in presets above. As any other Topaz plug-in, Topaz Detail comes with a collection of presets to get you started.

Is it a rose without thorns?

No, life is never that beautiful 🙂

First of all I love to be able to compare before and after images side by side to see the effect of adjustments I’m making. However, in Topaz Detail it’s not possible. What’s surprising is that such a feature is available in some of the other plug-ins, eg. Topaz Adjust and Topaz Clarity. You can still see image without adjustments but I just prefer to see Before & After side by side.

One more issue I found is that sometimes preview doesn’t look like the final image (despite previewing adjustments at 100% magnification) – enhancements in Topaz Detail seem to be stronger than the final effect.

Summary

Time for a short summary. Topaz Detail is an excellent tool if you want to enhance details in your image or sharpen it. Results produced by this plug-in compared to eg. unsharp mask filter from Photoshop are virtually free from halo artifacts. That’s why it recently became my favourite tool for sharpening.
Pros:
  • Great and halo free results,
  • Ease of use,
  • Nice and intuitive GUI,
  • A lot of built-in presets,
  • Ability to apply effect only to highlights or shadows, as well as to create custom mask,
  • Ability to edit tones and colours in the image.
Cons:
  • Lack of compare button to show original and processed image side by side,
  • Preview and final images sometimes differ.

Sample photos

Below you will find a few samples. Images show effect of using Topaz Detail 3.2. To see how they looked before applying it, just move mouse pointer over selected photo – original image will be shown:
8 December 2013

Topaz Clarity Review

Posted in: landscape, mountains, review, Tatra, topaz|

Topaz Clarity review
In this case I also used Topaz Clarity to add some pop to the image.

As you could realize, I use a lot of tools during my post-processing. Apart from Photomatix, Lightroom and Photoshop which I use virtually every time, there is a bunch of other tools that are important to my workflow although I don’t use them for all images.

Among such tools are filters from Topaz Labs including Topaz Adjust and Topaz Detail.

Recently Topaz added a new tool to their impressive collection, named Topaz Clarity. What this filter does is increasing (or decreasing) clarity of the image. If you’re familiar with Lightroom than you definitely know about Clarity slider in it. It’s pretty powerful, isn’t it? Well, it is but Topaz Clarity puts increasing clarity to a completely different level.

Topaz Clarity user interface
User interface in Topaz Clarity is very simple and intuitive with presets on the left and settings sliders on the right.

Instead of a single slider, Topaz Clarity offers as many as 4 sliders, each of them targetting different contrast variations – from very low variations to large ones. It makes it very flexible as this way you have much more control over the way clarity is applied to your photos. I usually just change values of Micro Contrast and Low Contrast Sliders – other 2 (named Medium Contrast and High Contrast) I leave at default values.

And the results are truly impressive with just a few clicks. The photos looks so much better. They appear to be more crisp and clear. Exactly what you would expect from a plugin increasing clarity.

User interface is similar to other Topaz products with presets on the left and settings on the right of the preview image (you can hide both panels to increase your preview area in case you need this). UI is also very easy and intuitive so after just a few clicks you’ll figure out what’s going on. And if you don’t just move your mouse over any control and textual help will appear – very helpful. And if you still can’t work out how it all works, fear not as Topaz Clarity comes with a large collection of presets for various occasions ranging from landscapes to weddings. This makes it really easy to get started.

Topaz Clarity mask feature
Topaz Clarity lets you limit clarity changes to the selected region only by providing some masking features.

Another great thing about this plugin is that it comes with basic masking features. You don’t want to increase clarity in the clear sky? No problem, just mask it out using edge (or colour) aware masking. As you paint your mask with a brush Topaz Clarity automatically detects edges and doesn’t affect them. Works brilliantly most of the time.

Topaz Clarity before and after
Topaz Clarity allows comparing adjustments to the original image. This way you can see how much it improves the look of your photos. Here (I recommend viewing in large to see what I’m talking about) clarity was greatly improved, especially in the water and buildings areas.

So far I sound like being very excited about this plugin. But are there any drawbacks? Sure, there is no rose without a thorn. For me the filter sometimes appeared to be running quite slow, especially when it generated thumbnails for the presets (on startup on when changing presets category). I also found some small bugs here and there (like a crash on startup or some cryptic message when I tried to increase size of settings panel) but other than that I found no serious issues.

Summing up Topaz Clarity is a really great filter which became very important to my post-processing workflow no matter whether I post-process landscape or architecture photos. After loading my image in Photoshop after tone-mapping it in Photomatix Pro, one of the first things I recently do is to add some clarity using this plug-in. If you want to see this filter in action, make sure to watch my video from HDR step-by-step series, where I use it to increase clarity of my tone-mapped image. It’s so great that I don’t use Lightroom’s Clarity slider any more! No need for that.

But be warned! Using Topaz Clarity is really addictive. After using it on a few of my images I found older ones to look flat and not crisp enough and had to rerun many of them through this filter.

Pros:
– impressive results with just a few clicks
– very easy & intuitive user interface
– a lot of built-in presets
– bunch of other sliders making it possible to make small tonal adjustments
– possibility of masking

Cons:
– could be faster… especially on startup
– a few less serious bugs

22 January 2013

Free Topaz Adjust presets

Posted in: architecture, download, hdr, presets, topaz, warsaw|

Free Topaz Adjust presets
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.

Presets are a very important part of my workflow. In each program I use I have a rich collection of my own settings. No matter it’s Photomatix Pro, Lightroom or Photoshop. Using presets has a few advantages for me: I can work much faster (I usually just make small adjustments to them) and also my photos have more consistent look.

So after sharing presets for Photomatix and Lightroom 4 a number of times it’s now time to share some presets for Topaz Adjust. I decided on sharing presets I use to fine-tune my HDR and astro photos. You can download them here:

As always they are free of charge. You will find following presets in the bundle (actually there are a few more but these ones are my favourite ones):

Preset name Description Example
Astrophoto I used this preset for a number of my astrophotos including this one and this one. This preset protects highlights, does some strong adaptive exposure and enhances details what makes it great for night photography.
City at night Great for blue hour cityscapes like this one. Protects highlights, increases saturation and also enhances blue hue of the image.
Colourful landscape Slightly increases colour saturation what makes it great whenever you want to pop colour in your landscape photos.
Colourful sunrise Preset very similar to colourful landscape but warmer. It also preserves more details in shadows. Both these properties make it great for sunrise photos like this one.
Night in the old town & night in the old town 2 2 presets that are perfect for shots in low light taken in the old towns like this one for instance.

And here is instruction how to import them to your Topaz Adjust:

  1. Download presets from the link above.
  2. Unzip archive on disk.
  3. Open Photoshop and open Topaz Labs -> Topaz Adjust
  4. Make sure presets list is shown. If not click on the arrow on the left of Topaz Adjust Window.
  5. Click Import button at the bottom of the screen and navigate to the folder where you extracted ZIP archive. Select file to import and click Open button.