The world of post-processing in photography is evolving with rapid advancements in all sectors of the field. When it comes to fine art photography, we believe one of the leading companies creating great tools for post-processing is Topaz Labs, and today we’re excited to share with you their newly launched tool in our Topaz Clarity review. For the work we produce here at The Hollow this is now one of our go-to plug-ins as it gives us unprecedented control over contrast. Fine adjustments can be done using Clarity’s proprietary micro-contrast and tone adjustment algorithms, giving the artist ultimate creative expression.
This is the median bracket, +/-0 Exp straight out of the camera with no post-processing at all. Technically the composition is good, and it has good colors and details to begin working with. In our eBook “The f-stops Here“, we discuss the importance of getting the shot right in the field as all subsequent processes that follow are predicated on this initial step. It’s simply not realistic to expect a good result if you do not start with a good image to begin with. The next phase finds us taking our 5 brackets of -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 Exp and heading on over to Photomatix Pro where they are merged and tone mapped.
The merging and tone mapping process really starts to bring the image alive, we now can see better definition in the sky and clouds, as well as the details in the beautiful building. This is a great starting point, we’re now ready to bring this into our post-processing tool of choice and begin working with the Topaz plug-ins. It should be noted that all the Topaz Labs plug-ins work in Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto, Serif Photo Plus, Irfanview, and of course, our favorite tool PaintShop Pro.
On a side note, if you’re looking to dive into the world of post-processing, we currently recommend PaintShop Pro by Corel due to it’s terrific price point and ease-of-use. It’s on sale until the end of the month, click the link below to take advantage of the excellent sale price.
This screen shot shows the new Topaz Clarity plug-in in action. As you can see, it’s a simple and straightforward interface allowing you to focus on adjusting and tuning your image, not worrying about complex terms and algorithms. For the work we produce here at The Hollow, the power of Topaz Clarity was evident very quickly as only small adjustments were needed to achieve extraordinary results.
And this is where things get exciting… at this stage in post-processing, it becomes all about subtle adjustments when trying to create scene-realistic imagery that conveys the feeling you are trying to express. All the definition and depth of an image comes from how the eye sees and processes contrast. It’s actually a good thing to have shadows that hold onto some of the secrets held within a scene. The images that come out of Photomatix contain all the rich and wide dynamic range possible, but this leaves most of them feeling rather flat and uninspiring. It’s the subtle and careful re-introduction of contrast and shadows that bring back the details and depth. The reason this is all so important is just as with a haircut you can always trim a little off, but it can’t be added back. Similar to post-processing; you can always adjust contrast and micro-contrast on a scene that contains all the dynamic range, but you can’t add any range back if it doesn’t exist at the source.
As we can see in the picture above we now have a scene full of great range, but not so much that the picture feels unrealistic. The adjustments we were able to make in Topaz Clarity took just a few seconds of adjusting sliders, replacing a process that was previously multi-stepped and didn’t produce the same striking results. I would have been very happy with the time-saving feature alone, however the multitude of benefits to the plug-in make it something we simply can’t live without.
Topaz Labs is pricing the new plugin at $49.99, which is very reasonable considering the power and the amazing results. But to make that even better, Topaz is offering everyone a special promotion price of $29.99 if you use the code “claritynew” at checkout. This code will be good until the end of the month, May 31st, 2013.
As we near completion of work on our new image, we now bring the image as it was adjusted in Clarity and pass it through Topaz Detail to accent the textures and details found within the frame. Once again, the Topaz plug-ins are superior for ease-of-use and the fabulous results they produce, making them must-have tools in our toolkit.
And finally, the last touch is to run it subtly through a high-pass sharpener to accent the fine details. We are now complete and ready to share this with the world!!
Before we began to use the Topaz Labs products, our post-processing was a fun and fulfilling activity, but since we’ve discovered these incredibly powerful and easy to use tools it’s taken on a whole new dimension. Even though I’ve worked in the software industry for many years, I prefer to focus on creating art rather than playing with complex settings and sliders. This doesn’t mean these are not the most advanced post-processing algorithms available today, it means the designers and developers at Topaz are experts in what they do, creating extremely advanced products that are very easy to use. No other technology has made me quite so excited as this in the past few years.
As an artist, what we get is a suite of plug-ins that really do two things well; they save a ton of time and produce incredible results. That’s real value.
Buy Topaz Clarity on sale for $29.99 until May 31st, 2013 with checkout code “claritynew”
regular retail price is $49.99