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.

Raw Picture Out Of Camera - +/-0 Exp

Raw Picture Out Of Camera – +/-0 Exp

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.

5 Brackets Merged and Tone Mapped

5 Brackets 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.

Save $30 on Corel PaintShop Pro X5 Ultimate Full – only $69 and Save $30 on the Upgrade version – only $49 + receive a Free Calendar or Photobook from Picaboo

Topaz Labs Clarity Screen Shot

Topaz Labs Clarity Screen Shot

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.

Topaz Labs Clarity

Topaz Labs Clarity

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.

Topaz Labs Detail

Topaz Labs Detail

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.

English Inn & Resort, Victoria, BC, Canada

English Inn & Resort, Victoria, BC, Canada

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




  1. Great review Toad, looks like a great tool and I hear it is getting good reviews all round

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Chris! We’re pretty excited about this latest plug-in from Topaz for our workflow, and really hope that others enjoy it too! Many thanks for taking the time to comment here today!

  2. avatar Jim Denham says:

    Nice review Toads! Looks like a pretty useful product

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Jim! We really love it and we really appreciate you popping on by today and leaving your thoughts!!

  3. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    This is the third review that I have read today, Toad and all are glowing. Excellent description of how you use it. Of course, you need a great pic to start with like yours.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, Len, thanks so much my friend, we sure do appreciate your kindness here!

  4. Excellent review of the Topaz products. I have yet to try them, but based on reviews from you and others, I may need to give it a go. Really nice image, btw.

  5. avatar Erin Duke says:

    Man, I really need to jump on the Topaz Labs train. They really do make some fine products, and I’ve been itching to try my hand (lens?) at a bit of HDR. Great info; thanks! 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      In our humble opinion, this is all the best place to start when trying to get involved in HDR imagery, Erin! Thank you so much for popping on by today and we will certainly keep our eyes open for any work you try with HDR!!

  6. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Well written review Toad. I’ve been testing it as well and have been very pleased with the results.

  7. avatar LensScaper says:

    Well written up Toad. This is the third review about Clarity and there is unanimous agreement. Looks like this new module is a winner. Thanks for the comprehensive review.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks ever so much Andy, we really appreciate all your kind support my friend!

  8. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Very nice review, Toad. I agree, Topaz Labs has a wonderful lineup of plugins that yield great results.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You rock, Jimi, thanks so much for your very kind comments here today good sir!

  9. avatar ehpem says:

    Hey Toad – this is a great review – and it is wonderful to get a detailed look at your workflow.

    Is this Filberg Lodge by any chance?

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Hi Ehpem, thank you so much for both taking the time to visit and for your great comments! This is actually Rosemead Manor, a shot we featured early last week on our blog “Springtime At The Inn“. We’re actually posting an update to this story today, so do stay tuned for that. Thanks again for popping on by here!

  10. avatar ken bello says:

    I’ve been vacillating about getting the new Topaz plug-in but after reading this post I’m in. Great work and I’m glad I saw this before the into price runs out.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Most excellent, my friend, you will not be disappointed this I promise! Thank you for for visit today, and for taking the time to leave us your thoughts!

  11. avatar Jerry Denham says:

    Toad I tried a free trial of this software and really liked it. Great review and the image is really well done, too.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Really glad to hear this, Jerry, thanks for coming on by to see us here, and for leaving your thoughts!

  12. […] can find out more about Topaz Clarity in the Toadhollow Photography review, especially as it relates to HDR workflows. And Anne McKinnell also has an interesting take on it […]