Topaz Adjust Review

Posted: 9th September 2013 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography, Review
Tags: , , ,

Introduction

Topaz Labs is an industry leader in post-processing plug-ins and tools for the photographer who expects more from their imagery.  Their tools are some of the most advanced in the market, yet their continued focus on delivering products that balance both incredible power with intuitive user interfaces is one of the key factors that sets them apart.  Today we’re going to take a close look at one of their most popular premiere plug-ins, Topaz Adjust.  Algorithms like their adaptive exposure and color control enhance the image being worked on to bring out previously hidden details in shadows and highlights, producing consistently amazing results in a very short time.

Topaz Adjust Review

In today’s review, we’re going to take a close look at three images produced using only Topaz Adjust.  We’ll show you our desktop and workflow so you can see the settings we applied in the various sliders to produce the sample images.

Let’s start by discussing a few key features and their application.  Effect stacking and the local adjustment brush allow you to exercise fine control over how and where the effects are applied.  For example, you can make a global series of adjustments that affect the entire image, apply those changes, and then apply specific adjustments to local areas.  This completely dynamic workflow allows you to make as few or as many adjustments as you like, ultimately creating the precise image you were going for.  And if at any time you get lost you can reach for one of the many built-in presets that deliver instant satisfaction, or provides the perfect base from which to begin your custom adjustments.

The Old Wood Church

Our first sample image is one that features an old wood church we found on Vancouver Island.  It was a drab, dark day and that created a distinctive ambiance and muted the colors.

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Untouched Photograph

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Untouched Photograph

This is a very flat image right out of the box.  We find no real definition or dimension to the picture, although it does exhibit some good qualities that just need to be brought out to make it come alive.

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Topaz Adjust Workspace

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Topaz Adjust Workspace

For this image, we made adjustments in the Adaptive Exposure, Details, Color and Noise panels to bring out the details in the textures of the century old wood.

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Color Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Color Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Noise Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Noise Panel

With the above settings applied, the final image benefited from the adjustments, bringing out all the inherent character of the building.

Topaz Adjust Review - Old Wood Church - Final Image

Topaz Adjust Review – Old Wood Church – Final Image

The strong contrast and moody feel from the sky really comes alive here.  The church becomes the primary subject in the image, and the lush green forests of Vancouver Island add context.  Even though we tend to mostly work in HDR, this single frame tells the story of the church in a perfect way.

The Pub

After all that work, its high time for a refreshment.  Let’s head out to one of the oldest pubs on the west coast of Canada in our second sample image where we get to explore the old character architecture that makes this place so special, taking in the welcoming entrance and some of the details that surround it.

Topaz Adjust Review - The Pub - Untouched Photograph

Topaz Adjust Review – The Pub – Untouched Photograph

The summer’s day we visited here was producing harsh shadows and contrasts.  Great colors were to be found everywhere in the signs and flowers that decorated the entrance, yet the incredibly bright sunlight was hiding details.

Topaz Adjust Review - The Pub - Topaz Adjust Workspace

Topaz Adjust Review – The Pub – Topaz Adjust Workspace

A few tweaks were all that was needed to create a natural feeling image full of dimension and depth.  In this picture we applied Adaptive Exposure, Details and Color adjustments, creating an image that still feels natural yet explores the great details and colors.

Topaz Adjust Review - The Pub - Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – The Pub – Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - The Pub - Color Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – The Pub – Color Panel

With the above adjustments made, our final image created a subtle result, one that showcased the great textures found at the old pub.

Topaz Adjust Review - The Pub - Final Image

Topaz Adjust Review – The Pub – Final Image

In our finished product, the details in the stained glass border that runs above the peaked doorway and the colors in the signs and other features now stand out.  With the facade exposed to the shady side of the building, the ability to pull out some of the finer details in this section of the image was really terrific.

The Castle

Our last image in today’s review takes us to one of our heritage sites here on Vancouver Island, Hatley Park National Historic Site.  Once again we find ourselves visiting on a bright summers day with harsh light and deep shadows.  These are typically difficult elements to deal with in photography, and we’ll show you how with Topaz Adjust we can not only overcome these issues, we can actually use them to our advantage to create incredible imagery.

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Untouched Photograph

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Untouched Photograph

Deep shadows hide some details and the bright light from summers sun pushes the highlights to the limit here.  For this picture, we used Adaptive Exposure, Details, Color and Noise adjustments, and finished it off with a delicate vignette to draw the viewer’s eye into the heart of the frame to focus on the prime subject; that incredible castle.

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Topaz Adjust Workspace

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Topaz Adjust Workspace

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Details Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Color Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Color Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Noise Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Noise Panel

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Vignette Panel

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Vignette Panel

With all our adjustments now made, it’s time to reveal the final results and see how it all comes together.

Topaz Adjust Review - Hatley Castle - Final Image

Topaz Adjust Review – Hatley Castle – Final Image

In the final image, the incredible stonework that went into the design and construction of this iconic castle are totally accented.  The colors in the surrounding forests and the deep blue sky help to create the feel of the picture here, one that is quintessentially west coast and Vancouver Island.

The Power Of The Tools

As we’ve demonstrated here, the depth and capabilities of the Topaz Adjust plug-in are really astounding.  We’re easily able to pull out some of the dynamic range that was hidden in the picture, creating a more photo-realistic image yet still maintaining the standards set by fine art photography.  The HDR workflow we typically use here at The Hollow is very time-consuming and with Topaz Adjust we’re able to use a single frame to find the dynamic range, color depth, details and textures that make our images pop, in a very short amount of time.  For many applications, this one plug-in is all you need.

Topaz Labs is world-famous for their level of customer support.  You can download and try out for 30 days any of their products, allowing you to really explore them before making that final decision.  Topaz also has tutorials, webinars and feature blog posts listed on their site to teach you how to use the plug-in.  All these elements come together to deliver a no-risk purchase paradigm for the photographer who expects more from their software budget.

Topaz Adjust On Sale!

We understand that Topaz Adjust is one of Topaz’s most popular plug-ins, and as such it doesn’t go on sale all that often.  The regular retail price is a great value for $49.99, delivering a software tool with unparalleled depth.  So when we heard of the September sale for Adjust, we were thrilled to share the news with everyone!  Between September 9th and September 30th, 2013, you can save 50% off by using the coupon code “septadjust” at checkout, making this an obvious choice for only $24.99!  Check it out for yourself and take advantage of these incredible savings today!




  1. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Excellent review Toad.

  2. avatar LensScaper says:

    This is a Plug-in that I now use for many of my images. So far I have mainly relied on the presets, but I need to familiarize myself with a lot of the manual adjustment capabilities that you clearly use. My only bugbear about all Topaz plug-ins is that when I make a small adjustment, I have to patiently wait and watch the process of the blue bar across the bottom of the screen as the software processes the change I have made and then finally redraws the screen. This can take up to 30 seconds occasionally. It makes a series of minor adjustments quite a tedious stepped process. Do you experience this or is their something I can do to speed things up?

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Hi Andy!! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and comment! GREAT question here! I am not sure what version you’re running there, perhaps some optimizations have been made to really help this area as we find that the Topaz UI’s are really responsive, except in very rare conditions. Each adjustment takes less than 2 seconds on my computer we use at home. That system is just a bare bones dual core Intel system with Windows 7 and 4G of RAM, if I recall. Nothing terribly special there. I do find the initial analysis phase the plug-ins use when you invoke them from the menu takes some time to load up, but once you’re in the plug-in it seems to work great. The other thing I am not sure if it plays into this or not is I use PaintShop Pro for my post-processing.

      The support at Topaz is terrific my friend, have you considered sending this question to them to see what they say?

      Thanks a ton for popping by and commenting today, Andy, we just cannot thank you enough for all your support!

      • avatar LensScaper says:

        Thanks Toad. I have 8G of RAM on an iMac so there should be plenty of memory for the software to run fast. I think I will take up your suggestion and give support a call.

        • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

          Sounds like you’ve got plenty of juice available there. Please let me know how your contact with support works and if they are able to address your issues there, I am sure all our readers will appreciate knowing the outcome.

  3. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    Man, what a great review. You make me want to try this software out for myself.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Most excellent, Chris, I really hope you do, you will not regret it I guarantee it! Thanks a ton for popping by and commenting today, it’s always a highlight for us to see you here at The Hollow!!

  4. avatar Renee Besta says:

    Howdy Toad. Thanks so much for your ongoing detailed reviews of Topaz Labs software products. Superb technical write-up you’ve done here. I must confess I have never used Topaz software, but your review may change that.

    I used to use Nik Software early on, but now am in love with onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite. Seemless integration with Lightroom. But it’s time to experiment again. Great job Toad!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so very much Renee, that really means a lot to us! You certainly won’t regret taking those tools out for a test drive my friend, they are powerful, easy to use and create amazing results. Thank you so much for your kindness and support, it really means an awful lot to us!

  5. avatar ehpem says:

    This is a great review Toad. You have inspired me to give this software another look. I do own it, but have not really given it a good try yet. And nice results on those photos! It was a very harshly lit day as I recall – my photos of the pub were disappointing, but I have ideas now about how to deal with that! Thanks for all the ideas.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I was using Topaz Adjust for post-processing all weekend, my friend, we just got back from shooting a terrific event here in the Cowichan Valley. I was using conventional photography for the event, not our usual HDR, and I have been BLOWN AWAY by the results of this plug-in! Keep your eyes open on our blog here, in the coming days we’ll be rolling out a great new series using this plug-in and I think everyone will really be impressed by the results you can get from these super terrific tools!

  6. I too thank you for this. I have Topaz Adjust and many of the other plugins in the bundle, but I have only started using them. My first experiences have been good but it is real helpful to see examples of how others use these tools to get good results. Cheers.

  7. avatar Faust says:

    Am I the only one who thing that this tool makes everything looks fake a horrendous?

    • I’ve always been in the camp that art is a highly subjective thing for people. We really appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment. I really do believe that many artists are trying to achieve specific and certain results in their work, and for them these tools work wonderfully. Here at Toad Hollow Photography we support the entire field, and as such see value in having powerful tools at the disposal of the artist. These may not work for your particular style or needs, and we truly understand that. Best wishes with your endeavors, and we hope that you achieve the success you strive for in the field you work in.