Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Topaz Products What's Not To Like

Ok I do not have every single Topaz product but I do have a few and they are all awesome.  I will edit this review over a couple of days but here are the basics. Topaz Products

The ones I use and own are InFocus, B&W Effects, Adjust, Detail  and DeNoise.  All of them are download only and work as plugins for Photoshop, Aperture, Photo Elements, and Lightroom.  In the case of Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop Elements you also have to have the plugin Fusion Expres installed to acces them, but it is free and works seamlessly. I use them with Aperture and the plugins appear as external editors.

First and foremost I put B&W Effects, DeNoise, Detail and Adjust in one view.  They use presets that are very good and are on the left side of the screen.  On the right side are additional sliders where you adjust the preset settings for tone, color saturation etc away from the presets.  So far for these three products this is the process I have been using and like.

In the case of InFocus it is not preset oriented but has the sliders on the right.  I will be adding some recommended settings today or tomorrow.

Ok now for some brief descriptions.  B&W effect is obvious and is the newest of their plugins and works very well with lots of fun presets to try and and keep playing with until you hit OK on the bottom right and then it puts a new TIFF file into your workflow (ie old one still there yeh).  InFocus is really a super smart sharpening or anti-blur tool.  It will not fix an out of focus shot but it does an amazing job of crisping up HDR shots or many items far away in landscapes and at the same time superbly managing artifacts (ie code for eliminating).  DeNoise is also pretty obvious; it removes noise and compared to built in NR is pure genius, heaven etc.  It has presets for JPEG and RAW and various levels of NR cleanup and you get to flip around until you are happy with results and level.  Adjust is sort of an interesting picture spiffy up or single shot HDR for dummies.  That is perhaps a little harsh but it does allow you to create an HDR like ton map effect with a single shot and best to start with the presets again and dialin with the sliders on the right.  The other thing that is super cool is it does allow you to bring back some of the color pop lost on a real multi exposure bracketed HDR shot.  Last but not least and the one I have the least experience with is Detail.  It basically improves fine details and add depth.  I have used Detail mostly with B&W (& some color) and I was very happy how it pulled up small details to add the the depth of a shot.

Now I am also able to offer anyone who uses my Coupon Code - "ABWPHOTOS" -  a discount from Topaz when purchasing their software.

Topaz Infocus Used on this moon shot

Friday, September 2, 2011

Photomatix Detailed Review

Photomatix by HDRsoft is one of my favorite pieces of Software to be simple and to the point - 15% off coupon code "ABWPHOTOS".  An example of how powerful effective this software is show by the final image above. A link to a bigger image on my portfolio site is here:

Its allows you to create HDR images quickly and without any more tweaking than you would like to do.  Now it still does not eliminate the fact that some images just don't suit HDR as they are low on contrast or they are not setup for easy alignment etc.

Also lets be clear at close to $100 this is not crazy expensive software but also it is not cheap either, however it is worth every penny and you get what you pay for without a doubt.  I have tried cheaper s/W and it is just that cheaper HDR software that is cheap and does not work anywhere near as well - frankly for me they were a waste of money.  The other simple fact is that compared to all other HDR software I tried it is fast to setup and get going but the software engine is also fast and does not seem to bog down like some of the others, including the expensive ones.

I am going to keep adding to this review for a few days but here are the basics.

  1. Use either RAW and JPEG files - Photomatix will convert many RAW files but why bother having it do it in my opinion so I use JPEG files
  2. Run the S/W as either plugin or standalone and select the bracketed images to inport - 3,5,7 etc
  3. Hit the pre-process button and you are started
  4. Next start to work the sliders and start simple or use pre-sets (I have a favorite starting point and don't use the pre-sets much but they are still fun to play with
  • STRENGTH - I start at 100
  • COLOR SATURATION - I usually go to between 60-80% depending on how it looks and be careful going to high with this one
  • LUMINOSITY - I go with 3-5 on this one and this makes the painterly effect and if you push to hard it looks a little surreal or cartoon rendered
  • DEATIL CONTRAST - Again 3-5 and this seems to effect smal contrast details and to the hard right makes it harsher and darker so again start at a point you like and move a bit
  • LIGHTING ADJUSTMENTS - Not sure what this technically does but left it becomes funky and little negative -1.0 seems good but too far and whoa
  • BLACK & WHITE POINTS - lift off zero say 0.3-0.7 each
  • OTHER SLIDERS - I use these but sparingly and subtly
Net net now hit the PROCESS button and you are finished.  I then tend to clean up with some editing if clouds are water are muddy or unreal looking, but not always required.  As a final I will sharpen and noise reduce if required in the sky etc and lastly I may crop the final image.

Thanks for reading not much of a cook book but it should give the basics of this awesome software and email me if you have a question.  I will be adding more to this review with a bit more detail, but this is the beginning.

Note you can use my coupon code for a 15% discount on the HDRsoft website for Photomatix - ABWPHOTOS