Saturday, December 12, 2009

Topaz Labs

Slurp VII
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
I put a lot of time and effort this year to improve my techniques, lighting, and composition -so much that post processing had become the weakest aspect of my shooting. I just don't have the time or patience to sit down and learn a lot about Photoshop Elements, and CS4 is just too stinkin' expensive. But something had to give because my weak post processing was really starting to impact the quality of my photography...

About a month ago one of my coworkers, and a talented pano shooter, Scott Knauss, mentioned Topaz Labs and asked me if I had tried any of their plug-ins. Being the crash test dummy that I am I downloaded a few of them and requested a temporary license key so I could test drive them (the test license is good for 30 days).

I've since registered Topaz Labs Detail, Adjust, and DeNoise. I use Detail and Denoise on my macro images now, and Adjust on my closeup and landscape images (for those few times that I actually take the MPE-65mm macro lens off of my camera). The image included with this post was processed as follows:

I first open the image in the Element's RAW editor and make any necessary changes to the exposure and white balance (usually setting the temperature of my light to 5800 K). I then open the image in the Elements main editor and use the healing brush to rub out any dust spots. I then run Topaz DeNoise and use the standard RAW preset. It takes a little while for DeNoise to analyze an image, but it's worth it -to me it does a better job of preserving detail than NoiseWare Pro.

Once I've removed the image noise I sharpen the photo with Topaz Detail using the Micro Contrast preset. With Detail I also adjust the highlights and shadows (if necessary) and add a little saturation. Once Detail is finished I create a Levels adjustment layer and set a black point.

I can not emphasize that last step enough -setting a black point will really make your photos "pop"!

All that's left is to save the image as a PSD (in case I want to go back and make any changes) and a JPG. At the risk of sounding like I've been paid to write a review: Topaz Labs has allowed me to bring my post processing to a level where it's no longer the weakest aspect of my photography. If any of you have been using Topaz Labs plug-ins and have any tips for me then please leave them in the comments!
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