Over the years I have played with various plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom but I always return to the offerings from Topaz Labs. In fact I would go so far as saying 99% of the photographs I have taken this year and featured on Flickr, Facebook, Google+ or either of my blogs has had some input from at least one of the Topaz Plugins. Clarity is my goto plugin mainly because it adds that extra bit of punch and depth to a photograph.
This is an old photograph. I took it in June 2013 long before the winter storms of 2013/2014 destroyed the sand dunes at Talacre. If you were to visit Talacre today you would not see these stones, they are buried under all the sand that formed the dunes, which now forms a massive sand bar on the beach. Maybe some day we will see them again but not in the near future as conservationists reckon it will take 15 to 20 years for the dunes to reform, and that can only happen with the action of the wind and tides. Yet Talacre is one of those places I like to photograph, especially in the winter, as we now get pools of water forming on the beach when the tide goes out. Due to the action of the tides it’s an ever-changing landscape with one constant, the lighthouse. Each day can present a similar theme but a different photograph and those pools of water are fantastic for getting a photograph with the reflection of the lighthouse and clouds. What about you? Do you have a favourite place you visit again and again?
Anyway back to the photograph. The original sunset was dull and flat. Talacre Lighthouse does lean to one side, quite markedly but a wide angle lens accentuates the lean even more causing perspective distortion..
My first step was to correct the distortion using the Lens Correction Filter in Photoshop (Filter, Lens Correction, Custom, Vertical Perspective). Fortunately I didn’t need to straighten the Horizon, but that can also be done with the Lens Correction Filter. Now to get some punch into the photograph and the best way to do that is to add some contrast. For me the best tool is Topaz Clarity. Sure you can add contrast in Photoshop but I find that it tends to blow out the highlights or deepen the shadows too much. Clarity gives me better control of how I add that contrast whilst still keeping the photograph looking natural.
Now this is where I know some of you will say he’s gone over the top and you may be right, but hey “it’s my photograph, my vision”. When I took the original photograph the sun was setting. I remember the sky being more orange than what the photograph at the top shows and I want to get it looking like that sunset I remember. The Purists will gasp in horror but I’m about to invoke another good plugin from Topaz Labs called ReStyle. It’s hard to describe exactly what ReStyle does but with about 1000 effects in it’s arsenal it’s the plugin I use when I want to fine tune the colour in an image. You could almost say it’s like Instagram on steroids but with far more control.
So there you have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you use Topaz Products? Have I gone too far?
Disclaimer: Although I am endorsing products from Topaz Labs I do not get paid for doing so. I am however a beta tester for new Topaz plugins which has allowed me to receive a free license for several of these plugins.