Topaz Glow

Over the last month I have been beta testing a new product from Topaz Labs called Glow. The software works either as a standalone program or as a plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop. Topaz Glow uses fractals to get some interesting results, very similar to Redfield Fractalius. Topaz have released a short product video showing the interface along with some before and after photographs.

I’m sure over the next few days there will be plenty of tutorials released so I’m just going to show you some of the results I achieved using Topaz Glow.

Electric Sky

Glow is not one of those plugins I would use on every photograph. I’m more likely to use it when I am creating some digital artwork and I want to bring in an electric sort of look. Topaz Glow has lots of ready-made presets that you can just click and apply but my personal method is to choose a preset and then adjust the sliders to get more of the look I want.

Engine Bay

Like this engine bay from a Ford. I still wanted to maintain a lot of the detail and by adjusting the opacity and blend modes of Topaz Glow directly in the plugin or standalone program I’m able to get the look I want. Similarly in the photograph below I used blending an opacity levels along with fine tuning the preset to maintain the ripples in the sand but add a bit of light and texture

Purple Haze

Applied carefully you can get a painterly look to your photograph. look at this one of a blue tit sitting on a branch.

Glow-Tit

Admittedly Topaz already have a paint plugin called Impressions but I quite like the effect that Glow brings to this photograph. The tree below is so simple but Topaz Glow has added just that little bit of texture

Tree

Disclaimer: I have been a beta tester for Topaz products for well over a year now and as such I am give copies of the software for testing which has often resulted in my receiving a free license when the product is brought to market.

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My Photograph, My Vision

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.

Talacre Sunset Original

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.

Talacre Sunset

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.

Topaz Impression – Release The Artist.

Over the past few weeks I have been beta testing a new plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom called Topaz Impression. Many people were upset when Adobe removed the Paint Filter from Photoshop but it looks like Topaz have managed to fill the gap with their new plugin Impression which allows you to create a paint look to your photographs. I’m not giving you a formal review here, just a quick look at what can be achieved with very little effort.

Sheep

The interface is really simple and there about 43 presets that you can use to get an instant look. All you have to do is select the preset from the right hand side and Topaz Impression will do the rest.

Interface

For the more adventurous and for those who want to experiment you can click on the preset which will enable you to adjust individual settings, such as brush stroke, paint thickness, smudging, type of brush, texture etc. You can see here how I have changed this photograph of the robin.

Interface2

Topaz Impression is not something I’m going to use very day, far from it.  It’s one of those tools I will keep in my arsenal and when I want to add some texture to a photograph I will blend in something like this black and white sketch to my original photograph

Valle-Crucis-Cloisters

In the photograph below I have layered in the black and white sketch which gives me the starting point for working on this photograph which I am going to use in a composite image. I wanted the pale floors and wall because I will use this later to colour match the additional items that i will be adding to the image.

Sketch-and-Original

When I took this photograph a couple of years ago I always thought it would make a great painting. It’s sat on my hard drive, I’ve used it a couple of times for blog posts but by using Topaz Impression I’ve finally managed to get this photograph how I originally envisioned it would turn out.

Portrait

When you use Impression you can add textures to the final result. As usual Topaz supply a batch of them for everyday use. Can you add your own textures? I’m not sure, that’s something I really must check out. In the image below I used one of the ready-made canvas textures. Whilst I was writing this i decided to check out if I could add to Topaz Impression some of the textures that I have created myself. Directly through the program interface you can’t but you can by saving your own textures as PNG files and a size of 512 x 512 pixels and then placing them in the Textures folder for Topaz Impression. Now that is handy.

Tryfan

This photograph with the pink flowers was one of those that I screwed up when I was taking it. Slightly out of focus, especially in the foreground area with t he pink flowers, I had got the lighting wrong as well but Topaz Impression has made a good job of turning it into a nice soft painting. I’d like to leave you with this final photograph. Couple of weeks ago I created this out-of-box image as a demonstration for someone and yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a painting. I’m quite pleased with the results. What do you think?

RV8tors

Here’s the disclaimer part. As a beta tester for Topaz Labs I was supplied with a free license at the end of the trial and that’s as far as it goes. I do not make any money for mentioning Topaz or any of their products. It is not my intention to recommend any product that I may talk about in my blog, all I am doing is letting you know what I use and why. I leave you to decide if that product could be of value to you in your work and as such I will provide a link so that you can read for yourself what the developers have to say.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong

 

wrong

What’s wrong with this image. Not so much, but it is overexposed and wouldn’t be easy to correct. It’s slightly blurred as well but I’m an optimist and I believe that no matter how bad a photograph is, you can always do something with it. For that reason I never throw anything away. Although this might not make a good photograph it can always be used to create something that I call Digital Art.

First thing I did with this photograph was to run it through my HDR program. Why? Because HDR will bring out some of the detail and enhance the colours a little bit.

Next, I used some of my favourite Photoshop filters on it, these are from, Topaz Labs and NIK Software. I have the complete suite of Topaz filters, They’re great for creative effects, but also for just enhancing photographs. Likewise NIK Colour Efex. It’s one of the best plugins for enhancing detail and tonal ranges in photographs and nearly all of my photographs get the NIK treatment to some degree.

Anyway, I said even a poor photograph can be used to create Digital Art, it’s just up to your imagination and this is what my imagination came up with.

After

Some of you might like it, some not, but next time you take a photograph and you’re considering whether it’s worth keeping, keep it. Have a play with Photoshop or whatever editor you use. It’s a great and fun way of learning how you to use your photo-editing program, as well.