Topaz Detail

By Wednesday, November 25, 2009grafphoto
Lounging at the sandbar

Lounging at the sandbar

I previously wrote about a nice Photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs called Topaz Adjust in these posts.   It remains one of those plugins that I tend to use as a playground to explore possibilities.  Sometimes it works for a particular image, sometimes I don’t care for the effects for that particular shot.     It’s a tool like anything else.    I have now had the opportunity to work on a few of my Alaska bear images with one of their newer plugins called Topaz Detail.

Topaz Detail in my own simple terms seems to reach down into the file and grab detail from your image that might be otherwise overlooked.   It does this similar to unsharp masking, but without halos, and seems to bring out more detail than smart sharpening.   It seems very similar to how highlights you thought were blown out can be recovered in a RAW file.   It worked particularly well in bringing out more of the textures in the fur of the bears.

To prove the benefit to myself, I worked up the image as I normally would in Lightroom and Photoshop.    The comparison below shows the unsharpened for output file with 100% views.   I did this prior to output sharpening to create a baseline because I also wanted to see what differences there may be after output sharpening.    Sharpening in general does tend to bring out more details anyway.      Topaz Detail did quite well I think in bringing out more of the textural qualities of the bear’s fur.

Comparison at 100%

Comparison at 100%

Then I wanted to see what the files looked like comparing both of them with Output Sharpening applied.   I used my old standby Photokit Sharpener, and applied it for a glossy print at 360 dpi.   I zoomed in further because I wanted to see what sharpening + the plugin was doing to the image details which are hard to illustrate for this post with smallish JPEGs for the web.   So here is a comparison at 200%.

Comparison with sharpening

Comparison with sharpening

Sharpening on screen always involves a bit of guesswork to predict how it will appear when printed simply because of the two different mediums.   It is particularly important to recognize this in any comparisons because the print is really what matters in the end.    I tend to follow the “slightly crunchy” method.   If it is slightly “crunchy” looking on screen, with no objectionable halos, then it should look just right when printed.   Photokit Sharpener by default creates a couple of layers for you to tweak sharpening to taste and sets them at 50% opacity.  I normally bump that up to 75-100% depending on the image.

For this comparison, I think the file with Topaz Detail is a bit too crunchy at 50% opacity on the sharpening.  However, this is at 200% zoom where files start to look strange.     If I were to print it, I would likely back it down, 35% looked about right.     Again, all are adjustments to taste.   I like the how the fur detail under the eye comes out, as well as the texture of the bear’s nose.    For the file without Topaz, I bumped the sharpness opacity all the way up to 100% just to see what details would come out.    It brought some out, but not quite the same in comparison.  The file with Topaz Detail applied still showed more features at 50% sharpening opacity versus the file without the plugin applied at 100%.    I’d say that shows some benefit.

  • Like:   Definitely visible differences in the amount of detail that can be brought out
  • Like:   Ease of use, presets for starting points
  • Like:   Reasonable pricing
  • Dislike: Speed of processing a file, Topaz Detail takes a bit longer to render an image because of so much going on in the background
  • Dislike: Normally a plugin window opens in front when the progress bar completes.  For some reason, this one opened behind and I wasn’t even sure if it was done processing yet.

As with all of their plugins, Topaz Labs offers 30 day, fully functional trial versions for you to evaluate on your own work.   I certainly appreciate useful tools at affordable prices, Detail is only $39.99.  Since I use these tools in my own workflow, I now have an affiliate account with them but I am also a customer.   I wouldn’t write about them if I didn’t think they were at least worthy of trying out.   They have many more before/after examples at their site.  You can get Topaz Detail or trial any of their other plugins here: Topaz Labs | Topaz Detail .

By the way, you think the bear on the right looks comfortable?   🙂

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Aswirly says:

    Those bears sure look cute and comfy. Interesting to see the comparisons with Topaz. I haven’t tried this plugin yet. I like Lucis and all the NIK filters, but I’ll have to give this one a go

  • Mark says:

    Hey Carl – yeah – I know what you mean – I need more software or ways of processing images like I need a hole in the head. I am trying to simplify things you know?

    Your question was the exact same I had – which is why I did the comparison with sharpening. Normally that is all I need to bring forth the detail. Quite frankly when I looked at these comparisons I was a bit surprised that it did this well with this particular shot. I don’t know if it will work the same 100% of the time. I expect that there will be some images where more detail is a distraction versus helping. What I am now wondering is if it will help images where my DOF is slightly off – if there is hidden detail that can be brought out.

  • Carl D says:

    Hey Mark,

    Just what I need, more software. Sheesh! 🙂

    What would you try with PS to get this kind of effect without the plugin?



  • Andy says:

    Thanks for this Mark. I have been using Bruce Fraser’s USM technique for a long time, putting his PS Action into my workflow. A downside is that you have to read, understand and then write the action yourself (though he gives you a step by step). But this looks like a reasonable cost, much easier, and more user-friendly method. I will have to download it and give it a whirl.

    • Mark says:

      Andy – I am still experimenting with what sharpening might be required in addition to using this plugin, if at all. As you can see from my examples, applying extra output sharpening on top of the plugin results perhaps went over the edge a bit.

  • Anita Bower says:

    I appreciate your comparisons. I sometimes use Topaz Detail, and agree with your conclusions. I also like the photo of the three bears.

  • Roberta says:

    Love the photo! I have Detail but don’t use it much because the dislike points you mentioned, but also because I don’t usually aim for detailed images. I’m usually looking to remove detail! 😉 However, the plugin does have it’s merits and uses.

  • Anita Jesse says:

    It appears that the bear on the right may have had dinner, as well as drinks, at the old “Sand Bar”. Now, you can add “Contentment” to your earlier studies, “Isolation” and “Happiness”.

    I particularly appreciate your discussing, in some detail, your guidelines for output sharpening. I struggle with that. Due to some early ugly prints, I tend to back off at the earliest signs of “crunchiness”. You have motivated me to rethink my current guidelines.

  • Paul Grecian says:

    Thanks Mark, adds a lot to my other reading on these plug-ins. Looks like the bear on the right already had his feast. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Nice write up Mark, I might have to give that plug-in a try.

    Love the bear on the right!


  • Earl says:

    Mark, I’ve experimented some with both Topaz Adjust and Detail and much like you have found that on some images they work well and on others it doesn’t pan out. I’m still never sure beforehand and have to experiment each time.

    In this case I believe it does help bring out the detail in the bears fur but as you demonstrated would probably require some “backing down” of normal output sharpening.

    It looks like the bear on the right is modeling for the next “Teddy Bear” calendar. 🙂

    • Mark says:

      Earl – I have found the same thing, and it takes some time to recognize where they might work, or not. Sometimes I will just pop in and out of the plugin preview just to do a “what if.”

  • Mark says:

    Tomas – you make a good point. For some images I have actually had to mask out the Topaz Detail effects because it emphasized parts of the image that I didn’t want that way.

    If you are referring to the sand grains on the bears face in the closeups – those will be small dots in the actual print, the enlarged views just tend to emphasize them a bit.

    Hope all is well in the CR!

  • Lovely image, Mark. Re. bringing details, I think that Topaz provides wonderful results here, IMO. I like all the details in the bears but find a ground a bit oversharpened and also some sand grains (or whatever it is) on bears’ fur seems to be noticeable too much but I guess that it would look just good when printed on a paper.

    And to you question on last line: I think that only popcorn and TV remote control are missing here 😀

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts