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.
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%.
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?