I think elephants look stunning in a black and white interpretation. The amazing texture of their skin gets emphasized in such a wonderful way.
This week, I felt inspired to play around in Topaz Impressions and create some of my artistic impression images. Or as I like to say, what I would paint, if I could paint :).
Next week, I am going to try and work with the new AI Sky Enhancer that Luminar just released.
Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!
A trio of leopard images to start the week. I hope you enjoying, and wishing you a fantastic week ahead.
As mentioned last week, I decided to go with bird images for my last round of editing images with On1 Photo Raw, Topaz Studio and Luminar, seeing how the results compare with the different software choices. I thought bird images would be a great choice because there are lots of fine details in feathers that need to be enhanced, and often things like distracting backgrounds that need to be minimized.
In very broad strokes, I’ve come to realize editing an original image in Topaz Studio that requires colour correction is not something I enjoy doing, and not something I will try to do moving forward (until they provide some updates to that portion of the interface). I don’t find that the colour temperature slider works well enough to deal with complicated colour scenarios, and I can get much better results using On1 Photo Raw, or even Luminar.
The first images I picked are of a purple roller that I spotted on the banks of the Boteti River in Botswana. I decided to edit original images in each program, rather than correcting colour first in On1 Photo Raw and editing the resultant images. For a series of images, it’s obviously not a good strategy, but I really wanted to see the different colour rendering and how well I could adjust the images. The results are mixed.
Next up are some wattled cranes, also seen along the banks of the Boteti River while staying at the fabulous Leroo La Tau camp. While these images were all shot on the same morning, the light was changing very fast and the birds were moving around relative to our vehicle, so some images were shot into the sun and others with the sun at my back. Wattled cranes are listed as a vulnerable species; our guide Calvin had been so excited to see a group of this size while we were out on game drive.
Up next are one of my favourite birds, the beautiful lilac breasted roller. Unlike the purple roller, I have seen this bird on all my trips in Africa, and have gotten a few really good shots over the years.
These roller images are the best ones for comparing the software, since the bird is fairly close and the light unchanging. I am finding the version from On1 looking a little crunchy when compared to the other two, and the Topaz version lacking a little bit of contrast. I think I was able to bring out the colour and tones the best with Luminar on this particular image. I found Topaz was able to bring out a lot of fine detail in the feathers without making the image look crunchy (it’s hard to see on a web sized image, so you’ll have to take my word for it). I think the On1 version could have done well with backing off the tonal contrast a couple of points; though if that version had been posted in isolation, I would be very happy with it.
I started getting some editing fatigue looking at so many similar images, so I decided for the last few, I would just pick a few one-off bird images, and edit one of each in the various programs.
There are pros and cons to each of the programs; Topaz and the colour correction issues I have been having, Luminar with the lack of adjustable luminosity masks, and with On1, I don’t find the noise reduction function is a good as some other options. But saying that, all the options are robust programs that have a lot of great features, it’s just a matter of learning how to use the tools to your best advantage. I don’t feel like I am in any type of editing disadvantage by choosing to use these software options over the more common Lightroom and Photoshop scenario (that I also used for several years).
From these editing immersions and comparisons, I think I am a getting a little closer to knowing where all these options fit into my workflow.
A group of bull elephants on the banks of the Boteti Rover in Botswana. These males had come down from Nxai Pans to enjoy the water and the lush vegetation around the river, as the seasonal pans dried up. We watched this group cross from one side of the river to the there, stopping part way for a bath and then a wallow in the mud at the edge of the river, before carrying on their way.
My month of Topaz Studio is coming to a close. As with my month of Luminar, taking this time to dive into the program has left me feeling a lot more confident using it, and now it is another tool in my photo editing toolbox that I can use to bring out my vision in the images I have created.
Rather than focus on one specific thing for this post, I wanted to share some of my favourite things about the program.
Bringing out amazing contrast and detail
Back when I used Lightroom and Photoshop, Topaz Detail and Clarity were plugins that I would use when I wanted to highlight texture, especially in feathers and fur. The precision contrast and precision detail adjustments are the same tools found in detail and clarity, though they are still available as the plug in versions or as clarity and detail in studio, which give access to all the fabulous presets that those programs had. On this cheetah image below, I decided to use the precision contrast and detail rather than the in studio version of detail and clarity. Since these are sized for the web, some of the fantastic texture of the fur may be a bit lost, but it is definitely there.
Creating my artistic impression images
I’ve always enjoyed the Topaz Impression and Simplify plug-ins, allowing me to create painterly and whimsical effects to my images. Sometimes over to the top, sometimes subdued, those programs allow me to create something different with my images, and I love the flexibility they give me.
Quickly reviving lost detail
I think my favourite discovery in the Topaz Studio program has been the AI Clear adjustment, and it is one I am absolutely going to purchase to make sure I have it available to me. Many times I find myself out and about with a great scene in front of me, or a moment I want to remember, but the light is fading or there are deep shadows or perhaps fog (sometimes all of the above). I have found that the AI Clear adjustment can really get images like these back from looking grainy and soft, to full of detail and life. It’s just one step in the editing process, but it certainly is a powerful tool.
I have really been loving the ease of adding my watermark to my images; it is certainly less cumbersome than that current way I have to do so in On1. One of the drawbacks I have found with Topaz Studio is not being able to resize and export directly from the program. It means that for images being posted to the blog or my Instagram page, they always need a round trip back to On1 in order to be resized and exported. Not a deal breaker at all, but just adding an extra step to the process.
If you don’t have it already, I would absolutely recommend downloading Studio and trying it out. Given that the program is free to use with several adjustments, and there are 30 day trials for all the others, there really is nothing to lose (except maybe a little space on your hard drive) to give it a go.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on the program.
Wishing everyone a great week ahead!