Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
I am happy to say that I am using the new Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in. I am still learning about all the things it will do but so far I like what I see. They advertise 20 lens effects and over 150 presets so there are plenty of things to try. These filter effects can be stacked to create a final look. Topaz has several short tutorials up on U-tube that walk you through many of the new features. Click here for Topaz Lens Effects Intro and this good basic tutorial called Introduction to the New Topaz Lens Effects to learn how to use some of the features. Here is a link to the Topaz Lens Effects User Manual that will help explain exactly what is going on in each of the listed sections below and lets you see for yourself all the great effects they have included.
Bokeh – Selective Effect and Vignette
The image above used the Bokeh – Selective Effect with manual settings. It helped a lot to watch the second tutorial above to understand how to make a good Depth Map. The Depth Map created by the program is usually a very good starting point. See the next section on how to use the brush to fine-tune your Depth Map. Some adjustments were then added to the Focal Plane and Focus Area sections. A slight Vignette from within this effect finished up the image. Once you have the focus set by using the Depth Map, it is pretty self-explanatory to figure out how to proceed.
Fisheye Effect and Bokeh – Selective Effect
There has been a lot of excitement about the Fisheye Effect since you do not have to actually buy the expensive lens to get the look. It is easy to apply – this funny image below used the Extreme Fisheye Preset for a starting point and just a tweak to center the effect under the FishEye Adjustments section. (To see original image, click here.) Next a Bokeh – Selective Effect was applied. It is really necessary to play around a bit with the Depth Map and understand how to use it to get a good result. First uncheck Use Gradient Brush if you want to paint on your depth map. (Check Use Gradient Brush only if you wish to create a gradient on the Depth Map.) White areas are used for distant objects, black for near objects, and gray in-between – for some reason this seems strange to me. At first I kept getting a completely black Depth Map when the Reset button was pressed – finally realized that the Depth Value Slider was set to 0 so everything started as black or in focus. Set this slider higher, not all the way back or it will be a completely white Depth Map, to get a place to start if you do not like what the program generated for the map. Then add areas in black or white with the Brush and adjust the size to fit the areas you are trying to contour. The manual states that the larger the brush size, the more it will affect the adjacent areas. I found this to be true so a little experimentation is required to get the correct map. The side-by-side view gives you a real-time comparison to see how the effect is working.
I could not get the Lens – Motion effect I wanted for this image so I went back to my OnOne PhotoFrames and chose one from their Zoom Effects. I may be able to achieve this look in Topaz, but for this image it was just not working out. I also did some adjusting with the Clone Stamp in Photoshop where the Depth Map was not quite correct and the edges were smudged a bit. The Eyes were sharpened to make them pop more.
Camera – Toy Effect
This image was created using the Camera – Toy Effect and the FoliageI Preset as a start. The effect was centered on the wheel and Toy Camera Aberrations were set as follows: Vignette Strength (-0.30), Camera Shake (2.22), Camera Shake Angle (8.87), Grain Amount (0.09) and Double Image (No); Placement Adjustments were set to: Region Size (0.01), Transition (0.48), and Angle (130.3); Region A Color Casts were all 0 except for the Blue Cast A slider (0.06); Region B Color Casts were all 0 except for the Yellow Cast B slider (0.06); and Image Adjustments: Brightness (0.41), Contrast (0.09), Saturation (0.06), Saturation Boost (-0.08), Shadows (0.53) and Highlights (-0.01). I listed these settings so you could get a feel for all the sliders that can be adjusted to get a really unique look as shown above. A preset called Bright Colors was then created since it is very different from the ones provided. (Two OnOne PhotoFrames were added to give the grunge and frame effects.) Smashing Magazine has an article, “Uncovering Toy Cameras and Polaroid Vintage Effects (with Photoshop Tutorials),” that shows what some of the original images looked like with different types of toy cameras if you need some inspiration.
Camera – Tilt & Shift Effect
This image was created using the built-in Tilt and Shift Effect after watching another short U-Tube video called Quick Tips – Miniature Scenes 101 from Topaz. It turned out to be fairly easy to create but a little Gaussian Blue was added to the image in Photoshop for a little more blur in a few places. Smashing Magazine has an article on 50 examples of Tilt-Shift Photography if you want to get some good ideas how to use this effect.
Dual Tone Effect
For this image a Dual Tone Effect adding a bit of yellow and red was applied. For the original as seen on Flickr, click here. The preset that was used as a starting point was Top Left Red Leak but then a lot of sliders were adjusted to get the look above. There are four areas that can be adjusted: Transition Adjustment which includes the Region Size, Transition and Angle – all of these are really important sliders; Region A Adjustment which sets the top color; Region B Adjustment which sets the bottom color; and Image Adjustment which includes the Brightness, Contrast and Saturation – all really important features. An OnOne PhotoFrame filmstrip border completes the image.
My final conclusion on this plug-in is that the Bokeh Effect has a possibility of being fantastic – it just has a bit of a learning curve but with practice, you should be able to get the exact results you want with the Depth Map. The other effects seem to give very pleasing results from the fun effects to the serious effects for doing major adjustments to you image. Even the Saturation and Sharpening effects I found to be really good. The Topaz Lens Effect plug-in is a great plug-in, but then I am a big Topaz fan and use most of their other products on a daily basis. The thing I like best about Topaz is that they keep the price down so for most people it is very affordable and makes Photoshop faster and more fun. (Check around for sites that will give you discounts for their products – NAPP members get 25% off.) Therefore, I give major Kudos to Topaz and all they do for the Photoshop community. That said, I do believe it is important to pool all your resources and if one plug-in does not give the look you want, use another one – they usually all work well together and the results can sometimes be spectacular.
Topaz has a 30-day fully functional download and they present short Webinars almost daily on the different effects. Give it a try and see if you can give your old images some new looks!