It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.
10. Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.
9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.
8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.
7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.
6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car – so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.
5. Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!
4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.
3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.
2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!
1. It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.
It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd
I realized I had not written specifically about the nice Simplify plug-in that Topaz (see Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) has had out for a while and gives a very pleasant result. The flowers above are of my front yard after a late afternoon storm – I wanted to give it a bit of a “fairy tale” look and Simplify really created that bright colored magical feel. I rarely use this plug-in alone, but in this case I did and was surprised at how nice it looks without applying anything but a final Curves Adjustment Layer for contrast. For settings, see end of blog.
Here is another beautiful example of how this plug-in looks – used the same preset settings as the first image although it does not quite have that magical look (settings are listed at the end of blog). The swimming pool is at the Hilton Hawaiian Resort in Oahu on Waikiki Beach.
This image was taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. I used my tips from my Smoothing Those Waterfalls blog for the waterfall. This plug-in works very well with images that were shot just a little soft. The Topaz Simplify BuzSim preset was used with these settings: reduced the Simplify Size to 0.10 and increased the Saturation Boost to 1.56. By reducing the Simplify Size, you can avoid the webbing effect often associated with simplify plug-ins. You can get a very similar result to the above by using Topaz Adjust 5’s Painting Venice using no adjustments. (See my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust Using Painting Venice Preset-Beautiful Effect!)
A while back I did a blog on how this image was created (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image! where both Simplify and Lens Effects were used to create a very painterly effect. This is one of my favorite images from Hawaii but I would overlooked it if the Simplify plug-in was not available. My blog link above will tell you the settings and show you the before image.
Using Simplify with other plug-ins can give a really nice color effect to your images. In my blog Making An Ordinary Image Your Own, the first image was done using both Adjust and then Simplify to get a very subtle soft artsy effect. The Simplify settings for that image is one of my favorites since it is very easy get a more vivid soft look to an image without adjusting a lot of sliders. Simplify and Detail were used together in my Tidbits Blog Using Simplify and Topaz Detail Together where these same Simplify settings were used.
There are lots of references on how to use this plug-in. An excellent resource is from Dan Moughamian at Tips Squirrel.com (one of the best Photoshop sites) called Creating Painterly Effects with Topaz Simpify 3. All the sliders are explained clearly in this short post. There are also two very interesting Topaz Labs videos: the first is called Memorable Travel & Stock Photography by Scott Stulberg where he incorporates using Topaz Adjust, Detail and Simplify for some easy and amazing results; and one called Eliminating Web Effects and Other Artistic Tips in Topaz Simplify by Greg Rostami that discusses the major problem with using this plug-in – the webbing or stained glass effect. He has a pretty sophisticated work-around and some very good examples of how to get the most from Simplify. I still need to work through his suggestions. I have used the above resources for improving my results with this plug-in, and am finding the more I am work with it, the more I am liking the results.
Conclusion: Once again, just like using Photoshop CS6’s Oil Paint filter (see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog), you have to be careful not to get a really “canned” look. I believe there is a lot more versatility built into this plug-in compared to the Oil Paint filter. This blog only addressed some of the creative aspects of it. Because there are many sliders, several that affect the edges of the objects, there are many ways to make your images look totally different. Once again, since Topaz makes such reasonably priced plug-ins and if you like a little artistic flair in your photos, this is definitely the plug-in for you. They have not updated this version for a long time, so I am hoping there will be a newer version being released soon (and remember the updates are free once you buy it!). Even if you are not sure you want it, give the trial a try – it really is fun to play around with…..Digital Lady Syd
Preset settings for the flowers and view images called Hawaii Landscape with these settings: Simplify Panel – RGB Colorspace, Simplify Size 0.29, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.66, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size 0.27, Remove Small 0.06, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Panel – Brightness 0, Contrast 1.00, Saturation 1.04, and Saturation Boost 1.32; and Edges Panel – Color Edge Normal, Edge Strength 1.89, Simplify Edge 0.58, Reduce Weak 33, Reduce Small 0.20, and Flatten Edge 0.
This week I have been pondering this question. Since this is such a large subject for me, I am making this a two part blog so I can show some other workflows to try next time. (See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two))It seems there is so much software and so many tutorials on both subjects available and it gets pretty confusing. What really works and is it possible to get that HDR look with just one photo (hence Pseudo HDR)? In my many past blogs on Pseudo HDR, I have had a pretty fair amount of success getting one image pretty close to a true HDR look. When creating a Pseudo HDR image, only one image is used. I have to admit that I am horrible about dragging my tripod with me so I hand hold when shooting – many times one or more of the images are totally blurry so I am stuck using just one.
The image above is the actual HDR image to use for a quick comparison. It was taken at Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. Only three shots were bracketed using exposure compensations set to 0, -1, and +1. The shot was taken knowing it would make a great HDR image – the girl never saw me taking the image as she was so engrossed in her book, but she really makes the picture pop. Katrin Eismann’s method for processing HDR images (see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!) was used although there are several other techniques out there that do a great jobs in HDR (see Related Blog Links below for more information on this). Basically I just followed her workflow.
This image used my SJ Pseudo HDR preset in Lightroom (or ACR) to begin the HDR process on the the 0 Exposure Compensation image. I followed my workflow (see my blog Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4 for steps and all download links) which entails using my SJ Pseudo1 Recipe in NIK Color Efex Pro 4. Below is the original NEF file as downloaded from the camera. The presets I created for Lightroom and ACR create a warmer tone than the original image and the processing in both Katrin’s HDR workflow and my Pseudo HDR workflow produced dramatically different colors. To get this closer to what the beautiful brickwork really looks like in the single image, I used Dr. Brown’s ACR script twice to cool down the original major orange yellow tint. Adobe Camera Raw is the only place that is easily accessible to adjust orange (especially for skin tone adjustment) so it was the logical place to work on this color issue. The first attempt I adjusted the HSL panel and changed all three settings for the Reds, Oranges, Yellows and Greens. I still did not like the result so the second time around the Temperature and Tint was adjusted and more Hue changes. I think I finally got the result I like, but it still has a little too much beige-yellow tone in it. (See my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) The true HDR image has more colors in the image and the detail is still a little more distinct even though the pseudo image was sharpened extensively. On the other hand, the bikes pop more in the single image and appear to be closer in color to the original image.
Above you can really see in this 2 to 1 blow up of the back wheel chain area the difference between the detail and color toning. (Single image on left and HDR on right.) I definitely like the sharper detail on the true HDR but the color and saturation of the colors in the single image is quite appealing, especially when viewed overall.
When I look at the original, I have to admit I even like the softer tones. Makes you ponder whether an HDR was really necessary in this case – which is a whole other area to cover. Next week I am going to apply some Topaz Adjust and OnOne Perfect Effects filters (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) to this image and see if the results are as good. Both plug-ins give some great HDR results with the right image. I also have another totally different type of workflow using just one image that can give some fabulous results when used correctly. Until then, try processing a single image and compare it to your HDR results and see what you get. I am not sure which one of mine I like best…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Different Images – Same Look Using HDR!
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Nik HDR Efex Pro Example
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Problems for Big Ben
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects
I find that many times my images just look like everyone elses and I really want an image to reflect something slightly different without being over processed or unrecognizable. I struggle with this concept a lot. So this week I have been thinking about what I really like and it is not always what I am seeing. The image above reflects that very sentiment. The image is of the water from one of the boat docks at the Hilton Waikoloa Village but the sky is not the actual color and the highlights were accentuated by using plug-ins. (In Photoshop Topaz Adjust plug-in was used with the Lomo II preset as a starting point, then turned off the Grain setting, readjusted the Vignette by centering off center and adjusting the sliders, and added a little more Warmth. Next Topaz Simplify 3 was added using BuzSim but changed the Simplify Size to 0.05 to make paint strokes very thin, Details Boost to 0.79, Details to 0.13, and then adjusted Saturation to 1.38. See sidebar in my Tidbits blog for Topaz website link.)
The view of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Beach Resort and Spa is a similar example. This image definitely has a real blue tone to it even though the original is not nearly as striking. The final result is how I would like to remember this place. (This image was processed using OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects 3 plug-in – Detail-Amazing Detail filter applied first; next a custom Black and White Effect was created with Color Filter set to 0, Contrast -52, and Toner Strength 22 – then a Masking Bug was applied and inverted so the middle of the image was not affected by the blue tone; and the last step added a Vignette – Big Softy to the image. For OnOne’s website link, see my Tidbits Blog.)
This is a beautiful Roseate Spoonbill taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida. The bird was not shot with a reflection – that was added with Flaming Pear’s Flood plug-in. I really like the image with the reflection much better than the original – it gives that unique feel that I was looking for. (The canvas was extended at the bottom of the image to make room for the reflection. Even though Flood is an older plug-in, it is still the best one for a good reflection with many different sliders to control the effect you want. See my blog “The Flood Look” for more information on this plug-in. The frame is from OnOne PhotoFrame called Instant Film B Warm R2.)
A few week ago I did a blog called “Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect” that also creates a very unique look to the images and they make me think of Hawaii when I see them. I believe this is what I am trying to convey in this blog.
I do love the classic images I take from my trips, but the ones I really like are the ones I make my own. The various plug-ins can make those ordinary images unique and if that is a look you want, give them a try. There are so many out there and it has surprised me how varied and unique a look you can get with a little experimenting. And that is why Photoshop rocks!…..Digital Lady Syd
The above was actually the first image I tried using the new Star Effect plug-in from Topaz – I thought is makes the tree look like it is flowering. The plug-in is a little different than any other ones they offer since it is sold separately from the bundle and it does a very specific effect. (See my Tidbits Blog‘s sidebar for website link.) I beta tested this plug-in before its release so here so are a few tips I learned from using the filter and Topaz’s great Webinars. Topaz suggests this plug-in looks really nice applied to water, candles, city lights at night, dewdrops on flowers, jewelry, Christmas lights, and sunsets to mention a few ideas. This image was first taken into Topaz Simplify and a Paint Colorful preset applied with some adjustments. Next it was taken into Dynamic Auto-Painter program and an Aquarell effect was run. Finally Star Effects was applied back in Photoshop where a Traditional Star was applied using one of their presets.
Star Effects Things To Know:
- Most important thing to understand is that you cannot add stars using the Add brush where you want on an image – if there is not enough light to support the spot where you want the light to appear, it will not let you paint one in that place. However you can remove stars using the Remove brush where the program placed them in areas you do not want them to appear. This is important to know or else nothing makes sense in this plug-in.
- The program places up to 300 stars in the brightest parts of an image. Anything above that amount over this will not be enhanced. This is important if you have a sky image with a lot of points of light but only a few are being picked up by the program. The work-around is to segment you image in Photoshop and select different parts to apply the effect to individually. They say the effect is layer dependent so this works.
- In Main Adjustments settings, must have a setting below 1 in the Threshold slider, above 0 on the Luminance slider, and in Additional Effects section a 0 Glow or you will see no changes. (Threshold near 1 is just one point of light, a setting of 0 is the maximum points of light your can have in that image.) Spread is how thick your star gets – works with Luminance.)
- For a smooth glow to use on water, set Threshold to 0 and Luminance to 0 and paint in a star; then set Glow fairly strong in the Additional Effects section. Be sure to set your Saturation (Saturation set to 0 is white light but as you move it right, it picks up the color from that part of the image so it could be magenta instead of yellow) and Temperature (move to left is cooler colors and right warmer colors) in the Color Adjustments to get a stronger effect. Also try adjusting the Size and Spread to get the final effect.
- Be sure to create presets (identify them as yours with your initials or some other way) so that you can repeat the effect again once you find one you like. Rarely is a preset set up exactly as you need for your image. Topaz says you will probably have to set Threshold and Size with every preset.
- To find out where some of the stars effects are hiding in your image, go to the Star Settings and select Stars Only. I find it very handy to delete the obvious misplaced effects from here with the Remove brush. Sometimes you have to click the Remove brush several times as the stars get stacked easily if the spot is a really hot spot in your image. You can also save image with the just the stars showing on a black background as shown in the Stars Only mode.
- You can remove all the spots in a bright area and then use the Add brush to place the star exactly where you want it – this is particularly handy with a sunset or sunrise image where you want to enhance the sun effect or on candle flames. Even if the Threshold is set to 1, any stars you have set will appear. Also, if the area you are adding stars is not real bright, it will only set a small star, but if area is really bright, then you will get a larger brighter star.
- You do not have to start out with a preset, just select a type of star you like and use the Add brush to place them – note it must be a bright spot for it to stick. It was noted that the Hollywood Star type is good for sun bursts look in sunsets or between trees.
I did not really want to do a Christmas image but I had trouble finding anything with little lights to use, so here it is. I wanted to try two different types of stars applications, so in this image, first a Jewel Sparkle I preset using a Burst Star Type was applied and then adjustments were made. I removed all star effects from the top star area. Next the Sun Flare III preset was applied to just some of the lights to make them stand out more. The Star Type was Traditional and it had more Saturation and Spread than the first stars applied. Once again the star effect was removed from the top star. The last step in the plug-in involved just adding the star effect to the top star. This time I used a Dew Drops I preset as a starting point and added just enough stars to get the top one filled. Then went in the Stars Settings -> Stars Only and removed any points of light that are not in the the top star only. Finally the other sliders were adjusted to get a nice star light feel. Three textures were then added to this image afterwards to get this effect: ShadowHouse Creations Oil Painting-4, Florabella’s Snow 3 (the link is to her Facebook page with the free download on the left side), and OnOne PhotoFrame toner scratch 20 (see my Tidbits Blog‘s sidebar for website link.) . The Sharpen Tool was used to oversharpened to exaggerate the detail and color in the star.
This reminds me of Disney World during the fireworks! Actually it is just a little fountain in our neighborhood. I just wanted to show how fun this effect can be and how pretty the water glow effect is. (See in list above how to do this.) There is not much to say except how did I get the points of light in the sky? Easy, I set up a star scatter brush using the soft brush set to 30 pixels and spacing 1000%. In the Scatter dialog, set the Jitter to 1000% both axis and the Jitter Count to 100. I saved the settings to use the brush again. Just clicked on the sky a couple times and then took it into Star Effects. From there you can use the Remove brush to take them away from areas you don’t want it in. Pretty easy.
An oldie but goodie image from the London Eye is like one Topaz uses to show the City Lights preset effect. It does not look like much but when compared to the original, it is a lot more luminous. Even the sky looks better with a little luminosity in it. Topaz says that the City Light presets can be adjusted to remove the actual stars by setting the Threshold and Luminance to 0, set Glow to a level you like to get a nice glow in the city. For my image the Glow was set to 0.19, Saturation to 0.56, Temperature 0.40, Size of 0.37 and Spread of 0.21. I felt like this gave a very natural look. This image could also have had two different sets of lights applied, one for the city lights and one for the sky.
Topaz has a good User Manual when you download the trial and are offering several more Webinars which is a great way to learn the program. I am not sure this plug-in will be of great use to all Photoshop users, but definitely it makes a great addition if you enjoy the creative aspect of Photoshop. There are so many different looks, and as you can see some are quite realistic looking while others are just for fun. I had a bit of difficulty finding images I have taken that look good with this filter. Several just did not work out. I believe for me to make this plug-in really useful, I need to play more with the controls and see what results I can get. By adding textures after using the effect and creating skies before going into the plug-in will expand the use for me personally. The more I am using it, the more applications I am finding for it.
I have to give Topaz credit for trying a totally different concept from what they usually do. If it does not work on all your images, you won’t feel bad since the price is very reasonable and all upgrades will be free once purchased. That said, it is going to take me some more time before I will really know if it is a plug-in I will use a lot. I will write after I learn more about the effects. Until then, give it a try – it might just be the inspiration you need to get that really great look!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Combining Plug-ins for More Image Interest
If you don’t watch the wonderful webinars and training videos that all the major plug-in makers are offering, you are really missing out on some great tips for using their software. Recently Nik released a really great video titled “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software and Photoshop Elements, presented by Mike Moats” and is located at Nik Software On Demand Center. Mike Moats (he has a really interesting blog) shows how he changes up the workflow from what one might normally do with the Nik products. He first applies Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) and then Nik’s Viveza. He is never quite sure what the CEP4 filters will do to an image. Since the Viveza plug-in adjusts the color and light of an image, it does make sense to apply it after adding CEP4 filter changes. Note: All my CEP4 settings for images are listed at the end of the blog.
I bought the Viveza plug-in when it first came out and everyone was singing its praises. I must confess that after getting Lightroom, I hardly used this plug-in. Now I think I was crazy not too! This video refreshed my memory on why this is the great little plug-in that everyone was raving about. The reason this image pops is that Viveza is able to pin-point small or large areas on the image and adjust it individually – adding in a bit of detail, or toning down a certain color. He teaches you how to set the Control Points that Nik is famous for to get exactly the results you want. In this case, both the saturation and structure control point sliders were individually adjusted on the butterfly and flowers without affecting the background. This is very similar to Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s adjustment brushes, but with much better control and more variables available. It absolutely made a huge difference to all of the images in this blog. See the comparison below showing the layer with Vizeva filter turned off and then on. Seven control points were set to get this effect and no Global Adjustments were made. Both plug-ins can be applied to the same Smart Object layer and all image control points are saved for each plug-in on this layer so you can go back and adjust a slider if you do not like the results. The final processing involved cloning out some of the brown spots on the leaves and sharpening the body and wing lines of the butterfly.
The pink daisies are in a container on my front porch. CEP4 and Viveza (using 11 control points) were both used along with OnOne PhotoFrame weathered wood frame (see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog for website).
This last image is a different shot of my carnation and daisies Christmas flowers. The original image required me to duplicate the original layer and apply a Gaussian Blur at 9.1 pixels to block out the distracting background. A layer mask was added and the flower painted back into the mask with a black brush. Then the CEP4 and Viveza (with 17 control points) plug-ins were applied. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 05 was added along with the Sharpen Tool and a Curves Adjustment Layer.
As you can see, by using the control points to your advantage, very interesting images can be attained. The Viveza plug-in definitely helps sharpen up a slightly soft image. And by setting control points with Structure at -100, the background can be smoothed almost like a gaussian blur effect. If you own either or both of these plug-ins, definitely take a look at this video. Even though he is using flowers and close up photography, he illustrates how to use the control points very well. I learned a lot and am very happy Nik released such a good example of how to use their products…..Digital Lady Syd
CEP4 Settings for each of the images:
The Monarch Butterfly image above was first adjusted in CEP4 with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 26%, Contrast 37%, Saturation 53% and Effect Radius Large); Darken/Lighten Center using #1, Center Luminosity 28%, Border Luminosity -100, Center Size 53% and centered on butterfly head); and Bi-Color User Defined (Opacity 7%, Blend 17%, Vertical Shift 41%, Rotation 46 degrees, Upper Color R66 G68 B98 and Lower Color R184 G103 B4). I would never have thought about using a Bi-Color User Defined filter without viewing this video, but it really enhanced the oranges in the wings and brought out the pink in the flower.
The Daisies used Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 86%, Contrast 78%, Saturation 39% and Effect Radius Large); Bleach Bypass (Brightness -2, Saturation -20%, Contrast 50% and Local Contrast 50%); and Cross Processing (Method L02 and Strength 45%). This example uses similar setting to his first example.
The Christmas Flowers CEP4 settings were: Bleach Bypass (Brightness -6, Saturation -2%, Control 27%, and Local Contrast 65%), Darken/Lighten Center (#1, Center Luminosity -10%, Border Luminosity -27%, Center Size 44% and Place Center just below red carnation), and Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 36%, Contrast 6%, Saturation 21%, and Effect Radius Large with control points in background to remove effect).
Since I am such a big fan of Topaz, I thought it might be interesting to use the same image and see what effects I could come up with using each of the five major plug-ins in the Topaz Plug-in Bundle (to go to website, click on the sidebar in my Tidbits Blog). The photo is of an old Sears Victorian house built in St. Augustine about 100 years ago. There are still a few that can be seen when driving around the city. Very beautiful houses! I could picture myself living in one! All these images were finished by painting in a flare in the top right corner using my Lens Flare Brushes since the image was blown out by the sun in that corner, and a Curves Adjustment Layer. I have written about almost all of these plug-ins previously, so check out my related blogs at bottom if you find you want more information on one of them.
This is the mainstay of the whole Topaz Plug-in Bundle, in my opinion, so this is the first plug-in used on the image. I used a preset I had created a long time ago to get this effect. Basically it involved using a warm feel to achieve an early morning look. Many different filters could easily have been used – this plug-in is fun to try on new looks to your images.
This is a creative plug-in – definitely gives a more painterly look as opposed to the more realistic look some of the other plug-ins give. The canned Buzz Sim preset was used to create this look, an effect I have always enjoyed – see my blog “Simplifier and Simplify Filters” about the original filter that was picked up by Topaz many years ago.
Topaz Lens Effect
Topaz recently updated this plug-in and added three more filters and several presets to make this plug-in even more versatile. I am not the best at setting up a great depth map, it does take some practice. In the image above, you can see that the center ground is more in focus than the foreground and background. This is where this plug-in really excels and once you get the hang of it, it is quit effective. I do not know of any other plug-in that does this type of effect. In this image, a Bokeh Selective effect was applied and several adjustments made after the depth map was created. This plug-in allows you to stack filters, so next a Filter Dual Tone was created where a Blue/Cyan color was added to the top and a slight yellow cast added to the bottom of the image. Finally a new filter from the latest upgrade was used called Warmth and the Warm I preset was applied. Overall, a bit of a different look with softer lines of the house with the focal point being centered on the palm tree and the color beams in the image.
Topaz Detail is an overlooked plug-in but actually gives some wonderful results. This image uses the Desaturation Blush preset with the Saturation slider set to -0.62. It gives a very nice effect on this house and perhaps the most natural of them all. I was surprised how similar it looks to the Topaz Adjust filter result.
Topaz Black and White Effects
This is my favorite plug-in in the bundle and a relative newcomer. Every time I use it, the image comes out really nice – not necessarily like I shot it, but with a bit of artistic flair added, and yet it retains the true nature of the image. It looks like how I envision an old Victorian house should look on a hot summer morning. Totally unique feel. In this image a preset I created for a sunny water landscape was used. (This preset contains the default Basic Exposure settings; Adaptive Exposure Settings: Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26.10, Protect Highlights and Shadows – 0, Detail 1.11 and Detail Boost 1.09; Quad Tone settings: Color 1 Region (color R1/G1/B12) set to 0.60, Color 2 Region (color R63/G78/B85) set to 95.97, Color 3 Region (color R216/G211/B129) set to 141.2, and Color 4 Region (color R255/G254/B237) set to 255.0; Edge Exposure set; and Transparency set 1.00. The key to this look is the Quad Tone section in Finishing Touches. See my Tidbits Blog “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for more information on this.
Topaz Adjust, Detail and Black and White Effects
Topaz has done a wonderful job of providing great videos to learn how to use all their plug-ins provided in the bundle. A video, “Creative Essentials with Topaz Plug-Ins presented by Joel Wolfson,” was presented where he went over his Topaz workflow to create some beautiful works of digital art. I followed some of his suggestions and created this final image. I was very pleased with the results – looks similar to the one above but is more of a black and white effect and, again, not unlike what I visualize an old Victorian house might look like.
I hope this is giving everyone a chance to see the flexibility that this bundle of plug-ins can produce. With just a few of these plug-ins, a great variety of effects can be achieved and they can be used together to get even more interesting results. I am very happy that I have this set of filters at my fingertips – they do produce beautiful results. …..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Using Topaz Adjust 5 and Color Efex Pro 4 with Photoshop Elements
Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!
Topaz Lens Effect’s Artistic Flair!
Combining Plug-ins – Double the Effect! (Several Topaz Plug-ins)
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz! (Topaz Adjust and Len Effects Plug-ins)
Loving Both Filters (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Trying Out the Minimalist Look? (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Same Image – Different Plug-In (Topaz B&W Effects and Lens Effects Plug-ins)
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Just Another Topaz Black & White Effect Example
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Topaz InFocus Plug-in – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
More Filmstrip Fun – How Can This Be? (Topaz Detail Plug-in)
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
How to Add Images to Text (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
Since I have been giving such glowing reviews to their newest competitor into the black and white plug-in world (Topaz Black & White Effects), I really should show you why, if you totally love black and white images, this is the plug-in you want. I was reminded by a webinar sponsored by NIK and featuring Dave Devitale called “The Creative Edge in Digital Photography” (the sound quality on this video was not good), that Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) really does give wonderful results. The interface is familiar and similar to the other great NIK plug-ins so it makes getting up to speed really fast. The presets give you excellent quick looks at the different effects and make it easy to get a pleasing result without a lot of adjusting. NIK really knows how to put together a great plug-in and this one is no different. It’s biggest drawback is the price.
St. George Street in St. Augustine was processed in black and white due to a large contrast in the original image. A simple workflow was followed and was a pretty basic use of NIK’s SEP2. Clean up your image, duplicate it and make it a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Create Smart Object since SEP2 remembers your plug-in settings and control points), got to Filter -> NIK -> Silver Efex Pro 2 and look at the presets. The 015 Full Dynamic (harsh) preset was chosen as a starting point. An Orange color filter was used and Sensitivity colors were adjusted for the image. Toning 4 was added. Back in Photoshop the standard layers were added: a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast, a Sharpen Tool layer, and a basic layer style for the framing. That’s it and you get a very nice black and white image.
This image followed a slightly different technique that Moose Peterson, the famous outdoor photographer recommended in a NIK video called “Finishing Techniques Using NIK Software.” The original image was processed in ACR and then brought into Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and in SEP2, the Full Dynamic Smooth preset was applied for a starting point. Moose prefers this preset. Then he duplicates the black and white layer and opens up the NIK Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in – he likes the Neutral Density filter where he can adjust the tonality of the clouds. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer is added and its layer mask filled with black – it is then painted on with a 20% white brush to darken the foreground and add detail to the clouds. For a better explanation check out the video which is very good.
Above is the current Casa Monica Hotel (was the Cordova Hotel in 1888 when it was opened) in St. Augustine, Florida, and one of the grand old hotels of city. I have used this technique before when processing color images – a color image is opened, the layer duplicated and turned into a Smart Object, and the top layer is taken into the SEP2 plug-in to create a black and white effect. (See next image explanation for settings used in SEP2.) Once back inside Photoshop, different blend modes are tried for the black and white layer. In this case, the Screen blend mode was selected at 59% opacity. A Curves Adjustment layer was added. Finally a New Layer was created for use with the Sharpen Tool where I went over the edges of the building and some of the window details. I love the final postcard look – perfect for this type of historic building. The SEP2 settings listed for the next image are exactly the same for the hotel except the Image Border is Type 13.
This is of the backside of run down storefronts in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. I loved the slight touch of color and texture that came through in this image. The workflow was very similar to the one used on the image above – except this time the blend mode was left to Normal at 70% opacity. It gives a very different look even though the same oo5-High Structure (Harsh) preset was used in SEP2 with slightly different settings applied. Different Control Points were used to add extra contrast in localized areas and the green leaves were darkened using a Control Point. In the Film Types section the Orange Filter was used and in the drop-down, Film Type Kodak ISO 32 Panatomic X was selected as a starting point. The creamy color is achieved using Toning 14. A slight dark vignette was created and Image Border Type 2 was added. Be sure to create your own preset at this point if you find some settings you like by clicking on Add Preset and name it. In Photoshop the Sharpen Tool was used on the ironwork to bring out the detail a bit more and a final Curves Adjustment Layer was added.
The Tomorrowland Sign is an example of using two different layers for your effect. Duplicate your original layer (CTRL+J) and turn off the top layer. On the bottom layer, a Topaz Adjust Spicify preset was applied to the image. This gives the really bright and edgy look of the actual sign. Now on the top layer, go to SEP2 and convert your image emphasizing how you want to the background of the image to appear such as softening the lines. Once out of the plug-in, add a Layer Mask and carefully mask out the Tomorrowland Sign. The final step involves going to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur to make the black and white background a softer feel so it does not compete with the colorful sign for attention. I believe this is a really nice way to apply the SEP2 plug-in for a different look.
I hope this gives an idea of what can be achieved with what is considered the best black and white plug-in ever created. I have enjoyed trying some photos in this program and I would suggest that if you like black and white, it is worth a trial download to see what you think. Enjoy yourself and try out some new looks and techniques…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Same Image-Different Plug-in
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2
Same Image-Different Look!
I have been doing Photoshop for several years now – I actually learned the program using Adobe PhotoDeluxe, which came with my printer (this was the precursor to Photoshop Elements). When first learning Adobe Photoshop, plug-ins were way too expensive for me. A few years ago, I finally bought my first plug-in, Topaz Adjust (for website link see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog), and it has been totally worth the money! Topaz Adjust is the whole package and at a very reasonable price (at the moment it is $50 – for link see Tidbits Blog tab above).
The image above is one of my all-time favorite pseudo-HDR images – it was taken from the London Eye as it was moving. Therefore I had to use Topaz Adjust if I wanted an HDR feel to the image. To get this particular look, I applied the plug-in twice, first using the HDR Pop preset and next using HDR Spicify preset (use a layer mask to paint out any portions you do not like from the top layer). Remember to open up the shadows by increasing this slider and possibly lowering your highlights a bit – check the contrast slider too.
I do love the HDR effect. Since I am not always very good about using a tripod, especially when taking travel pictures, Topaz Adjust has saved the day many times for me. On the Jackson downt0wn picture, I hand-held my camera for HDR and got such a garbled mess, I ended up using Topaz Adjust’ s HDR Pop preset on the middle exposure image. This preset needed a few adjustments to get the right look, but don’t pass it over with the first glance. Rick Sammon, who is one of the great HDR guys, did an excellent video for Topaz called “Awaken the Artist Within” where he discusses his settings for this preset. What I did was create a Rick Sammon HDR Pop preset using his adjustments and applied these settings with very little tweaking – and it took just a few seconds to do! (Rick Sammon also has written a very good basic book, “HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers,” which I found to be very useful, although both Photomatix Pro and Topaz Adjust have updated their software since its publication. (There is some controversy on what people expected from his book – I still found his discussions on when to use HDR very useful. I hope Rick is considering updating his book as it has the best information on Topaz Adjust and how to use it.)
I wanted to show a comparison of using a single image with HDR Toning in CS5 and the Topaz Adjust HDR Pop preset. For Photoshop CS5, go to Image -> Image Adjustment -> HDR Toning. (Note: the program will flatten your image for this adjustment so save to a single layer first.) This brings up a dialog box that gives a convincing HDR effect when limited to just one image. There are various Presets in a drop-down menu and you can save your own presets here if you find some settings you like. Overall it is a very nice addition to Photoshop and you should definitely explore it. (Check out my previous blog “Different Images-Same Look Using HDR!” for more information on HDR Toning.) The image on the left was created using this technique. A Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter was also added to get more detail into the image. The image on the right just used Topaz Adjust using Rick Sammon’s HDR Pop preset and the same Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter. I find that combining two different plug-ins can really make an image pop and that is what happened when the Tonal Contrast filter was applied.
When you look at the two images, they look pretty similar – the HDR Toning effect is missing a bit of detail, the color is not quite the same – even the OnOne PhotoFrame (for website see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) looks different even though it is the exact same frame for each image. I spent an hour just manipulating this image trying to duplicate Topaz Adjust’s look – I ended up using some Burning to bring out the detail on the white stones and after trying every adjustment layer, I settled two, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and the Photo Filter Adjustment Layer set to Cooling Filter (LBB) at 44% density to get the closest proximity for color. Now I would not normally spend all this time trying to get two images looking exactly the same, but I wanted to show it is possible to get a very similar look without purchasing a plug-in. I personally still like the Topaz image as the detail and color makes the image look like it did when I saw it – and after all, that is the name of the game!
Below, the top image was processed using three images with Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro and underneath, the Topaz Adjust plug-in on one image.
Very similar look. The Topaz Adjust plug-in used the Rick Sammon HDR Pop preset I created and the Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter. A PhotoFrame was added and that was it – very quick. The Photoshop HDR Pro image took a lot longer – the trees did not match perfectly and caused me to bring in one of the images to clean this up. It looked a bit flat to me so I had to Burn in some detail. It once again took about an hour to get this adjusted the way I like it. Since I am only using one image in Topaz Adjust, the tree line looks sharp and crisp and I like the way the windows popped. Therefore, once again the Topaz plug-in created a nice effect faster and with great detail from a single image.
Here is what the original middle exposure RAW file looked like straight from the camera, and the one used in the Topaz Adjust image, in case you are interested in what these programs can do with a pretty uninteresting subject.
The one thing I have had trouble figuring out it is when to use HDR and when to use Topaz Adjust. Rick Sammon explains in his book, ” If the dynamic range of your scene is 3 F-stops, you can manage it in Photoshop.” Therefore, if you have an image with a lot of contrast, you will need an HDR program to get all the detail. Otherwise, Adobe Camera Raw (see how to get back into ACR after opening file in my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“), CS5’s HDR Toning, or Topaz Adjust can be used on a single image. Raw file format is the best choice, using your image with the most contrast from the HDR set of images, if you took them. You will not get anymore detail in your image using three HDR images that only has 3 F-stops of information. (See above images.)
When doing HDR, you will probably still have to do some adjustments in Photoshop afterwards. Adding a Topaz Adjust preset or a Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter can finish up an image – it is that extra step that might make the picture better than the average HDR. Use layer masks to mask out effects and Curves Adjustment layers to emphasize contrast.
The final image is another example of using Topaz Adjust but this time it is giving an artsy look by using the Spicify preset and increasing the Noise Suppression. This was another of Rick Sammon’s examples in the linked video above. I made another preset to duplicate his basic settings. Below is the result.
I could go on-and-on with what this little plug-in can do. It definitely adds to my total pleasure while working with Photoshop – and I definitely would not use it if it was not fun! I hope you will download a trial of the Topaz Adjust plug-in. I believe you will enjoy a lot of the results you get. I find that I use this plug-in about as much as the regular HDR programs to get that really interesting effect, whether using HDR or pseudo HDR – and you got to love the way it can make a really boring picture interesting! Good luck experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
There is a lot of excitement in the Lightroom community this week about this new plug-in from OnOne software (see Digital Lady Syd’s Tidbits Blog sidebar to access website). If you love Lightroom, like I do, you need to try it out. Not unlike my “Fader” blog from a few weeks ago, this plug-in is accessed from the Plug-In Extras under the File menu. Below is a version I created solely in Lightroom (even OnOne’s PhotoFrame can be accessed from Lightroom) except for my signature layer. The following three images are all of Urquhart Castle in Scotland – a wonderful place to take photos!
I spent a few hours looking at the various short videos (most about 2 minutes long) on the OnOne site that were very helpful. When I first installed the program, I had some problems and had to reinstall it. It worked fine after that. Check out both Matt Kloskowski’s and Scott Kelby’s videos (on the same page as the download) for great explanations on how to use this add on. For the above image, I just used the original image and a Virtual Copy with a preset I created called Emphasize Purple (you may download here). A layer mask made inside Perfect Layers masked out the drab sky from the one image and added the beautiful virtual copy sky layer. which was set to Darken Blend Mode at 100% opacity. Very easy and very clean! Most of the Photoshop shortcuts work so it does not have that large a learning curve. Please note that in this version of Perfect Layer, the following Photoshop options are not supported – text layers, vector masks, layer styles, adjustment layers, paths, alpha channels, smart objects, layer groups, and clipping masks. These options will be flattened into a new psd file copy and rendered as a single layer in Perfect Layers. Simple psd files containing basic layers and masks will open correctly. Your original version with all your original layers is always left untouched.
The image above uses the original image and a virtual copy that was converted to black and white – no preset used. Both copies of the image were selected and loaded into Perfect Layers with the B&W image on top. A Darken Blend Mode at 84% opacity was added along with a “Painted Out” Layer Mask so that the castle itself would retain its color and detail. The B&W layer was copied so the background water and hill could be emphasized even more – this new layer was set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% opacity with the Layer Mask painted to hide the castle and foreground. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added to finish.
Below, two virtual copies were created and the Fader plug-in applied with a setting of 150% for each preset: the Blue and Gray preset (one I created to correct the water color) and Lightroom’s packaged preset called Direct Positive (for the castle and foliage). Both virtual copies were selected and loaded into Perfect Layers with the Blue and Gray preset layer on the bottom. The Direct Positive preset layer on top was put into an Overlay Blend Mode. A Layer Mask was “Painted Out” using the Brush Tool at 75% opacity over the water on the bottom edge. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added last. I am glad the two plug-ins both work together in Lightroom.
Texture and image blending can easily be handled. In the image below, after bringing a Maui landscape into Perfect Layers, the sky was stretched and cropped to become the whole image. One of Caleb Kimbrough‘s beautiful free grunge textures (that can be downloaded here) is not in my Lightroom catalog but was added by going to File and selecting Add Layer(s) From File. Really sweet!
I have not tried all the ideas suggested in the videos and hope to try them soon. Once again, this has been a fun week of trying out something new – that is what is so great about Photoshop and Lightroom – there are always new things to explore! Hope you try out this new plug-in – I believe it is worth the time to do so!…..Digital Lady Syd