Archive for the ‘first look’ Category

Topaz InFocus Debuts Soon, Available Now   3 comments

A wild pony at close range at the Assateague National Seashore, Maryland

A wild pony and I have a bit of a staring contest on Assateague Island, Maryland.

Very little processing work was done to this image. Of particular note, though, is the use of a brand new Photoshop plug-in from Topaz Labs, called Topaz InFocus. InFocus was used to bring more clarity to the pony’s hair, which was blowing in the wind. After that, I applied an 11-blade bokeh and a vignette effect along the edges using Alien Skin’s Bokeh filter, although it wasn’t really all that necessary… it just added a bit more depth to the image. No other adjustments were made!

You can get a $40 discount off of Topaz InFocus until December 3rd, 2010.  Click one of the Topaz InFocus links on this page and enter the code “supersharp” when checking out.

Topaz InFocus

Topaz InFocus is a completely new sharpening solution designed to restore image clarity, recover lost detail and refine with micro-contrast detail enhancement. The range of achievable sharpening possibilities have been dramatically improved and simplified with this new tool, allowing users to easily increase the sharpness and definition of any image.
With Topaz InFocus you can:
• Simply and effectively improve image clarity.
• Approximately reverse blur, recovering “lost” image detail.
• Refine subtle structure detail through micro-contrast enhancement.
• Effortlessly sharpen and refine image detail for a crisp, clear and vivid image.

A NYC cityscape before applying the Topaz InFocus filter (click the image to see a larger version in a new window):

An aerial image of a city before applying Topaz InFocus filter

The same NYC cityscape after applying the Topaz InFocus filter (click the image to see a larger version in a new window):

A cityscape after Topaz InFocus filter applied.

My Initial Impressions

If you have been a reader of my blog for a while, you know that I wouldn’t recommend a product that I haven’t used, or found to be useful to my workflow. But I can unreservedly suggest that you take a good (sharp) look at Topaz InFocus, as it may help to save images that were otherwise destined for the trash. As you can see from the sample images above, InFocus was very successful at pulling an out-of-focus image into an image with outstanding clarity. It also did a righteous number on the pony’s hair in the first image. The InFocus interface is clean and intuitive, like most Topaz plug-ins, and doesn’t require much of a learning curve.

That said, InFocus doesn’t work for every situation, and that should be kept in mind as you go back through your library of questionable images. As we know, when shooting RAW there is a great deal of latitude available in terms of exposure compensation, white balance, contrast, and the like, but if your original image is badly out of focus, there’s really not much that can be done. During my tests of Topaz InFocus, I fed it some images that were simply beyond salvation. Wishful thinking on my part… those images were really beyond help, and it was too much to expect them to become NatGeo material.

I noticed that the more small detail there is in the image, the more likely that Topaz InFocus would help. You can see this in the cityscape examples, especially, and in the pony’s hair, which is why I included that particular image in this post.

If you’ve ever used Topaz plug-ins, you’ll find that InFocus has an extremely simple interface, with the standard previews and preset areas, including space to store up to 99 of your own presets.  For more detailed information on InFocus, please visit the Topaz website via any of the links on this page. You’ll find much more detail on this new product, along with links to tutorials and sample images.

Topaz InFocus is available today, although the official release isn’t schedule until Monday, November 22nd.  The best part is that if you pop on Topaz InFocus before December 3rd, you can get a $40 discount (regularly $69.99) by entering the code “supersharp” when you check out.  If you’re still not sure, the standard trial is available so that you can see it for yourself before buying.

For an explanation of how Topaz InFocus compares to Topaz Detail, click here.

Have fun going through you library looking for ‘meh’ images!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

32 Float™ from Unified Color – First Look   2 comments

Welcome yon HDR peeps!

I bring glad tidings of a new Photoshop® plug-in from Unified Color, the same folks who make HDR Expose. I don’t have any screen shots, yet, but having seen a demo of the new product last night, I can say that the interface looks very much like HDR Expose working within Photoshop, so I’d expect the learning curve to be quite minimal.

Up until now, editing images in 32-bit mode in Adobe® Photoshop® was extremely limited. Most of the adjustment features were grayed out and unavailable in 32-bit mode. There were a couple of gamma adjustments and filters available, but nothing terribly useful. For those of us who feel a need to retain all of the information in an HDR image for as long as possible, this was a problem. Or, just ‘life as-it-is” when working with Photoshop.

32 Float™ is the first fully featured 32-bit color editing plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop® based on Unified Color’s patented Be­yond RGB™ color space. Now, you can have full control over color adjustments, brightness, contrast, veiling glare and other functions while editing in full 32-bit mode, without having to sample your images down to 8- or 16-bits in order to work with filters and other functions. You can also work with 8- or 16-bit images as well with 32 Float™, so the functionality of the new product extends over a wide range.

You could, of course, use HDR Expose to accomplish these adjustments on a standalone basis, but having those capabilities integrated with Photoshop helps to streamline your HDR workflow.

32 Float will accept a variety of input file types, including but not limited to OpenEXR, Radiance, and BEF 32-bit HDR files. Alternatively, you can use Photoshop’s Merge to HDR function to create your 32-bit HDR file. From within Photoshop, you can pull down the filter menu to access 32 Float, where you’re brought into an interface that looks surprisingly similar to HDR Expose, with only a few minor variations. (The buttons have been regrouped, and a few others have been removed for the plug-in, as they weren’t necessary in this workflow.)

After making your adjustments in 32 Float, you apply the changes and those changes are saved as a new layer in Photoshop! (You can apply them to the base layer, but I wouldn’t recommend that.) From there, you are free to do any masking or other adjustments on that new layer.

But here’s the kicker: Suppose you have a scene with a really wide dynamic range, and you’d like to process segments of the image in different ways. After saving your first adjustments in a new Photoshop layer, you can go back to the Background (original) layer and invoke 32 Float again, making a different set of adjustments. Saving those adjustments as a new layer allows you to mask in or mask out sections of the image to draw out ALL of the information in the scene.

I think the possibilities are great for creative use of this plug-in. We certainly could have done the same thing with multiple BEF files from HDR Expose, but this new workflow makes it so much easier to work with layers in Photoshop.

When I get my hands on a copy of 32 Float, I’ll surely continue on with my notes.

32 Float is scheduled to be released this week, probably on August 26th or 27th. There will be limited-time introductory pricing on 32 Float, as well as bundle pricing if you’d like to get 32 Float along with HDR Expose.

For more information, please visit Unified Color‘s website. The Press Release under the Company section will tell you everything you might need to know.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the Discount section above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Combining HDR Programs   1 comment

North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning

“North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning”

As I like to say: “The great part about not knowing all the rules is that it allows one to break them without compunction.”  Who’s to say that we can’t take the output from one HDR program and use it as input to another? Or, vice-versa? What happens if we combine this, with that? While sometimes the result looks like we’ve just combined matter with anti-matter, interesting surprises can result from such experimentation.

And, since we’re HDR photogs, don’t we inherently enjoy experimenting like the early alchemists?

I’ve been working quite a bit with Unified Color’s new HDR Expose program, and I’ve been using Photomatix Pro for quite a while now .  Each has its strengths, as we might expect, and I could pick over their respective weaknesses as well.  Rather than dwelling on what’s missing, I tried my best to use the strengths of each program in this image.  (Note: Discount codes for both programs are available from the Discounts menu above.)

When I ran the brackets through HDR Expose and applied edits there, the result was an ‘as-I-saw-it’ image with great shadow and highlight detail.  But, at the end of the process, it looked like an old building sitting in a field — which is exactly what it was.  While the result was an accurate representation, in this case it seemed to lack something artistic or interesting. There wasn’t enough there to really hold one’s attention.

Enter the stalwart Photomatix Pro 3(.2.9)  The output from that pass had elements that I loved about the building, but there was significant ghosting in the tree branches and the monochromatic sky had that dingy quality despite my having upped the micro-smoothing and highlights-smoothing substantially.  Those things could have been handled in Photoshop pretty easily by layering in a single RAW, but why not try something different?

Using standard Photoshop layering techniques, we’re able to quickly and easily combine the best elements of each program’s output. The shack was rendered by Photomatix Pro, while the remainder of the scene is from HDR Expose. Along the trees in certain spots, there is a mixture of the two, with HDR Expose handling most of the pixels.  Following up with some Curves adjustments and a little selective saturation boost in select spots, we have what I think is an interesting image: A funky old shack with some outrageous surface color — just as I had remembered it in the  harsh morning light (I drink strong coffee…) —  with sunlight pouring in through the roof.

It’s not a radical idea, of course, using various layers to achieve an effect.  I have some other experiments going on that I believe could be ever more interesting.

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