When your images come out of your camera in RAW format, they tend to be a bit dull and grey. That’s because they haven’t been processed yet.
The image is waiting for you, the artist, to define how much colour and contrast you want among many other things.
One of the adjustments you can make in RAW is “clarity” which defines the edges of things and adds some punch to your photo. Adding a little clarity can bring definition into the clouds and provide some separation between the highlights and shadows.
But it can be so easy to overdo it! Before you know it you have halos and artifacts and an un-natural looking image.
Last week I was given a copy of their new product Topaz Clarity to try out. Here’s how my trial went.
I decided to work with this image I made of some ruins in a ghost town in Texas. I chose it because there are details in the mid-tone range that need to be brought out as well as some clouds that could use definition. This is how the image looks in Lightroom with only a white balance adjustment and slight sharpening in the building.
You are probably wondering what this would this look like if I just added some clarity using the slider in Lightroom. Here is the answer.
In my opinion, this has too much of an effect on the building and not enough in the sky. I could use the adjustment brush and make multiple adjustments to different parts of the image in Lightroom, but that’s a bit finicky and I still didn’t get results I liked.
Here is the result I got using Topaz Clarity.
All I had to do was simply choose one of their 100 presets and click “OK.” It’s as simple as that.
I really like how natural the image looks. The one I processed a year ago is way over the top compared to this one! There are no halos, no black clouds, and it doesn’t have that gritty look you can sometimes get by adding clarity.
Here is a look at the interface, which will look very familiar to you if you have used any of the other Topaz Labs plugins.
You have the presets panel on the left which is divided into collections. Choose a collection and then choose on of the presets below.
On the right is the preview window and the settings panel which allows you to fine-tune any of the clarity adjustments. You can see that instead of one clarity slider like you get in Lightroom, there are four clarity sliders which means you can target the contrast adjustment for particular tonal ranges in the image.
In the settings panel you can also apply a mask to define areas of the image that you do not want to be affected at all, and you can adjust the hue, saturation and luminosity of various colours.
- The plugin is very easy to use with a friendly user interface.
- The result is natural looking with no halos or artifacts.
- There are 100 different presets to choose from and you can make manual adjustments.
- It can be used as a stand alone package or as a plugin with Photoshop. I use mine as a plugin with Photoshop Elements.
- The only con I can think of is that if you don’t already use Topaz products, it might be hard to choose which one to go with. I love Topaz Adjust, it is a fantastic plugin with tons of presets, some of which affect clarity and some do a wide variety of other things. It is fun to use, I use it frequently, and the result is very dramatic. Topaz Clarity adds definition and punch to an image while still keeping it natural looking. So it all depends on what you are after.
Find out more about Topaz Clarity and pick up your copy here. You can also download a free trial and try it out for yourself first.