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Author Topic: New Topaz plug-in  (Read 9205 times)
digitaldog
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« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2013, 08:46:43 AM »
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Here is a demo video that does a reasonable job of showing the different features.

Thanks, very interesting but it begs the question: why do the original's or 'before" look so ugly and in need of contrast fixes? The landscape image is flat, flat, FLAT, who rendered it from raw so poorly <g?

Masking controls with brushes are very cool! Seems worth $30 although I'd still attempt to do all this work parametrically in my raw converter.
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Andrew Rodney
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2013, 10:15:42 AM »
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Thanks, very interesting but it begs the question: why do the original's or 'before" look so ugly and in need of contrast fixes? The landscape image is flat, flat, FLAT, who rendered it from raw so poorly <g?

Hi Andrew,

I agree, although one could also say that it is perhaps somewhat possible to make a silk(ish) purse out of a sows ear after all Wink  It would certainly help to produce a better Raw conversion as a starting point, although it is also a matter of speed. How long does it take someone to achieve the level of detailed tone-mapping, if at all achievable? Excellent results can be achieved with both approaches, but I do like the level of control that the Plug-in offers. It also allows to use its functionality outside of Photoshop or Lightroom, for those who use other plug-in aware applications.

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Masking controls with brushes are very cool! Seems worth $30 although I'd still attempt to do all this work parametrically in my raw converter.

There are indeed benefits to doing as much as possible in parametric mode, if possible. The plug-in makes it quite easy to e.g. apply a linear gradient mask to a sky, and adjust the mask with edge-awareness at the sky-line. I also find myself tweaking some local colors more than I used to, perhaps because it is so easy to see the before and after results. The interactivity and fast preview updates help to explore the creative options. It's also simple to create snapshots at different stages, and they will automatically be removed when the filter is finally applied, the house-cleaning is automatic.

Cheers,
Bart
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digitaldog
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2013, 10:53:01 AM »
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I agree, although one could also say that it is perhaps somewhat possible to make a silk(ish) purse out of a sows ear after all Wink  It would certainly help to produce a better Raw conversion as a starting point, although it is also a matter of speed.

On this end, it's always faster to move a few sliders in a raw converter then trying to 'fix' the lack of such moves later in Photoshop.

We can also under expose and over develop film, fix stuff in the darkroom etc. I've always been one to 'fix' or produce the best results as early on in the process as possible. I find that nearly always results in less work, better data and results. I recall very early in the Photoshop days, photographers would be 'on set' and instead of moving a light an inch to reduce a reflection somewhere, they would just say "I'll fix it in Photoshop". Early on I found nothing was faster in Photoshop than fixing the issue (if possible) when making the image or later rendering from raw. Sometimes the only fix is Photoshop but a lot of fixes are on the set, later in the raw converter etc.

And with the masses now wondering about their future use of Photoshop, doing more outside that product and earlier in the workflow might be a good idea on top of the other reasons above.
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« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2013, 07:29:36 PM »
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And with the masses now wondering about their future use of Photoshop, doing more outside that product and earlier in the workflow might be a good idea on top of the other reasons above.
except some poor souls who want ACR and that means having (and being shoved to subscription model) PS (unless you agree w/ more limited ACR in PE).
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ButchM
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« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2013, 08:00:22 PM »
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except some poor souls who want ACR and that means having (and being shoved to subscription model) PS (unless you agree w/ more limited ACR in PE).

Agreed ... it has become more than apparent that Adobe wishes us to become enslaved to their workflow (regardless if they may appear to be more efficient on the surface)  ... so in that respect, I don't think it is quite necessary to to disavow alternative options that could get us to the final result, though they may be less efficient in the short term .... rather than to succumb to agreements that may favor one developer over another ...
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Gulag
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« Reply #25 on: May 24, 2013, 10:07:04 PM »
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IHP can achieve almost the same results if you can fix Photoshop's handicapped implementation of its HP first.
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Rand47
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« Reply #26 on: May 25, 2013, 08:30:37 AM »
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Bart,

Thanks for sharing the video link.  Very impressive.  The range of control & masking make it very attractive.

Rand
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #27 on: May 25, 2013, 07:12:27 PM »
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Bart,

Thanks for sharing the video link.  Very impressive.  The range of control & masking make it very attractive.

Hi Rand,

You're welcome. The ease of masking also allows to only affect smaller portions of the image, which can be used when working in a layer enabled application.

An example of such use can be in smoothing skin in portraits. A negative Micro-Contrast and/or Low-Contrast adjustment can help, and the skin mask can be built with the Color Range control. Whether the result is satisfactory depends on the specific skin issues that need to be addressed (some healing will usually still be required).

Cheers,
Bart
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #28 on: May 26, 2013, 06:12:31 AM »
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Hi folks,

I have been asked in another venue about the differences between a traditional USM with High Radius (50+) and Low Amount (<10%) setting as a generic local contrast adjustment and this new Topaz Clarity plugin. Perhaps a simple demonstration on a predictable subject can clarify the differences a bit more.

Topaz Clarity treats sharp edges by enhancing the psychological/physiological Mach band effect, and mimics the psychological effect of simultaneous contrast.

Here is how the Topaz Clarity Low Contrast slider set to 50 adjusts a normal step wedge:


Compare that to a HiRaLoAm below, which has a fixed effect depending on feature size together with the Radius setting and introduces a small halo overshoot immediately at the edge of the transition which then becomes linear, where Topaz Clarity allows to address several sizes and gradient ranges, and produces a more curved Mach Band transition or a straight transition that varies depending on the brightness level without halo overshoots. The halo overshoots will be easy to see on large format output, but Topaz Clarity avoids that.

The effect may be subtle for untrained observers, but is a well known phenomenon e.g. with many Radiologists who were trained to read Radiographs (X-rays) on film. In regular photochemical film processing it is often referred to as acutance caused by local depletion or lateral inhibition.

Here is how a USM with High Radius (50 pixels) and Low Amount (10%) changes the stepwedge.


Cheers,
Bart


« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 06:33:34 AM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
Jack Hogan
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« Reply #29 on: May 26, 2013, 09:23:36 AM »
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Clarity as implemented in PS (whether through HP or through Hi Radius Low Amplitude USM) is a very rough tool that according to Vincent Versace in Welcome to Oz 2 'locally targets midtone image structure'.  Then Nik Color Efex Pro 4's Tonal Contrast was developed, aka clarity on steroids, which allows us to selectively and separately adjust 'not only the midtones but the highlight and shadow areas as well'.  It also adds saturation control and shadow/highlight protection.  It sports Nik's outstanding Control Point (masking) technology and can be combined with any of the other filters in CEP4.  Tonal Contrast often works at default settings, with the main tweaks typically being opacity (waaay down) and possibly saturation.  A very useful tool when used in moderation.

Enter Topaz Clarity.  The question many of us have is whether it is better than Tonal Contrast.  My early answer is that I can get very similar effects from both.  Clarity has many more controls (34 sliders in all!) which means that it could give 'better' or more varied results - it is on the other hand harder to use imo and requires a longer learning curve.  For instance it controls Micro/Low/Medium/High contrast separately - I am struggling to refer those to specific areas in the image.  I am also not a fan of the existing presets, which I found myself tweaking a lot to get the desired result.  The built-in Hue Saturation and Luminance filter is nice (don't we have that in ACR?) as is the masking capability (a toss with Control Points, which I think I prefer).

Despite the fact that I am a big fan of Topaz Plug-ins (InFocus, Denoise, ReMask and B&W Effects being often used favorites) I can't help thinking that at times they try to do too much in one plug-in, and that they would be better served breaking them down into smaller, easier to understand and use, narrower purpose units (like CEP4 does?).  BTW, Tonal Contrast is the only filter of the Nik Collection I use.

Contrast is everything in photography.  An image without contrast contains no information.  So the ability to control contrast is key to a photographer's ability to convey his/her message.  TC does a decent job quickly.  Topaz Clarity could perhaps do a better job but with a lot more work.  I need to play with it on many more images before I decide whether to buy it or not.

Jack
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 11:38:20 AM by Jack Hogan » Logged
BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #30 on: May 26, 2013, 11:00:18 AM »
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Enter Topaz Clarity.  The question many of us have is whether it is better than Tonal Contrast.  My early answer is that I can get very similar effects from both.

Hi Jack,

You are right, we already have many tools available for efficiently improving our perceived image quality. We can even do it less efficiently, by e.g. dodging and burning on luminosity masked selections of our images.

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Clarity has many more controls (34 sliders in all!) which means that it could give 'better' or more varied results - it is on the other hand harder to use imo and requires a longer learning curve.  For instance it controls Micro/Low/Medium/High contrast separately - I am struggling to refer those to specific areas in the image.

I agree, it also took me a day of experimenting to get a feeling for what I needed to do to achieve my intended goal. The difficulty is that the controls have a somewhat different effect depending on the local image content, the effect is adaptive. It would also be a mistake to think that this tool will be all that is required, it is not.

IMHO, (Topaz) Clarity is the final step, after prior CA/detail/noise adjustments, and more basic Color Balancing and Tone-mapping (making sure that shadow and highlight detail is present and overall color and contrast are where they should be).

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I am also not a fan of the existing presets, which I found myself tweaking a lot to get the desired result.

Be glad, it will allow you to set your work at a different level compared to the larger audience which Topaz Labs has to satisfy. Besides, using some of the less extreme presets, but at a reduced opacity will often get you pretty close to very nice results. They are also a good tutorial to consider (or reject) for you personal presets.

For example, creating a nice Landscape preset for different seasons, with an additional HSL Pop variant for the specific seasonal colors, can give very fast results that need only minimal tweaking. Clients usually do not pay for the time you need for post-processing, but they do notice if your images look better than from other sources and if you can deliver fast results.

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The built-in Hue Saturation and Luminance filter is nice (don't we have that in ACR?) as is the masking capability (a toss with Control Points, which I think I prefer).

I've always considered the lack of control over the automatic masking (although it does seem pretty good) process a drawback (combined with the price before Google took over), which prevented me from getting on the Nik train. Also the first versions caused a lot of instability problems, judging from the comments on various fora.

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Despite the fact that I am a big fan of Topaz Plug-ins (InFocus, Denoise, ReMask and B&W Effects being often used favorites) I can't help thinking that at other times they try to do too much in one plug-in, and that they would be better served breaking them down into smaller, easier to understand and use, narrower purpose units (like CEP4 does?).  BTW, Tonal Contrast is the only filter of the Nik Collection I use.

There is some overlap in functionality between some of the Topaz Labs plugins (although Clarity is pretty unique), but that also stems from their business model. They need to attract new customers, and hope that those customers will also buy (some of) the other plug-ins once they get a taste of some of the features for which a more in depth solution exists. This is also caused by their policy so far, to supply update and upgrades to new versions for free to existing customers. They need to grow their customer base. That also means that they need to keep on innovating in a customer focused way, I mean really innovating! I'm more than willing to stimulate that innovation by my humble monetary contribution.

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Contrast is everything in photography.  An image with no contrast contains no information.  So the ability to control contrast is key to a photographer's ability to convey his/her message.  TC does a decent job quickly.  Topaz Clarity could perhaps do better job but with a lot more work.  I need to play with it on many more images before I decide whether to buy it or not.

I agree, contrast (IOW light quality) is what defines a superior image, assuming it is composed and timed correctly and it has an interesting subject. Topaz Clarity's power is growing on me as I revisit some of my prior work. As always, it takes a bit of practice to get better results, but the potential is certainly there.

Cheers,
Bart
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digitaldog
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« Reply #31 on: May 26, 2013, 12:29:23 PM »
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Is there something here that can't be done in Photoshop on layers and painting with various blend modes etc? I'm reminded of the work JP Caponigro has taught for years. Examples:
http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/downloads/technique/technique.php

Better: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/2128/drawing-with-light-21st-century-dodging-burning/
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 12:31:01 PM by digitaldog » Logged

Andrew Rodney
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Jack Hogan
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« Reply #32 on: May 26, 2013, 12:55:32 PM »
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There is some overlap in functionality between some of the Topaz Labs plugins (although Clarity is pretty unique), but that also stems from their business model. They need to attract new customers, and hope that those customers will also buy (some of) the other plug-ins once they get a taste of some of the features for which a more in depth solution exists. This is also caused by their policy so far, to supply update and upgrades to new versions for free to existing customers. They need to grow their customer base. That also means that they need to keep on innovating in a customer focused way, I mean really innovating! I'm more than willing to stimulate that innovation by my humble monetary contribution.

Your reasoning is impeccable and I agree with you, so Topaz just sold another key (they should hire you, Bart :-).

The fly in the ointment is that I bought it for the excellent reasons you mentioned (and because I like to have that type of functionality), not because I am totally sold on the product - and that's not good for Topaz.  I mean it when I suggest that they need to spend a little more time breaking down functionality, focusing in on intended use, and targeting usability for that specific purpose.  It's not enough to say 'here is a great technology with which you can build everything and the kitchen sink, here are a bunch of themized presets, go play'.  It reminds me of many great products that languished because the techies thought the technology was so great that everybody would figure out a use for it and it would sell itself. It doesn't work that way in the world at large.  In fact it works exactly the other way around.

Since you mention strategy, a comparison to Nik's approach may help make my point.  I bet the underlying engine is very similar in Topaz Clarity and Nik CEP4 - things are implemented differently here and there but in the end they need to deal with the same variables.  The difference is that Clarity is one generic product with a ton of sliders active all the time.  Say the best preset you found is Sunset III but it's too whatever.  How many of the 34 sliders do you have to tweak to get what you want and which one do you start with?  A rhetorical question which would also seem to apply to some of their other excellent products (Adjust comes to mind).  Imho they need to make the sandbox smaller lest we kids get lost in it.

Contrast this to CEP4.  Same presumed underlying engine but instead of 1 (one) overwhelming product - they present it as 50 (fifty) or so targeted filters, each fine tuned to a specific application with less than half a dozen easily understood sliders only.  If you do not like the default outcome of the filter you are using you can tweak it easily within the filter's boundaries.  For instance in Tonal Contrast you can change the contrast through the (3) Highlights, Midtones, Shadows sliders and/or play with the (1) Saturation slider.  As I said I seldom use the other 49 filters.  But when I do I know why I am reaching for them (say Polarization or Skylight) and I can usually get the result I need with a minimum of fuss.

Topaz has great technology but Mark Twain and his long letter come to mind.  I think they need to put more effort in understanding their market, fine tuning their products to their customers' intended uses and, as a result, making them more focused, better and easier to use: that's the job of a plug-in.  The rest we can do in PS/ACR.

Jack
PS I get paid big bucks for saying stuff like this in my day job :-)
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 01:26:07 PM by Jack Hogan » Logged
BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #33 on: May 26, 2013, 04:55:12 PM »
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Enter Topaz Clarity.  The question many of us have is whether it is better than Tonal Contrast.  My early answer is that I can get very similar effects from both.  Clarity has many more controls (34 sliders in all!) which means that it could give 'better' or more varied results - it is on the other hand harder to use imo and requires a longer learning curve.  For instance it controls Micro/Low/Medium/High contrast separately - I am struggling to refer those to specific areas in the image.  I am also not a fan of the existing presets, which I found myself tweaking a lot to get the desired result.  The built-in Hue Saturation and Luminance filter is nice (don't we have that in ACR?) as is the masking capability (a toss with Control Points, which I think I prefer).

....

Contrast is everything in photography.  An image without contrast contains no information.  So the ability to control contrast is key to a photographer's ability to convey his/her message.  TC does a decent job quickly.  Topaz Clarity could perhaps do a better job but with a lot more work.  I need to play with it on many more images before I decide whether to buy it or not.

Jack
I'm big on using Nik's Pro Contrast filter myself and I've been thinking of trying out Topaz plugins.  I always thought that one of Topaz's selling points was the ease (mainly through presets) in making photos "pop".  It seems that it isn't the case here and that Clarity is actually harder to get desired results?

I will download Clarity to try it out, but based on your comparison it seems that Clarity isn't the revolutionary product it is claiming to be.  To be honest, I probably won't spend the money if I can get similar results with Nik's Pro Contrast filter or Topaz Adjust pretty easily.  But I am a sucker for plugins so if it's a tool that actually makes it easier to get the desired or different result I just might end up buying it.
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leuallen
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« Reply #34 on: May 26, 2013, 06:04:07 PM »
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I have hope for Clarity. Topaz's first releases are sometimes not polished but by the third or so update they sometimes become killer. When Remask came out I found it lacking compared to the competition and did not bother with it. Now the current update is awesome and a main tool I use.

The updates usually come pretty fast, they seem to be a busy bunch.

I used it some this morning and found a few quibles. I would like to be able to have a mask view so I could check the mask and  clean up anything I missed. I would also like to be able to turn the mask on/off and a few other things.

Larry
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #35 on: May 26, 2013, 06:56:41 PM »
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I'm big on using Nik's Pro Contrast filter myself and I've been thinking of trying out Topaz plugins.  I always thought that one of Topaz's selling points was the ease (mainly through presets) in making photos "pop".  It seems that it isn't the case here and that Clarity is actually harder to get desired results?

Hi,

Well, this is a common trade-off. Some want simple operation, but that usually also means limited control. Others want more control, which obviously complicates the interface a bit. A good approach might be a basic control interface with several things hidden from view (although automatically adjusted in the background), and an 'advanced' option that can be enabled and which reveals the more complete controls set.

For many users however, selecting some of the themed presets, and then reducing the opacity slider might be all that the doctor ordered.

Quote
I will download Clarity to try it out, but based on your comparison it seems that Clarity isn't the revolutionary product it is claiming to be.  To be honest, I probably won't spend the money if I can get similar results with Nik's Pro Contrast filter or Topaz Adjust pretty easily.

Trust me, Topaz Clarity does things that Topaz Adjust cannot do (and vice versa). It's best to start with Adjust till your tonality is in the ballpark, then finish off with Clarity. Especially Adjust's protect Highlights/Shadows adjustments allow a degree of control that's not available in 'Clarity'. On the other hand, Adjust's Detail panel basically only targets a single feature size and Topaz Detail offers much more control there.

Topaz Clarity on the other hand, locally adaptively adjusts it's contrast at several gradient range/sizes without creating overshoot/halo artifacts. It's so powerful that you'll need to keep the brakes on all the time, or only use small amounts, or use the masking functionality for local adjustments, and/or use the opacity slider(s) to blend with the original.

Cheers,
Bart
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #36 on: May 26, 2013, 07:00:31 PM »
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I used it some this morning and found a few quibles. I would like to be able to have a mask view so I could check the mask and  clean up anything I missed. I would also like to be able to turn the mask on/off and a few other things.

Hi Larry,

You can switch the mask(s) on or off. I agree that it would help when e.g. the mask preview would zoom-in with the image zoom setting.

Cheers,
Bart
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #37 on: May 27, 2013, 01:06:07 PM »
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Hi folks,

And because we are in a photography forum, here is a Clarity filtered example (one of a gazillion possible renderings), based on the first image here:

Original rendering


Original rendering + Topaz Clarity

Cheers,
Bart
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BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #38 on: May 28, 2013, 02:21:15 AM »
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Thanks for the samples BartvanderWolf.  One question, did you use one of Clarity's presets?  In every sample I've seen from the program tended to increase contrast by darkening the shadows and drawing out detail.  Your rendering seems to have brightened things up (most noticeable when looking at the building).
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #39 on: May 28, 2013, 06:44:08 AM »
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Thanks for the samples BartvanderWolf.  One question, did you use one of Clarity's presets?  In every sample I've seen from the program tended to increase contrast by darkening the shadows and drawing out detail.  Your rendering seems to have brightened things up (most noticeable when looking at the building).

Hi,

It could be that I started with the "Landscape Pop I" preset initially, then tweaked the settings. The brightening of the building (which makes it draw less attention away from the waves) can be reduced by increasing the High Contrast slider from it's initial setting of -40 up to +10. Or one can start with the "Landscape pop II" preset, and reduce the Medium contrast slider to +10 or 0. Taking snapshots of different approaches will allow to quickly cycle between them, before settling on one to work on a bit more.

For a more final version I would also give a bit of more saturation to the Greens of the waves, and maybe a bit of saturation to the Orange/Yellows while pulling their Luminosity some.

Cheers,
Bart
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 12:50:42 PM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
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