Posted on Leave a comment

Topaz Tutorial: Editing Cityscapes with Miroslav Petrasko

When editing cityscape photos, Topaz software can be a big help. There are many sharp edges and details in cityscapes you’ll want to preserve. To achieve this, you can get a lot of help from Topaz DeNoise AI and Topaz Gigapixel AI. Both are useful with reducing noise while preserving sharpness and adding clarity. And today I will show you how.

Cityscape Fireworks

Let’s look at one of my cityscape photos with fireworks. When I capture photos, I prefer to do multiple exposures, so I can blend them later in post-processing. Unfortunately, this does not work that well with fireworks. So, there are two ways I can approach it: I either take separate photos of the scenery before the fireworks and blend them in, or I just work with a single exposure and try to make the best of it. Over the years, I’ve settled on the second option.

Working with only one exposure creates some other issues though, namely noise. Since you can’t predict the brightness an explosion will create in a scene, you will end up with a lot of underexposed photos. You don’t want to overexpose, since you can’t easily fix overexposed areas. What I like to do is double-process the photo: I create a copy of its RAW file and process it once for the highlights and once for the shadows. Then, I put them back together in Photoshop.

Let’s look at a photo to understand it better.

Fireworks in Budapest

Base RAW Image (Click to view at 100%)

This fireworks photo was taken in Budapest, Hungary, during the St. Stephens celebrations there. It’s the biggest holiday in the country and always ends with huge fireworks over the Danube River.

This is the base RAW image I captured. As you can see, while the fireworks look a bit overexposed, the foreground feels dark. So, let’s break it into two files and edit them both.

(Click to view at 100%)

The photo above is edited for highlights, where I toned down the bright areas a bit.

The photo below is edited for shadows, where I opened the dark areas a lot. 

(Click to view at 100%)

Now I can put them into layers in Photoshop and using luminosity selections, I select the shadow areas and paint in the brighter version.

(Click to view at 100%)

While I won’t focus on this technique here, you can find a detailed description on my blog.

I also did a few tweaks to open the shadows even more. One thing I like to do in photos like this one is to brighten the lightest areas of the fireworks, to make them stand out even more.

Now it’s time to fix a few issues that were introduced with this post-processing. Since we had to brighten the shadow areas, they now have much more noise than the rest of the photo. This can be fixed by using Topaz DeNoise AI. We can either use it on the whole photo or just on the parts where it’s mostly visible.

Noise Reduction with Topaz DeNoise AI (Click to view at 100%)

Let’s open the image in the Topaz DeNoise AI plug-in. The automatic processing worked quite well here, but let’s also manually move the Remove Noise slider to 0.25 to get rid of a bit more. I like it when the clouds and smoke in the sky feel soft, so I want to remove the graininess that was created during editing.

Below is a comparison of the results of DeNoise AI in multiple areas of the photo. All examples are at 200% zoom. It looks good, so I will keep it for the whole photo as it is.

(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)

We need to save the photo in Photoshop before moving on to the next step. Let’s save it as a TIFF file, as a copy, and without layers.

Now, let’s add some clarity in the photo. While Topaz Gigapixel AI is an image enlargement solution, and not specifically designed for this task, it can be used in this way. What we want to do is use oversampling here. Basically, we’ll enlarge the photo using Topaz Gigapixel AI, and then scale it back down in Photoshop.

I open it in Gigapixel AI and enlarge it by the 4x multiplier.

Photo enlarging in Topaz Gigapixel AI (Click to view at 100%)

The other settings can stay as they are since they will have little effect when we return the photo to its original size. But if your photo is a little out of focus, or the camera moved while you were taking it, you can try and use a higher setting for the Remove Blur option. Click “Start” to begin the image enlargement processing.

Once the process ends, I open the result back into Photoshop. The original photo’s width was 5,161 pixels. The new one is 22,000 pixels (that’s the limit for a TIFF file). This can now be resized in Photoshop back to the original 5,161 pixels to get our clearer result.

Resizing in Photoshop (Click to view at 100%)

Below are a few specific areas of the photo to see it before and after. All of these are at 200% zoom. As you can easily see, the details are much better, and the overall clarity has been greatly enhanced. Since Topaz DeNoise AI also adds a bit of clarity, you can see their cumulative effect. 

(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)

We don’t need to use this on the whole photo, with areas where there are no details — we don’t need more clarity. If we just overlay the result with the original edit, we can use masking to apply it only to the areas where it is needed.

Clean Up in Photoshop (Click to view at 100%)

We are almost done here, except for a little cleanup. The trees in the top left and the light streaks in the bottom left have to be removed, together with few dust spots. Once it’s done, we have our final, enhanced and improved result below.

Final Result (Click to view at 100%)

You can drag the interactive, white slider bar across the image to see the improvements.

Editing Workflow

This way of post-processing works on most cityscape and similar photos. Usually, with cityscape photos, you have bright areas (e.g. artificial lights, windows, sky) and many dark shadow areas. Either by splitting one RAW into multiple images, or by having taken multiple exposures, you can properly expose both. By putting them together, you will create a nice, evenly-exposed photo that you can then reduce noise with Topaz DeNoise AI and add clarity with Topaz Gigapixel AI. I prefer my photos to look perfect at any size and this workflow allows me to achieve that.

Here is one more example below, where I used Topaz DeNoise AI and Topaz Gigapixel AI. You have here a full image and then a few before/after detail shots.

(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)
(Click to view at 100%)

About Miroslav Petrasko

While I started as a game designer, I switched to photography around 10 years ago. Since then I have been working with various luxury travel brands and almost daily and stubbornly updating my blog at hdrshooter.com with new photos, articles, and guides. It really is not an easy task.

Let’s end with a few more cityscapes. The first one is from my hometown of Bratislava in Slovakia. The other ones are: a sunset in Paris, France, looking up under the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, then one from Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan and lastly, the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic.

Get the Topaz Applications Featured

Topaz DeNoise AI

Shoot anywhere in any light with no reservations. Eliminate noise and recover crisp detail in your images with the first AI-powered noise reduction tool.
TRY IT NOW

Topaz Gigapixel AI

Enlarging your image without losing detail has always been impossible… until now. Upscale your photos by up to 600% while perfectly preserving image quality.
TRY IT NOW
Posted on 1 Comment

How to Use the Sharpen Adjustment

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Tutorial created Topaz Studio V1.0.8

What is the Sharpen Adjustment?

The Topaz Studio Sharpen Adjustment is an awesome tool that allows you to emphasize details and bring all your photos into perfect focus. Even images that you feel are in focus become crisp after this adjustment.

About the Sharpen Adjustment. The Topaz Studio Sharpen Adjustment is really two for the price of one. You can use the unsharp mask option to sharpen images or reverse the affect of lens blur on an image using the Lens DeBlur option.

How they work. Each sharpening option contains unique technology to ensure you have perfectly sharpened images. The Unsharp Mask works by utilizing an unsharpening mask to enhance details. The Lens DeBlur option is one of my favorites. It has some really unique technology behind it. It does an amazing job of removing lens blur, but keeping your image looking natural. Lens DeBlur uses the blind deconvolution process to mathematically recover image sharpness. This technology has the ability to analyze your image, and based upon the output image, can make an educated guess on the intended input image. The result is restored image quality, but it isn’t a cookie cutter filter. It is specifically tailored sharpening effect applied to each of your images and it truly works wonders.

Free Download

The Sharpen Adjustment is available within Topaz Studio as a Pro Adjustment. While Pro Adjustments are not free, Topaz Studio is completely free and there are limited functionality within the Sharpen Adjustment that is completely free. You can also try all the unlocked functionality for 30 days, completely commitment free. If you’d like to follow along with the Sharpen Adjustment, you can click the links below to download Topaz Studio.

What We Will Cover in This Tutorial

1. About the Sharpen Adjustment

2. How to use the Unsharp Mask

3. How to use Lens DeBlur

Reading not your Thing? Watch the Full Tutorial!

Feel free to watch me work through all the features the Sharpen Adjustment has to offer. Every step outlined in this blog post is demonstrated in this video as well as the gallery images at the end of this posting. Hope you enjoy it!

1. What is the Sharpen Adjustment?

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Here at Topaz, we wanted to make it effortless to sharpen images, so we kept this adjustment nice and simple. The Unsharp Mask option features 3 sliders and the Lens DeBlur option has only two sliders. After you apply the Sharpen Adjustment to your image, you will see a 3 slider panel pop up in the adjustments panel (If you don’t, click the blue Try Pro link at the bottom of the panel).

Breakdown of the Sliders

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Select Sharpen Type:

1. Unsharp Mask:
Select the Unsharp mask to create a clearer, sharper image. The Unsharp Mask utilizes unsharpening mask technology to create naturally looking, sharper images by using the image to get the base layer instead of just cookie cutter contrast sharpening.

2. Lens DeBlur:
Use Lens DeBlur to correct image blur. This type of sharpening utilizes the blind deconvolution process to mathematically correct images. The technology in Lens DeBlur analyzes the output image and has the ability to make educated guesses on the intended input to correct blurred images.

The sliders and what they do:

1. Strength:
Increasing the value of this slider increases the the overall strength of the selected sharpen type within the Sharpen Adjustment.

2. Radius:
This slider is only available for the Unsharp Mask. Increasing this slider will increase how strong the contrast of the edge of the Sharpening Mask is.

3. Threshold:
Increasing the value of this slider will increase the amount of details that are untouched by the Sharpen Adjustment. Utilizing this slider will allow for sharper images, but block out distracting image noise and artifacts.

Apply the Sharpen Adjustment to Your Image

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Before we get started, you’ll want to open an image. If this is your first time opening Topaz Studio, you’ll notice that there is a lot of empty fields. This is because you’ll need to open an image to get started! There is more than one way that you can open an image .

  1. Drag and drop an image from your computer into the program.
  2. Click Open (located in the Canvas) and navigate through your files. Select an image and click Open.
  3. Click Open in the menu bar. Select an image and click Open.
  4. Go to Menu > File > Open Image… and then select an image and click Open.
  5. Use your shortcut keys (such as Command O or Control O).

Apply the Adjustment to Your Image

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

After you have successfully opened an image, you will want to apply the Sharpen Adjustment. This can be done one of two ways:

  1. Clicking Adjustments > Sharpen  from the top Menu Bar.
  2. Clicking More > Sharpen from the Adjustment tool bar located on the right-hand side of your workspace.

By default, the Unsharp Mask option will be selected. You can switch to the Lens DeBlur option by moving the toggle to the right.

2. Unsharp Mask

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

The Unsharp Mask works great to amplify small details. I love using it on macro and plant photography. Even on images that I think are in perfect focus, can benefit from an added touch of the Unsharp Mask. When you are focusing on the small details, I suggest zooming in so you can really see how it is affecting your image. We organized the sliders to reflect the most logical workflow, so start with the Strength slider and work your way down. Also, remember it’s ok if there is some artifacts and image noise introduced by the Strength and Radius slider. The Threshold slider does an amazing job of blocking all of it out.

The Settings

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Here are the settings I used for the Unsharp Mask. You can make these edits as subtle or extreme as you would like. Another thing I love to do with the Sharpen Adjustment is to use the integrated masking to mask out the effect in some areas to create a very strong focal area.

Here is the before, after, and magnified comparison:

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Before

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

After

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Magnified

I love how the Unsharp Mask is able to bring out the small details of the leaves without magnifying the image noise or creating artifacts. The result is a perfectly natural looking, sharpened image.

3. Lens DeBlur

For the next part of this tutorial, I’m going to be demonstrating how to use Lens DeBlur. Feel free to save the image and follow along to test out Lens DeBlur for yourself.

Blurry photos can be a result of multiple things such as impurities in the air or due to lower end lenses. Lens DeBlur works wonders on photos. This simple, but effective tool turns photos that were shot with a $200 lens look like they were shot with a $3000 lens.

The algorithm behind Lens DeBlur analyses your photo and using the blind deconvolution process, mathematically reverse lens blur. It creates a tailored filter for each image. This yields much better results because you aren’t getting a cookie cutter filter for every image. I find myself being surprised at the results I get from images I didn’t even feel were blurry.

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Apply the Sharpen Adjustment and Switch to Lens DeBlur

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Like before, you are going to apply the Sharpen Adjustment to the image, but this time switch the toggle to the Lens DeBlur option.

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

When you first see this image, I personally wouldn’t categorize this as a blurry image. Once you start adding Lens DeBlur, it is extremely evident just how crips this image could be! I always zoom way in when I’m working with the Sharpen Adjustment, so I can really see how it is affecting my image. My goal for this image was to make the trees more distinct and the mountain more prominent against the cloudy sky.

The Settings

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

If you would like to duplicate the settings here are what I used for the mountain image. Like the Unsharp Mask, the Threshold slider in the Lens DeBlur option will block out artifacts and image noise. With these two sliders, you can bring focus back to images in seconds.

Here is the before, after, and magnified comparison:

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Before

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

After

Magnified

You can see that Lens DeBlur brought a lot of the detail back in the mountain and the trees. The best part is that it looks completely natural. The result isn’t one of those images that have obviously been post-processed.

Bonus: Don’t Forget all the Other Functionality

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Don’t forget that Topaz Studio has a lot of built in functionality that allows you to perfect how each adjustment affects your image. Each adjustment has the functionality built right into the header next to its name. You will find adjustment level masking, an opacity slider, 28 blending modes, and the ability to duplicate the adjustment! Also, don’t forget that if you are ever curious if you own a Pro Adjustment, the blue box around the icon in the adjustment stack indicates you have complete, unlocked functionality of that adjustment.

Adjustment Level Masking

How to use the Precision Contrast Adjustment

One of the tools I use the most is the adjustment level masking. Combine the Sharpen Adjustment with the adjustment level masking to make interesting focal areas. While I won’t go in depth about it here, I wanted to make sure you knew it existed and is amazing! The brush masking has this awesome functionality called edge aware. So there is no need to create the perfect mask, just keep the edge of your subject between the green and red circles and it will do all the heavy lifting for you! If you’d like an in-depth tutorial about Masking, you can learn about Topaz Studio Masking here.

Saving Your Custom Effect

How to use the Precision Contrast Adjustment
How to use the Precision Contrast Adjustment

Save and Share Your Effects. If you end up really liking an effect, you can save it to quickly apply in next time!  You can either save the effect as a preset level (top icon) or global effect (bottom icon). Global presets allow you to share your creation with others by selecting ‘Yes’ in the Public field. Your effect will be shared to the entire Topaz Community instantly!

Gallery

You can apply the same effect quickly and effortlessly by adding your new custom preset level effect to many images and then tweaking it to each individual image. This can be great if you took multiple images with similar camera settings and you want all of them to be a little sharper. Here are some more before and after images I edited. Thanks for reading and hope you’ve gained a little more understanding of the Sharpen Adjustment!

Unsharp Mask

Before

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment
How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

After

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment
How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Lens DeBlur

Before

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment
How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

After

How to use the Sharpen Adjustment
How to use the Sharpen Adjustment

Thanks for Reading!

That’s all I have for today! That’s all the basic functionality that is contained in the Sharpen Adjustment. I wanted to keep this tutorial short and sweet, so I encourage you to play with all the functionality such as masking and the pre-made effects.

We’ll be adding more tutorials and videos so be sure to give us a follow to learn more!

If you’d like to share your images with us, tag us on Instagram with @topazlabs and Twitter with @topazlabs. We’re also on Facebook and YouTube!

Free Download

About Taylor L. Seaton

Topaz Labs - Taylor L. Seaton

Taylor Seaton is a 2016 graduate from Angelo State University. While attending ASU, she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design and an area of emphasis in Business Management and Marketing. She also played volleyball at the collegiate level. She is currently the Social Media Manager at Topaz Labs.