Posted on 4 Comments

We’ve Added 40 New Looks to Topaz Studio 2!

Explore a Whole New Set of Looks!

We recently updated to Studio 2.20 and with big improvements under the hood comes a whole new set of 40 different Looks!

Browse through the list below to discover and experiment with new Studio 2 Looks. New to Studio 2? Download your free 30-day trial now.

Abstract\Floral Gild
Abstract\Travel to Tortuga
Artistic\Charcoal Sketchbook
Artistic\Happy Little Trees
Bold\Egyptian Sand
Bold\Spiny Intensity
Bold\Yellow Intensity
Bright\Hieroglyph Cave
Colorful\Barbie Highlighter
Colorful\Golden Purple
Colorful\Mermaid Flashback
Colorful\Mermaid Texture
Colorful\Under the Sea
Colorful\Vibrant Treetops
Dramatic\A Touch of the Dramatic
Dramatic\Blazing Sunspot
Dramatic\Edged Sketch
Dreamy\Blueberry Dreamgirl
Dreamy\Blush Haze
Dreamy\Dream Cloud
Dreamy\Dreamstrokes
Dreamy\Watercolored Lady
Fun\Easy Wave
Fun\Mayan Static
Fun\Starlight Glitter
Fun\Underwater Polaroid
Moody\Craftmaster Tinotype
Moody\Gothic Glean
Moody\Silent Movie Detailed
Moody\Trails of Ghost
Simple\Comfy Static
Simple\Definition Detail
Simple\Tale of the Bard
Soft\Soft Melt
Soft\Soft Stained Glass
Soft\SoftSketch 2
Soft\SoftSketch
Warm\Autumn Scarf
Warm\Gold Tinted Glasses
Warm\Golden Madonna

Posted on 3 Comments

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started HDR By Jim Nix

1. It’s about light, not color.

When you start with HDR, one of the first things you notice is that all of a sudden, you are getting some incredible colors and high saturation levels. It can be inspiring and interesting, and in a lot of cases, I’ve seen folks getting carried away with it (myself included!). I’m a big color guy at heart, so this one I struggled with. It’s easy to push those sliders, but be careful because otherwise, you may end up with what I have seen referred to as “clown vomit.” Very descriptive.

I believe it was Trey Ratcliff that once said, “HDR is about light, not color,” and his words are so true. The real reason people normally shoot HDR is to balance out light in a scene where it isn’t balanced. So keep that in mind and watch your saturation levels. Nothing wrong with big bright, saturated colors – and it depends on what you are trying to achieve with the shot because this is art after all – but just remember to keep those saturation levels in check if you are trying to appeal to a wider audience.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone.

If you are a landscape person, try some architectural shots.  If you prefer cityscapes, take a drive in the country or head out to the beach.  If you always shoot wide angle, put on a zoom.  Stretch your creativity by forcing yourself to do something you aren’t comfortable with.  This has the added benefit of being fun too! If you are a sunrise person then try shooting at night. It’s good practice to get accustomed to various light situations, because at some point you will likely have to shoot at the one you are least comfortable with.  Practice ahead of time so you are ready when the moment presents itself.

3. Take more shots per HDR.

This is another one of those situations where you will get different responses to the question of how many shots are in each bracket.  Shooting 7 exposures per bracket (all 1 stop apart), is a good idea for cathedrals, or anything highly architectural, unless the light dictates that I don’t need that much (or need more) or if I am shooting handheld for some reason (my arms are not exactly capable of being still for 7 exposures). With the recent advancements in camera technology, however, just 3 exposures per bracket can give you some fabulous HDR photos.

When I first began, I normally shot 3 exposures, 2 stops apart (so it was -2, 0 +2 normally).  It worked fine for me for a while, but the more I experimented, the more I realized that I could get better results if I shot 1 stop apart and more frames per bracket.  Making the jump to 1 stop apart made a big difference in my opinion, and having more exposures to work with just gave me a greater range of light to work with.  So nowadays, it’s usually -3 to +3, but not always… which leads us to the next point.

4. You shouldn't always center your brackets.

The traditional approach is to shoot 3 or 5 frames per bracket, which means either -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 if shooting 5 frames or just -2, 0, +2 if shooting three.

But sometimes a scene is fairly bright and you don’t want that long, bright exposure just being a big white mess.  So, often times I dial down the brackets and start with -4, which after 7 exposures ends my set at +2.  This way, my darkest exposure gives me a somewhat darker sky too (which seems to balance out the light in the sky well against really bright exposures) and the brightest one is only -2, so it’s not a total waste.  I have even shot brackets starting at -5 if the scene is really bright.  Experiment and see what works for you — and have some fun doing it!

5. You can achieve an HDR look in post-processing.

Even if you’ve not mastered true HDR photography just yet, there are ways to achieve the HDR look. The first plugin I ever bought was Topaz Adjust, nearly 10 years ago now. I was blown away with how much it could do with a photo and achieve an HDR look on a single exposure. In years since I’ve used a lot of other products as well, but I’ve always had a fondness for Topaz Adjust, because it was my “first love,” if you will, in terms of post-processing, and now it’s gotten even better with the new Topaz Adjust AI.

Topaz Adjust AI functions as a standalone, or as a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin, so it is simple to incorporate into your workflow. There are two auto-adjust modes that are AI-powered: Standard and HDR Style. The HDR Style mode obviously is geared toward achieving an HDR look, so this particular mode can give your photos a nice, natural enhancement without putting a lot of backbone into manual adjustments.

Adjust AI includes two other Topaz technologies, Topaz Clarity and Topaz Detail.  

Topaz Clarity intelligently enhances contrast and dynamic range without creating a lot of halos or artifacts. By bumping up the contrast, it does a wonderful job making the photo pop and you’ll also be able to isolate contrast in different regions of the photo with the micro, low, medium, and high sliders. So, you get an unprecedented amount of control compared to the global contrast slider.

Getting into Topaz Detail, it basically figures out what is detail and what is not, so you can selectively crisp up certain parts of the content of your photo. Topaz Detail goes beyond edge sharpening — it intelligently divides the small, medium, and large-sized details in the photo, so you can selectively enhance what you want very quickly.

When I started with HDR photography, I tried to follow along with everyone’s ideas, but it got to where I felt like I was doing “their version” of my photos and not my own. These finishing touches of technology make Adjust AI a great fit for achieving an HDR style on any photo, polishing your images to bring out those fine details, and making them unique to your style as a photographer.

From more HDR tips to just about any aspect of photography, I’ve worked hard to build up a wide range of trainings and tutorials on my YouTube channel, so you can learn from anywhere you are, in any stage of your photography journey! Browse my channel, and please feel free to ask me questions on any of my videos. I’d love to hear from you.

About Jim Nix

Hi there, brave reader. I’m Jim – traveler, photographer, wanderlust sufferer.  

My hope is to motivate people to travel and take photographs; to inspire creativity in others by sharing what I create, how I create it, and even what I use to create it with.  I hope to inspire people to go explore someplace new, to just get up and give it all a try.  

So go see something new.  Try something different.  Travel.  Take a photo.  It doesn’t even have to be a good photo.  Just take it.  Create something.  There’s a kind of magic that happens when you do.  

Learn something new on my YouTube channel!

Posted on 7 Comments

Developing a Unique Style with Hazel Meredith

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in photography.

I have always had an interest in art, crafts, and photography – taking snapshots of family and on vacations back in the day. I also have a graphic design/typesetting background (pre-desktop publishing!). I purchased my first SLR in 1979 – a Minolta XG1 – which I loved. Primarily I was still taking snapshots, but I was learning more as time went on. 

My husband, Dave, and I began covering auto racing around 1991. We had both grown up going to races – me at Riverside Park (MA) and Danbury (CT) with my parents, and Dave in Western NY. We both liked the modified-style cars and when we met someone at a racing show that was starting a new monthly regional newspaper, we offered to contribute articles and photos. We did that for about 13 years pretty regularly, but after ten years of photographing mostly cars, I felt the need to get back to some other kinds of photography too. That’s when I joined a local camera club and really began learning “the rules” and then how to break them. I’m still very involved with camera organizations at the local, state, regional and national levels.

How did you develop your style? Which tools do you find completely irreplaceable in your workflow?

I purchased the original Topaz Adjust after seeing it demonstrated at a regional camera conference. I was hooked on Topaz from then on! In the past six years or so, I really began to work more with textures, so of course, Topaz Texture Effects is my favorite!  I was honored that Topaz included some of the textures I created in the program too! I’ve written two e-books on working with textures, and often combine Topaz and Textures into a seminar or workshop. To me, they go hand-in-hand as creative “partners”.

Tulips with Topaz Texture Effects

I have regularly used Topaz DetailClarity, and Impression as well – now with the new AI products, my workflow is shifting to DeNoise AI and the new Adjust AI.

A hint of your style appears in your contributed preset, Painterly, in the new Adjust AI. What kind of images are best for this particular preset?

I created this preset to use on a landscape image that I had processed in a painterly style with the original Adjust. I was trying to recreate that look in the new AI version. I think this new preset is even better than the original! I like the ethereal quality it gives my images. This preset will work especially well on florals and landscapes, two of my favorite things to photograph. You can give it a try on your own images right now by downloading Adjust AI! The Painterly preset is under “Soft Effects” in the preset panel.

I love to take shots of iconic locations and with the use of Topaz and textures, turn them into something uniquely my own.

Purple Curves with Painterly Preset
Smoky Mountains Cabin with Painterly Preset

What images do you particularly cherish? What’s your most memorable shoot?

Hmmm, that’s a really tough question! I’ve traveled to quite a few of our national parks, especially in the Southwest, and the majesty of those areas are just breathtaking. The Red Rocks of Sedona; the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon; the Grand Canyon…all amazingly beautiful! 

On the other hand, I also love to photograph old abandoned places, old rusty cars and trains and such! The mystery of the stories that old buildings could tell fascinates me.

Those that have been able to catch one of your workshops live are lucky! Tell us a little bit about teaching photography around the country.

It’s been a busy spring and will continue into the fall! I recently did a seminar for the Photographic Society of Chattanooga called “Alternative Visual Artistry with Topaz & Textures”, and then a half-day hands-on workshop on Topaz products for the group. At the end of July, I will be heading to the Southwestern Michigan Council of Camera Clubs conference; in October to Mike Moats’ Macro Conference in Cleveland; and next March to the PSA Southern California Chapter event. And more events are on the horizon! 

My husband and I also run our own Creative Photography Conference, and we held our 3rd event in May here in New England. We will begin moving the conference to other areas of the country next year. This conference focuses on all things creative – both in-camera and post-processing. Fellow Topaz webinar presenter, John Barclay, was a speaker at this year’s event along with seven other talented photographers. 

I’ve also been busy with developing a new series of online videos and doing online one-on-one training. The internet makes it easy to work with people anywhere!

And, we are going to be relocating from Connecticut to Tennessee this fall, so things are extra busy right now with purging and packing!

For those that won’t be able to see you in person, what advice would you give to a photographer looking to achieve their own unique style or get started with photography?

For those just starting in photography, I think joining a local camera club or MeetUp group is a great way to learn as well as have fun with like-minded people. There is a TON of information on the web – watch videos (Topaz has past webinars on their YouTube channel), read tutorials, and just get out and practice! 

And yes, you do need to read the camera manual! You need to become intimately familiar with the workings of your camera so you can concentrate on what you are shooting when out in the field, and not fumbling about trying to get the settings right. You can download your camera manual to your phone or tablet to have it handy when on the road.

If you can, take a workshop with a pro. It’s another great way to get some insight, tips and techniques. You’ll develop your own style as you learn more and get inspired by the work of other photographers. 

Previous
Next