Using Topaz Adjust to Make Your Photos Pop!

If you want to see my full review of Topaz Adjust, you can read about that here:

This little article is specifically about the Spicify setting in Topaz Adjust v4, working in tandem with Nik Software's Color Efex Pro, and how you can use them to take a photo from boring to awesome!  Read on for some photo fun!


TIPS & TRICKS - Using Topaz Adjust and Color Efex Pro to save your boring photos!

Have you ever returned from a trip and found out that some of your photos are sorta boring?  You know - kinda bland, blah, that sort of thing?  Maybe the light wasn't ideal and the photos are just not too exciting.  I think we have all done that, and yep it can be really disappointing.  You can't exactly return to wherever you just were and redo things.  You might even be tempted to delete some of those shots, right?

Don't do it!  Never delete a photo unless it is really messed up in some un-fixable way.  And yes, there are usally several ways you can fix things that might turn an otherwise boring photo into something that really POPS!

Topaz Adjust is one of those products that you can use to take a boring photo and give it some zest, some life, something that saves it from the recycle bin.  In fact, I employ these techniques a lot when my original plans for a photo just aren't working out.  I get tempted to toss the shot and free up hard drive space, but I exhaust all my options first!

Within the Topaz Adjust product, there is a particular filter/setting called "Spicify" which can really make a photo jump out at you and make you glad you didn't delete it.  Now it can get a little wild, so you have to be careful (unless you are going for a wild look, of course!), but there are some situations where it can really make a photo shine.

Although I shoot a lot of HDR shots, I also enjoy taking many single exposures while I am out and about.  Many times I will take Topaz Adjust, using the Spicify setting, to create a pseudo-HDR look.  That can be fun too!

Spicify basically takes a photo and blasts it with color, texture, and detail all in one.  It is pretty fun and can give you some outlandish results, but after much experimentation, I have a couple of tricks which have worked well for me.  One thing I have learned is that if you have any sky in the photo (say, a landscape for example), then the sky can get a little too wild with Spicify so you need to find a way to tone that down a bit.  It's great to accentuate texture in a wall for example, but everyone loves a smooth sky, right?

Let me take you through a recent photo of mine as an example.  I was in Seattle and took this shot at the Space Needle:

Its pretty boring, right?   I like the general idea of the photo - two different structures, vastly different shapes - but talk about blah.  The sky is non-existent, there is no detail in the structure on the right, and where is the color?  It's just boring all the way around.  (It's also a little crooked, but it's easy to straighten out later.)

I tried some of my other photo software tools but just did not like anything that I was coming up with.  So, I made a pass through Topaz Adjust, and tried the Spicify setting just for the heck of it.  Guess what?  It was pretty cool, although it was a little too "over cooked" for me.  Here's what it looked like at the time:


The sky came back to life, but there were some parts of it that were just too much, including some splotches of gray.  The photo was too evenly lit, too.  I like a little more contrast and shadow, if possible.  I did regain some detail and texture in the structure on the right, which was certainly one of my goals.  I definitely thought it was better, but it was a little too much for me.  I don't want to go from one extreme all the way to the other.

So, I dialed down some of the settings and tried to pull back some of the "over-the-top-ness" about the photo, but without losing that which I had gained.  That gave it a little more semblance of reality, and was in much better shape than the original file that I started with at the beginning.  So, I was getting there, but not done yet...

As I mentioned above, the Spicify setting can really spice up all parts of the photo, so I wanted to smooth out the sky (and the rest of it, too) a bit to give it a little more calm feeling.  This is where I decided to run it through Nik Software's Color Efex Pro.  That is an excellent product too, and I highly recommend it just like I highly recommend Topaz Adjust.  They work great as a tandem.  You can read about Color Efex Pro here:  

In particular, I frequently use the "Glamour Glow" filter in Color Efex Pro.  As the name implies, it gives a nice, soft glow to the photo.  It brings in some shadow, which I personally like a lot, but has the added benefit of smoothing over the rough spots.  I believe it was designed as a filter for portraits primarily, but it works great on landscapes too!  It does wonders to smooth out a sky.  You can read more about Color Efex Pro on my review that I mentioned above, but basically you can just move the sliders around until it suits your taste.

Here's a screenshot of that:


You can immediately tell that the sky looks smoother, right?  The photo also has a bit more shadow, such as along the bottom of the Space Needle and the structure on the right.  It looks more natural to me.  Even without adjusting any saturation, the colors just pop more and look much better to me.  

At this point I am effectively done.  I use Apple's Aperture 3.0 as my primary editing tool, so from here I save the photo, which pops it back into Aperture.  From there I straighten it and I'm done!

Here's the final result:

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps you save your vacation memories!!