Software Review – Topaz Lab’s new -Clarity

Clarity_box_clearTopaz Labs Clarify – Get the Funk out of your HDR

Read to the end for a special Discount Code on Topaz Labs Clarity

Just released today is the new software from our friends at Topaz Labs – Clarity

Some of you may have read the article I wrote on “Why HDRs don’t look real” In it I went on about how what’s missing in a lot of HDRs is Midtone Shadow and Midtone Contrast. Controlling these two things either in the original HDR process or later in post can really do a lot to add photorealistic look to your HDR or actually any image.

 Well soon after I wrote that I received a pre-production version of Topaz Labs latest offering – Clarity. Hey, Topaz Labs…Get out of my brain! It’s like they made this product just for me, just for what I was talking about that could cure the ills of so many HDRs I find on the web. They are almost there but missing this one piece, that can be fixed in post but not as easily as with something like Topaz Labs Clarity. Plus it even goes a little further because it offers controls that aren’t in a lot of post editing software.

 Let’s take a look at what Clarify looks like, what it does and how it works

Opening the image in Photoshop, I duplicated the layer and then went to Filters> Topaz Labs> Clarity 

The program opens up in the now almost industry standard, presets left, preview center, controls right. The preview area has presets for all the major types of photography, Landscapes, nature, Macro, portraits, architecture, etc.  You can of course make your own custom presets from your recipe…which I of course, did. Presets also have pop-up previews which are much larger than most which is very helpful in being able to see clearly.

UI1

Topaz Labs Screen Shot

 The preview pane is pretty much normal with a basic before and after button (Mousing over and clicking also does this) and split screens for before and after along with the normal zooming functions

UI2

Preview pane

On the control side is where it gets interesting. There are Panels for Clarity and one for Hue/ Saturation and Luminance. Each section also having controls for opacity and masking. If you aren’t used to using Layers in Photoshop, these controls may come in really handy. I prefer to put my effects on a separate layer so that I can make changes to opacity and masking later on and it’s editable. But having these controls is a great option.

UI_ToolPanel

The controls for Clarity is of course where you will do the most work if you choose not to use a preset or want to modify a preset which is close to the look you desire. In the panel there are sliders for:

Dynamics

  • Micro Contrast – This is more or less a detail slider micro contrast adjusts edge contrast

The rest of the controls are a little harder to understand so I’ll try to make some sense of it. Here is a before image that we can look at

Clarity Before

All of the controls adjust contrast (The ratio of Dark to Light) in different areas of Contrast. Confused? Think of it this way, a White Stripe against a Black stripe would be the ultimate high contrast area. An area of mid-tone gray next to another section of just slightly darker mid-tone gray would be an area of low contrast

  •  Low Contrast – This adjusts the contrast in areas that where there is not a lot of difference of luminance, Say the cloud area of this image.
  • Medium Contrast- This adjust areas of the image where there is more difference in luminance between  subjects, say the foreground Cobblestones
  • High Contrast – This adjusts areas of high contrast, in this instance the areas inside the Arches to the outside of the arches

Tone Level

These sliders adjust the overall Tone levels of the different areas of the image. What I like is that there is a midtone level adjustment instead of just Blacks and Whites

Below this module is the Hue/Saturation/Luminance section to adjust the balance of the image color or tone wise

You can use these to adjust the Color Tone (Hue) Amount (Saturation) and Brightness (Luminance

As I said before both modules also have Brushes and Masks so you can apply the effect selectively within the image. You can use an edge aware brush to help “Paint within the lines’ and there also mask that work on color range. I thought the edge aware feature worked really well. You can choose brush or a Gradient map to apply the effect

Mask_Module

You can also store snapshots of your images with the controls in different settings so you can do some comparisons between setting

QuickLook_Preset_View

In Use

I found Topaz Labs Clarity to be a very useful tool to bring that Natural Look back to HDRs that gets lost in the processing. Again as I said many HDR images loose mid-tone contrast sometimes just as part of the process or, as is the case many times, just over processing an image

Clarity also helps to remove that “Fog” that is present in all types of images (HDR or not) and gives you a cleaner, more crisp image. It does this without increasing noise or adding odd artifacts like haloing that can occur with other processors or processing.

And don’t confuse this with other Topaz Labs products because it works very differently although some looks can be achieved different ways. It’s not a Detail enhancer/ Tone Mapper like Topaz Adjust 5 is so don’t think this is a rehash of something else. In fact you could use the two together to have a lot of control over an image especially if you want to do single image “HDR” effects

I was quite impressed with Topaz Labs Clarity since it left me with much less to do in Photoshop for Post Processing an HDR with maybe just some overall curves/levels and some sharpening (Topaz Labs Detail) and the image was done

 Here are a few before and afters of my own work and then some of the B & A’s from Topaz

 I took one of my recent HDRs, a 3 Exposure +-2EV sunset at the beach. I processed the exposures in HDR Efex Pro 2 with my normal workflow except that I didn’t add any contrast in the HDR Process because I really wanted to put Topaz Clarity to the test on what is basically a very flat image, Not a lot of contrast in any zone, and especially not in the midtones that have been compressed in the HDR Process

Clarity BNA 2

This image that we used for the controls explanation above is just a single normal image and the effect Clarity has on the RAW image

Clarity Beforenafter

 

Here are some more examples from Topaz LabsPortraitClarity BridgeClarity BuildingClarity

Topaz Labs Clarify Highly recommended

To try or buy Topaz Labs Clarity please click the link below (Buying through this links helps The HDR Image bring you the content we do, thank you!)

2 Comments

  1. Dan Cirelli June 30, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    Your images look great. I use CS5, and am thinking of Topaz for my work flow. I shoot Raw, Portraits and Landscape. I am considering some of Topaz (not sure to get 1 or a few) Detail, Clarity, ReMask, and ReStyle. I also like Alien Skin Snap Art 4, and Exposure 7. Any comments you have will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Peter July 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      Hi Dan Sorry for the long delay in replying. Glitch in my notifications

      There are many Topaz Plug-ins that are good for different uses.

      For portraits, depending on your style, Clarity and ReStyle may be good choices, Just watch Clarity on faces with bad Complexions as it can bring them out but great for bringing out details to eyes. ReStyle can give you a lot of the “Looks” that are current today. And also Remask can be very helpful if you need to say just select a person in an image to do further work.

      For Landscapes, Definitely Clarity and Detail, and if you like some of the more lets say “Extended” looks to Landscapes then you may want to play with Topaz Adjust.

      The great thing is you can Download and try before you buy any of the Topaz Plug-ins

      Then make sure you check back after the 15th of the Months to see if any Deals are taking place to give you some savings

      Thansk for the comment and sorry for the long reply time

One Trackback

  1. By Topaz Labs Clarity on sale 25% off on October 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

    […] reviewed Clarity back here and also showed it’s use in shooting the Milky Way […]

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