Jumpstart Creativity with the “I Feel Lucky” Button

Do you ever just stare at an image and think to yourself “Geez, I don’t even know what I want to do with this”? Topaz Adjust has a great little feature to help you jumpstart the creative process of post-processing. It’s called the “I Feel Lucky” button!

I Feel Lucky Button_markedLocated next to the APPLY button in the bottom right of your Settings & Parameters window, this die icon button will randomly move the sliders to create a new effect each time you click it. This can be a fun way to see which direction you might want to take your photos in.

Here is an example of a photo I took with my cell phone while leaving class one day. I loved the way the sunlight was streaming down and illuminating some objects while leaving others darkened. It reminded me of good triumphing over evil, in my case the light at the end of the tunnel of a long semester of hard work. Click on the images below to see an enlarged image of the original and the edited version.  Then read on to see how I got there.

Before-After Comparison

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Boring Photos are For the Birds!  Use Topaz Adjust to Add Interest to a Snapshot.

Every year in Texas we are greeted by the birds that fly south for the winter. It seems nice that they always come to visit, like a distant relative. And while it’s inspiring and majestic to see the geese flying in formation proudly, I’m always the most fascinated by the thousands of black birds I see silhouetted against the sky. It’s an almost sinister feeling that reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds. Every year I’m amazed at just how many birds can fit on the power lines and light poles, and I always try to snap a photo with as many of them in the composition as possible. Here’s a photo from this year’s migration taken with my iPhone through the car window.

Bird Photo_Natasha Teague_Before
Original Photo taken with my iPhone

Like so many other times that I’ve been inspired by a passing moment, this photo fails to capture the eerie sense of wonder that I felt when I took it. Since boring photos are for the birds, I challenged myself to enhance my photo with Topaz Adjust to give it just the Hitchcockian feel I was experiencing. (Before you ask, yes, I did my journalistic due diligence and made sure that Hitchcockian is a real word. Strange, isn’t it?)  Through a quick Google Images search I found two source images to reference for inspiration.

Source ImagesLeft Image Source; Right Image Source

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If you’ve ever used Topaz DeNoise for high ISO noise reduction you might have noticed a posterized effect occur on certain images. Often this posterization isn’t evident until you increase the auto-brightness, where you then see the unnatural swerving of tone gradation going this way and that.

Baffled by this effect, like a scientist I sought to figure out how to get rid of it, mixing the sliders up every which way until…eureka! To get rid of posterization all you have to do is increase the ‘Add Grain’ slider and bam! Posterization depleted.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.52.19 AMPosterization
Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.52.34 AMGrain added – No posterization

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The Best Image Sharpening Trick for High-ISO PhotosYou’ve probably run into this issue at one point or another – how to sharpen an image with high-iso noise without worsening the noise artifacts.

It’s the epitome of a Catch-22 scenario. By applying noise reduction, you sacrifice detail. But by sharpening the image, worsened noise is a result.

So how does one go about resolving this?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. As first instructed by Gabriel Fontes, this image sharpening technique he invented allows you to effectively sharpen an image, leaving the noise untouched.

Try it out yourself to be amazed.

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GUIDE (1)Sure, you can apply a preset or photo effect to your entire image, but why would you want to do that? There are certain instances when applying an effect globally will only hurt the image rather than make it better.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to apply a blemish removal filter found in Topaz Clean to the entire image. If you own a copy of Photoshop, there is a valuable tool you must start using now if you haven’t already. This feature is called layer masks.

In his book, The Digital Photographer’s New Guide to Photoshop Plug-Ins, author Scott Stulberg refers to layer masks as the “best kept secret in Photoshop.” By using layer masks with plugins, you are granted more control in the editing process as you can selectively apply adjustments to your image, while leaving other areas untouched.

So are you ready to have complete control in your editing workflow? Whether new or experienced with layer masks, read on for some tricks on how to use layer masking with plugins.

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