Perfect travel pictures are hard to get without a lot of things: ample amounts of shooting time, the correct equipment, all the professional knowhow, and more. But you can get perfect travel pictures with a little post processing and the right software!

Last March, I went to Iceland and had the trip of a lifetime! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and there was so much to see and do. It really was a photographer’s paradise! I had a lot of photography opportunities on a day trip through the Golden Circle. We were on a pretty tight schedule to see all the stops and the sky was a gloomy, overcast grey. But that didn’t stop me from shooting away!

One of my favorite stops was Gullfoss Waterfall. I have seen waterfalls before, but never anything this big, this blue, this powerful! I made sure to get some pictures of the entire scene from up high and from down low as well as some close ups of details. I’ve lived in Texas my entire life and I had never seen a waterfall made from glacial water covered in ice and snow. It was truly awesome!

When I returned home and started to go through images, I noticed my pictures were pretty bland. I’d shot in RAW on my Nikon D300s and I had done a great job of not blowing out the whites of the snow, which was a challenge for me since I had never really photographed snow before! But I also noticed the details of the ice were muddled and the color of the water was lackluster.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust 6 - Unedited

What a bummer…

I decided to edit my images to add saturation, more contrast, and refine details and edges. What better way to accomplish that than with Topaz Adjust? Check out how I fixed up my images from Iceland with the use of Photoshop CC and Adjust in this easy to follow tutorial, complete with an in-depth look at the program features and tools!

You can always follow along with me as I show you my workflow, try out the program as I teach about what the sliders do, or work on your own image with tricks I am doing. If you don’t have Adjust, you can always download a free 30 day trial here!

1. Open Your Image in Photoshop CC

Go ahead and open your image with a compatible host program. I photographed the waterfall in RAW so I opened my image with Photoshop CC.

If you are using Photoshop CC, you might be familiar with this workspace:

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Open Image

2. Duplicate Your Layer

Duplicate your original layer (Background) and rename it. You can do this by using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Command+N on a Mac.

I like to rename my new layer to the program I use to edit the image. Also, I like to have an original layer to ensure I can always go back and start from scratch if I want!

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Duplicate Layer

3. Open Adjust

When you are ready to open Adjust, go to Filter and open the plugin.

PATH: Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz Adjust 5…

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Open Adjust

4. About Adjust

When Adjust opens, you will see the workspace window that features Collections, Presets, a Preview of the image, Custom Adjustments, and more.

You can easily browse Collections, located in the upper left of the window:

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust 6 - Collections

When you hover over a Preset, a Preview will appear:

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Presets

You can see all the adjustments in the Custom Setting Panel on the right hand side of the screen.

This is a fast and easy way to edit images to have more contrast, greater saturation, and finer details.

5. Custom Settings

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Global AdjustmentsAdjust also allows you to create custom settings, which is what we’ll be doing today! The Custom Setting Panel is located on the right side of the program window. Here you can change Global Adjustments, Local Adjustments, and Finishing Touches.  These tools are for adjusting exposure, detail, color, and noise. You can use the arrows to open and close different parts of the program, the checkboxes to activate or deactivate adjustments, and sliders to increase or decrease adjustment choices.

The three tabs we’ll be working in today are Adaptive Exposure, Details, and Color. Here’s a little more information on what the sliders do to your image. Try them out and see how they change your image!

Adaptive Exposure Tab:

Adaptive Exposure: An adaptive technique to enhance the dynamic range of your image. Here you can apply a variety of tone mapped effects using the slider to adjust the range of the highest and lowest luminance regions where detail is visible. You can also correct exposure, balance lighting, and redefine tonal values.

Regions: The larger this number is, the more local contrast and detail enhancement you’ll get.

Contrast: Controls whether the exposure equalizations tend to take more of a “u” (valley) shape or more of a “n” (hill) shape on the histogram. This is not the same as your standard contrast adjustment!

Brightness: Standard brightness adjustment parameter. Increasing this parameter increases the overall brightness of the image while decreasing the parameter decreases the overall brightness of the image.

Protect Highlights: Built-in protection from highlight blowout. Increasing this parameter reduces the harshness of highlights and reveals previously obscured detail in highlight areas. A setting of 0 disables highlight protection.

Protect Shadows: Built-in protection from shadows. Increasing this parameter opens up the shadows and reveals previously obscured detail in shadow areas. A setting of 0 disables shadow protection.

Details Tab:

Strength: Determines the degree of detail enhancement applied to stronger details in the image. Works in conjunction with the “Details Threshold” value. A value greater than 1.0 strengthens the details in the image while a value less than 1.0 reduces and smooths details.

Detail Boost: The amount of detail enhancement applied to the smaller details in the image. A value higher than 1.0 strengthens the weaker details in the image while a value less than 1.0 reduces the strength of smaller details. This parameter affects mostly weak details. Strong details should be adjusted using the Strength slider.

Threshold: A larger threshold allows more image elements to be considered “details” and a smaller threshold limits elements considered “details”.

Radius: The larger the Details Radius is, the larger the size of the enhanced details will be. The smaller this parameter is, the smaller the size of the enhanced details.

Sharpen: The amount of sharpening to the image. This is a quick sharpener that conveniently deals with images with mild-to-moderate blur.

Process Details Independently: Allows you to adjust exposure and details separately. When this box is checked, only underlying exposure will be adjusted when you use the Exposure tab. The details will only be adjusted through the Details tab. This gives you extra flexibility in editing your image and tends to reduce the overall noise in the final image.

Color Tab:

Adaptive Saturation: Balances saturation in the image. This setting works in conjunction with the Regions setting. A setting of 0 disables adaptive saturation balancing while a setting of 1 applies full adaptive saturation balancing.

Color Regions: The number of regions to divide the image into for Adaptive Exposure processing. The larger this number is, the more local contrast in saturation you’ll get.

Saturation: Standard parameter to increase or decrease the overall saturation of the image.

Saturation Boost: Increase or decrease the saturation of less saturated colors in an image.

Hue: Controls the distinct color of the spectrum.

Now that we know what everything does, let’s try it out!

A. Adaptive Exposure

The first thing to edit is the exposure of the image. The actual view of the waterfall in real life was not flat but rather very detailed with a splash of glacier blue water. Gullfoss Falls was crisp and clean and I want my image to show that as well.

For this image, I set the Adaptive Exposure slider to 0.30, which changed the dynamic range of the image. I cranked up the Regions slider to 25 so that I could get more local contrast and detail enhancement. I made a slight adjustment to the Contrast (0.20) and bumped the Brightness up to 0.50 to make the image brighter overall.

Remember, unless you’re going for a very heavily process effect, such as HDR, you’ll want to make slight adjustments to the sliders until you find the perfect look!

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Adaptive Exposure

B. Details

The next thing to address is the details in the photograph. The falls had tiny details like rocks and channels in the ice. I want my image to show the beauty of the waterfall but also the small details that showcase the raw beauty of the scene.

I went ahead and moved the Strength Slider to 1.25 and that strengthened the details in the image. I made a small adjustment to the Detail Boost and set it to 1.05. This brought out the weaker details in the image. I bumped up the Threshold slider to 0.20 and that made more image elements considered details. To further enhance the large details, the Radius slider was set to 39.95. I then set the Sharpen slider to 1.40 to sharpen the overall image.

These settings worked for my image, but try out the sliders for yourself to find the perfect setting for your image! Now that you’re learning what the sliders do you can see them in action!

TIP: Be sure to view your image at 100% to see the adjustment on your image. See where it says 20% in the heading of my image? It’s to the right side! If you click on that you can select from a variety of zoom options.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Details

C. Color

My favorite adjustment to make to images is the color adjustment! This is where I can recreate the scene that I saw and remember. For this image, I really want to showcase the blues of the water.

I started adjusting the color by setting the Adaptive Saturation to 0.10, balancing the saturation in the image. I then cranked up the Color Regions to 50 so that the image has more local contrast in the saturation. I changed the Saturation to 1.40 so that the overall image is more colorful. I did not change the Saturation Boost or the Hue of the image.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Color

6. Compare Changes

These small changes probably don’t look like too much. If you look at the top of the program you will see two buttons, a full scene button and a side by side scene button. It’s kind of to the left. Click the side by side button to view your original image next to your edited image. What a change!

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - View

7. Save Your Effect

If you found a really great combination of adjustments, you can save them as your very own preset!

In the bottom left hand of the Adjust window, you will see a plus sign. Select to save your settings.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Save Effect

A window will appear and you can name your new preset, add in pertinent information, select a collection to save it to, or create a New Collection to save the new preset to.

You can see the information I added in here! I’ll use this preset on other images from the same location.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Save Effect


To create a New Collection, simply select the New Collection Button. Enter a name for the new collection and click OK.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Save Effect

Once the new folder is created, you will see the Save Preset window again. Make sure to select the folder you just created! Then select OK to save your new preset with a name, description, and info the selected category.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Save Effect

You can now see the new folder in the Collections Menu, which we learned about in Step 4. If you select the new folder, you’ll see the contents populate under the Presets list, which we learned about in Step 4 as well.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Save Effect

8. Return to Photoshop

Once you are done with your adjustments, click OK at the bottom of the right hand side of the Adjust window. Adjust will close and return you to Photoshop CC or to your host editor. At this point you can make any other edits that you like! I’m happy with how my image looks so I am going to save a .PSD file, to preserve the layers, and a resized .JPG file so that I can share it online with my friends.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Return to PSCC

With minor adjustments in Adjust, my image went from drab and soft to dynamic, sharp, and vibrant! I’m really happy with the results I was able to get today in just a few minutes.

Perfect Travel Pictures with Adjust - Final

About Jodi L. Robbins

Jodi is currently the Art Director of Topaz Labs. She has been an artist and photographer for over 15 years, starting with black and white film photography and alternative processing. After completing her BFA in Studio Art from Southern Methodist University and her Masters in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked in product photography for companies such as Heritage Auctions, Neiman Marcus, and the Dallas Cowboys.

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