“With any form of photography, the photo captures a point in time; it is a record of what was there at that specific moment. However, to make a photo interesting to the audience it must be more than just a record.

Cities contain many buildings, good and bad architecture; shapes; patterns; people and culture. Urban landscape is therefore a wide subject that can encompass the elements of both the physical and cultural aspects of a city.”

-Adrian Pym, writer and judge for the Digital Lightroom

In lieu of the on-going photography competition hosted by The Digital Lightroom, I was inspired by the current submission theme ‘Urban Landscape’ (see here on how to enter the competition to win a free copy of Topaz Clarity).

During a recent visit to San Antonio, TX, my goal ahead of time was to obtain a rooftop, urban landscape shot of the city.  At the heart of downtown, this image of the well-known Alamo and partial SA skyline achieved this goal and was the chosen one to use in this tutorial:

IMG_8047One of my favorite aspects of photography is the post-processing that follows in the ‘digital darkroom’. With the series of city images I took that day,  a standard workflow was developed following the suggested Topaz workflow chart. The adjustments applied in guidance transformed my daytime cityscape images in a non-drastic way, making them stand out compared to the lack-luster originals.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 4.06.17 PM

With the above workflow in mind, I brought the below images into several plug-ins in this order: DeNoise->Adjust->Clarity->Lens Effects->Detail






Using the Alamo City skyline as an example, here is a general idea of the post-processing steps I followed:

Step 1

  • Open the image in PS (or other host program)
  • Duplicate the photo (Ctrl/Cmd + J) and open it in Topaz DeNoise 5
  • Be sure you are viewing the image at 100% so that it appears the way it should when brought back into PS.  This magnification will also help you see the noise in the original image as compared to the after.
  • Apply one of the settings you find most suiting to your image. I applied he RAW-moderate preset
  • Press OK


Step 2

  • Bring the image into Topaz Adjust 5
  • Apply the Brilliant Warm  preset for a sunny day
  • Reduce or increase the transparency as desired
  • Press OK

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.23.11 PM

Step 3

  • Open the image in Topaz Clarity
  • Apply one of the presets found in the Architecture Collection. For this image I applied the Cityscape I preset
  • Optional: Mask out the sky using the ‘Edge Aware’ brush so that the Cityscape I preset is only applied to the city:

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.30.14 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.33.58 PM

  • Press OK to bring the image back into PS to apply the changes
  • Bring the same image back into Clarity and apply the Clouds II preset found in the Landscape Collection
  • Use the Edge Aware brush to mask out the architecture and foliage so that the effect is only applied to the sky:

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.52.11 PM

Masking Tips:

  • Increase your brush size and strength around the bulk of the image
  • Zoom in to construct fine tweaking around the edges of the skyline with a smaller brush
  • Use the spacebar to toggle between the before/after to help see what needs to be hidden or revealed

Step 4

  • Bring the image into Lens Effects
  • Zoom into 100% to see the exact changes that will be applied
  • On the left side of the interface scroll to xF Add Sharpening and apply one of the Sharpening presets and press OK.  I used Sharpening II:

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 3.58.56 PM

Step 5

  • Open the image in Topaz Detail 3
  • For this photo I reduced the saturation by -0.10 for a more natural feeling
  • Apply the Overall Detail Light preset and mask out the sky/trees so that detail is only brought out in the architecture
  • Press OK

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 4.12.23 PM

Back in PS, I made Selective Color Adjustments in the cyans, blues and yellows to take effect on the sky and foilage:


The Final Result:

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 1.11.24 PM

Be sure to submit your own urban landscape image(s) to the DLR’s Photography Competition for your chance to win a free copy of Topaz Clarity or other Topaz plug-in! The deadline for entries is June 28th. See here for competition and submission rules.

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