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Photoshop Soft Light

Rescuing a Flat Light Image using Topaz Filters:

I was in the right place at the right time, but clouds in the East rolled in. The rich morning light never materialized!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Topaz Labs with information about an online tutorial called “Transform Your Landscape Photo in 3 Simple Steps. I clicked the link and did a quick scan of the page. At the time, I was busy, so I bookmarked the tutorial. A couple of days ago, I opened an image file in Lightroom I had taken at String Lake on May 4th. I did a few quick adjustments in Lightroom, then opened it in Photoshop and followed along with their tutorial.

“Transform Your Landscape Photo in 3 Simple Steps. You can view their tutorial and their examples at the Topaz site. I thought it might be fun to do the same adjustments on one of my images using their steps.

The Topaz Labs web site says you can do the adjustments in Lightroom if you load Fusion Express. I still like working in Photoshop, but Lightroom should work fine.

To do this project, I needed to own Topaz Clarity, Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Detail.

Original Image

Original Image coming from Lightroom. The composition is okay, but with flat light, I tend to neglect this kind of image when I get home and see it on the computer screen. The day after I was there, the weather changed drastically with thick clouds and rain. My window of opportunity for this snow covered shot closed behind me until next year.

Add Topaz Clarity

Topaz Clarity: I made a copy of the original layer, then applied the Clarity Filter to the new copied layer. On this image, the Clarity filter made the water richer and darker. It also added some contrast to my original image.

Topaz Clarity>Landscape Collection>Landscape Pop I>OK

Topaz Brilliance and HDR

Topaz  Adjust: I chose to make a copy of the results of the last filter to a new layer, then ran Topaz Adjust. The tutorial suggested using either Brilliant Cold or Brilliant Warmth. My image was already cool from shooting with the dull light. I chose to use Brilliant Warmth instead.

Topaz Adjust>Classic Collection>Brilliant Warmth> and adjusted the Overall Transparency a little before hitting the Apply Button.
Before hitting the OK button, the instructions say to run the file again with the HDR Collection in Topaz Adjust.
HDR Collection>Dynamic Brightness>adjust the Overall Transparency as desired if the effect is too much. Then hit the OK button.

Topaz Detail

Topaz Detail: The tutorial calls for running the file through Topaz Detail. I made a copy of the results from the last filter to a new layer before running the filter. I don’t think this file needed much adjustment with this filter, but I went through the steps anyway and pulled the effect back by adjusting the Overall Transparency or the Effect Mask before accepting it.

Topaz Detail> Creative Detail Collection>Overall Detail Light I>Effect Mask>OK

Photoshop Soft Light

Final Adjustments in Photoshop: Based on the steps in the tutorial, I should have been finished. I chose to make a “Soft Light” adjustment layer on the image and limit it to just the mountains of the Cathedral Group by making a Layer Mask. A Soft Light adjustment layer adds contrast and saturation. After all the adjustments, I could see a few flaws. I created a “composite layer” of all the adjustments by using the keyboard shortcut Control-Alt-Shift-E. I fixed the dust spots using the Content Aware spot healing brush. These spots were not apparent on the original file when it was still in Lightroom. I noticed some green fringing (from using a wide angle lens) and fixed them using the Lens Correction filter. Lastly, I took advantage of a new feature in Adobe Photoshop CC to run the ACR utility as a filter. When I dragged the highlight slider to zero, I could see more details in the clouds in the upper left. I created a layer mask for the Highlights adjustment and did a graduated blend to expose only that area.

Comments: I like to follow along with tutorials like the one supplied by Topaz Labs. They can highlight effects and tools I never used. While it is possible to run each of these steps on a single layer, I like to run them on a copied layer. This allows me to soften an effect by adjusting the layer opacity and even add a layer mask to limit adjustments to specific areas if desired. I added my “shorthand” steps on this page. They’d be all I need to recreate the effects quickly on a different image, but if you need more information, refer to the Topaz tutorial. My final Adjustments in Photoshop tweaked the image and fixed some problems. I didn’t attempt to explain the tools for every single step, but it might help understand some of the powerful tools available in Photoshop.

Here’s the Topaz Labs link again. It will have accompanying screen grabs of the tools and filters: “Transform Your Landscape Photo in 3 Simple Steps


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