I bought Topaz Adjust 4 quite a while ago for a bit of extra punch to my images. After going through the bow-wave of mad editing, I have started to use this plug-in with a little more restraint and this post is about techniques and ideas to use some of the tools within the plugin for less “dramatic” effects. This post also really relates to version 4. I’ve not really looked at Topaz Adjust 5, but if you’re thinking of buying it, it’s likely to be better than 4 and these ideas and techniques can be used no matter what the version. One thing that’s common to both this and BW Effects, is that when you apply the filter effect in Photoshop, it doesn’t add it as a new layer. I find it to be good practise to duplicate your existing layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) or if you’re just working on one layer, duplicate that with CTRL+J. This allows you to non-destructively work with just the Topaz Adjust layer on its own.

The Topaz Adjust (4) workspace

The Topaz Adjust (4) workspace

Anyway, lets take a look at the UI in a bit more detail. If you’re used to the Topaz interface, then this will seem quite straightforward. Detailed controls over to the right, presets to the left. In the middle is your edited image, and left clicking on it will bring up your original image overlaid. As with BW Effects, the presets you choose on the left really just modify all the sliders to the right, so there is no “trick” to this. As you can see, I have added a few presets of my own as well as downloaded some, and these just appear at the bottom of the preset list. Also, it’s always worth doing an internet search for more presets!

Topaz Adjust Presets

The gallery below shows before and after comparisons with a handful of presets. I’m not sure if this has changed in version 5, but these presets are quite severe. When viewing the gallery, if it’s not obvious, the “original” file is the one with the red highlights in it. Mobile phone viewers may struggle with the gallery as it’s forced set to 1,000px wide to allow the detail to show through. I think it does a good job though of illustrating how some of these effects are quite strong. As an example though, they serve their purpose.

 

 

Each of the Presets can be adjusted with the sliders on the right, and there are no real “right” ways of doing anything. Version 5 allows one to layer adjustments on top of one another which is a really great feature. Prior to that, I would generally make duplicate layers in Photoshop and just apply a new preset to each one. Don’t be frightened about over-cooking your image with this plug-in. If you apply it as a filter to its own layer in Photoshop, you can control the opacity of it later on. Lastly, the plug-in can add a significant amount of noise to an image. As you can see from this example, it’s well worth using the de-noise function within the plug-in as a “last step” before you confirm any changes back to PS.


Keeping Things Real

Once you have your image back in Photoshop, you can really begin to manipulate the effects. If you have made sure that your Topaz Adjusted image is a layer in its own right, you can alter the opacity of it to lessen the effect. You can also mask off certain areas. This is where a deft touch, and an eye for “not overdoing it” can really help. As you can see in the example below, I have added quite a heavily processed Topaz layer on top of my original image, but by reducing the opacity and masking out certain areas, the effect has been dramatically lessened.



All in all, the Topaz Adjust plug-in is a great tool for adding a little punch to your images with a little finesse. You can find out more, and see other tutorials on the Topaz site here.

As always – thanks for reading! And if you’re interested in the slider I used to show the before and after images, it was a paid-for version from CodeCanyon here. There are free versions of this, but the support is not great and I struggled to get it working in Chrome despite various suggestions for a fix. Just search “BeforeAfter plugin” for more information.

Ian.

**Caveat – If you think that spending vast sums of money on a camera case is insane, please close your browser window now**

Front view of the Leicatime X-E1 case.

Front view of the Leicatime X-E1 case.

Today, my Leicatime case finally arrived via courier! Apologies for the poor iPhone pics as well as my home made strap (still in development!).

It was a bum-squeakingly large amount of money (200 Euros) to hand over via Bank Transfer but it’s soooo shiny…

The image to the left here shows it on my camera (click for a bigger version) and I have to say that  love it to bits!

To give a little background, I searched for an eternity for a really nice looking case that would cater for a bit more grippage as the X-E1 on its own feels slightly small. I also wanted that back screen covered to stop me chimping and to stop screen scratches. I also wanted some decent quality and the more I looked at the website, the more I wanted one… It’s handmade. It’s Italian leather.

This is a family business that makes handmade cases and straps, and I initially spoke to Ginevra by email. This was all done over Easter, so the replies were very quick considering the holidays. Once I’d paid, I received confirmation from Luigi (on the 2nd April) by email then sat down to wait. Three weeks later and we’re done!

So if you’ve looked at Leicatime cases (they do Oly, Leica and Fuji X systems) and been put off by either the website (which definitely needs an upgrade!) or the fact that they’re not UK, I can say that the service I had was wonderful.

The case itself is soft leather with a red leather inner and (at extra cost) red stitching. The camera fits very snugly into the case. The built-in grip is a definite welcome addition and feels really comfortable and well sized. The poppers are secure and well made. There is no access underneath for the batteries/mem card/tripod mount, but access to these can be added at extra cost. I am beginning to wish I’d paid the extra 20 Euros for the tripod hole too but I figured I’d be taking it out of the case for Landscape work. The problem was that all the prices are exclusive of VAT and they charge an extra 4% for Paypal, so everything you add to the order costs more than you think.

So I guess the big question is “was it worth it?” I was in a slightly unusual position of having money left over after selling my Canon gear, and I wanted a grip and a case. The Fuji branded grip + case would have set me back around £120 (£60 each at

Rear view of the Leicatime case with flap open

Rear view of the Leicatime case with flap open

time of posting) so we’re actually talking about £50 difference. I know, I know, the VAT isn’t in there… or the delivery charge… As you can see I’m desperately trying to justify the cost. The case is a thing of beauty. If you’re a lady, it’s a Louboutin. Sure – you could say “200 Euros for a bit of leather?” but I just shake my head. For me it’s something really nice; and ladies – if you like your Louboutins and your husband has an Olympus, a Fuji X or a Leica – you may want to have a chat with Ginevra on email. Give him a treat. He’s worth it! Gents – if your wife likes her shoes, tell her you want one of these. If she mentions the “strip of leather” thing just point to her shoes and raise an eyebrow. That should do the trick!

Yes. It’s expensive. If you have the money to spare (my camera fund stays in my camera fund!) then why not treat yourself.

Ian.

Posted by: In: Just Chat 02 May 2013 0 comments

There has been a flutter of interest on the internet at the release of the government’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill. Mainly this revolves around the concern around the use of orphan images.

The regulations must provide that, for a work to qualify as an orphan work, it is a requirement that the owner of copyright in it has not been found after a diligent search made in accordance with the regulations

Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill

freeimage-5993737-webMy understanding of this is that it allows anyone to make use of (for commercial or non-commercial gain) an “orphan” image as long as they made a “reasonable” search for the owner. Will this mean a rise in images that have watermarks plastered all over them? Perhaps that will be the case, and the wider internet can only suffer because of this.

As usual, accurate information is hard to find, with even sites like the esteemed British Journal of Photography stating that “While publishers seeking to use an orphan work will have to demonstrate they have done a reasonable search for the image’s owner, a large number of online services, such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, strip the metadata from uploaded images, creating millions of new orphan works each day.” (Source) Well I know that Flickr doesn’t strip this information unless you tell it to in your account options.

Hysterical media furore isn’t helping the average user dig to the bottom of the facts unfortunately, and I find government bills exceptionally hard to read…

Having a go at this though, I feel that I can see why there are so many uncertainties around the act. To begin with, the Copyright Licensing Factsheet is rather woolly about the advantages, stating:

 This legislation will modernise the UK’s copyright licensing system, putting in place measures that will give our licensing system the competitive edge and helping UK creative industries retain their world beating-status.

UK Government

Without being cynical (ok, maybe I am being cynical) this sounds like someone serving up a plate of horse manure and telling me it’s chocolate cake. I may never be able to convince them it isn’t, but I certainly don’t have to eat it! A description of the benefits in more understandable terms might improve the feedback we’re seeing. Getting back on track though, my main question seems to be the definition of what is an Orphan image? What means is there to prevent someone unscrupulous from copying my photograph, stripping and identifying information from it, then uploading it to an anonymous photo hosting site and then grabbing it back as an “orphaned” work?

Wired managed to get a comment from a spokesman from the Intellectual Property office who stated…

“Nor do the changes mean anyone can use a copyright work without permission or free of charge. If someone copies a photo posted online they still need the permission from the rights holder of the photo to do so. If they don’t have this permission they will have to apply for and buy an orphan works licence.”

Intellectual Property Office Spokesman

Apparently, the monies paid for this license will be held (no doubt the Government will be happy to take the interest) for the original owner should they come forward.

It all sounds a bit fishy to me and whilst I’m not a professional photographer who sells their work, this could have serious implications to Stock photographers and Fine Art photographers. At the time of writing, a current e-Petition to prevent what is being described as “legalised theft of copyrighted works” has almost 18,000 signatures. At least anything over 10,000 means they will have to issue some sort of response.

The crux of the “issues” around this as far as I can see come from understanding what constitutes a “diligent search”. A 2008 memo to the House of Commons refers to the US report on Orphaned Works stating…

 ..it would be useful if the UK could adopt a similar policy and define what should count as `reasonable efforts

British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Either way – at the time of writing, there is no clear (i.e. “easy to find”) documentation regarding what constitutes a “diligent search” so we’ll have to rely on Daily Mail paranoia, or perhaps just wait & see…

Ian