Photoshop Plug-In

Topaz Detail Software Review

Topaz Detail interior strong detail preset with a little added saturation

By Robert Lachman,
Topaz Labs always seems to be working hard to keep new Photoshop plug-ins at a reasonable price. One of my main complaints about most plug-ins is the high price, but Topaz seems to make them at a more modest cost.

Topaz Detail bold detail preset

So what can Topaz Detail, the latest offering from Topaz Labs, do for you? Let?s say you just have a photograph that looks flat, maybe low on contrast or you need the subject to pop off the page. Maybe you want that new-school, HDR, specially-lit composition. You know it, the Dave Hill or the Lucis Arts look.

Topaz Detail interior strong detail preset They?re the portraits that have the grunge look that just flies off the page or landscapes or interiors that are 3D masterpieces.

According to the developer, ?Topaz Detail is uniquely designed to give the user full creative control over all aspects of detail enhancement without creating edge artifacts. It internally separates the image into three detail sizes – small, medium, and large details – and offers exceptional control over the precise manipulation of each detail type.?

Ok, let?s try and break it down into what this means. Topaz Detail lets you add sharpness and contrast without adding the noise usually associated with the process. While the Detail software is similar to Topaz Adjust it does a much better job of creating the enhanced effect without the increasing edge artifacts or over-sharpening.

Topaz Detail uses the normal Topaz Labs software interface with presets down the left side with examples, a large window for the preview of your photograph and sliders at the bottom to make adjustments.

I usually click on one of the presets and then make minor adjustments from there. Presets include: creative detail accent, micro-contrast enhancement, edge softener, soft looking, deep-blue sky, black-and-white contrasted, bold detail, and interior strong detail.

Topaz Detail softlook preset
Topaz Detail softlook preset

With the Topaz Detail software, you do have a choice of making the images more contrasty, softer or even changing to black-and-white, so plan on spending some time working with your photographs. This is one of those software programs that gets addictive, once you get started, it?s hard to stop.

Topaz Detail works on Intel-based Mac OS with either 10.4 or 10.5, older PowerPC processors are not supported. It works with Photoshop CS3 and CS4 and Elements 6 and 7. They do support Aperture 2 by Apple but not Lightroom.

Topaz Detail bold detail preset

They do offer a free 30-day full function trial on their website or you can buy it for $39.99. They are offering the newsletter subscriber price at $19.99 until August 31st with the coupon code “SODETAILED” so check the Topaz Labs website to see if it is still available.

I think Topaz Lab has really come up with a fine piece of software at a great price. The software is comparable to others that cost over ten times as much. I won?t mention any other names. Topaz Detail is a little slow when working with large files. I tried it with a 41M Photoshop file and it took Detail about 2 minutes to load on my older model G5 Intel iMac. But, once it?s loaded, it works very quickly when you click from preset to preset or make adjustments.

It does look like Topaz Labs has a winner with Detail at an affordable price. Also available on their site is a bundle price for a limited time which includes, Adjust, DeNoise, Simplify, Detail, Clean and DeJPEG for $149. (It works with Windows and Mac OSX)

Topaz Detail interior Strong detail preset
Topaz Detail interior Strong detail preset

All photographs by Robert Lachman ? 2009 taken with the Canon G10 camera

OnOne’s FocalPoint Software Review

By Robert Lachman
Focal Point from OnOne software is a photoshop plug-in for adding selective focus to your photographs, emphasizing the subject and eliminating or softening distracting backgrounds.

It?s a way of limiting your depth-of-field without purchasing very expensive lenses with f/stops of 1.4 or 1.8, or maybe even a tilt-shift lens. This software lets you add this style of effect after the fact, with control of how much and where you want the focus at a much cheaper price. The software also makes it very simple to add a dark or light vignette to your work.

Now, it?s possible to create the effects without the plug-in using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements by themselves, but it?s a complicated and time-consuming process.Focalpoint
When I first check out software, I usually go to the company?s website to see how much instruction is available. The OnOne FocalPoint tutorials are first-rate and very high quality, explaining how the software works.

The topics include:

  • Launching FocalPoint
  • Understanding the User Interface
  • Using the FocusBug
  • Working with Layer Masks
  • Tilting the Plane of Focus
  • Using the Vignette Controls
  • Batch Processing
  • Real World FocalPoint Examples

Once you take a look at the tutorials you?ll really have an appreciation of the software, and how easy, and how much time it will save you. I tried the OnOne FocalPoint software plug-in with Photoshop Elements 6 on my iMac and it worked without a hitch.

First up, was adding a little selective focus to a portrait. I opened a photo in Elements, then selected FocalPoint from the menu. The image opened in a new window with setting for Aperture Shape of the FocusBug which includes controls for feather and opacity. Changing the blur is next with amount and motion. Following down the list is Vignette with lightness and midpoint. The last control is Film Grain amount.

Next, I selected the round shape and clicked on the photo which gave me the FocusBug with all it?s controls. Even though the shape says round you can change the size and shape with handles which extend from the bug. Other handles give you control of blur, feather, opacity and blur blend. Also, you can see the actual layer mask by selecting Show Mask from the menu. While this isn?t necessary, it?s very informative about the process.

For a finishing touch, I added a little vignette to the photograph and it sealed the deal for me. The software really passed the most important test. It?s fun and easy to use.

For my next photograph, I tried the Planar shape. This effect simulates using a tilt-shift lens with rectangular shaped FocusBug extending through the entire image from top-to-bottom or side-to-side. This gives you softness or blur on each side of your subject. If you use option-click you can add it to only one side.

Portraits and sports photography with distracting backgrounds is where I think consumers would use this software. Most people can only afford zoom lenses which don?t really produce photographs with much limited depth-of-field.

The full version of OnOne Focal point is $159 which may seem expensive, especially if you?re using it with the much cheaper Photoshop Elements 6 instead of CS4. The price is competitive with most plug-ins on the market today and it?s a quality product which I would recommend.