Monday, 27 April 2015

Topaz B&W Effects 2

Travel Photography is about creating an emotion with the viewer. Most of the time you can do this with a well edited colour image but other times you can present certain images as a Black & White and it will give it a far greater emotional feel. For example, the image below titled "Nun in Naples" is nice in colour but the B&W version to us has a greater emotional appeal and was quite successful when released on social media platforms.

We use Topaz B&W Effects 2 as one of three B&W conversion tools depending on the look we want to give our B&W images. The other two are Nik Silver Efex Pro (now a free download) and On1 Photo RAW 2018. B&W Effects 2 adds great control to your B&W conversions and has an awesome range of presets which are a great starting point to get your image looking the way you want it. Generally this is the way we always start with an image. 

Keep in mind also that if you have Lightroom you will be able to access this plug-in without leaving Lightroom. Ensure that you make any changes such as Lens Correction & Straightening in Lightroom first. Once you have made the changes in the plug-in it will automatically re-import the image back into your Lightroom Catalogue as a separate file stacked with your original file where you can make additional changes before exporting. Note: If using a Mac you will need Fusion Express 2 (Free) to access most of the Topaz plug-ins. You can download Fusion Express 2 here (Note: It is listed on the right side of the page and not with all the plug-in downloads)

As with most software these days we would suggest you download the trial of this plug-in and try before you buy. Here are a few key features of the software that we use the most -
  1. Firstly, when opening always click on the Reset button at the bottom right of the screen. This will clear your previous settings from the last image you processed.
  2. Always use the sliders in very small increments to get the effect you want.
  3. Topaz Labs plug-ins never opens up in the host application (e.g. Photoshop) as a separate layer, therefore before using the plug-in always duplicate your layer and open the plug-in with this layer highlighted. Alternatively, convert the duplicated layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer - Convert to Smart Object) and open the plug-in through this layer. This way you will be able to re-edit the image while keeping all your settings you previously made in the plug-in. 
  4. Although your image will be converted to B&W on default once the plug-in opens you actually can paint the original colour of your image back into the image by using the Local Adjustments tab on the right hand side of the interface. Select Color under the Adjustment Type and take the opacity slider all the way to 1.0 if you want your original image colour and then paint over the image. You can adjust how much colour you want back in your image by painting with lower opacity. 
  5. If you create an image from scratch by adjusting the settings in the right hand side panels then make sure you save it as a Custom Preset so that you can use on other images. This is especially useful if you have a series of images and want the same look for each of them. To do this simply click on the + underneath the Presets heading on the left side of the interface. A Save Preset box will appear. Give the Preset a unique name of your own and make sure that Save in My Collection is ticked and fill in any of the other fields if required. Click OK. The Preset will now sit in the folder "My Collection" under the Effects tab on the left hand side of the interface. 
  6. Another great feature when using the Presets is the grid view. If you click on the Traditional Collection for example you will be able to hover over the list of Presets to give you a preview of how each one will look. But even better is clicking on the the small grid button to the right of each of the Effects. This will open all the Presets in that Collection in a new panel showing the effects of each Preset. This will save you heaps of time looking for that perfect starting point for your image. 
  7. If there are Presets that you tend to use quite often then make sure you add them to your Favorites by using the Star symbol, This will add them to your Favorites folder in the Effects panel.
These are just some of the great features of the plug-in. For the price of the plug-in we highly recommend this as a tool for creating awesome B&W images. If you would like to purchase this plug-in then click here. We also suggest that you watch the "Quick Intro to Topaz B&W Effects" video below which will explain some more of the features in the plug-in.

If you have any question about the plug-in or about our workflow using it, please feel free to leave us a comment or if you just want to let us know your favourite feature then we would love to hear from you.

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