I hadn’t planned on posting another monochrome images after the end of the Brooklyn Bridge series but the nice folks at Topaz Labs sent me a preview copy of a new product they are releasing next week so I thought I would have a play with it and see what I could come up with.
Despite being an HDR addict, most of you probably know that I’m not really someone who uses third party plug-ins much. The only ones I use regularly do things that I’ve not figured out how to do otherwise in Photoshop (Noiseware Pro for noise removal and Topaz Detail for sharpening). This new product looked interesting enough to merit some play, however.
Topaz B&W Effects is a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or other compatible products and, as the name suggests, offers a suite of tools for producing black and white conversions of your images. Tools include basic conversion options such as exposure and contrast adjustment, colour filter effects and curves adjustments. Their “adaptive exposure” tool allows independent adjustment of shadow and highlight exposure and detail levels, and brush-based local adjustments offer good control in dodging and burning specific areas of the image.
Options are also provided allowing you to set up to 4 colours corresponding to shadows, midtones, lights and highlights for interesting multi-tone effects.
For those interested in pushing the boat out, there are also tools offering “Creative Effects” such as diffusion, camera shake and posterisation. To me, these are over-the-top but I’m sure they will appeal to a subset of users.
If all these options appear rather daunting, as with most other plug-ins around these days, B&W Effects ships with a huge array of presets which can be used as-is or as the starting poinf for your own tweaking. This picture, for example, started with the “Sepia and Selenium I” preset which I modified to give a result I preferred (by changing a couple of the colours in the quad-tone mix, adding a vignette and tweaking the overall curve of the image).
This is a plug-in that I am sure will be successful for Topaz. It offers a great selection of tools and a huge amount of flexibility. Some of the effects are, to my mind, rather exaggerated but, on the whole, it’s worth recommending to people who are not happy working in Photoshop with curves and the B&W adjustment layer. For me, I strongly suspect I’ll stick with Photoshop though since I can already do everything I need for black and white conversion and toning there and prefer the local control I have with masked curves layers. That’s just me though.
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