Tuesday, July 9, 2013

REVIEW: Topaz Labs Simplify 4–Ready For Something TOTALLY Different? (DISCOUNT)

BuzSim SplitToned III without Vignette
Topaz Labs Simplify 4
BuzSim Split Toned III Preset (without Vignette)

Ever dreamed of being an illustrator, but just don’t have the natural skills or time?

Do you have an image of a interesting scene that you’ve edited to death, but it still doesn’t wow you?

If so, then Simplify might be just what you need to spark your creativity and give your images something that make them unique. This is especially useful for scenes that have been over shot (can you say Paris?).

Here’s the original in-camera unprocessed RAW file that I enhanced in Simplify for this review:

Original
Original Staircase shot - unprocessed (from RAW)

It’s a cool scene, but out of the camera it’s fairly blah. The composition is good and there’s lots of interesting things going on, so when I play around with a few Simplify filters I get some interesting results. Here’s another cool preset with a little bit of adjustments on my part:

Oil Painting III with Adjustments
Oil Painting III with Adjustments

With this being Japan, the home of Anime and Hayao Miyazaki, then a little cartoon treatment might be fun too:

Line and Ink - Cartoon Natural II with Adjustments
Line and Ink - Cartoon Natural II with Adjustments

While I realize this won’t appeal to everyone, I think these are fun deviations from reality that take an interesting photo and make it very exciting and different.

More than just cartoons and oil paintings

Quick & Easy Background Simplification
Quick & Easy Background Simplification

One thing I like to use Simplify for is to reduce the distractions in a scene. In the sample shot above I have a Sushi Chef in Japan with both foreground and background distractions that don’t really add anything useful to the shot. To reduce the clutter I could simply use the BizSim III preset and mask out the face and I’m mostly done. If this were an important shot I’d probably spend a little more time on object removal, but for a family vacation photo like this – I’m done.

Well, actually here’s what went into this 5 minute edit:

image

Layer 1 is the Simplify layer where I’ve let the head show through using a layer mask. The image that came out was too yellow so I desaturated the yellows but left then oversaturated in strategic places.

I finished up by using Color Efex to create a brilliance/warmth layer to warm up the skin (using a single U-Point on the face). I could have done this a variety of ways without using a Nik Collection product, but it’s just what I typically do so I did that here.

The saturation can be dialed to taste, but the important thing to notice is what happens to the wood grain, writing in the background and the chef’s jacket. Yes, I could have used a blur or another technique, but if you’ve got Simplify then this a fun way to try something different. Where I find this most useful is for concerts and event shoots where you have background distractions that beg for a saturation boost and loss of detail.

Here’s another example because I was having so much darn fun with Simplify tonight:

Infocus, Simplify & 5 minutes transform this shot from dull to fun
Infocus (to remove motion blur), Simplify & 5 minutes transform this shot from dull to fun

Even though I used the BizSim III preset again, it’s much harder to tell here. Where you notice it most is on his ID and neckerchief. However, the simplification adds to the whimsical nature rather than making it look too fake. It also makes the apron look more tidy with out any hassle during editing. Like the Sushi Chef shot, I did have to mask out his face, but I did nothing else this time.

Another idea for those shots ruined by crowds

Why spend hours removing people or fixing a ho hum shot?
Why spend hours removing people or fixing a ho hum shot?

This was a shot that was more of a “snap, I’ve been here” shot because there were too many people around to get the shot I wanted. I ultimately did slow down and got some nice shots, but  on my first trip here I didn’t take the time to do that. Had this been my only shot (or a boring cell phone shot), I could have turned it into something interesting and fun using a preset like this (BuzSim III). In less than a minute I have a fun piece of art that I actually enjoy looking at. The people add motion, excitement and character to the shot. However, the original really sucks:

Original - Yuck!
Original - Yuck!

While some people might pull out the pitchforks at the mere idea of doing something like this to a photo, I think it’s a fun way to do something interesting with your less than stellar shots. It’s also a great way to deal with crowds without spending hours removing them in Photoshop.

Conclusion

If you’ve used any other Topaz Labs software then the Simplify user interface will be familiar to you. For the most part this is a click a preset and drag sliders around to suite your taste type of app. I demonstrated it using the staircase shot in a recent webinar that I’ll link to here once it goes online.

If you haven’t used any Topaz software before then you are missing out because they are a fun and simple way to breathe some life into your images. If you follow my friend Trey Ratcliff at Stuck-In-Customs then you know he’s a big fan of Adjust, just like me!

Where to order

Use my coupon code to save when you check out!
Use my discount coupon code to save 15% when you check out!

WARNING: To get the discount you MUST CLICK HERE and enter the coupon code RONMART. If the code isn’t working then visit my discount coupon code page for the latest code and offer details.

Click here to order the bundle at a discount. For the next couple days the ronbundle or july4 codes might still work so try them out. If they don’t then use my coupon code as mentioned above to save. The bundle is the way to go long-term pricewise, so only skip the bundle if you are certain you are only going to buy a couple Topaz products.

Interested in an amazing photo trip to Japan?

Want to go photograph this staircase yourself? Contact me about joining me on my photography workshop in Japan!

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