Using Topaz Adjust to Finish Your HDRs


Topaz Adjust is an incredible product.  It was the first photo plug-in software that I bought, going back to v3 several years ago.  They are now on v5 and over time the product has continued to mature nicely.  It has a lot of capability and I enjoy using it to enhance the look of my HDR photos.

Recently I shared the photo above and had some questions about how I achieved the look of the photo.  Much of that is due to the HDR process itself, and I also used some filters in Color Efex Pro by Nik Software.  But even after all that (which really didn’t take too long, maybe 15 minutes) I decided top it off with some enhancement in Topaz Adjust.

Why did I think it needed more?  Well, that’s a good question and really comes down to personal preference.  I liked the photo the way it was, but it still felt like it was missing something, white bouncy castle although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was missing.  In those cases, I find that’s the perfect excuse to run a photo through Topaz Adjust and see if anything “clicks”.  So I did.  🙂

To be clear – Topaz Adjust is perfectly capable of being your only external editor for HDR enhancements.  It will stand on its own.  In this case, I used Color Efex Pro first because it was a cityscape/street scene and I have a particular workflow in Color Efex Pro that I like to use on that type of shot.  So could I have gotten it all done just in Topaz Adjust?  You bet!

Ok, so like my last article, this is not a tutorial on my Photomatix settings, so let’s begin with the output from Photomatix:

This shot is still pretty flat – which is good – but there is a nice sky and all the details are not lost.  It’s certainly a good starting point for the mood I want to convey here.

Next I ran it through Color Efex Pro, and ended up with this version:

At that point, I thought I was done.  I like this photo, but as I said above it still needed a little “punch” to make it a bit more vibrant (that’s my opinion, of course).  So at that point I brought it into Topaz Adjust.

Topaz Adjust gives you a massive amount of presets but in all honesty, I prefer to skip those so that I create the look that I want.  Using a preset can work at times, but it feels like it is using someone else’s ideas when they have never even seen my photo!

So from Photoshop just select Filter > Topaz Labs >Topaz Adjust v5

Here is the full screen view of Topaz Adjust, once I load the photo there:

As you can see, there are filters down the left side, your photo is front and center, and your options for making adjustments are on the right side.  Also note the Before/After button on the upper left.  This is a great way to compare what you started with and where you currently are in terms of processing the image.  Touching the space bar is a shortcut for a Before/After comparison.

For illustrative purposes only, here are closeup shots of the Effects List, and depending on which Effect you choose, you will get different options for Presets below it.


However, the first thing I always do is to reset everything back to the default setting, which means no adjustments, settings, effects, or presets are applied to the image.  That is done in the bottom right corner.  Click on “Reset All”.

I do this because I do not want any preset as a starting point – I want the base image as a starting point.  That way I come at it from my own perspective, and not someone else’s.  Again, that’s personal preference.

You will notice on the right side that there are 3 options for making adjustments: Global Adjustment, Local Adjustments, and Finishing Touches.

I start with Global Adjustment, and experiment a bit to see what works best on this photo.  Once you click on it, it will offer some drop-down choices which are:

*  Adaptive Exposure

*  Details

*  Color

*  Noise

*  Curve Tool

I generally experiment with the first three, and ignore the last two.

As with the previous menu, once you click on Adaptive Exposure you again have more choices.  This is where the customization begins.

It’s the same with the Details and Color settings: more choices and customization/experimentation awaits!


The best advice I can give you is to just experiment with these settings.  There is no “right way to do things”.  It totally depends on the image and what you are trying to achieve with it.

For this image, I made minimal adjustments on the Adaptive Exposure setting, and opted to boost the image via experimenting with the settings in the Details and Color menus under Global Adjustment.  I felt like the finished product had a better shine to it, the details were a bit more crisp, and some of the color just looked better, especially in the cloudy sky.  Overall, it made me happier, and that’s what I want to achieve when I finish a photo: being happy with it.

Once you finish your adjustments in Topaz Adjust, just click on “Apply” at the bottom right, which will add those adjustments to the photo, but leave you in Topaz Adjust in case you want to make other, further adjustments (such as adding a border or vignette under Finishing Touches).  Or, you can click “OK” at the very bottom, and it will save the photo with your updates, and take you back to Photoshop.

Once again, here is the final version of the photo (same as at the top of this article).


Well that’s it.  Hope this mini-tutorial helps and let me know if you have any questions!

Jim Nix is a traveler and photographer residing in Austin, TX. He has a deep and abiding love for HDR photography and shares his photos and travel experiences on his blog at Facebook page