I'm always conflicted about AI in photography, preferring to make my own adjustments. On the other hand, AI is getting better, and can sometimes give you a starting place from which you can adjust more. It also can draw new photographers into the beginnings of serious editing, and if these AI filters are just that, a start, and not just a matter of automatic button pushing, it's all to the better.
Topaz has brought their considerable experience to this software, and it shows. Topaz Adjust AI will work as a dedicated app, or as a Photoshop plugin. Installing the software does both.
The software can run in a completely automated mode, where you click on a "look" and the software delivers it via AI. There is a fully manual mode, with no AI adjustments. There are controls for things like highlights, clarity, shadow depth, and the sort of adjustments you may be used to in applications like Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Using a split screen or smaller side by side full image display, you can immediately see the result. The third mode is an HDR AI mode, with clarity and detail sliders.
I started my use of Topaz Adjust AI with a single image I recently took at Watson Lake near Prescott, AZ. (It's a great place for landscape photographers, by the way.) Here's the original:
I did like the effects I got from the AI side of the program, but as I looked more closely I saw certain parameters I wanted to adjust on my own using the AI settings as a starting place. I feel as if I got the best rendering of my image that way. By comparing the original to the AI based suggestions, it was easy to see what changes were being applied.
There were multiple undos available with Topaz Adjust AI so I could tinker all I wanted.
There are also some nice options for creating monochrome images.
I should note that you can achieve many of these looks by using the tools in Lightroom or Photoshop, or your favorite raw editor. However, the addition of AI from Topaz can certainly save a pro time, and get a less experienced photographer closer to a compelling image. When you first load a photo, Topaz Adjust AI takes several seconds to ingest the data. From that point, choosing different looks is quite fast, maybe 3 seconds on my 2012 Mac Pro.
Topaz is not the first to harness AI for image processing. Skylum has been offering products like Luminar that have similar features. Like Adjust AI, sliders can modify the depth of the effect, which I think is necessary with software like this. AI programs tend to default to the most colorful renders, and I find myself taking things down a notch to edit to my taste.
What I Like
- Works with raw files and gives you a lot of control of individual parameters in the manual modes
- The Auto AI modes do a nice job and give you control to adjust and save looks that you have created
- GUI is intuitive, and does not require you to keep your head in a manual to get things to work
- Competitive with similar programs (like Luminar) but different enough that many photographers will want to add this to their workflow even if they own other similar programs
What I'd Like to See
- Faster processing of the original image. (Photographers always want faster)
- More presets
Topaz Adjust AI is a fine application and plugin. Topaz has a lot of experience in image editing and it shows in this software. To answer my own question as stated in my headline, yes, Topaz Adjust AI is a worthy editor or editing assistant. There's a lot of AI hype, but Topaz works well regardless of your level of editing experience. The application of artificial intelligence can save experienced and beginning photographers some time. For people like me, who would rather create my own looks for individual images, all the controls are there. Still, the automation can work wonders, save time, and can always be modified to taste.
Until July 8, 2019, Adjust AI is on sale for $59.99, returning to a list price of $79.99 after. You can download a free trial offered through the Topaz Labs website to try before you buy.