Up the Production Value of Your Portraits With Topaz Labs 

Perhaps some of the biggest dealbreakers for images are sharpness, resolution, and noise. No one likes a blurry low-res ISO 25,600 file. Yet, sometimes the client picks the worst possible file that is the definition of poor image quality. Luckily, Topaz Labs have developed AI-enabled software which lets you save your portraits. Act fast and take advantage of their Cyber Monday prices. I remember my first assignment for Marie Claire magazine. I had to photograph a series of portraits on location in autumn. You might know that photographers tend to be panic purchasers. I was hired a day before the job, with no alternative date offered. The only time available was 4 pm. My friends from the northern hemisphere will know that it gets dark very early. At that time of the year, the sun sets around 4 pm. To add insult to injury, the sky was completely covered with clouds. Whilst I did bring the finest light shaping possible, I couldn’t use strobes to light up an outdoor location. Ultimately, I had to mix artificial and ambient light. Due to the ambient being rather low, I had to go high with the ISO and low with the shutter speed. The image chosen was noisy, blurry, and (after cropping) low resolution. 

I didn’t have Topaz Labs AI-enabled software back then. However, now, with the creative possibilities that it enables, I am not as limited by the technical specs of a particular camera. Recently, I was in a similar situation as with my Marie Claire assignment. Let’s see how I used Topaz Labs DeNoise, Sharpen, and Gigapixel AI to enhance the portraits. 

Enhancing with Topaz Labs software

For the first two files, I chose to enhance raw files straight from the camera, for that reason please excuse any imperfections. 

The first image was captured rather late, the exact settings were: ISO 32,000, f/2.8 1/200s. Naturally, at ISO 32,000 there is a lot of noise, even on a good full-frame camera. Here is how Topaz Labs DeNoise AI dealt with it: 

The second image lacked sharpness. Otherwise, it was a keeper. This time I turned to Topaz Labs Sharpen AI, in order to enhance the sharpness of the images. See for yourself:

The third image was shot on iPhone. Although phones have incredible camera quality now, they are still far from high-end cameras. Yet, the image itself is worthy. Hence, I wanted to upscale it and eventually print it. Topaz Labs DeNoise AI enabled me to increase resolution dramatically. The detail was preserved, and the image looks like it wasn’t upscaled at all. 

Which One Is Right for You? 

Topaz Labs DeNoise AI 

As you can see, having this software allowed me to be more flexible, and even brave. In particular, many photographers may fear to shoot above ISO 6400, especially on a cropped sensor. It’s easy to see why the image can end up being practically unusable. This limits the creative possibilities you have by essentially restricting you from any night-time photography. What DeNoise Ai does is give you more creative opportunities and flexibility when you're focusing on what matters: the final result. It’s a very powerful software that is built for photographers looking to break free from camera ISO limitations. 

Topaz Labs Sharpen AI 

Sharpness is subjective. Some prefer blurrier images for the ambiguity, but most will pick a sharp image over a blurry one. Yet, it’s not always you can get a perfectly sharp photo. Your lens might miss focus, or the subject might move. In portraiture, this is especially true because many portrait photographers like using fast lenses and shooting at wide-open apertures. Perhaps the best example would be an 85mm f/1.2 lens. That particular lens is slow to focus, and given the telephoto length in combination with a very wide aperture, has a shallow depth of field. One of the options you would have is stopping down, however, then you would lose the shallow depth of field. Again, sharpness is a restricting concept. At 85mm f/1.2, you really can't do much besides hold still and hope that the image is in focus. What Sharpen AI does is allow you to play around more with movement. That opens up a few more creative possibilities. 

Another use for Sharpen AI is when you have slow lenses. For example, if you have just started out in photography, you may only have the kit lens. While there is nothing wrong with shooting with a kit lens, it does limit the shutter speed range in low light. If you’ve maxed out ISO and went a tad too low with the shutter speed, you will inevitably get blurry images. This is also true for entry-level telephoto portrait photography. With SharpenAI that is no longer a significant consideration because of the outstanding performance of this App. 

Topaz Labs Gigapixel AI

Finally, Gigapixel AI is a useful software if you need to crop your images, or perhaps want to enhance an already cropped file. Although most modern cameras shoot 26 or more megapixels, the overwhelming majority of photographers tend to shoot at nearer 20. If you find yourself in a situation where the focal length wasn’t quite enough to separate the subject, you might want to crop. Or even when the client asks for some crazy crop. It’s certainly useful to shoot at a high resolution especially if you know you will be cropping, but come on, not everyone can own a high-resolution camera.

I remember that when I had the Canon 5D Mark II, I would rarely deliver cropped files because they would be far too small. Gigapixel AI enabled me to not worry about cropping as much. Sure, it doesn’t replace a full-fledged Phase One system, but I’m sure that photographers don’t casually go and shell out $50,000 on a setup. Gigapixel AI is one way of achieving high-resolution images, only at a much cheaper price. It will allow you to crop more freely and perhaps even save money when upgrading cameras. 

Closing Thoughts

Topaz Labs DeNoise, Sharpen, and Gigapixel AI are available as a bundle, part of Cyber Monday for only $99.99. They all offer more power to your image-making by allowing it to be more flexible. Ultimately, all photographers want to be free to create without any boundaries. You can remove some of the technical ones by purchasing the bundle deal from Topaz Labs. 

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6 Comments
Adam Chandler's picture

I have to say, their Sharpen AI software is nothing short of amazing. I've resurrected soft-focus shots that I thought for sure were unsalvageable. This software puts Lightroom and Photoshop's sharpen tools to shame!

Matt Mastrandrea's picture

No

Rob Fry's picture

Why?

Matt Mastrandrea's picture

Because it's not necessary.

Rob Fry's picture

That’s a very broad statement! I’m sure most photographers have encountered a situation where it is necessary!

Eric Robinson's picture

For certain types of shot Topaz De-Noise and Sharpen are indispensable. With Black Friday deals on buy now. I’ve been using them for a while now and if I was working for a living they would be top of my list as purchase options. Why? They have the ability to turn a borderline photo that in the past would have gone n the bin into a keeper. If you shoot low light in high ISO situations there is no question how valuable these products can be.