This plug-in from Topaz is as easy to navigate and use as all of their other programs (see my reviews of their Simplify and Restyle ) but as with any program there are always some key features. Recently I read on Topaz’s website about 8 key features of B&W Effects that can further enhance my abilities to be creative with my photographs. Some of them I knew about and were already using but there were a few were capabilities that I hadn’t explored yet. Let’s take a look at them and what they can do…
1. Smart Brushes – Smart brushes let you easily add selective adjustments to your image with five different brushes that you are probably already familiar with. They are dodge, burn, color, detail and smooth. Dodge and burn are self explanatory; color reintroduces color back into your image (selective color) while detail enhances details in an image and smooth smooths out areas; easy to use and produce very good results. The image below was created using the color brush.
2. Zone System View – The Zone System is a photographic technique that allows you to understand the different tones in your image. Topaz states “The Zone System view lets you see at a
glance which zone a specific area of your image falls under. Click on a specific number and watch as you fine-tune and adjust that area until it is at the particular zone you desire. Shadows are 0-3, midtones are 4-7 and highlights are 8-10.” You access Zone Mode by clicking on the Z icon in the upper right hand corner. I use the zone system when metering in camera but did not know about its capabilities in this program. I look forward to trying it out.
3. Authentic Grain – This one will definitely get the interest of those who have shot with film. The grain options here were developed by scanning real film. Even though there are presets in this program that say add grain, you are able to be more specific with what type of film grain you wish to add to your image with choices in the grain library like Efke KB25, Fuji Neopan Presto 400, and Kodak TMaxPro 100 to name just a few. I’ve not used this feature further than the Kodak film settings as those are the ones I’m most familiar with but even if you don’t know the film types and their particular grain (or if you do) you can still be creative trying them out. This feature is located in the Finishing Touches panel.
4. Darkroom Effects – They are the heart of this program. There are eight collections presets that allow you to create a range of B&W effects for your photos; each preset has multiple settings within them. Choose from Traditional, Toned, Stylized, Cyanotype, Albumen, Van Dyke Brown, Opalotype and Platinum collections to make your image unique. If the strength of the effect is too strong for you, you can reduce it by going to Finishing Touches and then Transparency. This is always my first step when converting an image. Sometimes I know what effect I wish to apply and I go right to that favorite preset while other times I explore all of the choices until I find the one that fits my image.
5. Quick Tools – The quick buttons let you do immediate adjustments to your image without having to open the entire adjustment panel. They consist of applying a color filter, changing the brightness, contrast, adaptive exposure, tone and quick access to your dodge and burn brushes. Clicking on one of those tools will also bring up it’s adjustment panel. This is great for those quick edits.
6. Curve Tool and Histogram – The curve tool lets you adjust image tonality by adjust your images tones, contrast and brightness. It comes with pre-loaded curve presets or you can do the adjustments yourself by clicking and dragging to move points. You can create matte images this way and if you don’t like the effect you just click on the Reset button to send things back to the default setting. Curve adjustments are great for those last image tweaks before your editing is finished.
7. Grunge Borders – This is a fun feature of B&W Effects. There are 26 included borders which include grunge and burnt effects which can be adjusted width wise. But what if you want to add one of these borders to a color image? This can be achieved by using the color adjustment brush to bring the color back to your image (images once imported into B&W effects are immediately converted to b&w). I feel this could take up a lot of editing time considering many other programs already come with borders and frames but it’s good to know it’s an option here in case you either don’t have borders in your existing program or you prefer the ones offered in B&W Effects.
8. Adaptive Exposure – This lets you enhance the dynamic range of your image. Topaz says this about this feature “This allows you to enhance both detail and depth, allowing for HDR-style looks. Apply a variety of tone mapped effects using the unique sliders to adjust the range of the highest and lowest luminance regions where detail is visible. You can also correct exposure, balance lighting and redefine tonal values.” I hadn’t used this feature before but once I read what it could do I had to try it and I was impressed with what I could do with it! Using this on the image below gave me lights that really popped in the photo.
You can try out this program for 30 days free over at Topaz but right now Topaz has Black and White Effects on sale! For the entire month of March you can get $20.00 off the regular price if you use the code: MARBW This will reduce the price of the program to $39.99!
Click here to visit Topaz Labs B&W Effects
(This review has been sponsored by Topaz Labs. All opinions, images, and comments unless otherwise stated are my own.)