To Augment a Shot, or Not. That is the Question

I've been able to catch some webinars given by Topaz Labs on how to use their many products. I've been playing around with some of the products for a while now, but I've had problems using them. Not so much in how to use their products, but if I even should. When I got into photography I knew what I didn't want to do. I knew I didn't want to spend all day in Photoshop editing a photo. I wanted my style of photography to be more documentary like; to do the bare minimum of processing and let the photo stand on it's own. Over the years though I've noticed that the captured photo doesn't match what my eye sees. Sure enough, the eye can capture more photographic information than the censor of my camera. So I allowed myself to spend more time in processing a photo to get a photo to be more like what I remember seeing before I snapped the shot. It started out as little tweaks first; white balance adjustments, curves, and shadown and highlight recovery. Then it went into HDR. Not the over the top surreal photos (though, I'll admit, I do play around on that end of the HDR spectrum), but the more realistic (to my eye) versions; capturing detail in both shadow and highlights that the eye does see but the camera can't.


But as I've been watching the webinars I've been seeing what are basically decent pictures, if a bit flat, turn into the same picture just with some more oomph. These tools use the pixels that are already recorded in the file and massage them a little to create a desired effect. So I've gone back into the library and grabbed a photo that I liked to begin with. It was a picture I first took 2 and a half years ago in the San Francisco Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Gardens. This is a complex photo for my camera because of the play of bright sunlight and deep shadows, the different leaf textures (spiky and smooth), the range of colors, and the cool water. Then I ran it through Topal Labs Adjust. I like all of Topaz's product as they are straight forward and easy to use; presets on the left, picure in the middle, and sliders to adjust on the right. I cycled through the presets to find a starting point, then tweaked the preset a bit to my liking. For this shot I wanted to play up the red against all the green, and to bring attention to the textures (details) in the different plants. In the end I'm pretty pleased with the newly processed shot, and feel that it makes a more interesting picture. One thing I have found is that I think these tools will be better/easier to use if you have an idea as to how you want the photo to look beforehand. I didn't know what I wanted to do with this to begin with and spent a lot of time trying things, playing with sliders until I came with a look that I was ok with. And I like certain presets more than others, but have realized that they don't work well for all pictures. In fact, this picture is using Spicify, a preset I thought I'd never use.

The original unedited photo is the top one, and the edited in Topaz Labs Adjust is the bottom one. Which do you like better?

Original

Processed

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