St. Ignatius Church and Howling Wolves at USF, San Francisco. Finished in Topaz Glow
The Value of Good Glow
Often times when I think I’m all finished processing a photo, my intuition cautions me that there’s one more step before I can really call it finished. Usually that’s because the image looks good, but seems a tad “harsh” for my taste. Other times Mai will pop in and look over my shoulder at a photo I’m working on and say simply, “It needs some Glamor Glow baby.” She’s always right. So often, just a little glow, like an evening cocktail, is the needed finishing touch to take the edge off.
Today there’s a new way to give your photos Glow
Late yesterday an email arrived from Topaz Labs announcing yet another new plugin called Glow! I’m SOOOO happy! Topaz is my absolute most favorite suite of plugins and, until now, they didn’t have a dedicated product to easily add glow to my work. Recently I’ve been looking for a better way to add glow to my images and even bought the newly released suite from Onone Software, their Perfect Photo Suite 9, because it does offer some glowie options I’ve been looking for. So with Topaz Glow now here, maybe that’s all I’ll be needing! We’ll see. It’s like they were reading my mind and giving me exactly what I wanted!
The new Topaz Glow
According to the email from TopazLabs, “Glow can be used as a stand-alone or a plugin to transform your photos from dull to dazzling. Containing more than 70 unconventional and quirky filters, you can infuse your images with neon, graphic, liquid and other electrifying effects.” Okay, great! Let’s see what that means.
Standalone vs. Plug-in
Immediately I installed the new product and hastily read through the intro tutorial. The first thing I noticed about Glow that you need to know is that it seems to be a standalone only product. Yes, the email said it can be used as a plugin and so does the documentation, but that isn’t my experience. It doesn’t show up in Lightroom for me. If this is the case, this means that it does NOT WORK as an integral part of the suite and cannot be accessed directly from Lightroom or any other host program. Not to worry, it’s still very useable while I confirm with Topaz if it works as a plugin or not. Will let you know. If it turns out that it’s a standalone only, it’s easy enough to change Lightroom preferences to make Glow the external editor. Doing that will allow automatic re-importing from Glow back into Lightroom. Their other recent product, Impression, works the same way. It’s a standalone only filter too, not a plugin. As standalone products, these require just one additional step if you choose not to make them your dedicated external editor in Lightroom. When I want to add glow to finish off an image it means is that I need to save my image, get out of Lightroom, and then open it in Glow. It’s inconvenient mostly because when I’m done in Glow and the finished image is saved, I still need to go back into Lightroom to import it if I want it in my catalog.
Is getting great Glow worth the extra step?
The end goal is getting the look I want in the finished image. If Glow takes me there and requires one more step, I’m all in. Let’s see what it does.
Baby Steps to Getting Glow
My grand daughter turned one month old last week. I was processing this photo of her yesterday when I got word of the new Topaz Glow. Softening a portrait like this one seems like a perfect opportunity to give it a spin. A very gentle dose of glow is what I’m looking for.
Not knowing exactly what I’m doing, I apply the presets, one at a time to get a feel for the effects. They are all too strong. To get exactly what I want I’ll try dialing back the strength of the filter. Dropping the opacity down to around 30 does it on this portrait. Super easy… good result!
Now to see how Glow might work with my travel photography. This shot from Bali sort of tiptoes off into the neighborhood of fantasyland after adding my glow. Again, all I’m doing is applying a preset and then reducing it’s opacity.
Underneath the presets there are lots of sliders which put you at the helm in full control of all the innards of this magical filter. So remain open to being your full artistic self. Whenever I get a particularly interesting look, I save it as my own custom presets. More time is needed to play with all this and become comfortable with what each control does. At this point, I can see that the plugin offers extreme glow effects of many varieties which, when applied full strength, are very extreme. It’s not a filter for all images. For me and my work, I need only a little glow, so keeping the opacity low gives me that. Soon, I will venture beyond.
This shot is the result of applying a strong dose of Glow. Sharpness is maintained as the image slips into it’s new dreamy state, even when I apply glow much stronger than needed. When you try Glow for the first time, you’ll see that the effects are super extreme! Much more than I think I will use for my landscape and travel photography. But, since it’s all new & different, I’m also open to experimenting the new possibilities for artistic stylization of my work.
Before Glow. Shark Fin Cove in HDR.
After Glow. I definitely see areas of this image to incorporate into a finished piece, basically everything below the horizon.
After Glow. This one is cool. I’m becoming a fan of Glow!
Initial Impression of Topaz Glow
Glow definitely fills a void in the Topaz lineup! I know I have a lot to learn about it and am probably missing some powerful aspects of what’s available. I plan on working with it a lot over the next few days and will have another updated writeup soon. Not today though, Tuesday is a golf day for me and I tee off in less than an hour. Topaz, as always, offers early adopters a nice discount. From now, through the end of the month, Topaz Glow is discounted by $20 if you use the promo code “INTROGLOW“ But, no need to buy it right away, use the 30 day free trial first!
UPDATE and Recommendation
It’s been a few days and I’m still having grins with Glow. Caution; an everyday photography filter, it is not. It’s in the domain of the optional Topaz finishers like Lens Effects, Star Effects, ReStyle, ReMask, Impression and Black & White Effects. These are all cool in what their specialty is, but not among the first Topaz filters you should own to make your own beautiful pictures.
Here’s my best advice:
If you already own the other first responder Topaz filters (Adjust, Clarity, Detail, DeNoise) then Glow is one to consider adding, since it’s discounted right now. If you own the entire Topaz Bundle already, then Glow is an easy add now because of the additional $10 multi-discount you get until the end of the month.
However, if you don’t own any Topaz filters yet, Glow is not one to buy right now. I’m sure I’m not alone as a digital artist using Topaz Adjust, Clarity, Detail and DeNoise on almost every image. Those are the ones to buy first… especially Clarity. Using them makes you look like a superstar photographer! It’s really easy to see how good they’ll make you look with the 30 day fully functional free trial for all the Topaz filters.
After you try them, for heavan’s sake, when you do buy your Topaz Filters, don’t leave your 15% discount on the table! Use the discount code “PerfectHDR” anytime. Consider it a tip from me to you for your persistence reading this far to make your photography better!
Happy holidays & smooth sailing