Topaz Clarity Review
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Topaz Clarity is a dedicated contrast enhancing software program which dynamically boosts the contrast on your photographs without degrading the image quality with halos or artifacts. Used as a plug-in for a full editing suite such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Aperture, and iPhoto, Topaz Clarity costs $49.99 (£32.94).
Installation and Use
Downloading Clarity from the Topaz Labs site takes around 12 minutes with a 1Mb broadband, so anyone out there that's not in the stone age should get it much faster. After that, installation takes around 15 seconds with a PDF Quick Start guide popping up automatically straight after. And this is a good idea in itself. Maybe not for every software company out there, but certainly for Topaz Labs. You see the website says very little about the program and we were a little worried about researching Clarity before we used it. By giving you the information on a PDF, you can access it whenever you want, even if you're working offline. However, it's not that comprehensive because it's tailored for users who are already familiar with it. If you need to use the full User Manual, the Quick Start guide provides a link for it.
Launching Topaz Clarity
Launch the program through the Filter tab in Photoshop (we used CS4) and the application will launch as a separate window. A small box will prompt you that Clarity is running if you happen to stray onto the Photoshop window without closing Clarity down first.
The layout is the tried and tested central pane with options down either side. The features in Topaz Clarity have been categorised and segregated into pre-sets on the left and manual modes on the right. Let's break these down and look at them in turn.
As we mentioned earlier, the left side is dedicated to pre-set modules and they're set out in Collections. We know this because it says so at the top. Each Collection has a number of pre-set versions within it. Whenever one of the Collections is clicked on, there's a flurry of activity at the bottom as the program loads all the pre-sets within it. They're then displayed under the Collections tab entitled Presets. Whenever you hold the mouse over a pre-set, a small preview box will pop up and show you how it will look. It's quite a large box which is great for deciding. These previews are what we wait for but it's worth it for the size of the windows. Once you've chosen a pre-set, you can adjust it on the right side. Alternatively, you don't have to use one, you can start on the right with the manual controls, but the left side takes a lot of the workload away.
Just a quick note on other features available in Topaz Clarity. At the bottom left corner is a Menu button. This is a bit like the File, Edit etc. buttons that are found on other programs. It holds various options such as Updates, Preferences, Tutorials, About, Support and so on. At the top of the central pane, there's a small cluster of buttons that are used for zooming in and adding a split screen so you can see a before and after.
The right side of the main window has four buttons running along the top. They alternate between the Navigator, Loupe, Mask and Histogram. Clicking these will change the image directly below it. For example, the Loupe works like a typical magnifying loupe and will show a magnified portion of the image. A white square on the central picture can be moved to examine different areas.