To my way of thinking, working with layers implies the ability to precisely mask areas or subjects and apply effects based on the selections or masks.
This is exactly what makes the Luminar 4 layers practically useless. The implementation of the masks/selections is similar to using a paintbrush app vs something like Photoshop.
In Luminar, you only have the fixed brush and gradient tools for the masking. There is no option of something like an edge/tonal detection auto-mask (as in LR) or the perfect brush in ON1 Photo Raw 2020.
This means that you cannot really do clean masking or selection of any subject. Since you cannot make a clean mask, the whole purpose of layers is defeated.
Although there is a luminosity mask in Luminar 4, the same issue makes it practically useless. There is no control over the luminosity mask as in LR (which is not great) or ON1 (which is far better than LR).
While Luminar 4 remains a choice over LR and ON1 for noise reduction and the AI-based image enhancement features, the layers can be ignored almost completely.
The only place you can use layers is when you have shots where you can apply one of the blending modes in Luminar 4 and achieve the effect you want. Other than that, forget layers in Luminar till they have better masking tools.
Even after all these updates and features, the one thing that is still lacking in the Nik Collection, and some others as well, is the almost total lack of attention to the UI/UX and consistency of usage.
Let us look at the latest version of the Nik Collection, one by one, and see what I mean by this.
Inconsistent menus, zoom, pan, navigation, buttons and settings. No standard shortcuts apply where they could.
I have already shared how to create black backgrounds earlier, but, this one is going to be slightly different as we will also discuss a bit about the original exposure and which shots lend themselves well to a white background.
Do not confuse a white background with a high key image. High key images are those that are mostly light and white which is not true for just a white background image.
We will go through the process of making a white background in Lightroom, Photoshop (with and without Topaz Mask AI) as well as ON1 Photo Raw.
Yes, I have recently installed the trial version of Topaz Mask AI and so far, not very impressed as far as wildlife is concerned. Still learning more about it and experimenting…
This would also give us a reasonable comparison as to what one can do with each.
So…This is an image from my rooftop shooting today and this is what we will use in this session. Let’s start with this in Lightroom and then we will look at the same in Photoshop and finally in ON1.
First, the shot itself. As you can see from the base EXIF, this is overexposed specifically for a white background. I have avoided the wall behind the bird and it’s mostly the floor of the roof in the background. The angle of the shot is just over the bird to do this.
Similarly, when you have grey and/or overcast conditions, you can always look to overexpose a bit to create similar effects. Even low light conditions are good for this as long as the subject is close enough. In this case, the bird is just 6 meters away.
Now that we already have a dull background, let’s see how we can make this image pop a bit…
First, we apply my wildlife preset to this and tweak it a bit for a white background. Then, as with the black background, we use the adjustment brush and mask the background around the bird and then pull up all these sliders to make it white.
Do keep in mind that we can only do black or white in Lightroom, anything beyond that, you would have to look at some other application.
Okay, now, let’s remove the mask and try the same in Photoshop. First the select subject. Now, let’s try the Topaz Mask AI
Finally, let’s do the same in ON1 Photo Raw…We will use the local adjustments here with the perfect brush which is the equivalent of the auto-mask in Lightroom.
I had already uninstalled the Topaz Mask AI and the Topaz Studio 2 which I was considering to purchase as part of one of their packs. I am running MacOS Catalina 10.15.5 with all updates applied.
I had already searched around on the net and their own FAQs and forums and nothing helped. I had also downloaded the full installers, but, did not work.
I was about to log a ticket with and then I thought I would go through the apps to try and see if I could fix the issue manually.
Took me around 5 minutes to figure out and fix the issue. The solution is what I will share here.
I would recommend you download the full installers since that takes a lot lesser time to install than the online installers.
Once you start the installers, you might get an error message that the application is from the internet or unidentified developers. Not an issue, just right click on the installer application and click on “open” and then you will be prompted if you really want to run the app and you click on “open” again.
That will start up the installers. Once you have installed any of these products, you will not see them appear in Photoshop as most others do.
You will manually need to copy the plugins to the Photoshop plugin folder and then start up Photoshop to see them appear.
Make sure that Photoshop is not running
Go to the “Applications” folder (press CMD+SHIFT+A)
Go into the “Topaz Labs LCC” folder
Now, go into the application folder you want to add as a plugin
5. Right-click on the application file and select “Show Package Contents”
Go into the “Content” folder
Go into the “Resources” folder
8. Finally, go into the “PS_Plugins” folder
You can either copy the contents of this folder, or the folder itself for the next step
Go back into the “Applications” folder
Go into the “Adobe Photoshop 2020” folder
12. Go into the “Plug-ins” folder
Finally into the “Filters” folder
Paste the plugins or the plugin folder copied from step 9 here.
That’s it. Repeat the process for all Topaz apps.
Now when you start Photoshop, you will see them appear as they should have to start with. These are simple to add in Lightroom, so, that should not be an issue.
I can only hope that Topaz fixes these installation issues soon…
DxO just released version 3 of their popular Nik Collection of plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom.
The plugin pack also contains stand-alone applications for all the 8 plugins and can, therefore, be used with any application that can export and import TIFF files.
There has been an issue for quite some time with the Collection that if you set your Lightroom presets to be stored with the Catalog, the plugins will not appear in Lightroom. You will have to manually add them, one-by-one.
ON1 seems to have no such issues and for some reason, picks up the applications automatically.
Let’s see what the new, non-destructive edit for Lightroom really means.
To be honest, not much. The idea is to export a TIFF file from LR to edit in the Nik Collection and the changes you make in the Collection, is retained and you can keep tweaking that for the TIFF file. The settings are saved back to the TIFF file and there is no “sidecar” file. This also implies that Nik will take a while to save the edited file every time.
The issue is since we already exported the raw file to a TIFF, we have already lost the raw data for any kind of recovery. This might not be a major issue in practice though. Once you have made all your basic adjustments in LR, then, Nik can be used to enhance and tweak the same bitmap/raster image over and over again.
You have to check the box to make sure the “non-destructive” part is saved. If you want to save space on the TIFF files, make sure that you select “ZIP” compression in the Nik Collection settings. Changing the setting here will work for all cases including ON1.