How to Enhance Detail with Topaz Sharpen AI
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Over the past year my friends at Topaz Labs have released several tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Most of them are standalone apps that focus on doing one thing really well – such as DeNoise AI for noise reduction, and Gigapixel AI for photo enlargement – and now there is Topaz Sharpen AI which, as you probably guessed, is for sharpening images.
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Topaz Sharpen AI has three different sharpening modes:
- Sharpen general purpose sharpening
- Stabilize shake reduction
- Focus correct up to 10 pixels of focus blur
The first mode I tested was Sharpen. The goal of sharpening is to add definition to the edges of the objects in a photo. Most photos require some level of sharpening in post processing, especially if you’re shooting in raw. (If you shoot JPG your camera is likely already applying some sharpening).
For this image I used Sharpen’s default settings and as you can see, it made a big difference. The textures in the flower on the right have become easily discernible but still look vey natural.
Next, I tested the stabilize mode which is meant to correct for camera shake. Camera shake can occur for a variety of reasons – shaky hands, slow shutter speeds, etc. Typical sharpening can’t do much to correct it so I was very curious to see how Sharpen AI would handle this type of issue.
Again, I used the default settings for Sharpen AI’s Stabilize mode and it did a remarkably good job! The before image on the left was distinctly blurry and Sharpen AI brought out a ridiculous amount of detail in the image on the right.
The Focus mode in Sharpen AI is for those moments when your point of focus isn’t quite where it should be. Maybe your camera grabbed the wrong focusing point, or perhaps you (or your subject) moved slightly between focusing and taking the shot. Either way, typical sharpening can do little to fix the image.
The default settings in the Focus mode made a huge difference in the details of the flower above. It isn’t quite as good as it would have been if I’d captured it tack-sharp in camera, but it turned this image into a keeper that would easily be suitable for a large print.
One thing to be aware of when using Sharpen AI is that it globally affects your photograph. In this instance the software created some strange swirly artifacts in the soft-focused areas of the photo (you can see them in the example above on the lower right of the image) that looked almost painterly.
What I love about this software
When it comes to adding another tool to my arsenal, the most important deciding factor is the results – and Sharpen AI delivers by adding impressive edge definition to my photos.
What could be improved
Even though I’m enamored with the results from this software there is one thing that really bums me out – it is agonizingly slow. As a result it’ll likely only be used when I absolutely need it.
It is worth noting that my test machine is a mid-2015 MacBook Pro (well equipped, but older). It falls on the lower end of Topaz’s recommended specifications. Please make sure your computer meets (and hopefully exceeds) the minimum specs before purchasing.