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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.

Topaz Sharpen AI has three different sharpening modes:

  • Sharpen general purpose sharpening
  • Stabilize shake reduction
  • Focus correct up to 10 pixels of focus blur

Sharpen

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).

Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI using the Sharpen Mode
Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI

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.

Botanical Building | Balboa Park | San Diego | After Topaz Sharpen AI
Botanical Building | Balboa Park | San Diego

Stabilize

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.

Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI using the Stabilize Mode
Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI

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.

Architecture Detail in Caltagirone, Sicily | After Topaz Sharpen AI
Architecture Detail in Caltagirone, Sicily

Focus

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.

Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI using the Focus Mode
Before (left) and After (right) Topaz Sharpen AI

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.

Artifacts from the Focus Mode

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.

To avoid this I started in Photoshop and loaded Sharpen AI as a filter. Upon returning to Photoshop I used the masking tools to apply sharpening only to the main sunflower for a more natural result.

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.

Topaz Sharpen AI System Requirements

Save 15% on Topaz Sharpen AI

Topaz Sharpen AI is a standalone application for MacOS and Windows that can be used as a plugin with several applications including Topaz Studio, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop.

Save 15% on Topaz Sharpen AI (and all Topaz Labs products) when you enter ANGANDRIEUX at checkout.

Click here to get Topaz Sharpen AI (free 30 day trial available).

Questions?

If you have any questions about Sharpen AI, or any of the Topaz Labs apps please let me know if the comments below, or message me directly. I’m always happy to help!

Angela Andrieux

📷 Photographer Prone to Wanderlust | Blogger | Photography Coach | 🍷 Foodie | 🐱 Cat Lover | ⚓️ Navy Wife

4 Comments

  1. John Wincek on July 9, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Can Sharpen AI be used as a plugin for Lightroom?

  2. Dave on October 21, 2019 at 7:00 am

    what does the Auto button do?

    • Angela Andrieux on October 21, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Hi Dave – It analyzes the image and applies what it thinks are the best settings. I find it works really well most of the time, but you can move the sliders to refine the result if you wish.

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