Four Specialized Photo Apps To Try

A selection of photo processing apps and plug-ins worth considering

Post-processing images is an essential element of digital photography. RAW capture (you are shooting in RAW format, aren’t you?) is only the beginning of the process, not yet as good as the image can be—that’s why it’s called RAW. If you’re shooting in JPEG format, you’re letting the camera decide a lot about how your image will look.

Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not just about “fixing it” on the computer. I prefer the term “optimizing.” When you sit down to edit, you still need to start with an image file that has good content and composition and is technically excellent.

There are many capable software options for image editing, ranging from relatively simple to highly complex. We tend to pick one, learn it, and stay with it as long as it works for us. No program can really do it all, however, so most of us have a few stand-alone or plug-in programs that augment the capabilities of our primary editing software. 

Bald Eagle Coming at You. This 4K video frame grab yielded only a 24 MB file, but after processing in Topaz Sharpen AI and Gigapixel AI to increase file size and sharpness, it produced a beautiful 40-inch print. Canon EOS R, Canon EF 600mm f/4L III lens (1096mm equivalent). Exposure: 1/1000 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 1600.

I’ve recently worked with some new programs, both stand-alone and plug-in, that have significantly improved the results I’ve achieved in a variety of circumstances, so much so that I wanted to share them with you. (Please note that I receive no compensation from these software companies, nor did they provide a copy of the software for testing.)

Topaz Gigapixel AI

Recently, a colleague brought to my attention a new stand-alone software program from Topaz called Gigapixel AI. It is one of many interpolation programs for increasing the resolution of small files, and looking at my testing, it does an extraordinary job.

There are two main scenarios in which I need to increase the size of files in order to make larger prints. The first concerns the many relatively small digital files I have from the early days of digital camera capture. The first digital camera I used extensively was the Canon D30, which had a low-resolution imaging sensor of 3 MP. The Canon D60 followed, producing image files twice as large with a 6 MP sensor. From there, we went on to 8.2 MP with the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, the 11-megapixel EOS-1Ds, and steadily upward to today’s highest-resolution Canon digital camera, the EOS 5DS R at 50 MP. So I have a lot of useful lower-resolution files that need some help if they are to be used for printed enlargements or publication.

The second case for improving resolution post-capture is more current. I’ve been doing quite a lot of experimenting with using single-frame grabs from 4K video for publishing on the web and making prints. These files are approximately 7 to 8 megapixels, or around 23 megabytes in size. I can get a pretty good 13×19-inch print from these small files, but after processing in Gigapixel AI, 20×30-inch prints are possible and quite impressive.

When opening Topaz Gigapixel AI, you are given the options to “Resize” the file by scale, width or height. You can also set the “PPI” that you will be printing at. The next choice is “Suppress Noise.” Here you set from “None” to “High” in five increments. “Remove Blur” is a sharpening algorithm with the same set of choices from “None” to “High” in five steps. The next options are where to save the new file and to designate the file name and type (JPEG, TIF or PNG). You can also choose “Compression” or 8-bit. The last item is whether you want to “Keep Color Profile.” All that’s left is to click on “Start,” and the program interpolates the file to a larger size, ready for printing or publication.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.