The Easiest Way to Fix Ambient Light Underwater Photos: A Topaz ReMask Review

I really just love the people over at Topaz Labs. Every time I use a Topaz plugin, I'm blown away at how the Topaz developers manage to pack in features and precise controls while still maintaining the simplicity and ease of use the plugins are famous for.

I've worked with Topaz Detail and Topaz Clean in the past, and both plugins have yielded impressive results, but I think ReMask is my favorite and the most useful so far. But what does it do? Read on to find out...

Topaz ReMask

The marketers write up ReMask as being "as easy as digital scissors," but if you've ever struggled with Photoshop's selection and masking tools, you know that "digital scissors" are anything but easy to use, so I was admittedly pretty skeptical. But I love to be proved wrong, and so it was to my pleasant surprise that using ReMask actually was as simple as the website claimed.

I watched this quick 13-minute tutorial to get started, and then decided to run with it. Of course, the obvious use for masking selections is to make composites. So I picked a pretty simple photo to get started and try it out.

The basic workflow in ReMask is to paint over the parts of a photo that you want to keep with the green brush and the parts you want to cut out with the red brush. Any edges that you want the plugin to compute, like hair or, in my case, tentacles, get the blue brush.

So I grabbed my graphics tablet (although a mouse would work fine for this) and quickly sketched my mask's rough draft. Green in the bell of the jellyfish, blue on all those pesky tentacles, and red for the background.

Screen-Shot-2014-07-19-at-4.25.09-PM

 

A quick click on the "Compute Mask" button, and ReMask starts to work its magic. The result off the line is an impressive start, but a flip through the various view modes reveals that some refinements need to be made. No problem: using the refinement tools is as easy as the initial mask was, and the plugin helpfully recalculates its mask as you give it more information to work with.

Screen-Shot-2014-07-19-at-4.27.08-PM

Five minutes or so of refinements, and the mask is good enough for this application, anyway. Once you're happy with your mask, hitting "OK" pastes the masked area of the photo into its new layer, and you're free to run wild with your composite. Let's just say that ReMask is going to revolutionize my (admittedly questionable) Photoshop composite skills.

One way the Space Program could have gone very, very differently.

One way the Space Program could have gone very, very differently.

So by now you're probably thinking, "ridiculous composites are all well and good, but I thought you told me this plugin was going to be useful." Well, you're right: I did. And it is. Here's an example...

We went snorkeling in search of sea turtles at Laniakea Beach, and unfortunately some post-rainfall runoff had rendered the water column less than clear. I don't typically bring off-camera strobes when snorkeling because we stay so shallow, but I might have this time if I'd had a heads-up about the poor conditions. We found plenty of turtles, but the lack of water clarity left a lot to be desired in my photos.

Here's a turtle photo straight out of the camera, and then after a quick white balance. I mean it's okay, but it's only okay. I'd love to take the purple cast out of the water and recover some color and contrast in the turtle and the foreground, but that seems time consuming--like a lot of work.

green-sea-turtle-topaz-remask-4 green-sea-turtle-topaz-remask-5

Enter Topaz ReMask. Now it's not a lot of work at all. All I did was make three separate masks: one for the turtle, one for the foreground, and one for the water. Then I opened each one individually in Camera Raw (Command-Shift-A) to adjust each element of the photo individually. Much better! And it only took a few minutes.

Green Sea Turtle

I truly think ReMask is a game-changer for underwater photo editing, and would even go so far to say it's a must-have for ambient light shooting. You can pick it up for half off through the end of July with code "julyremask", so go get it right now!

Wondering about my motivations in this review? Check out my Disclosure Policy :)


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