Can someone talk about how best to do Refine Subject?

Ordinary PC, Windows 11 Pro, Photo AI 1.1.7 (which I think is current).

I know there was a discussion about getting a brush tool from several months (and versions ago), but it didn’t have any detail about how Photo AI currently does the refinement.

My experience with subject selection is generally with Photoshop, where I can take the sort-of good subject selection it makes and turn it into something pretty precise, so I may be missing something simple.

Photo AI works fairly well, but for a lot of subjects - mostly with birds or wildlife, the subject detection, even on very simple subjects like a pair of swans against the sky, isn’t very accurate. I’m ALMOST ALWAYS limiting the sharpening to Subject Only to minimize the amount of wonky sharpening that happens to the background.

And the Refine Subject process is so different from what I’m used to that it seems bizarre. Can someone who’s really good with the tool talk a little about how they do the refinement to get a precise selection?

For me, even using the “Tiny” “brush”, I get these huge clumps of pixels with ragged edges that extend well beyond the edge of the subject when I try to make sure the selection includes the whole subject. Sometimes it’s enough that a small nearby chunk of background also gets visibly sharpened because of the sloppy selection.

Are people turning the feathering way up or way down from the default of 20. And what does “20” mean? Is it pixels? Again, used to Photoshop, where when doing fairly precise selections my feathering is normally in the 1-2 pixel range, but I also have very well defined edges.

So, do people leave the subject selection to whatever Photo AI selects, or do y’all refine the selection so it covers the whole subject and a significant amount of surrounding area, or what?

I don’t think there is any more you can do. See the discussion on the latest version of TPAI.
A new version is due maybe today but I have no idea if it will address the refine subject issue, which many of us have been complaining about ever since the product was released.
I for one still prefer the masking tools in Sharpen AI, but of course you may not have access to that without paying. You could raise the issue with Topaz Support and at the very least download the trial of SAI. Who knows, if you ask nicely they might even let you have it for free until TPAI comes up with the goods!

Yes, I have the Bundle of whatever with Denoise and Sharpen and Gigapixel and Photo AI.

And yeah, the masking in Sharpen is BETTER than what’s in Photo AI. On occasion, I’ve done a good selection in Photoshop, then sent that to Sharpen AI for sharpening. Take the original image and process it so I can drop the sharpened selection layer back on top of the modified background. Works well, but it’s more time consuming.

I already have 1.1.7 and it doesn’t LOOK like the changed Refine Subject to any perceptible degree. Yes, you can crop, but I don’t see that helping this problem.

Do you or someone have a feel for what the feathering does? Or how it affects the edges of the subject? I’ve tried different amounts and they all look the same to me.

You may want to try v1.1.8 which has improved autopilot selections of wildlife and portraits to see if there is an improvement that you can see.

I just put 1.1.8 on and tried an image I was playing with earlier. The selection is better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they did anything with the Refine Subject.

Looks like most of the work is going into cropping rather than making better subject selections.

I"m going to find a busier image to see if I can get a better idea of how well the new version works.

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I found an image this morning that shows what I’m talking about with the Refine Subject. Busy background.

This image is the best selection I could make in Photo AI using the TINY brush. Feathering is set to 35 because at 20 the over covered areas are a bit more visible.

This image is after doing the noise reduction and sharpening, BOTH of which are turned WAY down from the default settings. The noise reduction was at amount 2 and detail 10 and the sharpening was at amount 1 or 2 and detail 10. It seems to me that Photo AI does much stronger sharpening than sharpen AI does.

I marked a couple areas where when I examine the image I can see a little visible sharpened areas in the background that I’d like not to be sharpened. They’re not bad, and most people probably wouldn’t notice, but I’ve had competition judges flag images with these kind of minuscule flaws.

It would be nice to have some better control on the refining of the subject.

I’ve also noticed that if I’m not really careful in Photo AI, it’s very easy to get halos - not huge, extreme ones, but definitely ones that are visible around the edges of feathers when birds are in a clear sky.

I put 1.1.9 on and tried it on a slightly challenging image… Does anyone else see any significant change to the Refine Subject? Or is all the effort going to “cropping” now?

I just put 1.2 on and tried it on a couple mediocre images. The refinement tools don’t appear to have changed at all. But, the selection by 1.2 seems to be a LOT more aggressive than previous versions. It still doesn’t fully cover the subject, so I still have to go in and tweak all edges, wing tips, feet, etc, BUT it now selects a whole bunch of stuff that IMO is clearly way off in the background and very soft.

I presume they’re not screwing with us, so did they make the algorithm a little over-zealous?

Is this the wrong place for this question or is it just really dead in here?

My suggestion is that you read the quick start guide on Topaz Labs and then search for “refine subject” on the internet, there are many videos on You Tube.

It looks like in the last couple months, Topaz has improved the subject selection some, and with the brush it’s now fairly easy to get a good enough selection - can control the feathering and it’s just sharpening so it doesn’t have to be real accurate - to make it work fairly well.
I still know a couple people that insist they can get a better job with Denoise and Sharpen as long as they’re willing to go through the extra work, and even a couple that argue that the new Denoise in Lightroom works better than Photo AI, but I’m generally finding Photo AI to do a good job most of the time. Have to turn most everything down from the defaults, 'cause they seem a big overeager, but not a big deal.