I am a strong supporter of Nik's suite of apps, especially Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro. However, I have been coming across more and more mentions of Topaz Labs' Topaz Adjust app, which is actually a plug-in for Photoshop. The before and after photos on the Topaz Adjust product page are impressive. Several totally blah photographs are miraculously transformed into strikingly colorful portfolio shots.
The above photograph is my first attempt at adding some of that Topaz style pop to one of my images. I was teaching a DSLR photography lesson to student Danielle in Sunken Gardens, actually practicing flash outdoor portraits, when this woman (visiting Florida from Michigan) and her friends passed by and said hello. I already had my Nikon D300 in hand and my SB-600 Speedlight raised as this woman let out a big smile. I quickly asked her, "may I take your photo," she did not protest so I pushed the shutter. Personally, this is my favorite kind of photo to make and I do not often get a chance in public to make one of these in Saint Petersburg, as it is sparsely populated.
So using one of the softer presets in Topaz Adjust I added a little bit of skin smoothing and then adjusted the color sliders to make the image more vivid. There are quite a few presets and they did not immediately produce an image I liked, so it took quite a bit of playing with several of the presets and adjusting them to produce results that I liked for the photo. Some may find any results with Topaz Adjust look too unreal or too HDR-ish. However, for adding color pop and pulling details out of shadows, I found Topaz Adjust to be a very useful tool.
I will continue to experiment with Topaz Adjust as there is a learning curve involved. Topaz Labs offers a free trial of Topaz Adjust.