Noise is quite a common challenge that we all come across especially when working in low light conditions and high ISO. It also creeps into our images when we set our ISO to a higher value in proper daylight for working with faster shutter speed. Camera brands boast a lot about how their new camera performs better at higher ISO – and the performance is better, yet marginally. But, a noise-free image is still far fetched. Maybe, getting an image that is noise-free isn’t even possible due to the technical limitations.
However, an image with noise is still a whole lot better than a blurry image. Increasing the ISO makes a whole lot sense rather than missing the shot. Noise, after all, can be taken care of in post. On the other hand, blurry images are more or less useless.
Topaz DeNoise AI overview
There are a lot of traditional ways to deal with noise in your images. The most common method that has been in use is the one that’s provided with the photo editing software – popular ones being Lightroom, Photoshop and Luminar 4. Topaz Labs, the creators of Topaz DeNoise AI, on the other hand, have this piece of software that’s entirely dedicated to reducing noise while retaining clarity and sharpness.
As with many processes that are making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Topaz Denoise AI too leverages this technology. Topaz Labs claims to have fed their algorithm with millions of noisy/clear images until it actually learned what noise is and how best to remove it.
My experience with Topaz DeNoise AI has been quite a good one. Working with the software is a breeze and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the output. Once you run the image through the software, there’s nothing much that you need to do as far as noise is concerned. There are just four sliders that you need to work with and with the press of a button, it’s like the software really does some kind of magic to get rid of noise in the image.
Working with Topaz DeNoise AI
I have always appreciated how Topaz Labs design their software. You can either use Topaz DeNoise AI as stand-alone software or launch it from within other software like Lightroom or Photoshop. And the integration is quite seamless. During the installation process, it didn’t even prompt me about this.
If you have an image ready from which you want to reduce noise, you can launch the Topaz DeNoise AI software separately and import the image into the software.
On the other hand, if you are still in the process of editing your images and want to switch over to Topaz DeNoise AI to get rid of the noise, you can do so too. The software is well integrated with Photoshop and Lightroom and I found switching between them quite easy and intuitive.
If you are working with your image in Photoshop, just head over to Filter>Topaz Labs>Topaz DeNoise AI… This will open up the image in Topaz Denoise AI software.
Similarly, if you are working with your image on Lightroom, you can seamlessly open the image in Topaz DeNoise AI. While in the Develop module, simply right click on the image and go to Edit In> Topaz DeNoise AI.
And once you’re done working with your image in the DeNoise AI module simply hit the Apply button and that will take you back to where you came from (Photoshop or Lightroom).
When including the denoise aspect into the workflow, I experienced that getting rid of the noise in the initial stages produces the best results. Doing so ensures that we are not sharpening or enhancing the noise. So, get rid of the noise first and you’ll have a clean image to work with.
And while we’re discussing workflow, another handy feature that I liked is batch processing. This really comes in handy if you have multiple images that were taken in similar situations – astrophotos for example. You can drop all the images into Topaz DeNoise AI, select all of them, and make the adjustments. The adjustment that you make to one image gets applied to all of the selected images at once.
Once you’re done with the adjustments, you can later quickly go through individual images and give a final tweak if necessary.
Topaz DeNoise AI features
One thing that I really liked about Topaz DeNoise AI is how basic the controls are. This makes working with the software so much easier and intuitive. It surely doesn’t pack a whole lot of features, but it’s really good at what it does – getting rid of the noise.
Once you run the program, you will notice that there are two models that you can choose from: DeNoise AI and AI Clear. The latter is a much simpler iteration of the software and provides very few options to work with. Topaz seems to have included this module in case the DeNoise AI module doesn’t work well with your image. Topaz themselves state that although this module works with greater types of images, it does not retain details very well.
In my experience of working with the software, the DeNoise AI module has always done a good job of handling noise. I personally have never had the need to go out of the DeNoise AI module. It has worked pretty well for my photographs.
You can use the DeNoise AI module either in a full auto mode by checking the Auto-detect settings or do it manually by taking charge of the sliders. I suggest that you start with the auto settings and tweak the image to your liking using the sliders.
The automatic setting usually gets the job right as far as removing noise is concerned. But I find myself fiddling with the sharpen and details sliders depending on the type of image I am working with.
Besides luminance noise, the software also allows you to tackle chroma noise using the Color Noise Reduction slider. If you come across any colored pixels (usually green or red), simply use this slider to get rid of it. It’s really that simple.
If you are very serious about noise in your image, the Brighten function is what you can use. As the name suggests, it brightens your image so that you can inspect your images for noise. You can even zoom up to 400% to tackle the noise if need be.
Just below the Navigator on the right, you will notice the Auto-update preview and Update options. I suggest keeping the auto-update option turned off. Otherwise, every time you make any changes to the settings, the software tens to regenerate the preview and slow you down. I found it quite irritating at times. I prefer making the changes first and using the “update” button to generate the preview manually.
Final verdict on Topaz DeNoise AI
Topaz has really managed to get two important things right with the DeNoise AI: user experience, and noise handling. It is really easy to get around the software and the results you get out of it almost magical. Noise is drastically reduced while details are well preserved. After seeing the output, I really wanted to go through all of my older images and run them through this software. I found it that good.
If you are a photographer who finds themselves working at higher ISOs, I highly recommend that you try out Topaz DeNoise AI. You can either download a free and fully functional 30-day trial at Topaz Labs website or purchase it at US$ 79.99.
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!