I was shooting some photos just for fun at a horse show and the conditions were dismal. It was in a large dark indoor arena with hardly any natural light. It was a dreary day as well, so there wasn’t much help shining through the few glass doors the facility had.

I had the ISO cranked up high (between 6400-12800) and the shutter speed was at 1/500s to capture the fast movement. With no flash allowed, this low-light situation was a recipe for very noisy photos.

There was noise in the horse’s face, hair, legs and tail. Noisy shadows were apparent under the rider’s jacket tails.

Then I heard about Topaz Labs DeNoise AI, which claims to have surprisingly good image noise reduction through artificial intelligence. I downloaded the trial version to give it a shot.

Would it really handle my high ISO, fast shutter speed and low light combination of doom? Would it keep much of the detail of the horse’s fine hair?

I found the software remarkably simple to use, in large part because there aren’t a lot of options. It says what it does and it does what it says. I spent a minute playing with the slider settings in the DeNoise AI mode, and then tried the Auto mode. The results improved the photo, but I was hoping for more.

Low Light mode

Then, I noticed an AI mode called Low Light. Hey — that’s exactly what this image was! I hit the Auto button and, like magic, the image was greatly improved.

The image on the left is the original and the image on the right is the output.

Look closely at how the noise in the shadow underneath the rider’s jacket tails is gone. Look at the how the horse’s light brown leg above the black hoof cleared up. Look at the horse’s tail or the white patch on the face. All are remarkably better in an instant.

I must admit that the Auto mode got it right. I played around with the noise and sharpness settings manually later on and found the auto settings to be accurate. Any more noise removal and the horse started to look painted or blurred. The sharpness enhancement left the detail in the horse hair. DeNoise AI truly recovered detail from the original image. The AI learning in this software made a noticeable difference compared to traditional noise reduction filters in other softwares that always seem to lose detail after heavy mathematical computations.

Finally, I took the photo into Photoshop for some quick basic adjustment and ended up with something much better than I thought I’d get given the dismal conditions. My verdict? DeNoise AI is worth a look if you want a smart and efficient tool. The AI process was simple, accurate and effective.