Sometimes for a variety of reasons we need to shoot with a higher ISO than we would normally prefer. On newer mirrorless and DSLR cameras this is not quite as much of an issue, but on older cameras, noise can be a little distracting. Luckily, Topaz Labs can help with this. I have been using DeNoise 6 for quite a while, but I recently downloaded the trial version of their new DeNoise AI. The company describes it like this:
“Noise reduction technology has basically been the same for a decade, with only minor incremental improvements here and there. DeNoise AI is different: We fed an algorithm millions of noisy/clear images until it actually learned what noise is and how best to remove it.”
What is noise?
So what exactly is noise in a photo? In digital photographs, noise is commonly referred to as distortions and visual discoloration in a photo. It can appear similar to the grain in an old film photo, and when it’s really bad, it can ruin a great photograph. Look at the concrete work on the below image of a bunker, with pretty bad noise at ISO 800 on a Nikon D7100.
Utilizing Topaz DeNoise AI
Like I said earlier I have been using DeNoise 6 to some degree for years, but I must admit I was pretty impressed with the new version — it is super easy to use. While I used it as standalone software, you can also run it as a filter in Photoshop or plugin in Lightroom Classic, just like the other Topaz plugins. The program opens JPEG and DNG files. You can set it up as a before and after, side by side or single view.
It really is simple. You’ll see three sliders on the right — Remove Noise, Sharpen Recover Detail and Color Noise Reduction. Color Noise Reduction is actually quite important and made a big difference, as the problem I had with this image was in the shadows.
Great for different genres
It really doesn’t matter what genre you photograph — if you have noise, then DeNoise AI can help. Where the image is underexposed and has high ISO (like the numbat below), it can help, but can’t perform miracles. Beware of making your image a little blurry by over-sharpening. It’s possible the new Sharpen AI by Topaz Labs could help with this, but I haven’t played with that yet.
I even tried it on a portrait where the studio lights didn’t fire. I had to increase the exposure significantly, which of course added quite a bit of noise. DeNoise still brought it back. But beware! It didn’t really do any favors for the skin, making some spots a bit blotchy and others a bit crunchy and plastic-looking. Nothing that can’t be fixed in Luminar or Photoshop, but it is still preferable to get it right in camera.
Nothing beats getting it right in camera
While it’s true, nothing beats getting it right in camera, it is nice to know when we can’t help it (or human nature steps in and we make mistakes), there are programs out there that can help us.