For years I have resisted the temptation to buy noise software – it seemed awfully expensive for how much I needed to use it. When Lightroom 3 (and Adobe Camera Raw) came out with their new Noise Reduction sliders in the Effects section, I thought – this is all I needed! But as I am learning more about shooting images and attempting the “harder to get” shots, having a more powerful noise reduction plug-in at my disposal is absolutely necessary. I downloaded a trial of Topaz DeNoise 5 and am discovering that some of my images have more of a noise issue than I realized. If you like to shoot at night, or need to set your camera to a high ISO level (1250 and above) due to movement in your image, then you introduce some big problems. That is what happened to me in these examples. The image above is one I took through a window (with lots of reflection) in a low lighted restaurant on a very cool night at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I really thought there was no way I would get a nice result of this beautiful view from my table. The image was shot at ISO 1250 and the original Camera Raw image was very bright and totally grainy. I was very surprised how quick Topaz DeNoise 5 (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) fixed up the noise in this night image – just one preset, RAW Moderate Preset, was applied and that was it! Bottom Line – definitely a sound choice for removing noise at any level!
Two things need to be done to use this plug-in effectively: 1) Make sure the Noise Reduction and Sharpening sliders in Lightroom and/or Adobe Camera Raw are turned off (if using Lightroom 3 make sure the Black slider is set to 0 also), and 2) use DeNoise first to avoid other problems cleaning up the image. The sliders are pretty intuitive once you play with them a little – usually all I am using is the Overall Strength slider and sometimes Recover Detail. The manual is an excellent resource if you have a bigger problem in your image.
This Flame Thrower image was cut out of a low resolution movie as a JPG from a luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. I have had a lot of trouble getting good image quality from my movie shots of that evening to look clean and sharp. This was a difficult image to clean up but with some effort, it does remind me of the luau show. In DeNoise the settings I ended up using were Overall Strength set to 0.10 and Adjust Shadow set to -0.09, but it also needed Recover Detail slider (which subtly brings detail back into the image) set to 0.30 and Reduce Blur (intelligent deblurring to fix soft or blurry edges) to 0.39. I am finding that when I use the Detail Recovery sliders I have to adjust the Overall Strength more. These sliders appear to be unique to the DeNoise program and I love them. Topaz recommends creating presets for each of the ISO settings on your camera(s) once you get settings you like. I created a preset for my movie images using the above settings. (Set preset to Absolute only if using preset for a series of images; use Relative when taking different kinds of shots with your camera and are using different ISO settings-the program will read changes in the image.)
This image was taken at SeaWorld‘s large Shark and Manta Ray Exhibit in Orlando, Florida. It was really hard to capture moving fish in a dark environment so they were not too blurry – an ISO setting of 1600 needed to be used to get the shot. DeNoise really helped clean up this image. Below is a comparison of what the image looked liked as a Raw image in Lightroom without Lightroom changes or DeNoise applied at 2 to 1 view.
Here is a similar shot as it appears in Photoshop at 200% view after Lightroom and DeNoise was applied but before the clean up layer and Curves Adjustment Layer were added.
To really see how the effect is being applied, the image should be viewed at 2 to 1 in a mid-tone area. It is not necessary to overdo getting rid of noise, a little remaining will not hurt an image. One of the features very unique to DeNoise is the ability to preview the noise not just in RGB , but also in the Luma, Color, Red and Blue. I usually start by previewing on the RBG mode and adjust the Overall Strength to get a feel for what the noise reduction is doing to the image. Next I go to Luma – sometimes there is more in this preview and the slider needs to be adjusted a little more. What I really like though is that on the tough images, the Blue and Red Previews are great – you can adjust out splotchy areas by moving the Adjust Color – Red and/or Adjust Color – Blue component sliders a little bit to remove. Usually I finish up with the Detail Recovery sliders. For the above image though, only the Overall Strength slider was set to .33 and Recovery Detail to .30. I really do not use the other sliders very often as I don’t seem to need that much adjustment. Nichole Paschal at Topaz Labs has done a great video called Introduction to Topaz DeNoise – Remove Image Noise, Recover Important Detail that goes into more detail on how to get good results with all the sliders – definitely worth checking out if you download the trial. Also there is a really good banding section if your image has color noise across the image (often seen in JPG images especially) – I have not had to try this yet. I used a Curves Adjustment Layer to open up the shadow areas a little more back in Photoshop.
Bottom line – I am really enjoying this plug-in. It does a good and fast job of noise reduction with just a couple slider adjustments. But if you run into that difficult image, the tools are available to adjust these issues. I am very happy with the results I have gotten – and once again Topaz gives free upgrades when you purchase their products, so any new advancements are yours. Got to love this plug-in!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Topaz DeNoise 5 and InstaTone