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  1. #1
    Senior Member

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    I've said it here before but I wanted to once again mention how good Topaz Denoise AI is.

    Yesterday, as I was sitting down to some Corned Beef and Cabbage, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a Red Fox coming over the rock wall in the backyard. I jumped up, grabbed the D500 with 500mm pf sitting there all set up for birds in flight and stepped outside. It was dusk and I knew the camera was set for too fast a shutter speed so I just spun it down a couple clicks, opened the aperture a click, and started firing. I have a max ISO set to 4000 on the D500, so at 1/800s f6.3 this is what I got...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-d51_0269-edit-copy-2.jpg

    A 100% crop reveals tack sharp focus (yay, Nikon!!) and some significant noise...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-d51_0269-edit-copy-4.jpg


    In the past the first thing I'd do in Lightroom would be to adjust the brightness and deal with the noise as best I could. When I purchased Topaz Denoise AI my workflow didn't change much, so the first thing I'd do is to brighten this up a bit greatly amplifying the noise across the photo in the process. Denoise AI would still deal with it in a more than acceptable way, so I had no reason to change. But this morning that changed.

    Topaz recommends that you apply Denoise AI before doing any other adjustments to the file, so when I saw the way this looked in Lightroom I said, "What the heck?!", and just opened it in Photoshop without applying any adjustments other than the camera profile and lens corrections. (Note: You can apply Denoise AI in Lightroom and have it create a new TIFF or other file type which you then can apply Develop settings to before opening in Photoshop, I just prefer to do it this way as it creates one less file.)

    Once in Photoshop I replicated the background layer and opened it in Denoise AI (I normally just make background Layer 0 and apply Denoise to the bottom layer but with extreme noise I like to preserve the original - Denoise and other Topaz AI filters are applied to the current active layer, so it's good to replicate first). Once in I zoomed into 100% at the face so I could get most of the head to see what detail I was preserving and also some of the noisy areas. The first thing I do is to preview the noise reduction to make sure it's sufficient, then ramp up the Sharpness slider to bring back details. In general this is fairly straight forward, but what I found in this case is that some of the less detailed areas both in the face and background got some weird pixelizations even as the rest of the image looked superb. I played with the sliders until I could make sure that the background had no weirdness introduced and then made note of strange areas elsewhere to fix in Ps (in this case it was a small area of the nose which I fixed by masking back in the untouched original as needed). This was the result...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-d51_0269-edit-copy-5.jpg

    As you can see it did a smashing job!

    From here I replicate that layer and then apply the Camera Raw Filter. I should note here that I've yet to find any real difference applying Camera Raw to an open image in Photoshop and the same Raw file in Lightroom. All the light information in each pixel is preserved, so it's just like applying it to a Raw file as you open it in Photoshop ... except now all the noise is gone!!

    I used Camera Raw to do all the same basic lighting adjustments I would have in Lightroom only now it was applied as a new layer after Denoise. It looked great. I then used Topaz Adjust AI (which has become indispensable to me for getting really clear, sharp images) to give me this...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-d51_0269-edit-copy-1.jpg


    Now it was all about finishing the image. The first step was to better isolate the Fox so I applied a blur technique I think I've finally got perfected to the background (if anyone is interested I'll post something separate). I was happy with that so for me all that was left was one more trip through Camera Raw as a Smart Filter (so I can go back and tweek).

    After saving to Lightroom, I applied the crop I wanted and I was done. I'll send that Lightroom modified version back into Photoshop for resizing and watermarking, which I did to give you the final result.

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-d51_0269-edit-edit-copy.jpg


    I have a huge catalog of unfinished images that were abandoned because of noise, but since getting Denoise AI I've been slowly going back and discovering that I can now finish them into something I can be proud of.

    I'm happy to answer any specific questions.


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    Thanks/Like hark, Woodyg3, Ironwood, cbg, canuck257, Whiskeyman Thanks/liked this post
    Best Answers hark voted best answer for this post
     
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)



  2. #2
    Senior Member

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    And for the curious, this is what I mean by weird pixelization - you can see it toward the tip of the nose...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-screen-shot-2020-03-18-7.26.jpg


    What I do here is just mask out the pixelated area and bring back the original for just that area (it would be nice if you could somehow do this in the tool as it's applied).


    Also I should note that after having success doing it this way I reversed the process and tried to do just a couple basic lighting adjustments before using Denoise. What I found was that I could not achieve the same level of sharpness and denoising and had to compromise - a sharp image with lots of weirdness in the noisy areas, or a less sharp image that I'd have to fight with more in Adjust, or perhaps send through Sharpen AI (which is incredibly slow) as well.
    Last edited by BackdoorArts; 03-18-2020 at 06:20 PM.
    Thanks/Like hark, canuck257, Whiskeyman Thanks/liked this post
     
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  3. #3
    Staff
    Super Mod
    hark's Avatar

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Quote Originally Posted by BackdoorArts View Post
    I'm happy to answer any specific questions.
    Jake, when you have a chance, would you please consider taking a screen shot of your layers? I'm having a little trouble following the steps back and forth between programs and Camera RAW. Thanks.
    Cindy
    Flickr
    and My 2020 Thread

    Where the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art
    -- Leonardo da Vinci



  4. #4
    Senior Member

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Here ya go...

    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-screen-shot-2020-03-18-5.30.jpg

    After this I saved it and cropped in Lightroom and applied a few more color and lighting updates to finish.
    Thanks/Like hark, Whiskeyman Thanks/liked this post
     
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  5. #5
    Staff
    Super Mod
    hark's Avatar

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Quote Originally Posted by BackdoorArts View Post
    Here ya go...

    After this I saved it and cropped in Lightroom and applied a few more color and lighting updates to finish.
    Hmm...question for you, Jake. The second layer (Denoise) has a layer mask. So did you flatten (Command + Option + Shift +E) to create the 3rd layer (ACR) and flatten again to get the 4th layer (Adjust)?
    Cindy
    Flickr
    and My 2020 Thread

    Where the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art
    -- Leonardo da Vinci



  6. #6
    Staff
    Super Mod
    hark's Avatar

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Quote Originally Posted by BackdoorArts View Post
    Now it was all about finishing the image. The first step was to better isolate the Fox so I applied a blur technique I think I've finally got perfected to the background (if anyone is interested I'll post something separate).
    Any info on your blur technique will be greatly appreciated, Jake. Sometimes the wildlife I shoot is very close to the background making it difficult to achieve any separation in camera.
    Thanks/Like Whiskeyman Thanks/liked this post
     
    Cindy
    Flickr
    and My 2020 Thread

    Where the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art
    -- Leonardo da Vinci



  7. #7
    Senior Member

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Quote Originally Posted by hark View Post
    Hmm...question for you, Jake. The second layer (Denoise) has a layer mask. So did you flatten (Command + Option + Shift +E) to create the 3rd layer (ACR) and flatten again to get the 4th layer (Adjust)?
    Anything you invoke a filter on will operate only on the current layer (including Topaz tools as they are in the Filter menu), so I will always "flatten up" to a new layer before moving on.

    As mentioned, the layer mask here was to combat a small area of noise that came out of Denoise AI, something I've only even had to do on overly dark images like these. More times than not I convert Background to Layer 0 and just apply there to save a bit of filespace.
    Thanks/Like hark Thanks/liked this post
     
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  8. #8
    Senior Member

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Quote Originally Posted by hark View Post
    Any info on your blur technique will be greatly appreciated, Jake. Sometimes the wildlife I shoot is very close to the background making it difficult to achieve any separation in camera.
    The key to adding blur is first understanding how it works as each is different (motion, Gaussian, lens), and then to know how to avoid applying it to the areas you don't want it. For that you need really good masking. When I have time I'll put something detailed together, but in the meantime this is the process...

    1. Select the subject that you do not want blurred. Using Select -> Subject in Photoshop does a pretty good job of this, at least as a starting point. Generally I'll need to use the Select And Mask tool to get the edges as close to perfect as I can. Once I'm done I will save the selection as a new channel so I can easily go back to it (Select -> Save Selection).

    2. Clear the selection and flatten your image into a new layer at the top of the layer stack. This is the layer you will apply the blur to.

    3. Now hold Cmd/Ctrl down and click on the saved selection in the Channels panel to reselect your subject. Now if you use this to create the mask there will be a harsh transition from subject to background, so first I go to Select -> Modify -> Expand... and depending on how much you've cropped in add 5 to 15 pixels to the selection (you don't want to see a significant change in the size...

    Before:
    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-screen-shot-2020-03-19-10.49.jpg

    After:
    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-screen-shot-2020-03-19-10.49-2.jpg


    4. Now I want to soften the transition so I go to Select -> Modify -> Feather... and put in a value equal to about 2/3 of what I used for Expand. You won't see any change in the marching ants, but it happened.

    5. Invert the selection using Select -> Inverse because you want to apply the blur to the areas not selected. Once you've done this click on the Add Layer Mask button to create the mask for the layer. You want to do this before applying blur as the mask will preserve the details from the layer underneath. If you do not use a mask and instead just create a new layer from the selection then the blur you apply next will smear into your subject.

    6. Now go to Filter -> Blur and apply the type and level of blur you want. As you do this you'll see it applied to the entire image, but when you get out it'll be fine. I used to use Gaussian blur a lot but have gone to Lens blur more recently as it seems to produce a more convincing straight out of camera OOF area.

    7. Now I inspect and modify the mask. Often times there will be an area not selected as the subject that's in the same focal plane, so I take a soft edged black brush and paint in 50% black in those areas, sometimes repeating until it looks convincing. If there's a large swath of space I'll sometimes do another pass at 25% beyond that to transition the OOF areas. The idea is to make it convincing looking. Then I'll that a small soft edged brush and paint black over areas on the very edge of the subject that may need it because of fur/feathers.

    I think it allows for some convincing softening of even difficult subjects without looking Photoshopped...

    Before:
    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-before.jpg

    After:
    Topaz Denoise AI - It works-after.jpg
    Thanks/Like canuck257, Whiskeyman Thanks/liked this post
    Best Answers hark voted best answer for this post
     
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  9. #9
    Staff
    Super Mod
    hark's Avatar

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    Thank you for the detailed tutorial, Jake. I really need to learn Channels. It's something I haven't yet used but really need to learn how to implement.
    Cindy
    Flickr
    and My 2020 Thread

    Where the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art
    -- Leonardo da Vinci



  10. #10
    Senior Member

    Re: Topaz Denoise AI - It works

    so.... its topaz denoise the better way to go rather than denoising photos in light room????





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