A couple of weeks ago I released a video called “I was wrong” (about my Noise Reduction and Sharpening workflow). In the video I explained my photography evolution from landscapes to wildlife and how I was always telling people I don’t use noise reduction or sharpening plug-ins. But after getting frustrated with noise reduction (and sometimes sharpening), I’ve slowly switched over to Topaz plug-ins (DeNoise and Sharpen) for my wildlife photography.
Well, needless to say it stirred quite a few comments and discussions which topics like that always do. There were over 130 comments on that one. But more than that, I spurred a lot of questions back at me. So I thought I’d try to take care of those questions all at once. Here goes…
NOTE: I’m big on personal responsibility here. Please read this article as something that worked for me. But… it’s always your responsibility to try out software before you buy it to see if it works on your photos. Everyone’s photos are different and shooting styles vary.
PS: If you do decide to grab Topaz DeNoise or Topaz Sharpen AI, they gave me a 15% coupon to share with you. The coupon code is “MattK15” (no quotes) – This will work on all of their products and bundles, not just individual apps.
Q. Matt… DxO just released Pure Raw Deep Prime and I feel it’s better than Topaz. Have you tried it?
A. I have tried it. And I actually got really good results from it. To me, I found Topaz to be just as good in most cases, but more than that I found the workflow to be simpler. Here’s the deal… I don’t want to be a software tester all the time. While I do like my time editing, I don’t enjoy testing out 5 different apps just to pixel peep which is better. I want to shoot and edit, and that’s what I enjoy. And I’ve found two plug-ins that give me amazing results that I’m happy with. So… rather than constantly chasing after every piece of software released, I’m content with my workflow and I get amazing results from it. I’m sure DxO is great too, but in my tests I didn’t see anything significantly better to warrant using it. Like I said… I’m happy with what I have and that means a lot to me.
Q. When do you use Topaz DeNoise or Sharpen in your workflow?
A. First… I have a min course called Topaz Deep Dive (DeNoise and Sharpen). This course goes over both programs in detail, as well as my workflow from Lightroom and Photoshop. (Link)
But… in short…My workflow goes like this. First I Import photos in to Lightroom. From there I do all Lightroom Editing (color, tone, etc…), but no noise reduction or sharpening in Lightroom. Next, if I need Photoshop (usually distraction removal) I will jump to Photoshop. Once I’m done with that, I’ll make a copy of my layer and use Topaz DeNoise as a plug-in from Photoshop. Since I have layers and masks, I’d rather do it from Photoshop so I can always adjust it if I need. Then I finish up and head back to Lightroom.
If I don’t need Photoshop then I do all of my LR edits and go to Photo > Edit In > Topaz DeNoise. Do my noise reduction… Save… and head back to LR.
Q. I read on Topaz’s website they recommend you open your raw file directly in to DeNoise first. Is that true?
A. Yes, Topaz does seem to recommend you open your raw file in their standalone version of the software. But they also say it’s not required. For starters, they don’t support all raw formats. But more than that, I’m a die hard Lightroom user and I have a workflow that I like which means my photos always start in Lightroom first. Lightroom’s raw editor, for me, will be the first touchpoint on my raw photo. And adding something in front of that workflow would just make life difficult. Especially when I get great results doing it like the way I mentioned above.
Q. Do you use DeNoise or Sharpen on your landscape or non-wildlife photos?
A. For the most part no. I do have some night and astro photos that DeNoise has worked well on, but that’s just not a genre of photography that I do much of. But as for general landscapes, taken from a tripod, at low ISO’s – no I don’t use the plug-ins for that personally.
Q. Have you ever seen weird artifacts around your photo with DeNoise or Sharpen?
A. Yes, sometimes I do. Topaz has a masking option in both plug-ins, plus, I often have it on a layer in Photoshop so masking it away is easy enough.
Q. What about Topaz Gigapixel for upsizing?
A. I’ve tested Gigapixel and compared it to Photoshop’s Image > Image Size option as well as the newer Super Resolution option. Technically, when pixel peeping at around 400% I will say Topaz Gigapixel wins almost every time. But it’s slow… and when printed on a 17×22 inch paper and shared online I can’t tell the difference between the methods. I also generally can’t tell the difference when I don’t zoom in to 400% and pixel peep. At normal sizes they (usually) all look the same to me.
So, what I’m saying is that, while technically, Gigapixel does better… practically (for me) it’s not worth the money or effort. I still prefer the good old Photoshop Image > Image Size menu for upsizing when I need it.
Q. Matt… didn’t you talk about trying Topaz a while ago and said it was too slow?
A. Yep… and 18 months ago when I tried both plug-ins were fairly slow for my workflow preferences. I still quietly used them from time to time, but wasn’t at the point where I’d recommend it. With the newer versions of the plug-ins (released within the last couple of months) they are significantly faster and I can get in and out quickly.
Q. Matt – so….the ‘sharpen’ plug-in seems to deal with some of the noise. And the Noise plug-in seems to also sharpen the photo. Do we actually need both of those?
A. That’s true. For me, I go in to the plug-in based on what I feel the worst problem is in the photo. For my wildlife it’s usually noise on an already sharp photo. And DeNoise does a great job of removing the noise but also sharpening the photo to the extent that I don’t even need to run any more sharpening on it. Same thing with Topaz Sharpen. It will also remove minor noise.
For me though, I always try to get the photo sharp in camera. That, I usually have control over. Noise is something that I don’t. I have to shoot at the ISO that I have to shoot at. Sharp Before ANYTHING right?! So when it comes to editing, while Topaz Sharpen AI is flat out amazing on some photos (and has saved a few for me), if the photo is blurry to begin with I’m usually not happy with the results even after sharpening.
Q. Do you ever use both DeNoise and Sharpen on the same photo?
A. Very rarely to almost never. See above question 🙂
Q. Is it worth upgrading to the new version of Topaz DeNoise?
A. Absolutely 100% yes! They both work faster and better in all of my tests.
Q. Do the Topaz plug-ins run on the new Apple M1 thingees?
A. They do but I believe there are some caveats to it. Best to always check their website and support area on their site for more info. Click here to get to their website support.
Q. Did you compare noise reduction with the Nik filter Dfine?
A. Yes. In my opinion Nik’s filter is very out dated and hasn’t been updated in many years and doesn’t contend with what’s out there today. Nik is owned by DxO and even Dxo has newer technology for this if you want to keep it in the same family.
Q. Matt… I know you already answered a question about DxO’s Pure Raw software, but let me ask again because I didn’t like your answer before. Have you tried it? I have, and I find it better than Topaz?
A. Listen… I did try it and I thought it worked great. For me, their software is cumbersome. While they have a plug-in to Lightroom, DxO is really meant as an Adobe alternative. I’m not looking for an Adobe alternative. I like my workflow as is. I get great results with Adobe and Topaz, and I’m not some one that’s always looking to change, for something new. That said, I get it that there are people who do like to test out every software out there and who will use 6 apps in their photo workflow. If they’re happy with the results, then that’s all that matters – I don’t care how you get there – just that you’re happy with your photos.
Q. Aren’t there other noise reduction plug-ins out there?
A. Yep. There are a bunch and I haven’t tried all of them. I’ve had way too many people I trust recommend Topaz, so rather than spend a bunch of time comparing plug-ins I tried them myself and I love the results.
Q. Is Topaz a subscription or perpetual license. Don’t they make you pay an upgrade fee each year?
A. You do get a perpetual license so you own the version you purchase. I do believe they come out with major upgrades each year, which does require an upgrade fee. Incidentally, that’s similar to just about any other piece of software out there. I can’t think of one really great software program that doesn’t come out with new paid versions every 12 months or so.
I hope that helps answer your questions. If not, feel free to leave ’em below and I’ll add them to the list. And, as I mentioned at the top, it’s your responsibility to try these out before you make a purchase. I’m really thankful many of you trust me and my opinion, but at the same time why not download the free trial and give it a whirl?
If you do decide to grab Topaz DeNoise or Topaz Sharpen AI, they gave me a 15% coupon to share with you. The coupon code is “MattK15” (no quotes) – This will work on all of their products and bundles, not just individual apps.