Using Topaz Labs Denoise and Sharpen Tools

April 25, 2021

Yesterday I posted about a couple of ospreys I grabbed pictures of up in Ridgefield, Washington. In that post I wrote about watching a YouTube video by Matt Kloskowski about his new approach removing noise and sharpening photos. Based on that video I downloaded trial versions of Topaz Labs Denoise AI and Sharpen AI apps. Yesterday’s post shows the results I got using the Denoise AI tool. I was really happy with it. But I couldn’t get the results I wanted with the Sharpen AI app.

Last night I watched a few tutorials on the tools. I learned quite a bit from Dave Kelley’s “The Joy of Editing” channel. This video demonstrated how to get good results using both tools. Using that video, this morning I sat down to re-work one of my photos from the osprey shoot.

Here is some background on the picture.

  • Camera: Sony RX10M4. A 1-inch sensor camera with a long lens; made for birds in flight
  • Speed: 1/640 sec
  • f/5.6
  • ISO: 100
  • Focal length: 205.6mm (Equivalent to 561mm in a full frame camera)
  • Raw image cropped to taste and auto toning in Lightroom Classic

While this camera was made to capture birds in flight, that small 1-inch sensor and my wobbly hands present some challenges. Nevertheless, I was happy with the result. Here is the picture.

Original Raw image with minor toning applied and cropped to taste

Pretty nice; let’s see what happens when I remove noise and sharpen using the Topaz Labs tools. To accomplish that, I opened the photo in Photoshop then followed the steps Dave Kelly used in his tutorial.

  1. I duplicated the base layer and renamed it to identify it as denoise editing.,
  2. Used the Topaz Denoise AI filter. This opens the Denoise AI app.
  3. Used a comparison view of the original and changes. I mostly used Auto settings but turned the sharpening down to 1 (as low as it can go) knowing I’d sharpen in the next step
  4. Applied the changes which took me back to Photoshop
  5. I then duplicated that lower noise layer and renamed it to identify the sharpening step.
  6. Used the Topas Sharpen AI filter which opens the Sharpen AI app.
  7. I used the comparison view to see the impact of 3 sharpening modes: Motion Blur, Out of Focus, and Too Soft. (Sorry, I forget which filter I used.)
  8. Turned the Remove Blur (sharpen) slider up and reduced the Suppress Noise slider (since I had already done that)
  9. Applied the changes which took me back to Photoshop
  10. Saved those changes which took me back to Lightroom Classic

Why did I use Photoshop as an intermediate step? It is easier for me to manage the various editing steps as layers in one image rather than as separate files in Lightroom. Dave Kelly does it and I slapped my head “Of course!” When I was practicing on my own I had so many copies of the photo in Lightroom (with names like <blah>-edit or <blah>-edit-2-edit) I couldn’t keep track.

So how did it turn out? Here is the cropped-to-taste photo after the editing process. Here are the before and after pics. Although I didn’t get them completely aligned, you can use the slider to see the effect of the process.

Before (Left side) and After (Right Side)

Let’s zoom in to capture that detail to see how it worked out. Again, I didn’t get the crops aligned just right, but you can still use the slider to compare

Before and After

Not bad – I especially like the detail in the wings. When I zoom in to 400% on the after picture there are some artifacts around the border of the bird – especially on the edges of his/her beak. It may not be apparent in the sample above. I know there is a way to fix that but that is for another day. I pushed the noise reduction and sharpening to “11” on this image to see how it worked out.

Bottom line: I’m impressed with the new AI tools from Topaz Labs. I’m going to turn my trial into a purchase.

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