Noise Reduction Wars | Lightroom vs. Topaz DeNoise AI
Not long ago I captured this photograph of a Snowy Egret at Santee Lakes.
It was nearing dusk and the light was fading. I increased my ISO to 400 to get a bit more light into my camera so I could get the shot. My exposure was spot on, but because my camera body is a bit old, even a slight boost in ISO created noticeable noise.
There are several tools currently available to reduce image noise. The two that I use the most are Lightroom and Topaz DeNoise AI. Addressing image noise is a delicate balance between removing noise and maintaining sharpness.
Lightroom’s Noise Reduction
First, we’ll look at the results using Lightroom’s Noise Reduction and Sharpening and see how it performs.
If you look at the gray area around the Egret, the noise has been smoothed, but it was at the expense of losing detail in the feathers.
Topaz DeNoise AI
I wasn’t entirely happy with the results from Lightroom’s Noise Reduction – it swallowed up too much of the fine detail in the feathers. Let’s see if Topaz DeNoise AI can do better.
PRO TIP: When sending an image from Lightroom to Topaz DeNoise AI, make sure that all settings in Lightroom’s Detail Panel (Sharpening & Noise Reduction) are set to “0” prior to sending the image to Topaz DeNoise AI. Failing to do this will cause undesirable artifacts.
I opened my image in Topaz DeNoise AI using the Lightroom plugin and clicked Auto. About 95% of the time, the automatic setting does a stellar job, though there are times I need to fine tune the settings for the best result. However, this time, Auto did the trick.
Let’s take a look at the before and after:
As you can see, the noise is gone in the background, but the details in the the eyes, feathers, etc. are all preserved and perfectly sharpened.
Lightroom vs. Topaz DeNoise AI
Now that we’ve had a chance to look at each method individually, let’s compare the results from Lightroom and Topaz DeNoise AI.
The difference is clear (pun intended). The Lightroom noise reduction version muddles the detail whereas Topaz DeNoise AI managed to remove the unwanted noise AND sharpen the details at the same time.
Noise Reduction Winner: Topaz DeNoise AI
Lightroom is a great tool and is capable of a heck of a lot…but in this case it is definitely not the best tool for the job. If you have an image where the detail is important (and seriously, when is it not?) I highly recommend running your image through Topaz DeNoise AI if you have unwanted grain.
>>CLICK HERE to add Topaz DeNoise AI to your workflow
If you’re ready to give Topaz DeNoise AI a try, make sure you use my link and enter my coupon code ANGANDRIEUX at checkout to save 15% on your purchase. Topaz also offers a free 30 day trial of all of their software if you prefer to give it a test drive before putting down your hard-earned cash.
Questions about Topaz DeNoise AI or Lightroom?
If you have any questions about the software mentioned in this article, please leave a comment below, or contact me directly. I’m always happy to help!
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Angela – Have you done any cross-comparisons of the noise reduction in Luminar 4 (based on Skylum’s former dedicated tool Noiseless) and Topaz AI? Thanks!
Hi Kevin – I contemplated putting it in this article (I have a version of this image done with Luminar as well), but Luminar sadly didn’t fare well in the comparison. For this one task, it is hard to beat the one click results from DeNoise AI. I loved Noiseless, but have never been able to get the same results with Luminar’s noise reduction.
In the Lightroom example you kept the Detail slider at 50. Would the results improve by telling the software that you wanted more details retained?
Hi Alan – I did try that, but by further increasing the Detail slider in Lightroom, it re-introduced the noise back into the flatter areas of the photograph. The settings I used were the best results I was able to get with that image. It is tough when you’re working with super-fine detail like feather.
I have been testing DeNoise AI, and been happily surprised about the results.
One question though: it seems that Admin permissions are required to run the software. It can not be run with regular user permissions (both with Mac and Windows, Mac version I tested few months ago, Windows last weekend). Do you experience the same?
Hi Kop – Glad to hear that DeNoise AI is working well for you! With regard to permissions, I run my machine (a Mac) with a single user account that has admin permissions so I’ve never had an issue. With most software it is necessary to have admin permissions to install, but not necessarily to run the software. I would recommend checking with Topaz support if you’re running into trouble with a user account that does not have admin permissions.
I have been using Topaz Denoise for a month or so and still find that on some occasions Lightroom does a better job. One thing has been puzzling, and I cannot seems to get an answer, is where in the workflow should I use DeNoise?
1. After setting the White Balance and before cropping?
2. Before making any global adjustments?
3. Crop and make all global adjustments the DeNoise?
4. Whe is the best time to use Topaz Sharpen AI?
Sorry for al the questions
Hi Geoff – I typically use DeNoise AI or Sharpen AI, but rarely both on a given image. Both applications sharpen and reduce noise and I use these apps to solve specific problems that I was unable to resolve in Lightroom.
I use DeNoise AI when I have a lot of high ISO noise or I’ve created a lot of noise by opening up deep, dark shadows. I use Sharpen AI when my image is just slightly out of focus due to camera shake or to fix focus if my plane of focus is a bit off.
I will typically run either program after I’ve made my global adjustments. There are a few exceptions, but if the sharpness and noise are so bad that I need to deal with those issue before anything else, I probably won’t have much editing leeway with the image anyway because I’m starting with a poor quality image.
I hope that helps! Let me know if I can further clarify.
Hi, wouldn’t you be able to get a lot of detail back in the feathers of the Egret by using an adjustment brush over the bird, and reducing luminance and increasing sharpness?
Just trying to eliminate all options before purchasing DeNoise AI :)
Sure! You could do that.The trade off is manual work. You can get decent results in Lightroom alone. The benefit of DeNoise AI is that the AI does most of the work for you and I find that it typically gives me better results. Though the difference is probably minimal unless you are pixel peeping. I hope that helps!
Over the past twelve months (maybe call it the ‘Covid era’?) or so, I’ve tested and compared numerous softwares as I’ve not been able to go out and grab new images. Lightroom has been surpassed on many levels. You’ve identified Topaz here and, personally, I would agree. I don’t think I’ve found a decent comparison of Topaz vs Inpixio which is pretty much like for like. I’ve largely stopped using Lightroom and tend to move between Luminar AI, Topaz, On1 and Dx0. I love your honesty here with regards to Luminar vs Topaz. It would be all too easy to exaggerate Luminars performance due to you working with them but I think it does Luminar more favours than ever due to that.
I think though that Adobe are not ones to not take the game to the next level so I imagine they are going to be pulling some new version of LR before long.
Hi Roy – I’m glad you found the review helpful! Topaz DeNoise is my go-to for anything with extensive noise/grain. As far as comparisons and reviews, honesty is always the best policy! :) Luminar AI is a great app (not just saying that because I work for Skylum) but there are a lot of other great apps out there and, so far, I haven’t found a single app that does everything the best. Maybe one day!