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UPDATE 4/18/19: Topaz DeNoise has been discontinued and it’s functionality is now part of Topaz DeNoise AI. Click here to learn more about Topaz DeNoise AI and as always, contact me if you have any questions about Topaz applications!
The scourge of most photographers. Whether you shoot with a smartphone or high-end DSLR, at some point you’ll be in low-light and have to crank the ISO, resulting in annoying specks of unattractive grain throughout your photo. Luckily there are a variety of tools to help reduce photographic noise.
One of my favorite noise reduction tools (yes, reduction – not elimination) is Topaz DeNoise. Its been one of my go-to tools for a couple of years for high-ISO images shot with my iPhone and Canon 7D.
Where Topaz DeNoise Excels
Topaz DeNoise does a fantastic job with moderate noise. Take this example of my cat, Pumpkin – shot in my living room at f/2.5, 1/80th of a second, and ISO 1600. Even with all of the doors open, my home stays pretty dark, hence my need to crank up the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed for a crisp shot.
Note: if your camera is newer than mine, chances are you can crank the ISO quite a bit higher and stay in the “moderate” range.
This is zoomed in to 100% so you can get an idea of the detail involved. The image on the left is before jumping into Topaz DeNoise (no sharpening or noise reduction applied). You can see that the color noise is quite evident in his eye as well as along the top of his nose.
Where noise reduction falls short
Topaz DeNoise, like all noise reduction tools I’ve tried, can’t fix a poorly exposed photo. Keep in mind it is “noise reduction” not “noise elimination.”
If you drastically opened up your shadows, causing noise, you might be able to improve its appearance a bit, but it can’t be eliminated, at least not in my experience.
Also, for astrophotographers, noise reduction can be a tricky business. I’ve read that Topaz DeNoise does a better job in that arena than some of the other options on the market, but I haven’t been too successful with it.
Who should invest in a noise reduction plug-in
All photographers I know could benefit from a good noise reduction solution – from smartphone snappers to pro-DSLR shooters – we all have good reasons for increasing our ISO, when blurry just isn’t an option.
For the Lightroom folks who think LR’s built in noise reduction is enough – check out my Noise Reduction Wars article comparing the capabilities of Lightroom and Topaz DeNoise. You might be surprised!