It’s been about 2 weeks since I began experimenting with integrating Topaz AI into my post processing workflow. During this period I’ve had a number of personal emails from readers asking if I’ve decided to keep using DxO PRIME or switch to Topaz Denoise AI. Most also wanted to know if I would be using Topaz Sharpen AI on a regular basis. I’ve finally reached a decision.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
It is important to state upfront that every photographer has their own expectations when it comes to their images. Each of us also has a unique way that we like to work with our photographs in post.
Many people prefer to do all of their adjustments in one program, while others use a combination of software. So as you continue reading this article please remember… just because I do what I do… doesn’t mean that you should do what I do.
I will be using Sharpen AI, but likely on a sporadic basis. I’ve found Sharpen AI to be finicky to use and the results that I have been able to achieve with it have been inconsistent. Sometimes the program doesn’t seem to have any impact. Sometimes it enhances things. And, sometimes it makes things worse and creates artifacts in the process.
There are some expectations that Sharpen AI can help a photographer ‘save’ a bad image. I did spend a few hours trying to ‘save’ weaker photographs and came to the conclusion that a bad image, is simply a bad image.
If I didn’t do a good job upfront with exposure, focusing and composition with a photograph, it isn’t worth my time to mess around with it in post, even when using Sharpen AI.
When Sharpen AI works well, it can make a positive difference with photographs. I used Sharpen AI with the first three images in this article.
It should also be noted that the optical quality of the lenses that a photographer uses may impact their impression of the relative effectiveness of Sharpen AI.
I really like Topaz Denoise AI and will using it with the majority of my photographs. Does it do a better job than DxO PRIME reducing noise? Perhaps… but in my assessment only to a very marginal degree.
Will I be stopping my use of DxO PRIME?
Nope… I will still be applying PRIME noise reduction to all of my photographs, regardless of the ISO value at which they were captured.
I’ve never had an ‘either/or’ orientation when it comes to post processing software. Currently I use a combination of three programs, DxO PhotoLab 2, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
My perspective has always been to see how I can leverage various functions that I like in different software programs. So… I’m an ‘and’ person when it comes to working in post with a number of different software programs.
After trying various approaches working with Topaz Denoise AI, I’ve found it to be most effective for me to use it at the end of my process. Other photographers may reach a different conclusion with their workflow.
So, I apply DxO PRIME upfront as part of my initial RAW file processing… as I have been doing for many years. As is my standard practice, I then make various adjustments as required in CS6 and the Nik Collection.
After that I use Topaz Denoise AI to see if I can tweak my image up a notch. In most cases I’ve found that adding this final step does enhance my photographs and makes it worthwhile using Topaz Denoise AI. I now consider Topaz Denoise AI as part of my standard process in post. Topaz Sharpen AI is not.
As a starting point when using Topaz Denoise AI, I click on the Auto setting, engage the Low Light Mode, and set the Recover Original Detail to 15. Often these settings work well and I don’t need to adjust them further. Sometimes some adjustments are required.
Usually adding this final Topaz Denoise AI step in my post processing workflow is a positive, but not 100% of the time. On occasion I have decided to skip this step if the preview is not to my liking. As with most things in post, it is image specific.
Whether Topaz Denoise AI and Sharpen AI make sense for you is a decision only you can make. How and when you choose to use these programs may differ from my approach. Before you decide to purchase any Topaz AI programs be sure to check the recommended computer specifications.
I needed to upgrade the video card in my office computer. This proved to be a much bigger investment than the two Topaz AI programs that I purchased.
Upgrading my video card proved to be a good decision as my system operates efficiently when running Topaz Denoise AI and Sharpen AI. Changes ‘in process’ only take a few seconds each to update while in preview.
It does take a bit of time to actually ‘apply’ final changes done with Topaz Denoise AI or Sharpen AI to an image. Denoise AI typically takes about 15 seconds. Sharpen AI seems to run much slower when applying changes and can take up to 45 seconds to complete.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were cropped to taste, then resized for web use.
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