Using Noise Reduction & Sharpening On The Same Photo

Using Noise Reduction & Sharpening On The Same Photo

Does it make sense?

It sure does, if you use the right tools and you have a relatively decent photo to start with.

One of my workshop participants recently contacted me with this email.

“I’ve seen your articles about the Topaz products lately, and I’ve looked at them. But I have one big question. Sharpening and Noise reduction are usually opposing factors; sharpening tends to increase noise, and noise reduction tends to reduce sharpness. Topaz has Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI, is it reasonable that you would only use one of them? Or do you use both of them?”

The short answer is yes, they are usually opposing factors, and yes, I own and use both. Here’s why:

I have used just about every noise reduction and sharpening software program ever invented. Back when I ran Photofocus, I regularly tested products for review. Likewise at Photo Podcast Network and now at

Without a doubt, they all have had their bright spots, but being in a situation where I already own or can get any piece of photography software I want, you need to know I actually use Topaz DeNoise AI and Topaz Sharpen AI.

There are several things that made me go with the Topaz solution.

1. The AI stuff is very good. No AI is perfect, but for me, I am always looking to streamline my work in post. I’d rather have my finger on the shutter button than the mouse button, so if something makes it easy and fast to get the job done, I am a fan. Topaz’s AI does just that.

2. There is something crazy about Topaz DeNoise AI. When I first started using it I had to check myself because frankly, I couldn’t believe the results I was getting. Not only would the program reduce noise, it would retain detail. EVERY piece of noise reduction software I have owned, used or tested makes that claim, but nobody executes on it was well as Topaz.

So my workflow is simple. I bring the image into my post-processing program of choice. (For me it’s Luminar 4, for you it may be Photoshop or Lightroom.) I make my basic corrections and crop. Then I send the file to Topaz DeNoise AI.

There are a few choices here. I usually use the AUTO DETECT SETTINGS option. I then test the image using DeNoise AI or another method relied on by Topaz called AI CLEAR. When I see the results I like, I then move to the RECOVER ORIGINAL DETAIL slider. If it’s a very old image shot with a camera using a small sensor, this may help if you don’t overdo it. Most of the time it’s not necessary. Again with a very old picture like this one made 13 years ago with a small, point-and-shoot, digital camera, I was able to use the COLOR NOISE REDUCTION tool to taste and improve the image.

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 5.06.47 PM

Now here’s the rub, 95% of the time, the full on AUTO section of the software does a great job meaning I can set it and forget it. I also rely on the fact that Topaz doesn’t mush up the details. On pictures made with today’s more modern interchangeable lens cameras, not only does the program reduce noise, it retains sharpness everywhere I want.

That starts me on the road to the next step, which is to run Sharpen AI. I use the AUTO selections here and usually place this on a layer mask so I can paint in or out the sharpening effect over key areas in my image. I don’t see any introduction of noise during this step, which is what you would expect to happen, only it does not.


I am not a software engineer. I do not understand how the magic happens. Nor do I spend much time thinking about it. All I care about is knowing it works. And it does. I have changed my shooting style because of it. I will now use ISO between 2500 and 3200 if I think the rest of the shot is there. Before I was only willing to go to ISO 2000. Likewise, if I get a shot that doesn’t seem to perfectly sharp, I will bring it into Topaz and when I am done, the sharpness mysteriously appears 🙂

I have a code for my audience if you want to save 15%. Just go to these links…
This takes you the the DeNoise AI page. Use the code METHODS at checkout to save 15%.
This takes you to the Sharpen AI page. Use the code METHODS at checkout to save 15% on that program, as well.



4 Responses

  1. I am also a big fan of Topaz Sharpen AI and Denoise AI. I was stunned at how it eliminated noise in an ISO 12,800 image, while retaining details from cargo cranes in the distance. And in Sharpen AI, I find that the “Stabilize” and “Focus” options perform pure magic. I cannot believe the extra clarity I get using “Focus” instead of the “Sharpen” mode!

  2. Hello Scott,

    I do use Topaz Sharpen AI and it’s really great. Sharpers AI already contains a denoise component. Therefore I wonder whether it is necessary to use Denoise AI additionally.



  3. Thanks for your Workflow using Topaz. I have both, and have been confused when to use which one when. Any other tips with Topaz products would also be appreciated.

Leave a Reply




Related Post

Moments of Nature

This is a video production I made during the pandemic to share with folks...

PictureMethods Holiday Gift Guide For Photographers

As the holiday season approaches, the excitement of gift-giving fills the air. And for...

The 10-Question Photo Challenge

As you get further down the road in your photography journey, you eventually learn...
%d bloggers like this: