Sharpening and Noise Reduction

Hey everybody, I’m interested in how people handle sharpening and noise reduction. As of now, I haven’t really printed anything but I know it is different when you are just sharpening for a screen vs sharpening for print. I’m interested in both though. I just downloaded the sharpening panel from Andre Distel (if you use this, open to tips!). Trying to figure out exactly the process to use it, especially the brightness part. What I do right now is to remove all noise reduction and sharpening in LR, do some adjustments, send it to PS, make my edits then apply general sharpening and noise reduction with a Camera Raw filter then the TK panel to sharpen and resize for export. Again, I haven’t printed so this is just for screen and I’m interested in others processes.

I use The TK panel for sharpening for the Web. For printing, I use Smart Sharpen in Photo Shop, and do test prints to check before making a final.

For NR, I use Neat Image Pro Photo Shop plug-in. I created my own noise profiles, and they work very nicely. (I do NR on a layer so that I can delete it if I am not happy.)

I leave the default NR and small amount of sharpening in the LR Develop module (same with ACR), and do minimal adjustments that would change the amount of noise in different tonal areas, such as lightening with the Shadows slider. I then go to PS and make a copy layer of the BG. The first thing I do is NR with Topaz Denoise AI, but I turn off its sharpening adjustment. Duplicate that layer again and do sharpening, if needed, with Topaz Sharpen AI. After the adjustment is done, mask any areas where sharpening has gone too far. Both products are excellent. Sharpen offers previews for the 3 modes, which you need to compare.

Now make another duplicate layer (or a composite layer if you masked any areas) and you have a clean image for cloning and other work. Nik Color Efex Detail Extractor, Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast (or other equivalent tools) can now bring up darker areas with less noise and allow you to complete your tonal adjustments. This is also a stage where you can revert to the Camera Raw filter for things like Shadows, Highlights, Texture, Clarity and Dehaze, if desired. Of course you don’t have the tonal overhead you did with the raw file, but the heavy lifting should be done by this stage. You should always be opening in PS as a 16-bit file for the most tonal overhead, and viewing the image at 100% for maximum accuracy (one pixel on the monitor maps to one pixel in the image, so there is no interpolation going on).

I adjust for appearance of the master file on a monitor (viewed at 100%). For exported JPEGs for web presentation, from either PS or LR, I’ve never felt any further sharpening was needed if I use the recommended setting for downsizing. Then I do any further needed sharpening on a copy image that has been resized for printing. Smart Sharpen is all I’ve ever needed for that but there are certainly other tools.

Hi @Diane_Miller Just getting back to this as I have purchased a few of the products you described here and I’m looking to nail down my work flow. I think what I am considering is similar to what you have here but I want to see if I have it right. I’m thinking of using Lightroom to get things as close as possible to my intended image, but not putting on any sharpening, clarity, texture, or noise reduction (other than the color noise reduction). Then bring it into PS, use DeNoise, then Sharpen AI, followed by tweaks for local control and creative adjustments like Dodge and Burn, Nik collection etc.

Am I thinking about that right?
Do you use DeNoise on all images, even ones shot at low ISO?
Do you think of Sharpen AI as the “capture” sharpening that you forego in LR?
Do you apply “creative” sharpening in other ways to specific areas?
Have you ever used Nik Sharpener Pro for output sharpening for print?

Sorry, lots of questions!

David, my advice is Capture one for Raw conversion … way less noise and better color than Photoshop…

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I also use Diane’s workflow (Topaz DeNoise followed by Topaz AI Sharpen on different layers in PS). But I almost always create a mask and selectively mask out parts that don’t need noise reduction. The sky almost always has some noise especially if it has been or will be darkened; often I greatly reduce or completely block out the noise redution on certain areas of the land. I also always create a mask on the sharpened layer and selectively refine the intensity in different areas. If the final layer looks good to me I don’t make any sharpening adjustments for posting on the web. If I make a print, I use Lightroom’s Print Module to apply the output sharpening. By the way, I don’t think these Topaz products are essential; they just make it simpler. Unless you are going for museum quality perfection, the sharpening and noise reduction you can get in LR and Photoshop are just fine. I only started using these Topaz plug ins a couple of months ago. If you use Denoise, the image you get looks better than reducing noise in PS or LR but that is because the plug in adds sharpening. In AI Sharpening, one of the choices “Stabilize” is similiar to “Shake Reduction” in PS and I think it does do a slightly better job than PS.

@Tony_Siciliano Interesting thoughts, i appreciate your input…do you also remove all sharpening while working in DeNoise AI? I assume so because you would have more control to mask each of them separately.

Yes, I do reduce all sharpening in DeNoise.

Thats what I figured, thank you for sharing!

One other sharpening workflow thing: sharpening almost always creates a halo between blue sky and the land that has to be dealt with. I either use a small soft black brush and trace the outline of the sky/land interface on a mask, or I use luminosity masks or another kind of selection to choose the sky, then expand it by 2 pixels (in PS), and mask out the entire sky.

Good to know. I have tried a method of using a healing brush and setting the blend mode to darker color and then painting along the halo to remove it. Seems to work pretty well.

Side note…do you remove noise suppression from Topaz Sharpen AI?

I enlarge to 200% and then move the Remove Noise Slider up and down and keep it where it looks best to my eye.

I adjust for shadows and highlights in Lightroom first and then apply Topaz DeNoise before exporting to PS. The sharpening feature in DeNoise is quite heavy handed. I set sharpening back quite a bit (2 to 3 %) and use Nik sharpening for RAW filesas one of the first steps in PS. …Jim

Thanks @Jim_Zablotny , it did look pretty strong to my eye as well. I will have to check out the Nik pre sharpening. I have it but haven’t messed with it much.