The Digital Photo Guy

Monday Morning Tip – 11/16/09

by on Nov.15, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Webcast, Workshops

Another Video MMT

Good morning! This week is another VMMT (Video Monday Morning Tip). This time I review the noise reduction capability of Topaz Labs Adjust 3 and compare it against my old favorite, Neat Image. I’ve been using Neat Image for about 5 years and the company has been great about keeping the product updated. But, bottom line, I believe they’ve wrung out about all the performance that can be gotten from their wavelet-packet noise reduction algorithms. Topaz Labs claims their newer design is better than wavelet analysis.

(If you’re a “bottom line” sort and just want the results, the VMMT is in the Tips & News section)

Anyone who uses noise reduction (NR) software knows that a basic trade-off is loss of details. This is seen in portraits where skin looses texture and appears “plastic” when NR is applied with a heavy hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good test portrait but I used an otherwise very noisy photo.

After I produced today’s VMMT, I remembered these photos from the Barona Indian Powwow. These photos are good examples of bad examples and work well for NR testing. The first two are resized, compressed jpegs of the entire photo while the third is a portion of the image to better show NR details. Can you tell which is which? A major advantage of Topaz Adjust is that both NR and sharpening can be performed inside one plug-in.

Noise Image v6   Topaz Adjust 3

100% Crop, A-B Comparison

Topaz Labs intrigued me because their proprietary algorithms are developed in-house which makes sense as the founder, Dr. Albert Yang, is a DSP (digital signal processor) expert. Other programs license their algorithms from developers, wrapping their own user interface and features around it.

Not really understanding a lot about wavelet noise reduction (I was lost at Fast Fourier Transfoms), I wanted to see the real-life advantage of Topaz’s new algorithms. I compared NeatImage v6.0 against Adjust 3 and found significant differences.

Photoshop Elements Webinar a Huge Success

On Saturday, November 14, from 9AM PST, 20 students from HI, CA, MN, OH, TN, TX, FL and CT joined Rob Sheppard for a 4-hour webinar, Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers. Rob’s easy going, yet passionate, style was apparent across the web. Combined with the ability to watch “over his shoulder” and ask questions as Rob explained his workflow, students left with a much better grasp of the power, flexibility and potential of Photoshop Elements.

The class ranged from absolute novices to seasoned users. Yet, Rob was able to reach everyone at their own level. I’ll be uploading a short clip of the session in the near future.

Although a 4 hour webinar is at the outer limits of endurance, only one person had to leave early for previous commitments. In the future, we’ll limit webinars to 3 hours or schedule them over multiple days. In fact, we’ve already started planning a follow-up class on Lightroom 3 for Digital Photographers after LR3 (currently in beta) is released. Rob firmly believes Adobe PSE and LR are the best combination for digital photographers and I’m agree after listening to his reasoning.

Rob is among the top nature photographers in the US and has been published in many publications including the gold standard of nature photography, National Geographic. The reason Rob was asked to teach this class is his commitment to teaching which led to his induction as a NANPA Fellow in 2009. The North American Nature Photography Association is the premiere nature photography organization in the US. As a NANPA Fellow, Rob is in the company of nature photography greats such as Galen Rowell (deceased), George Lepp and Frans Lanting.

Although everyone received a gift just for registering, four students went away with extra big smiles after winning the great door prizes. Topaz Labs donated a full Bundle worth $179 and BlackRapid gave away one of their dramatically new and efficient camera straps. A favorite was the Photoshop World workbook (all 800 pages) of almost every session from PSW 2009 in Las Vegas. I didn’t realize how much it weighed (5 pounds) until I started to pack it for shipment.

For those who want to buy Topaz Labs bundle, they have offered readers of this blog an additional 15% discount off their already ridiculously low price. When ordering off their site, use the code “digitalphotoguy” (without quotes).

Wild Animal Park Photoshoot – December 5

The San Diego WAP series is back with the arrival of cooler weather. The first WAP Photoshoot is the first weekend of December. To register, click here and use PayPal. Remember, you don’t need a PayPal account, just use your regular credit card, it’s easy-peasy.

New Introductory Video

I was told that people want to see a photo or video of me so I placed a video on the Welcome box (top right of page). Some people have reported that the video doesn’t play all the way through but I can’t duplicate the problem on my computers. If you have a problem, pleaselet me know. In the meantime, I’m planning to reshoot the video but it’ll have to wait a few weeks.

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3 Comments for this entry

  • Dick

    Great analogy, a high performance version of Lightroom, makes sense. Thanks

  • Lee

    Hi Dick,
    Great observation and good question. Since I know you race your Porsche, let me couch it in those terms.

    Topaz Labs produces plug-ins which are like perfomance chips for your Porsche. Porsche engineers probably take a safer, more conservative design path while you may want more horsepower, torque and taller gears. You get that by replacing the ECM chip, changing gear ratios and otherwise “tweaking” your car.

    Some companies produce Actions. These are simply automated processes using tools already built into PS, PSE or LR. Actions can’t do any more than you can but they’re faster and someone has already figured out the step-by-step process.

    Plug-ins generally use their own algorithms and technologies so they’re really stand-alone programs that have the necessary connections into PS, PSE or LR.

    I might write a more in-depth explanation for a future MMT. Thanks for asking.

  • Dick

    Hi Lee, after viewing the Topaz Labs link that you provided, it doesn’t seem to me that it would be any different than Adobe Lightroom, which I have/use. Is it & how does it differ?


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