Here’s a clever way to bring out important details in many photos without also increasing noise.

Noise and detail are constantly at war in digital photos. Normally, enhancing important details in your photos also makes image noise shoot up. Try to reduce the amount of noise in your photo and, poof – there goes all your detail as well. You’ve probably run into this problem unless you somehow always capture perfect photos at ISO100.

The best solution so far has been to use specialized noise reduction software on the photo before making any more adjustments. This approach always has a trade-off, though – either you let some noise get through, or you accept that you’re definitely going to lose some details in your image.

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Topaz Detail can help solve this problem if we remember a simple fact: noise is always stronger in the darker parts of your image. Keeping this in mind, the newest version of Topaz Detail gives you the ability to enhance highlight and shadow details separately.

The basic idea, then, is to use Detail to only enhance details in the highlights and don’t do anything to the shadows. To do this, either select one of the presets in the Highlight Detail collection or select the Highlights radio button in the Adjustments panel.

Click for a larger view of the results below. Notice the enhanced detail but high noise levels in the second image, and how the third image is a dramatic improvement using this technique:

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Although this trick won’t work on every image, it’s worth keeping in mind when you want to bring out those fine details in the highlights without making a noisy mess.

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