Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Using Manual Mode in Nik Software Dfine

One of the members of the Photography club I belong to asked a questioned about Nik Software’s Dfine versus Topaz Labs Denoise for which I felt the solution was using Nik Software’s Dfine in manual mode (something I discuss in my Noise Reduction Series).

To respond to him properly required a complex response complete with pictures, so I decided I’d just do a blog article for the response so others might be able to benefit from this as well. Essentially I’ll demonstrate how to use manual mode in Dfine to get better results than you’ll get by default in Dfine and many other noise reduction products.

Automatic Method – The Default

To begin with, when you use Dfine you probably do like most people out there and just run it and get this dialog:

Automatic Profile Applied – The Default Behavior

Automatic method is very good and most of the time will give you the results you want with no further action required.However, if you are unhappy with the results, then try Manual Mode.

Manual Method – Step by Step

Step 1 is to change the method from Automatic to Manual as shown here:

Change the Method to Manual

You’ll notice that there are rectangles in various places on the Lego guy, the glass and the stand disc. These are the measure points that Dfine detected automatically.

Step 2 is to click the Add Rectangle tool and draw rectangles around the areas where the automatic noise reduction didn’t work very well. What you are doing here is telling Dfine to include sample from those areas when doing the noise reduction which means that it will be more aggressive next time it removes noise (which is now a manual operation discussed later).

Click the Add Rectangle Tool

Here’s examples of two places I did additional measurements on – mouse in and out of the image to see the locations on the top and between the Lego characters legs:

Mouse over to see measure point near head, mouse out to see measure point between legs
Drag new rectangles over areas not handled very well

Step 3 is when you click Measure Noise so that the noise reduction is now applied to the areas where you drew rectangles.

Click Measure Noise to reapply noise
reduction to the image with your new
measure points

You should now see better (or at least more aggressive) noise reduction than you did the first time. This may be too much noise reduction so you may need experiment around with this to get the best results (or use a layer mask/brush feature to paint in the noise reduction you do and don’t want).

Other Helpful Tips

Since we are creatures of habit and many don’t explore beyond those first days with a product, I’d like to take this change to remind you of a couple other neat “hidden” features of Dfine over competing products.

Color Ranges

The first is Color Ranges where you can apply or suppress noise reduction based on color samples you select as shown here:

Color Ranges

In this example if I wanted to prevent noise reduction occurring on his shirt logo then I’d just sample that red and choose 0 for Contrast Noise and/or Color Noise.

Edge Preservation

One problem with noise reduction is that it can cause edges to get soft, especially in hair. To combat this issue, yet still keep some noise reduction you can experiment with the Edge Preservation slider to see if it helps.

It isn’t entirely necessary if you have Sharpener Pro and will be sharpening your image anyway, but some may prefer to do this step here – especially Lightroom users.


While Imagenomic Noiseware won my Noise Reduction Series because of its superior noise reduction with edge preservation for its default scenarios, Dfine was only a point behind and offers some powerful tools like those shown here and of course the wonderful U-Point controls to turn noise reduction on/off (especially useful for hair, textured walls, etc…) that in skilled hands can offer unmatched results that reduce noise and maintain image detail.

I highly recommend this product and use it quite often because of its flexibility, which is why it is at the #1 spot in my What Plug-ins Should I Buy? article.

Special Offer

Check out this page for some special offers for the products mentioned here that are only available during the holidays:

and visit my Discount Coupon Code page for specials on a wide variety of products – many of which aren’t available any where else on the web!


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