Adobe Denoise for drone photography

The shadow problem

Capturing a high-contrast landscape photography scene is technically challenging. Despite huge advances in camera technology, photographing towards the sun often forces a photographer to expose for the highlights in the image, resulting in very dark shadows. The aerial landscape photograph above demonstrates this perfectly.

There are typically 3 ways to address this problem, which may be used singularly or in combination:

  • Graduated neutral density filters will be attached to the lens and used to darken the sky when the photograph is captured. This is not practical for drones as they cannot be repositioned in the air.
  • HDR (a bracketed image sequence) will be used to capture a range of exposures which are then merged in post-processing. This sequence will typically capture properly exposed highlights and shadows. Movement within the landscape between frames (e.g. waves) can create strange artifacts in the resulting image.
  • Recovery of shadows from a single RAW file using software during post-processing. Brightening shadows often creates a lot of noise and false colours in the image, severely degrading quality.

For aerial landscape photography using a drone, I have found the HDR method to provide the best image quality. 99% of the time I capture a 5 shot bracketed sequence and ‘merge to HDR’ in Lightroom. This creates a new RAW (DNG) file with great shadow and highlight detail. As mentioned above, this can sometimes result in strange artifacts in images (multiple crests on waves is common) and all those files use a lot of storage. The problem is exacerbated by the inherent image quality limitations associated with drones – small sensors produce a lot of noise, even in correctly exposed parts of an image. The new Adobe AI Denoise tool may be the solution many aerial landscape photographers have been waiting for.

Adobe Lightroom/Camera RAW AI Denoise

Adobe AI Denoise for drone landscape photography

Adobe Denoise is found within the Enhance Image interface within Adobe Lightroom and Camera RAW. The most straightforward way to access this tool is to right-click on a RAW file within either photograph and choose Enhance Image from the drop-down menu. The default setting is 50% and I have not so far found any need to deviate from this. You can of course tweak this according to your own tastes. RAW Details, another Adobe tool is applied automatically when using Adobe Denoise.

Comparison of images before and after using Adobe Denoise

Adobe AI Denoise for drone landscape photography
Adobe AI Denoise for drone landscape photography
Adobe AI Denoise for drone landscape photography
Adobe AI Denoise for drone landscape photography

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