Last updated on June 15, 2022
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Unlike the other modules in the Nik Collection, Dfine 2 is the only one designed to deal with a particular problem: digital noise. The module handles both contrast noise and color noise, letting you automatically or manually analyze your images, which you can fix globally or selectively, using Control Points or color ranges.

Dfine 2 in noise analysis mode.
Image: Gilles Theophile
Dfine 2 in noise reduction mode.

Dfine 2 also offers specific noise correction brushes for use in Adobe Photoshop. For more information, see Selective Tool 2, Meta-presets and the Brush tool, in the Working with Adobe Photoshop chapter.

For optimal use of Dfine 2 and to avoid accumulating noise corrections which could affect the details of your image, we advise you to deactivate the noise reduction functions both on your camera and in the host software.

Settings and help

Use the Dfine 2 settings to define your preference for the interface, noise analysis profiles and to access the online user guide.

After launching Dfine, click on the Settings button in the lower left corner. The floating window offers you the following options:

* Changes take effect when you next open Dfine 2.

For each of the default display options, if you select Use last setting, the setting from the previous session will be automatically applied.

To save your options, click OK, otherwise click Cancel.

Help

To access the online help links, you can go to the Help menu or click on the Help button at the bottom left (Internet connection required):

Interface

Generally speaking, all the components of the Nik Collection suite share the same interface, except for a few details and elements. Dfine 2 comprises 5 distinct elements:

  1. The upper toolbar
  2. The image display area
  3. The right panel
  4. The lower toolbar
The four elements of the Dfine 2 interface.

You can find information and details about the Open and Last Modified menus on the Standalone mode page in the Workflow chapter.

The upper toolbar

The upper toolbar contains the tools and commands related to the display of the image and side panels.

The upper toolbar
  1. Single image display: Normal image display without separation and comparison.
  2. Split preview: Divides the image in two with a vertical red line that you can move left or right, or toggle to horizontal mode by clicking the arrow at the top of the line, with the option of also moving the red line up and down. The left half (or upper half) represents the image as it was opened in the plugin, the right half (or lower half) represents the processed and corrected image. You can also zoom in and out and move around the image.
  3. Side-by-side preview: The version before processing is displayed on the left, the version after processing is displayed on the right. You can also display the two versions of the image one above the other by clicking on the button in between. You can also zoom and move synchronously in the two images, either with the Navigator or with the Hand tool, by pressing the spacebar.
  4. Preview: by checking/unchecking this box, you alternate the display of the image with and without the noise corrections. The preview works with all the display modes described below.
  5. Modes*: Dfine 2 offers several image display modes which, by removing color information, let you analyze and view the noise, but also the effect of corrections (best appreciated when using the comparison display modes):
    • RGB: normal display of the image and its three channels — Red, Green, and Blue.
    • Red, Green, Blue: displays the image without colors in one of these channels.
    • Luminance: displays the brightness/contrast noise (grainy, comparable to grains of salt).
    • Chrominance: displays color noise (clusters of colored pixels).
    • Contrast Noise mask: displays the contrast noise correction mask of a Control Point or color range (white mask: maximum correction; black mask: no correction; gray mask: correction more or less intense depending on the gray density).
    • Color Noise Mask: Displays the color noise correction mask of a Control Point or color range (white mask: maximum correction; black mask: no correction; gray mask: more or less correction depending on the density of the gray).
  6. Select: lets you make a rectangular selection within the image—for example, to link together several Control Points or noise measurement rectangles.
  7. Zoom: lets you enlarge the image by clicking successively up to 100%, then to 300%: here the magnifying glass contains a “+”. To zoom out, press the Alt (PC)/Option (Mac) key and the magnifying Loupe will show a “-“. The magnification value is displayed in the upper right corner of the image.
  8. Pan (or Hand) tool: lets you navigate and move around in the image after zooming.
  9. Change background color: Click the button successively to change the background from medium gray to white, black, and back to medium gray. This lets you adapt the screen to the brightness of the image displayed (for example, you can darken the background to avoid too strong a contrast between a dark image and the interface).
* Examples of display modes: Blue channel/Chrominance/Contrast noise mask.

The image display area

This is where the image is displayed, on a medium gray background (which you can change by clicking the Change Background Color button in the upper toolbar).

At the bottom right, below the image, you will find the following information:

  1. File name and extension.
  2. Size in megapixels
  3. ISO sensitivity
  4. Camera used

The right panel

The right panel displays the Noise Reduction section, including noise analysis and correction tools (see the page on Measuring and Reducing Noise), as well as the Loupe and Navigator combined.

  1. Magnifying Loupe: active when the image is displayed normally:
    • The red line separates the preview before correction (left) and after correction (right).
    • You can move all around in the preview by holding down the mouse button.
    • You can lock the loupe at any point in the image by activating the pin and placing it in the image (you can still move around by hand).
  1. Navigator: when you zoom in, the Navigator replaces the Loupe and displays the entire image. You can move around the image using the red rectangle.

The lower toolbar

The lower toolbar includes access to help, plugin settings, and save functions:

  1. Help* takes you to the online user guide.
  2. Settings*: opens the plugin options window.
  3. Previous/Next: lets you switch between images if you have opened more than one in the same session, and indicates the number of images.
  4. Save & resume editing**: activates reversible workflow. The “?” button opens a page with information about this workflow (internet connection required).
  5. Cancel: cancels the current processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is not modified.
  6. Save: saves the processing and corrections and closes the plugin. The image in the host application is modified.

* For more information, see the Settings and Help page for Dfine 2.
** Follow the link for more information about the Nik Collection’s <b xhtml:href=”https://userguides.dxo.com/nikcollection/fr/flux-de-travail/#flux-de-travail-non-destructif”><a hqid=”2781387″ href=”#”>non-destructive workflow</b>.

Keyboard shortcuts

ActionWindowsMacintosh
Select ToolAA
Zoom ToolZZ
Zoom outSelect Zoom Tool, hold Alt and click in the imageSelect Zoom Tool, hold Option and click in the image
Zoom outCtrl + “-“Cmd + “-“
Zoom inCtrl + “+”Cmd + “+”
FitCtrl + 0Cmd + 0
Zoom to 100%Ctrl + Alt + 0Cmd + Alt + 0
Pan ToolH or SpacebarH or Spacebar
Apply FilterEnterEnter
Cancel FilterEscEsc
Delete Selected ItemBackspaceDel

Measuring and reducing noise

There are 2 steps in the Dfine 2 process: the automatic measurement of noise, then processing of the noise itself, in a global or selective way (the latter involving either control points or color ranges).

IMPORTANT: For optimal use of Dfine 2, and to avoid cumulative noise processing, disable noise correction in your camera, and most importantly, in your host application.

Dfine 2 also offers specific noise correction brushes for use in Adobe Photoshop. For more information, see Selective Tool 2, Meta-presets and the Brush tool, in the Working with Adobe Photoshop chapter.

Measuring noise

As soon as you open your image, Dfine 2 will analyze it and place measurement rectangles in the image. A progress bar, in the right panel, indicates that measurement is in progress, which can take several seconds.

Once the analysis is finished, the message Auto Profile Applied is displayed in green in the progress bar (1), and the image displays analysis rectangles or tiles, placed in several locations by Dfine 2 (2-5).

Noise Reduction panel

In measurement mode, the Noise Reduction panel consists of the following parts:

  1. Mode selector: Measure or Reduce.
  2. Method selector: Automatic or Manual.
  3. Add Rectangle: lets you draw analysis rectangles (visible in the Manual method section).
  4. Measure Noise: click to restart an analysis after reinitialization or switching to manual mode.
  5. Noise analysis progress bar
  6. Reset: lets you cancel the noise analysis (click on Measure noise to restart an analysis).
  7. Load: used to load and apply noise reduction profiles.
  8. Save: used to create noise reduction profiles.

Analysis rectangles

You can modify the analysis rectangles as you wish, which means a switch to the Manual method:

  1. Click on a rectangle to select it (the white dotted rectangle becomes red and white).
  2. Use the mouse to move the rectangle where you want in the image.
  3. Use the corner handles to change the size of the rectangle.
  4. Duplicate a rectangle by clicking with the Alt/Option key held down (the pointer will show a “+” sign) then drag the mouse to detach and move the duplicated rectangle.
  5. To delete a rectangle, click on it to activate it, then press the Delete key on your keyboard.

Any action or modification on an analysis rectangle generates the message “Profile must be updated” in the progress bar. In this case, click on the Measure Noise button to restart an analysis.

You can also draw your own rectangles: in Manual mode, click on the Add a Rectangle button, draw in the image*, then redo an analysis by clicking on Measure noise. You can draw as many measurement rectangles as you want.

Draw your rectangles on flat areas or in areas of the image with no details.

Saving and loading a profile

Although the automatic measurement and correction methods are ideal, Dfine 2 lets you save them as profiles that you can assign to a particular camera model and ISO.

  1. To do so, click on Save after measuring.
  2. The first time you use Dfine 2, a dialog box prompts you to create a folder in which to place your profiles. In the next dialog box, a Profiles folder is suggested but you can change this as you wish. You can also create sub-folders for each of your devices, for example.
  3. The profile is automatically named with the camera model and sensitivity, retrieved in the EXIF metadata of the image, as well as the date of creation of the profile. Of course, you can change the suggested name.
  4. Click Save to save the profile.

To load and apply a profile:

  1. Click the Load button, which opens a list of your latest profiles
  2. Select a profile from the menu.
  3. The profile is applied, and the name of the profile appears in green in the progress bar field.
  4. If your profile is not visible among the choices in the drop-down menu, click Browse to locate your profile via a system dialog box.

Overall noise reduction

To access the noise reduction tools, click the Reduce button. You will find two sliders that let you act globally, useful if you want to adjust or resume the automatic correction:

  1. Contrast Noise: Set to 100% by default, this slider acts on the noise that appears as grain reminiscent of analog film. Beware of too many advanced corrections which will not only excessively smooth the image, but also affect the micro details. You need to find a balance between acceptable noise presence and preservation of detail.
  2. Color Noise: Also set to 100% by default, this affects noise that is visible as colored pixels – green and magenta – and is particularly noticeable in dark areas or flat areas.

Reducing noise with control points

Applying and using control points

While automatic correction generally works well for most images, the real advantage of Dfine 2 is its ability to process noise with great precision, using the control points presented here, or using the color ranges discussed in the next paragraph. In either case, you can correct noise in defined areas of the image, such as smoothing out noise visible in the sky, while protecting detail elements from excessive smoothing.

  1. In the Reduce section, under the Method menu, select Control Points.
  2. Click on the “+” button.
  3. Click in the image to place a Control Point on the area to be treated.
  4. Use the first slider to adjust the radius of action of the Control Point.
  5. Correct the contrast and/or color noise locally using the sliders (set to 100% by default).

Using and grouping several Control Points

To correct a large area of the image, such as a sky, set additional Control Points and repeat the steps in the section above. You can also link the control points by activating the Select tool (A key), then dragging a rectangle over multiple control points. In this case, you can simply move one slider and the correction will be applied in the same way to all the others.

Protecting using a negative control point

You can also protect part of the image from noise reduction using negative control points (which you can also group together):

  1. In the Reduce panel, click the “-” (minus sign) button.
  2. Click in the image to place the Protection Control Point.
  3. Adjust the radius to cover the area to be protected.
  4. The sliders are set to 0 (no correction).

Managing Control Points

The Control Points list enables the following operations:

  1. Temporarily deactivate a Control Point: click the checkbox to the left.
  2. The % values indicate the amount of correction applied by each of the two Control Point sliders (Contrast Noise on the left, Color Noise on the right).

Duplicate Control Point

There are two ways you can duplicate a Control Point:

  1. In the list of Control Points, click on the Control Point you want to duplicate, then click on Duplicate.
  2. Move the mouse over the control point you want duplicate in the image while pressing the Alt/Option key. The mouse pointer will change to a “+” sign: click and hold on the Control Point, then drag the duplicate to where you want it.

Delete Control Point

To delete one or several Control Points:

  1. In the list, click on a Control Point to select it. To select the entire list or contiguous Control Points, click on the first Control Point and then click on the last Control Point with the Shift key. To select several Control Points that are not adjacent to each other, click on them while holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key. Then click the Delete button.
  2. In the image, click on the Control Point you want to delete, then delete it using the Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard.
  3. To delete several Control Points, activate the Select tool (A key) then drag a rectangle over the Control Points you want to delete. Click on Delete or on the Backspace key, then confirm your choice in the pop-up dialog box (you can deactivate this by checking Do not show again).

You can use the specific display modes when processing noise, in particular the monochrome masks (white: maximum application of noise reduction, black: no noise reduction), as well as the Preview or the Loupe checkbox at the bottom right.

It can be helpful to zoom into the image to judge the noise reduction.

Reducing noise with color ranges

Another method of noise reduction is color-dependent: select Color Ranges from the Method menu. By default, Dfine 2 offers you three ranges: red, orange, and blue, represented by tiles accompanied by an eyedropper, which let you select colors directly in the image:

  1. Click on an eyedropper to activate it.
  2. Place it in the image, then click.
  3. The corresponding color is sampled and indicated in the small tile.
  4. Adjust the Contrast Noise and/or Color Noise sliders (set to 100% by default).
  5. For another color, click on another eyedropper and repeat the previous steps.

To add a range of colors, click on the “+” button below the list, which will display the tile (in gray), the eyedropper, and associated sliders. You can add as many ranges as you wish, and you can remove them individually by clicking on their “-” (minus sign) button.

Note that the Protection Control Points can be combined with color range correction.

Advanced tools

When you click on the small More arrow under the tools, a number of additional options are revealed. These tools are used to deal with special problems inherent to noise:

  1. Edge Preservation: lets you preserve the sharpness of contours, in conjunction with contrast noise reduction algorithms, to prevent excessive smoothing. Check the box to activate the tool, and then use the slider (set to 50% by default) to sharpen (to the right) or soften (to the left) the edges.
  2. JPEG Artifact Reduction: JPEG compression tends to amplify noise reduction artifacts, which take the form of horizontal and vertical structures at the pixel level. Checking this box activates algorithms that attenuate the presence of such artifacts.
  3. Debanding: when activated, this tool is used to attenuate a form of noise from the camera’s sensor, called banding. This is seen in flat, dark or solid areas of the image, either with a horizontal or vertical banding effect. Check the box, click Horizontal or Vertical and, if necessary, change the slider setting (to 100% by default).

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