How to use Topaz Photo AI with Lightroom RAW Files

Let us show you the correct way to open a RAW file in Topaz Photo AI (yes, there is a wrong way!)

November 26, 2023

Topaz Photo AI is the latest piece of software from the Topaz Labs. It is the amalgamation of their ‘old’ noise reduction, sharpening and resizing plugins into a single application.

If you work with raw files in Lightroom there are multiple ways to send a photo to Photo AI for processing. The method described below is the least intuitive way, but will allow you to get the highest quality results.

Table of Contents

Workflow Considerations

Before we get into the ‘how’, I first need to address the ‘when’.

The workflow I describe below should be done at the very start of your editing process. When you send a raw file directly to Photo AI, none of the edits you make to your original raw file in Lightroom will be applied (although they can be copied later if you’ve already done work on them).

You will be basically creating a brand new file in Topaz Photo AI that you will then edit in Lightroom. If you make changes to your original raw file before sending them to Photo AI, you won’t see any of those changes in your new file.

The basic workflow breakdown is as follows:

  1. Import your original raw files into Lightroom
  2. Send the original raw file from Lightroom to Photo AI
  3. Photo AI creates a new linear raw file with noise reduction, sharpening and other adjustments applied and sends it back to Lightroom (your original raw file is untouched).
  4. You edit the new raw file as you normally would

In order to have Topaz Photo AI process the raw file directly, you will need to use a less intuitive method than you might be used to:

Make sure you’ve selected the photo (or photos) you want to process, then go to the File -> Plugin Extras -> Process with Topaz Photo AI

screenshot showing how to open Photo AI from Lightroom
Plugin extras menu in Lightroom Classic

This will open the raw file directly in Photo AI instead of creating a tiff version and sending that across. This has the advantage of Photo AI being able to work on the raw image data, resulting in higher quality output.

You can confirm that Photo AI is using raw data by looking towards to top of the settings panel, as per the screenshot below:

screenshot showing that Photo AI is using raw data
Indication that Photo AI is using a RAW file

Getting the file back into Lightroom

Once you’ve adjusted the settings in Photo AI to your liking, you can then process the images and send them back into Lightroom by clicking on the ‘send image to Lightroom’ button in the bottom right of the screen.

screenshot showing the send back to Lightroom button in Photo AI
Send the file back to Lightroom Classic

You will then be presented with a dialogue box showing the progress of your images. As with all AI processing applications, how long this takes will depend on your PC hardware, the resolution of your images and the settings you’re using in Photo AI.

screenshot showing Photo AI processing the images
Images being processed by Photo AI

You might notice that Photo AI is sending .dng files back to Lightroom. These files are what is known as a ‘linear raw’ file. These files will have been converted to rgb images by Photo AI, but will still have most of the flexibility of a raw file for further manipulation in Lightroom.

Once the files have finished processing they will appear in Lightroom along side the original raw files. You are now free to edit them as you would any other photo.

.dng files appear alongside the original raw files

Sending raw files to Photo AI the ‘wrong’ way

So, what is the ‘wrong’ way to send a file to Photo AI I hear you ask?

If you right-click on a file in Lightroom you can choose Edit In -> Topaz Photo AI. Lightroom will then create a .tiff file from you raw file and send that to Photo AI.

Sending a tiff file to Topaz Photo AI

While this method isn’t ‘wrong’ per say – it will mean that all of your Lightroom settings will be baked into the tiff file before it is sent across to Photo AI and Photo AI won’t be able to work directly on raw data. This will usually mean the results won’t be as good as if you had used the method described in this article.