Last week, I wrote about the definition and causes of digital noise on camera.
This week, it’s time to talk about reducing noise in post processing if we’re not able to reduce it sufficiently before we take the photo.
One key point to keep in mind from last week’s article is that all photos have some amount of noise in them. This noise can be magnified by shooting at high ISOs. It’s also more noticeable when you don’t have a lot of light hitting your sensor. The two often go hand in hand. The more light that hits your sensor, the cleaner your image is going to be. That is one reason why many people over expose on camera and bring down the exposure in Lightroom or ACR.
Ok, but what if you aren’t able to avoid noise in your images? What should you do to reduce it?
First off, know that reducing noise will soften your image and reduce sharpness. You will have to look for a balance between a clean image and a sharp image. This is yet another reason to get it right on camera.
This article will give you 4 options for removing noise:
- Lightroom’s global noise reduction tools
- Lightroom’s adjustment brush for spot noise reduction
- Adobe Camera Raw within Elements
- The Reduce Noise filter within Elements
The image below was taken when I met Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions for the first time over the summer. Isn’t that crazy? I’ve worked with her since 2009 and we just met. But I digress.
What’s wrong with the image? First off, my husband took it. That meant that I had to put the camera on the dreaded Auto Mode. Second off, the ISO is 6400. Even on a 5DMii, you’re still going to see noise in some areas, like skin and my black shirt. Finally, the image is just a tad underexposed.
According to the very smart people at Luminous Landscape, more noise is visible in the middle to low end of your histogram. So if you can expose your image to place most of the pixels in the top half of your histogram, your image will be cleaner, even when you bring down the exposure in post processing. That’s why I’d prefer to overexpose my images (just not so much that I’m blowing out the highlights), rather than to underexpose them.
Remove Noise in Lightroom
What did I do to get from Before to After? First off, I increased the exposure and vibrance in Lightroom. But most importantly, I removed noise in LR. You can see close ups of the Before and After, plus my LR NR settings below.
You can see that my hair looks a bit oversharpened on the zoom in of the after photo above – there are some artifacts or haloing visible. However, this isn’t a great photo and I’m certainly not going to print it at a large size. For that reason, the sharpening is an acceptable offset to the softening created by the Noise Reduction.