There’s plenty of great applications and plugins out there that will help you reduce noise in your images. Some are standalone apps while others are plugins. But there’s a lot you can do straight from within Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Lightroom without all that.
This video from Blake Rudis at F64 Academy talks us through the noise reduction features in ACR. As it uses the same raw engine as Lightroom, the same settings and techniques work the same way there, too. So, if you haven’t really dived into it before, or you’re relying on 3rd party apps, here’s how it all works.
I used to use Noise Ninja way back when, because the Nikon D100 was pretty useless if you took it out of ISO200. These days, though, I find noise much quicker to deal with straight from within ACR than using 3rd party apps or plugins.
The key is understanding how the different settings in noise reduction work. And that there are two types of noise. Luminance (brightness) noise, and colour noise.
The Luminance slider attempts to remove noise by evening out the brightness levels of pixels relative to their neighbours. While this can help to even out large flat areas, it does tend to reduce edge detail and make the image appear soft.
This is where the Luminance Detail slider directly below it comes in. It attempts to bring back some of that edge detail. It’s a fine balancing act between the two that’s largely going to be based on how detailed your scene is, and personal taste.
The Luminance Contrast slider might not initially appear to do much at all. It does, but it’s extremely subtle. It also attempts to add back some of the contrast lost due to the luminance noise reduction. As I said, it’s very subtle, but it can assist in bringing back just a little more of that detail.
The next three sliders deal with the colour noise. This is the majority of the noise I tend to have to clean up in my own images when I shoot in lower light. The Color slider works in a similar way to the Luminance slider. Except, instead of affecting the brightness, it adjusts the colour. Essentially, it dials back the spots of bright colour from pixels to make them more closely resemble the surrounding areas.
As you can see in the image above, it doesn’t always take a lot to eliminate it. Blake only took the slider up to 22, and the colour noise is practically gone. Like the Luminance Detail slider, the Color Detail slider helps to bring back colour information that might’ve been lost. If you’re photographing something that’s supposed to be multicoloured, this can help to bring that back.
The Color Smoothness slider works sort of like a colour blur. If there’s a lot of coloured noise, it might mean that you’ll never get the original colour back in some parts. So, the Color Smoothness slider helps to pull colour from surrounding areas a little further out to produce a more even tone.
Again, the colour sliders are a balancing act, because they can often reduce overall saturation. So it will come down to how much reduction you really need vs personal taste, again.
If you’re an ACR or Lightroom user, then learning the built in noise reduction tools can save a lot of time. You don’t have to fire up 3rd party plugins, or save out to a new file, run noise reduction, then bring it back into Photoshop. No messing around.
Do you still use 3rd party noise reduction software on your photos?