If you use Adobe Camera Raw in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop, you probably take advantage of Camera Raw’s noise reduction capabilities. Camera Raw handles getting rid of an reducing noise like a champ. Inside the Detail panel of this application, there are six sliders that focus on two aspects of noise reduction; luminance and color. I talked about all this in one of my previous posts. If you’d like to look at that, please follow the link below.
The way I work is like this; I open an image into Camera Raw and make my edits, which most likely include some sort of sharpening or noise reduction. When I’m finished doing as much as I can do there, I bring the photo into Photoshop to resize it, do any necessary masking, touching up and cropping. Sometimes, because of the cropping and resizing, I take a second look at the photo’s sharpening and noise reduction. While the effort I made in Camera Raw is great, Photoshop can oftentimes make an image look even better.
In today’s post, I’m going to quickly introduce you to the Noise Reduction filter in Adobe Photoshop. I’ll use a sample image to demonstrate how to open this particular filter, what each aspect of the Reduce Noise panel means and how things look after I make a few changes. By the time you’re finished reading this post, you should feel comfortable enough to practice reducing noise in some of your own photos.
The Starting Image
To demonstrate what I need to, I’ll use the picture below. I tried to find something that had a bit of existing noise to it. Since this was taken in relatively low light, it certainly isn’t perfect, which will be good for my uses.
In general, photos that were taken in good lighting have minimal noise to them. It’s when you get inside that things go awry.
Preparing the Photo
To begin, I’ll launch the photo into Photoshop. Then, I’ll head over to the Layers panel, right click on the only layer there and select the Convert To Smart Object menu item.
The reasons I’m doing this are clear. To find out why, please read the following posts:
Now that the image is all set up to have a filter applied to it, I can move forward.
Opening the Reduce Noise Panel
To open this panel (or window – whatever you want to call it), head up to the Filter menu at the top of Photoshop. Click that and then roll over Noise and then click on Reduce Noise.
Once you do this, the Reduce Noise editor (we’ll call it that from now on) will appear.
Working in the Reduce Noise Editor
Upon launching this editor, some basic settings will automatically be applied. If you were to hit the OK button, those settings to alter the photo. Whether or not that’s good would be up to you. Personally, I like to customize things myself to make sure the image looks as good as it possibly can.
In this section, I’ll cover most of the aspects of this editor, just like I did in the post I wrote about reducing noise in Camera Raw. Some items of both applications are very similar, so if you read that one, you’ll probably have a good handle on this one as well.
The very first thing I want to do after entering this editor is to find some good noise to work on. To do this, I’ll use the preview box that sits to the left of the editor. I’ll click and drag around the image until I find an area that clearly shows the noise in the photo. Then, if necessary, I’ll shrink or magnify the preview by clicking on either of the two magnifying glass icons.
Next, I’ll move over to the right column of the editor. Once there, if I want to see a preview of my changes (which I do), I’ll check off the Preview box. After that, I’ll choose which mode I want to keep the editor in. For the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with Basic. In another post down the road, I’ll show you how you can clean up noise in your photos via the red, blue and green channels. Oftentimes, one specific color channel will be the noisiest of the three and by limiting your editing to that one channel, you’ll keep any changes you make somewhat limited and less destructive. For now though, I’ll keep this setting on Basic, as opposed to Advanced because it’s the most straightforward. Also, reducing noise per channel really does deserve a post all of its own.
The four sliders inside the Reduce Noise editor are what actually control how much noise you can remove. I’ll go through these sliders one by one to give you an idea of what each one does. Before reading below, please remember that you’re not going to make your photo perfect. It’s really a give and take relationship when using many of these types of features inside of Photoshop. One slider may reduce noise while another increases detail. While both of these adjustments may appear to work against one another, you can achieve very good results by carefully watching the preview panel and making slight adjustments to the sliders.
Strength: This slider controls how much noise you’ll actually remove from a photograph. If you leave the slider all the way to the left, you’ll remove nothing. If you move it all the way to the right, you’ll remove as much as Photoshop will allow. The trick is to not move the slider so far to the right that you lose a lot of detail. Photos with no detail look just as bad, if not worse, than noisy ones. The goal here is to gradually push this slider to the right, just until you hit the point of diminishing returns. Then stop.
Preserve Details: This slider works well with the previous one. Once you hit the sweet spot with the Strength slider, you can begin at the left side with the Preserve Details slider. Again, gradually push to the right slowly until you see that you’re reintroducing noise into the photo. Your goal here is to keep the lines in your photo as sharp as possible without counteracting the changes made with the Strength slider.
Reduce Color Noise: Sometimes, photos contain a lot of color noise. For a great example of this, please see the bottom photos in my previous post. If this is the case, again, you’d want to slowly push this slider to the right until as many of those red, blue and green pixels have disappeared. You need to be careful to not disrupt the actual colors of the photo though, so be sure to grab the preview with your mouse and drag it around a bit, just to get a more macro look at what you’ve done. If you don’t have a lot of color noise in your photo (like the one I’m using for this post), you’ll see that this slider doesn’t really do much.
Sharpen Details: This is actually an odd slider to include in this collection. It sharpens pixels on a micro scale, which is similar to what the Sharpen filter does. With that in mind, unless you have a very good reason to push this slider around, you should probably keep it to the left. If you do happen to push it to the right, you’ll notice that you’re actually sharpening any noise that’s leftover in your photo. Probably not a great idea.
Remove JPEG Artifact: When you take JPEG images with your camera, your camera automatically compresses the photo. Sometimes, when it does this, it leaves artifacts behind. And every time you work on a JPEG image and re-save it, you leave more artifacts, such as small, barely visible squares. If you check off this option, Photoshop will attempt to remove those artifacts that have been left behind in your image. The result of checking off this box will entirely depend on the quality of compression and how many of these artifacts are visible. It’s possible that you’ll see no change after using this option.
In my case, I’ll push the Strength slider all the way to the right, since there is very little detail in the photo. I’ll leave the Preserve Details slider to the left, push the Reduce Color Noise slider all the way to the right and finally, I’ll leave the Sharpen Details slider to the left. Oh yeah, I’ll also check off the Remove JPEG Artifact check box. This is the maximum amount of noise I’ll ever remove from the photo while using the Basic setting. I’ll click the OK button and see how things look.
Now, the great part about making the layer a Smart Object is that once I apply the noise reduction changes, I may change my mind after I see the entire photo. If I wanted to head back into the Reduce Noise editor to alter some slider settings, I could simply double-click on the Reduce Noise text in the Layers panel.
Once I do that, the appropriate editor will open right where I left off, waiting for me to act.
Keep your eyes peeled for a post in the future that covers how to reduce noise by color channel. Also, if you have any questions or concerns about what I shared above, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!