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Reducing digital noise

From: Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

Video: Reducing digital noise

When you are shooting a travel photo, of course you can't always control the lighting conditions, and you may find yourself shooting in dim light, as I was here when I shot this scene at dusk. Because the light was fading, I had to increase the ISO in my camera to 800, and I know that that ISO is likely to have produced more digital noise in this photo than I would like, but you can't see the digital noise in the photo unless and until you zoom in to a 100%, or 1:1 view. So, I'm going to do that now by just clicking once on the photo.

Reducing digital noise

When you are shooting a travel photo, of course you can't always control the lighting conditions, and you may find yourself shooting in dim light, as I was here when I shot this scene at dusk. Because the light was fading, I had to increase the ISO in my camera to 800, and I know that that ISO is likely to have produced more digital noise in this photo than I would like, but you can't see the digital noise in the photo unless and until you zoom in to a 100%, or 1:1 view. So, I'm going to do that now by just clicking once on the photo.

Noise reduction in Lightroom is done in the Detail panel, so let's scroll down to the Detail panel using the scrollbar on the far right of the Develop module, and then clicking on the title bar of the Detail panel to expand it. Here in the Noise Reduction section of the Detail panel, there are sliders for reducing two kinds of digital noise: Color noise, and Luminance noise. By default, the Color slider is set to 25, and that's pretty much canceling out the color noise in this photo, but just so that you can see what the original color noise looked like here, I'm going to drag the Color slider over to 0, and now you can see these little specks of color here, and particularly in the dark areas of the photo. So, that is color noise.

If I put the Color slider back to its default by double-clicking the playhead on the color slider, the color noise goes away. Reducing color noise can sometimes also reduce detail in a photo, and so there's a Detail slider under the Color slider, which at it's default to 50 is bringing back a sufficient amount of detail. Now let's talk about luminance noise. If you look closely, you can see some little specks of grayscale noise. It almost looks like film grain. That is luminance noise. If you want to reduce the luminance noise, then you use the Luminance slider here in the Noise Reduction section.

Now, be careful about taking this slider too far, like this, because that creates this sort of smooth, bland, painterly look to a photo, so it just doesn't look real. But I did want to take the Luminance slider too far, so that I can show you what the Detail and Contrast sliders can do for you. If you increase Luminance as you can clearly see that smoothing away detail and contrast. Dragging the Detail and Contrast sliders over to the right can bring some of that back, as you can see right over here, so keep your eye there as I send the Contrast and Luminance sliders back to their defaults by double-clicking their playheads, and you'll see that detail go away.

By the way, this Detail and Contrast slider are not available unless you move the Luminance slider off of its default of 0. So, I do think the image is too smooth looking now. To fix that, I'll take the Luminance slider, and I'll drag it back over to the left, trying to reach a compromise between retaining the detail in my photo, and reducing some of that luminance noise. So, I'm going to put my Luminance slider about here. Where you decide to place it is really a matter of personal taste. When I'm done, I'll zoom back out, so I can see the entire photo by clicking once in the image.

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Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

12 video lessons · 5781 viewers

Jan Kabili
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