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Over the course of this project, we're going to take this macro photograph with this very shallow depth of field so that some elements are in focus like this forward eye, and this forward leg as well. But many of the other elements are out of focus including this rear leg, portions of the wings, and so forth. And in part, as a result of that, we've got an awful lot of noise. I will go ahead and zoom in to the image, and I'll scroll it over as well so that we can see the copious amounts of noise; both color noise and luminance noise that are affecting the low focus details as well as the shadows and the midtones.
We're going to defeat that noise, and ultimately sharpen the photograph as well using a tried and true sharpening technique that actually works. So you can see that we have all this wonderful detail popping inside this photograph, and yet much of the noise, not quite all of it, but much of it is smoothed away. And then finally, we'll add noise to the image in order to create an effect. In this particular case, I will go ahead and zoom out here, you can see that we've rendered the butterfly, so it looks almost as if it was painted onto watercolor paper or canvas. All right. So I'll switch back to the original image.
We're going to start things off using Reduce Noise, and of course we want to be able to modify it's settings, so I want to convert this layer to a Smart Object. I'll start by double-clicking on a background item here in the Layers panel and I'll name this layer butterfly, and then click OK. And now, I'll go up to Layers panel flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object, or press Ctrl+Comma or Cmd+Comma on the Mac. Then you want to go up to the Filter menu, choose Noise, and then choose Reduce Noise, or press Shift+F9. We're seeing the last settings that I was playing around with, which are the Color Noise settings, that is, I've cranked up this Reduce Color Noise value, but Strength is at 0, Sharpen Details is at 0, and will be left there as well. All right.
So we'll start with the Reduce Color Noise value; 100% is probably a little bit too high. So let's take it down to 0%, so that we can see all of the color noise inside of this image, and there is a considerable amount. Notice all the color variations at work in that upper portion of the rear leg. We have a lot of color noise inside the eye and inside of the wing details as well. So, what I recommend you do when you're trying to figure out what settings to apply, start with everything zeroed out, and first, focus your attention on Reduce Color Noise. Go ahead and select a value and then press Shift+Up-arrow a few times, and watch your color noise go away.
You want to take this value as high as it needs to be to get rid of the color noise, but you don't want to take it any higher. For example, at about 70%, I'm seeing pretty much all of the color noise go away. Right now, I'm clicking and holding; we can see a ton of color noise. As soon as I release to update the preview, that color noise is diminished. I'll go ahead and scroll back up here. Notice the upper portion of those legs, how much green, and blue, and purple noise we have. And then if I release, that noise is mitigated. So, color noise is easy to get rid of. But you don't want to take the value too high, because if you do, the colors will start bleeding out of the details.
So, as I say, 70% works well for this image. Now, let's adjust the Strength Setting. I'm going to press the Up Arrow key in order to raise that value in increments of 1. And this image is so very noisy that I am going to want to take the Strength value all the way to 10. And now if I click and hold inside the image, you can see this is the original version with all the noise. And as soon as I release, that color and luminance noise is greatly diminished. However, we're also losing a lot of details inside of the face for example. It looks almost as if the face details have been melted which is why we need to take that Preserve Details value up.
So, you want to start with it at 0 so we can gauge what Strength value to apply. Then you just want to take that value up incrementally by pressing the Up Arrow key. That's what generally works out the best for me. I rarely find any use for big values such as 50%, and larger, because that just brings the biggest noise, the stuff that's the most obvious inside the image back. So where this image is concerned, I started to see the details come back at about 5%, whereas at about 10%, we're seeing too much of the noise come back.
So we have some good details inside the image including those tiny little hairs or whatever they are at work in the foreleg. However, we're also bringing back a ton of noise inside the mid tones and the shadows. So, I ultimately scale that value back a little bit to 7%. So, these were the values that I arrived at for what it's worth; Strength: 10, Preserve Details: 7, Reduce Color Noise: 70, and of course Sharpen Details set to 0. Remove JPEG Artifact is great if you have a highly compressed JPEG image, which this is not.
I applied the highest quality setting possible in fact. So, we're not going to get much in the way of positive results with this. However, if you find a public domain image on the Web for example that has had the heck compressed out of it, then you might want to try that checkbox. All right. Now let's go ahead and save our settings so we don't overwrite color noise by clicking on the little Settings icon, and I'll just go ahead and call this one High Noise Image, and then click OK, and of course, go ahead and select that setting from the end of the list before you click on the OK button.
And just so you can see what we've managed to accomplish here, I'll go ahead, and turn the Smart Filters off by clicking on the eyeball. This is the amount of noise that was at work inside of this image originally, and I'll just go ahead and zoom in to 200% so we can really see it in the video. This is the original noise inside the image, and if I press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on a Mac to reapply the filter, this is the image with the noise relatively defeated. And that's how you go about applying the Reduce Noise Filter to about the highest noise image you could possibly encounter here inside Photoshop.
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