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If you ever shot a photo in a dark environment and you had to increase your ISO in order to capture the shot, you know that high ISO can introduce grainy digital noise into a photo. In the past, Adobe Camera Raw addressed that problem with two noise reduction controls, one for luminance noise and one for color noise. But the challenge in the past with those noise reduction controls was to reduce color noise without causing the image to lose detail and become color-desaturated. In Camera Raw 6, Adobe has really focused on improving those two aspects of noise reduction, as I'll show you in this movie.
I'm going to open a Raw file, this happens to be a DNG version of a Raw file, by navigating to it in Mini Bridge and then double-clicking its thumbnail. And that opens the file here in Camera Raw 6, which comes with Photoshop CS5. I'm going to click on the third tab from the left, the Detail tab to view the noise reduction sliders. Notice that two of these sliders are grayed out, meaning they're not available. If I wanted to be able to access those sliders, I'll just click on the Luminance slider and drag it slightly to the right.
If you do that and you still don't have access to these sliders, it's probably because Photoshop is recognizing that a previous edit was done on this file in an earlier version of Camera Raw or perhaps in Lightroom. This version of Camera Raw will default to that older processed version in an attempt to make the file look the same here, as it did the last time the image was edited. So, if your Noise Reduction sliders aren't available, you're going to want to switch to the current process version. One way to do that is to go to the Camera Calibration tab here and click and then go to the Process menu.
My Process menu just happens to be set to Current, but let's say it were set to 2003. In order to get it to the current version, I could do one of two things. I could come to this Camera Calibration tab and I could choose 2010 (Current) from this menu. But I'm not going to do that right now, because I would like to show you what I think is a quicker way to do that. If Process is not set to the current version, then you'll see down here in the bottom-right of the document window a blue exclamation mark, no matter which tab you're in. So even if I were back in the Detail tab, I wouldn't have to switch over to Camera Calibration to go to the current process version.
All I would have to do is click on the light blue exclamation mark here. And that takes me to the current process version and it makes all my Noise Reduction sliders available. Let's take a look at these sliders here in Camera Raw 6. In the last version of Camera Raw, there were only two Noise Reduction sliders, one for luminance noise which is grayscale noise and another for color noise which is what it sounds like, color grain in the image. So that we can see the noise in this image, I'm going to zoom in. I'll go down to the Zoom menu and I'm going to choose 200%, so you can really see the grain.
But I want to emphasize that when I'm doing color noise reduction outside of the teaching environment, I'll set the zoom level to 100%, so that I can see the grain as it will appear in the final image. I'm also going to pan up. I'm holding Spacebar and dragging so that I can see a bit of the sky as well as the model's forehead. Right now, I can't see all the noise in the image, because, by default, the Noise Reduction sliders are enabled. I'm going to take that Luminance slider and drag all the way over to the left to zero and the same with the Color slider.
And now I can see the noise in the image. There is color noise represented by the specks of color and there is also grayscale noise, which appears as small dots of gray, white or black on the image. I'm going to start by trying to reduce the color noise in this image. Here in the Noise Reduction area, there is a Color slider as there was in the last version of Camera Raw and there is a new slider Color Detail. The Color slider controls the amount of color noise reduction. I'm going to be way more aggressive with this slider than I normally would, so that you can see what it does.
Keep your eye here on this edge between the forehand and the background, as I drag that Color slider all the way over to the right. You can see that the color noise does go away, but along with the color noise, there's been a reduction in color saturation, so that the image is kind of a dull color now and I've lost some detail along this edge. To address those problems, Adobe added a second slider here, the Color Detail slider. This new slider sets the threshold for color noise reduction.
At zero, color noise reduction is being applied to the entire image. But if I drag this slider to the right, I'm able to bring back some detail in areas that I don't want to be smoothed out by the color noise reduction. So if I take that over to about 80, I think you can see that some color has come back in along this edge and there's a little more detail as well. Now that the color noise is taken care of, I still have this grayscale noise that you can see here to reduce. To do that, I'll start with the Luminance slider that was here in the last version of Camera Raw, and that controls the amount of luminance noise reduction that's being applied.
If I were to take this slider and drag it all the way over to the right, you can see that the noise is indeed gone, but the image is way too soft. The default for luminance is about 25. So I usually start there and then I tweak it as necessary. I think in this case that looks pretty good. There are two additional new sliders in Adobe Camera Raw 6 that control luminance, the Luminance Detail slider and the Luminance Contrast slider. The Luminance Detail slider sets the noise threshold.
If I were to drag that to zero, then luminance noise reduction would be applied everywhere in the photo. But if I find that that's causing a lack of detail in the image, I can now drag the Luminance Detail slider over to the right to bring back some local detail. I can also try to preserve some texture and contrast in the image by dragging the Luminance Contrast slider to the right. I'm going to take it all the way over to 100, so that you can see if you look closely that you don't want to go too far with this slider, or you may end up with some areas that look mottled like this or like this.
So, I'm going to take that back and put it just about in the middle on this image. And then I'm going to take the image back to 100% to see the results by double-clicking the Zoom tool. And now I'm going to take the image back to fit on screen by double-clicking the hand, so I can see the result. The Noise Reduction controls here in Adobe Camera Raw 6 really have been improved. Not only do I get more control over the noise reduction process, but I think the results are often better than they were in the previous version of Camera Raw. Before I close, I want to mention that sharpening has also been improved in Adobe Camera Raw 6.
The sliders are the same as they were in the last version of Camera Raw, but particularly, when you're sharpening a high-frequency image, an image that has lots of fine-tuned detail, I think you're going to see that there is a real improvement in the results you get from the Sharpening Algorithm in Adobe Camera Raw 6.
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