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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
I think the question I get asked the most often from people working with digital images is how to reduce noise in their images? They find the noise distracting and they want to eliminate it or at least reduce it. So let's open up an image that's kind of representative of some of these issues. I've got this JPEG here. I'm going to go ahead and open that up in Camera Raw using the Open in Camera Raw button. We'll go ahead and start by opening up the shadow detail of this image to kind of reveal more detail in the shadows. But also show that when you use the Fill Light slider, one of the common side effects there is that Camera Raw is doing such a good job of revealing shadow detail, but it's also revealing the color noise that's present in the file that you may not have noticed since the image in certain areas was so black or so dark.
So you can see here it's plain easy to see the color noise issue, and that's these random red, green, and blue colorization of the pixels if you will, and most of the time that's just ugly and distracting. It's very typical to see in low light situations such as this, you typically see it on camera cell phones or cheap consumer cameras that you might carry in your pocket or your purse. More expensive cameras do a much better job. They have better sensors in low-light situations, but you can even get digital noise on the most expensive camera as well. Now, the other type of noise is the graininess that you see.
That is a separate issue. That's called luminance noise. We'll talk about how to reduce or eliminate both types of noise here using Camera Raw in just a moment. First, let's go ahead and zoom-in on a particular area, and just we'll zoom up right here towards her nose maybe to 50%. So we can see a better representation of the color noise. To get rid of both types of noise, you're going to switch out of the Basic tab, which of course is the default tab of controls. So I'll switch over to the third tab from the left called the Detail tab. It's this one here with the two triangles. Let's go ahead and click on that tab.
You'll see we have controls for Sharpening and Noise Reduction. Two different types of Noise Reduction, you can see there is a Luminance slider and there is a Color slider. The first thing I want to point out though is this little message down here at the bottom. It says for a more accurate preview, zoom the preview size to 100% or larger when adjusting the controls in this panel. What this really should say is if you're not at 100% or higher, you're not going to really see any effect of these sliders at all. So I'll show you what I mean. I'm going to go ahead and take this Color slider and drag it to the right, all the way to the right and it doesn't appear to be doing anything, which kind of at first glance would suck, but it actually is doing something.
It's just not showing you the preview until you get to that 100% view. So let's go ahead and just click on her nose, click on her nose one more time till we get to the 100% view. All of a sudden that color noise has disappeared. Now the graininess is still there. Remember that's the Luminance Noise. But those random red, green, and blue pixels have seemingly changed their color back to match the actual color of the image. Now, to show you the before and after, I'm going to press the letter P to turn off the Preview, there is before. Turn the Preview back on by pressing P again, and there is after.
You should see and notice the difference there coming across in the video. You can see in the before especially in this area here that I'm kind of hovering over with the cursor here, see this really big pink splotch, I'll turn the Preview back on. You'll see that's been eliminated. Now one thing to point out is, sometimes you'll get some blurring effect, some softening of detail, where the color noise is being reduced. So take a look at her nostril here. You can see it's not quite as crisp as it used to be. There has been a little bit of blurring or softening along those edges. I'll turn the Preview back off.
You can see it was a little crisper there and more well refined. Let's turn the Preview back on. There is a slider here in the Noise Reduction panel here called Color Detail. That's where you can try to eliminate or reduce the softening and blurring of the details, where color noise is being reduced. So you can see that I've taken the Color Detail slider all the way over to 100, and that nostril looks much more well-defined now. If I double-click on any slider inside Camera Raw, that takes it back to its default value.
You can see now that it's a little bit softer and blurry again. The default value being 50 for Color Detail. Let's take that all the way back up to 100. You can see the color detail is being a little bit better preserved with that additional slider. In terms of the Luminance noise, the graininess here, you can also work to reduce or eliminate that as well. Again, you should be aware though that you are going to be softening the image in the process. You're kind of blurring out this grain. So if you take it too far, you may not be happy with the results, but Camera Raw does a pretty good job here.
Let's take the Luminance slider and start dragging that to the right and you'll see that the overall grain is kind of just being blurred. Again, if you take it too far, you might make the image way too blurry and just only be left with extreme edge detail. So let's back off of that a little bit, and take it more down to say 35 is good for this particular image. It just depends on how aggressive you want to be about eliminating that graininess. People expect in low light situations to have a sort of grittiness or graininess to the overall aesthetic of the image, so don't be afraid to leave some of it in there. There you have it.
Just as a reminder, I'm just taking this down just a little bit more to maybe 25 to leave some of it still there. If I go back to view the whole image again, so if I go back to the View pop-up menu here and choose Fit in View, it's going to look again like that color noise has not been addressed. If I turn the Preview on and off, you're not really seeing a change right now. Again, to see the effect of the Noise Reduction controls, you do have to be in at at least 100% or larger. So I'm just clicking-and- dragging to get pass the 100% view. Now when I press the P key, you can see the before and the after.
Very powerful technique and controls for reducing and eliminating both Color and Luminance Noise, all built into Camera Raw. Just be sure to remember that you're at that 100% view or larger to actually see the results of the change.
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