It’s challenging to reduce the luminance (light and dark) component of noise without compromising image sharpness; often it requires a careful application of specialized software.

However, you can easily reduce the color component of noise using Photoshop.

Here’s how.

1    Duplicate the Background layer and turn the duplicate layer’s blend mode to Color.
2    Blur the layer (Filter: Blur: Gaussian Blur).



Be careful not to use the blur filter too aggressively. If contours exhibit reduced saturation, use a lower filtration

Using this technique, only the color of an image will be blurred, not its luminance; image sharpness will not be compromised. Luminance noise will persist; other methods are required to remove it.

This industrial strength technique is most useful when dealing with serious color noise when a Raw converter’s features can’t go far enough, such as the larger areas of color noise found in some images from Bayer pattern demosaicing.

Find more online here.

Learn more in my digital printing workshops.

Some noise is random; some noise is fixed. Hot-pixel noise is fixed. What are “hot pixels”? Photosites on digital sensors that generate brighter information faster than their neighbors. Hot pixels get brighter at higher ISOs, with longer exposures, and in warmer temperatures. You can map where hot pixels are and exactly how bright they get under specific conditions with a dark slide. Then you can use a dark slide to drop out fixed “hot-pixel” noise with a simple postprocessing technique in Photoshop.

To make a dark slide, simply make a separate exposure made at the same ISO, exposure time and temperature as the image you intend to use it with. Exposure of what? Darkness. Leave your lens cap on.

To use a dark slide in Photoshop, open the dark slide and the image you’d like to use it with and drag and drop the dark slide into that image file, holding the Shift key to make sure it’s precisely registered (wait to crop or rotate an image until after this is accomplished). Change the blend mode of the dark-slide layer to Difference and watch the hot-pixel noise vanish.

Learn more about making and using dark slides on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more about noise here.

Learn more in my digital printing workshops.

Got noise in one exposure? Make a bunch of exposures and watch the noise disappear.

You can reduce noise in an image by combining multiple exposures of the same composition in Photoshop. Photoshop can search for the differences between the separate exposures and then blend them, keeping what stays the same and eliminating what changes. Random noise between separate exposures of the same composition will be substantially, even dramatically, reduced or disappear altogether. (This technique won’t eliminate fixed noise, hot pixels, or column and row noise. There are other techniques for that, like using dark slides.)

You’ll find having this option will greatly reduce any reluctance you have toward using high ISOs. This means two things. You’ll be able to make images in lighting situations you thought you couldn’t, and you’ll be able to make handheld exposures in conditions you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to without severely compromising quality.

So how do you do this? Use the following steps.

1. Shoot multiple exposures.
Try to minimize camera motion as much as possible. It’s not necessary to use a tripod, but it’s helpful2
2. In Photoshop, go to File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack.
3. Click Browse and select the exposures to be used in the Stack and check Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images and Create Smart Object after Loading Layers.
This will create a single Smart Object from the multiple exposures. Double-clicking on this Smart Object will allow you to see the layers separately.
4. Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Image Stack Mode > Median to blend the separate exposures.
You’ll see that the noise is re-duced substantially.
5. Optionally, compare Image Stack Mode > Mean.
This works best for exposures containing no movement.

Read more about this technique at Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more about noise here.

Learn more in my digital printing workshops.

noiseware

Who doesn’t have noise? If you don’t run into noise in your digital images, at least once in a while, you may not be pushing the envelope enough. You can photograph long after dark; if you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to experience this—it’s magical. And if you find you don’t have a DSLR on hand, this should be no reason not to make pictures with a point-and-shoot or cell phone.

Whether you’re using a cell phone, a point-and-shoot digital camera or a DSLR at high ISOs or with very long exposures, you’re bound to run into some noise. Noise happens. When you have it, there’s a lot you can do about it. There are many ways you can reduce noise during postprocessing; you could even say there’s an art to it. Learning these techniques can improve good exposures and save others.

If Lightroom and Photoshop fail to adequately reduce noise in your images, it’s time to move to third-party plug-ins. For years, they’ve done a superior job of reducing noise, and they still do. While there are many fine third-party plug-ins for Photoshop (Noise Ninja, Neat Image, Dfine, etc.), one stands out from all the rest: Imagenomic’s Noiseware Professional.

For me, Noiseware is the most robust noise-reduction software available. Ironically, while it offers the most sophisticated feature set, very often the default settings when you first open an image are all you’re likely to need. In many cases, very little, if any, additional tweaking is necessary …

Read more at Digital PhotoPro.

Find Noiseware here.

Learn more in my workshops.


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