Adobe Lightroom is probably the most preferred of all post processing tools out there. It is the fastest way to make some essential retouching to your photos and requires little to no training in order to get started. Adobe Lightroom happens to be my favorite post-processing tool (No, I don’t get anything for saying this). I prefer it over Photoshop for all my light retouching work. In this article I shall be discussing specifically about one particular feature – noise reduction in Lightroom and how you can effectively reduce a majority of noise in your images using nothing but the sliders in the Development module.
Before I begin I must mention that noise in digital photography is not the same thing as noise in film photography. Noise that you see in digital photography happens due to signal amplification. In other words when you pull the ISO to a higher number (especially when shooting in low light conditions) you are actually boosting the light sensitivity of the digital sensor so that it can amplify the signal. When you amplify a signal noise invariably creeps in. In signal transmission parlance this is known as static.
There is always some amount of noise in all your images, even at the lowest ISO setting and even when shooting in bright conditions. But the noise to signal ratio is so low that it is barely visible. When shooting in extremely low light situations the noise to signal ratio becomes high and thus noise becomes more and more visible, appearing like little specs of black spots.
You can reduce noise with most post processing software available in the market. The solution has the effect of blurring the image to some extent. There are different combinations of sliders that you can use to approach this problem. Let’s try our hand at some of these and find out how a typical image shot in low light reacts to attempts at noise reduction in Lightroom.
Here’s an image of a 2000 year old inscription shot inside a Jain Cave in the state of Orissa. The image was shot at ISO 320, which is not too high a number but there is some visible noise nevertheless. I had tweaked it before but will now reset it to show you how it looked SOOC.
Here’s an enlargement which shows the inscriptions, which I must admit are barely visible. I must also admit that I was lazy not to bring my prime lens on this trip or the image would have been a lot sharper. But let’s see if we can salvage some details out of it.
Let’s first start with the usual workflow. Profile set to Camera Standard, Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberrations. Next, Color Temperature was reduced to around 4500. The rock edifice and the entire area was less warm in color when I saw it with my naked eyes and I have tried to emulate the same feel in the image. This is how it looks like after the initial corrections.
Now let’s go straight to image sharpening. Sharpening makes the inscriptions a bit more prominent bringing out more detail. But with detail now there are also a lot of artefacts and noise introduced to the image as well.
To eliminate these I will now use the Noise Reduction feature that is built-in to Lightroom. I have dragged the Luminance slider about three quarters to the right. The idea is to find a point of balance between detail and image noise.
In certain cases pulling the Blacks and Shadows slider under Basic also helps to reduce noise.
And this is a quick before and after comparison:
I leave you with the final edited image here:
There are easier ways to get noise eliminated from your images. All you have to do is hire one of the many professional photo editors and re-touchers on Phowd.com.