Chapter 12: How To Avoid And Reduce Noise? – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide

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Welcome to the twelfth chapter of Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide.

In the last Chapter 11: Importance Of Lighting In Photography we took an in depth look at lighting in photography and different types of lighting techniques. Now we know how important lighting is in photography in order to capture a professional looking content. In this Chapter 12, we will take a look at things we can do to avoid and reduce noise in your image.

Before getting into things to do, to avoid and reduce noise, let’s first understand what is noise. I won’t take much time in it just a simple explanation would be enough as you have came here to know how to avoid and reduce it you porbably know what noise is, in an image.

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What Is Noise In An Image?

Noise which is also referred as film grains in film photography is the speckling of pixels that makes a photo look a little rough, not so smooth and clear. It is especially obvious in the darker parts of an image and the out of focus areas.

When you zoom in closely on the computer, digital image noise becomes much more obvious. Below image is an example of it:

Example of noise in an image, This is a very zoomed in photo for you to understand what is noise.

First and foremost, if you are a beginner photographer, it is very important to know that it doesn’t matter what you do, you cannot completely remove noise from an image. You can just take steps to avoid extra noise and reduce in post-processing and create a good and professional looking content. You can just avoid the level of noise where it completely ruins your photos but you cannot remove it entirely.

If you are new to photography, reading the above short explanation might have given you a good idea of what noise is. Now, that you know what it is, let’s get to our main topic of this article/chapter which is: How to avoid and reduce noise?

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Now, before we get to our main topic of this article/chapter, I just want to add one factor that effects noise in your image which is:

Camera Sensor Size

Your camera’s sensor size will also affect image noise. The bigger the sensor, the more light it can capture and the less image noise there’ll be. For this reason full frame cameras are better than crop frame cameras for photographing in low light situations.

My opinion on the realation of cameras sensor size and noise is that it really doesn’t matter because I have learned that “the camera is as good as the one using it“. It does not matter what camera or its sensor size is if you have skills you can take good quality photograph with avoiding as much as noise possible in any camera, it really won’t matter to you much if you have good skills.

Now, let’s get back to our main topic.

How To Avoid And Reduce Noise In Photos?

There are many ways to avoid and reduce noise. You can avoid noise while capturing a photograph as well as reduce it in post-processing (Editing). We will take a look at most common and very important tips and tricks to avoid and reduce noise.

I have divided these important and common tips and tricks into two sections whhich are as follows:

  1. How to avoid noise in photos?
  2. How to reduce noise in post-processing?

Now, let’s get started!

How To Avoid Noise In Photos?

It’s not always possible to avoid noise in images, but here’s what you can do to avoid it as much as possible:

Exposure Triangle Reference Chart

1. Correct Exposure Settings

The first and the most important step to not just avoid noise but also to get a quality photograph is to set your exposure settings correctly. In order to avoid noise you will have to use the three elements of exposure triangle: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.

What I mean by that is, if you want to avoid noise as much as possible you need to make sure that your exposure settings are correct and avoid any underexposed or overexposed photos. Your photos should be perfectly exposed according to the look you want to achieve.

You can do that by any means such as:

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Now, you might have heard that high ISO introduces noise in your image, while that is true it is also true that, the image with low ISO which results in an underexposed image will also have noise. I recommend increasing ISO only if you can’t lengthen the shutter speed or widen the aperture.

Also, remember that the images with low ISO which results in an underexposed image will relatively have less noise than the one with high ISO but when you go into post-processing and bump up the exposure, highlights, etc. the noise will be clearly visible even in the images with low ISO.

So, the bottom line is to keep your ISO as minimum as possible but not too low that it results in an underexposed image.

Studio Lighting Example

2. Have A Good Lighting

First and foremost, having a subject which is already perfectly exposed can do wonders to get a high quality image and can avoid noise as much as possible. That is why I recommend to use extra light whenever necessary. It could be as simple as your cameras in built flash or your smartphones flash.

Now, having a good lighting doesn’t necessarily means that you have to use expensive lighting setups for photography. You can even get a good quality image just by using natural light such as sunlight but there are times that it is not possible to get a perfect image with just one light source in order to avoid an underexposed image.

In those kind of situations just add another light source which will help you perfectly expose your subject even before clicking a photograph. If you are new to photography or a beginner photographer I recommend you to read previous Chapter 11: Importance Of Lighting In Photography to get a good idea on photography lighting.

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3. Use Of Histogram

While photgraphing an image I recommend to use histogram which is available in almost every camera.

Using histogram will help you capture a perefectly exposed image. If the histogram levels are all the way to the left it means that the image is underexposed and if the histogram levels are all the way to the right it means that the image is overexposed.

Camera Histogram

The histogram levels should be even throughout the image. What I mean by that is, the histogram levels of your image should be even, it should not be all the way to the left or right. This will help you in getting a perfectly exposed image which will ultimately help you avoid noise as much as possible.

4. Shoot In RAW File Format

It doesn’t matter what desired look you are going for your image, whether your goal is to reduce noise or you want to heavily color grade your photo in post-processing, shooting in RAW is important.

When you shoot in RAW file format, there will be less noise introduced if you choose to bump up or down the exposure, highlights, colors, ect. as compared to the image shot in JPEG file format.

Raw File Format

It is because, image shot in RAW file format have relatively more image data than the image shot in JPEG file format. So, if you choose to heavily edit your images without introducing much noise I recommend shooting in RAW file format.

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Now, that you know how to avoid and reduce noise as much as possible in your photos, let’s take a look at how to reduce noise in post-processing.

How to reduce noise in post-processing?

If you haven’t been successful in avoiding noise while shooting your photos, there comes up the need to reduce it later in post-processing. You can make use of some photo editing software like Photoshop, lightroom, etc. in order to fix this issue. Mobile photographers don’t worry same rules applies for you too, you can choose to do post-processing in photo editing softwares like Free Adobe Lightroom Mobile Version, Picsart, etc.

Luminance Noise Example

There are mainly two types of noise found in your images: Luminance Noise and Color Noise (also known as Chroma Noise). Luminance Noise refers to the brightness of a picture and on the other hand, while Color Noise is the distortion of colors in the picture. You can tell which kind of noise it is by zooming in the photo. If you see red, green and blue dots, this means it is Color Noise. But if you see black, white, and gray dots, then it is Luminance Noise.

Color Noise Example

We will take Photoshop and Lightroom Classic as an example, I will now tell you the steps to reduce noise in Photoshop first and then we will take a look at Lightroom Classic.

Reduce Noise In Photoshop

Now, as I mentioned above there are mainly two types of noise found in your images: Luminance Noise and Color Noise (also known as Chroma Noise). Now let’s take a look at how to reduce it:

1. Steps To Reduce Luminance Noise In Photoshop:
Step 1: Open image

First, launch Photoshop on your computer or laptop and open the image that has luminance noise.

Step 2: Select Lab Color

Go to the menu bar and click on the “Image”. Select “Mode” from the “Image” menu and then select “Lab Color” mode.

Step 3: Create a new layer

Now drag the background layer to the “Create New Layer” icon to create a new layer. Thus all the changes that you will make affect only the new layer and your original image will remain intact. In other words, the original image will not be affected by the changes you are going to make.

Step 4: Choose the Lightness channel

Choose the “Lightness” channel which will be used to remove luminance noise from your picture.

Step 5: Create new channel

Now you will need to make a copy of the “Lightness” channel, so that you will be able to make changes without affecting the original channel.

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Step 6: Apply effect to newly created channel

Go to the menu bar > click on the “Filter” > select “Filter Gallery” > select “Stylize” > finally select “Glowing Edges”. Once you select it, it will detect the edges available in the picture and show them in white color.

Step 7: Invert channel

Now click on the “Image” provided in the menu bar. Hover over the “Adjustment” and then choose “Invert”. After that, the channel will be inverted. Next, press the “Ctrl” for PC (“Command” for Mac) and click on the newly created channel. By doing this, you will be able to select the white areas.

Step 8: Blur the selected areas

Go to the menu bar again and select the “Filter” > “Blur” > “Smart Blur”. Then set the quality as high in the “Smart Blur”, set the “Radius” to a lower value, and set “Threshold” value to around 10. In this way, there will not be too much blur added to your photo and the details of the photo will not be damaged.

Step 9: Set Opacity

Now it is the time for setting the opacity. For this, go to the layers palette and set it based on your needs so as to refine the original layer’s details.

Step 10: Flatten Image

After making all the changes to your image as mentioned in the above steps, you should flatten the image now. In the Menu bar, click on the “Layer” and then “Flatten Image”. Thus the image will get flattened and you can save it now. If you want to switch back to RGB mode, just hover over “Mode” and then choose “RGB Color”.

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2. Steps To Reduce Color Noise (Chroma Noise) In Photoshop:
Step 1: Open photo

First, launch Photoshop on your computer or PC and open the photograph in which you want to reduce the color noise.

Step 2: Select Reduce Noise

Go to the menu bar and click on the “Filter”, choose “Noise” and then choose “Reduce Noise”. After that, the dialogue box of Reduce Noise will open up.

Step 3: Set the slider of Reduce Color Noise

In the dialogue box of “Reduce Noise”, you will get to see a slider for “Reduce Color Noise”. You will have to gradually drag this slider to the right direction so as to adjust it for the best value. You can see the result in the preview while you are dragging the slider. Keep on dragging it until the color noise in the picture gets fixed.

Now that you know, how to reduce noise in Photoshop let’s take a look at how to do it in Lightroom Classic:

How To Reduce Noise In Lightroom Classic

Again, there are different steps for reducing luminance noise and color noise (Chroma Noise) in Lightroom Classic. Let’s take a look at it:

1. How To Reduce Luminance Noise In Lightroom Classic:

In the Detail Panel there are three sliders for luminance noise reduction:

  • Luminance
  • Detail
  • Contrast

I will not go into much details, the only thing you have to do is slide the three sliders in detail panel mentioned above until you get your desired output. Remember, not to push it too far, as you might loose some detail and sharpness of the image which can ruin your image.

Too much noise reduction results in overly smoothed photo that looks plastic.

Noise Reduction Panel In Lightroom Classic.
2. How To Reduce Color Noise (Chroma Noise) In Lightroom Classic

The color noise reduction sliders are below the luminance reduction sliders and are almost the same. They are:

  • Color
  • Detail
  • Smoothness

Adjusting the color noise slider will help out, but if you push it too far, you lose some of the natural color variation.

Now, there are also many other ways to reduce noise in post-processing. You can also download special noise reduction plugin for photoshop. Nonetheless, the steps are usually the same. Some softwares are complicated while some are very easy. You just have to choose the one that fits your needs.

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Conclusion

Now you know that you can’t entirely remove noise from photos, but you can reduce it to the point of not being noticeable. You can:

  • Work to avoid noise when you take the photo
  • Reduce noise in images, to an extent, in post-processing

As each photo, or series of photos, is different, you’ll need to assess if noise reduction is necessary and if so, how much, on a photo by photo (or series) basis.

This is the end of Chapter 12: How To Avoid And Reduce Noise? of the Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide. You can subscribe to The Black Light Studios website to stay tuned and get notifications on the upcoming chapters. In the mean time you can check my other posts on this website.

This is it for this post. Thank You! for visiting The Black Light Studios, I hope you find this article helpful to you and got the information you were looking for. Stay tuned for more posts like these by subscribing to The Black Light Studios website. If you have any suggestion or feedback comment down below or contact us through the contact form via contact menu.

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