Photoshop CS5 Feature 1 – Noise Reduction

I thought instead of trying to squeeze all of the things I love about CS5 into one post I would instead break it up over a few days.  There are a lot of great things in this latest version as I’m sure you have heard and it’s hard to say what is the best thing.  I thought today I would start with a feature that will have some of the greatest impact for photographers in general and that’s the new Noise Reduction built into Camera Raw 6.

I’m sure that everyone is geeking out about Content Aware Fill and HDRPro, and I will most defintiely get to them but let’s face it, unless you are Trey Ratcliff, you probably aren’t shooting HDR all the time.  Noise reduction however is something that all photographers really need.  Even though many of today’s digital cameras have amazing low-light capabilities, noise is something that will still be a factor, especially if you are shooting high ISO’s or long exposures.

So how good is the new noise reduction?  Good enough that I probably won’t need to ever use a plug-in to get rid of it again.  The thing is that, unlike most plug-ins that are applying noise reduction to an already processed image, the noise reduction in CS5 is applied directly to your RAW image so it has more information to work with when eliminating those problem pixels.

Here’s a quick run through on how it works.  First thing you need to do is open your image using Camera Raw.  This is where you will find the Noise Reduction sliders, hiding in the Detail panel.

(Make sure you click the images to see them larger)

The first thing I like to do is zoom in to 100% and then adjust my image sharpening by using the Amount slider and then using the Masking slider to apply the sharpening to just the edges.

Then I start getting rid of the noise by first removing any color noise.  There is a default amount set for color of 25 and I find that it works pretty well but I still like to move the Color slider to zero and then back to a higher number just to make sure that the color noise is gone.  This adjustment works great but the real culprit in most images is usually from luminance noise.

So logically that’s the next step and really where the magic happens.  I know there is actually a lot of math going on behind the scenes but I like to think that it’s magic, it’s just more fun that way.  So the easiest way to set the luminance is to just move the Luminance slider to the right until all the noise is gone.  When it looks good, stop.  It’s really that easy.  The one thing you might find is that the noise reduction has softened some of the details a little but you can bring those back pretty well by using the Luminance Detail slider.  You can also increase the Luminance Contrast slider setting to add a little snap back to the image.

That’s pretty much it.  After adjusting for the noise, I might go back and play with the sharpness a little bit more but that’s the process in a nutshell.  All-in-all, it takes about 20 seconds to make even the nastiest noise look bearable, or disappear altogether.  Here’s a look at the full images with and without noise reduction applied, including an enlarged area to get a better peek.

First, without any noise reduction.

Enlarged section before noise reduction

And here is the after.

Enlarged after noise reduction

So there you have it.  It is a very simple tool to use but the results are simply amazing.  This little feature will most certainly take the fear out of cranking up your ISO.

Make sure you check back later in the week for more of my favorite new features.

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  • Ina


    Excellent mini review of the new Noise Reduction feature in CS5. As a beta tester for CS5, I can also attest that it rocks! For those who don’t want to wait a month to try this great new feature in Camera Raw, it is also available for testing now in the Lightroom 3 Beta 2.


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  • Ihor Vorotnov

    This new noise reduction is already available in Lightroom 3 Beta 2, and we lightroomers are very happy!

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  • Iza

    Do you know, if the same noice reduction feature will be in new version of Lightroom- it is the same algorithm as in current beta Lightroom? It seems to be doing magic :).

    • jeff

      It is the exact same Noise Reduction found in Lightroom 3 Beta 2. If you are interested in trying it out, I would suggest downloading the Lightroom beta since Adobe is not offering a public beta for CS5.

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  • Kirk

    I shoot weddings with a Canon 5d Mark II. At the max, if I can get one more stop or get good pictures at ISO 6400, then that makes my system great. I took shots in a dark room in my house using ISO 6400 and a sigma 50mm 1.4 lens. My in camera noise reduction was on Standard. I processed the images first in DXO and then a seperate batch with CS5. I found that a combination of DXO, CS5 and another old noise reduction program gave me sharp images with no visible noise. The CS5 were much better than CS 4 but the combination of the three programs was great. By processing with DXO and dng files, I could tweak the noise in my wine dark red walls away. Remember that the real ISO is not 6400 but something like 3990. That is amazing with 21 MP FF sensor. Nikon do have a better 12.1 MP camera D3S with the resolution is about half of that of Canon. I did not have to go to F 1.4, but rather said why not. It is not the sharpest part of the lens but the results are great. It does not take a long time. DXO processes automatically and you want to tweak things in PS anyway. Now we have great tools to reduce the noise. I took a look at the Canon Mark IV sensor and was totally disappointed, though some pictures at 6400 ISO looked great. We will stay with the FF sensor. It is not too often that I need to use ISO 6400 on the camera and try to limit my shots to ISO 3200 which are great. It is nice to know you can now push it one more stop. The preprocessing noise looked grainy, like Nikon. Now if only Canon would produce a 16-18 MP camera with FF and tweak the pixels to large 8.4 microns like Nikon and add dual computer chips we could shoot at 12,800. Ahhh if life were like that.

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  • John

    Thank you very much Jeff! That is exactly what I was looking for, and as you say, I was shocked by the results! Thanks again for sharing!

  • Ever Thankful!

    THANK YOU!!! I can’t try it til I get home but I just did my first solo wedding and forgot to turn down the ISO after we’d been in the ceremony where I wasn’t allowed to use the flash. I was worried lots of detail would get lost as I want to clean up as much as possible. Now I know I can use this way I don’t feel quite so panicky about the whole thing! FINGERS CROSSED!!

  • kiki

    This is amazing, Thanks so much!!!!

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