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.
And here is the after.
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.