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Thread: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    I recently submitted these two photos to a stock photo company, and received a reply that I needed to reduce the noise in the photos and resubmit.

    I just purchased Photoshop Elements and it is new to me... Basically I've been using it to clean dust spots, fix white balance, increase lighting or hit auto and see if the photo looks better or not.

    How do I reduce noise in a photo?
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Thank you.

    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Christina

    The best cure for noise is not to get too much of it into the image in the first place. That is not a glib answer.

    Part of the capturing process is managing noise. And that is down to exposure management. Once you've done as much as you can to manage noise at the capture stage, then you are on to assessing what, if anything else, you have to do at the post-processing stage.

    And you are right, it is post-processing software that you need to turn to to help you with this.

    As a starting point to understanding this, I'd strongly recommend the two-part tutorial here on CiC. Once you get that under your belt, then please do come back with additional questions and queries. Or if any of the tutorial needs clarified, just come back on with questions.

    Understanding noise and how to manage it is one of the big steps forward along the learning curve.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Hi Christina,

    We must stop meeting like this, people will talk

    While Elements does have an option to reduce noise, from PSE menu;
    Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise
    This will also remove fine image detail.

    There are some settings there to play with, but bear in mind that one is liable to counteract the other, you need to view the areas of concern at 100% to see the effects of the controls.

    On these shots, you won't easily see it affecting fine detail though, unlike noise which (at 100%) may stand out like a sore thumb.

    However, my recommended solution is Neat Image, a third party bit of software which you can even access from within Elements when needed - it appears at the bottom of the menu list for Filter. It does cost money though and be careful to buy the correct version, you can try the demo version for free.

    This is different to what's built in to Elements, because it samples an area of the image with no image content (i.e. a plain shade of grey or colour) and then identifies the noise and subtracts that from the entire image - it can be very effective at removing noise and preserving most of the fine detail.

    Here's a thread that explains how to use it.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 3rd October 2011 at 12:59 PM.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Thank you. I will do the tutorial.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Let them talk

    Thank you... I did try the noise reduction in photoshop elements and noticed this (on a pelican photo which just ended up looking unreal).... I will check out Neat Image, but first need to learn photoshop elements and better yet, take photos with no noise!

    Thanks everyone.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina Stobbs View Post
    Thank you... I did try the noise reduction in photoshop elements and noticed this (on a pelican photo which just ended up looking unreal)
    Here's an idea (it is only an experiment);
    Take an image,
    Duplicate it on several new layers (Ctrl+J I think)
    Try a different variations of settings on each;
    e.g. Strength 4 and Preserve Details (PD) 20%, Strength 8 and PD 80%, Strength 4 and PD 80%, etc. (don't forget the Reduce Colour Noise slider too)
    Then you can turn each layer on in turn and see which options looks best, and compare back to the unmodified Background
    Just need to make notes so you don't lose track of which layer had which adjustments on.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 3rd October 2011 at 03:01 PM. Reason: corrected error in keyboard shortcut

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    I gave this image a try, with a PSE plugin called Noise control 1.01. I have been having really good sucess with this program, reducing noise without much loss of detail. With this image not so; there is just too much noise here to deal with. If you reduce the noise noticeably, you also wipe out 75% 0f the detail. Sorry

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Thank you Dave... I will try give it a whirl for the learning experience.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Thank you for letting me know.. I really liked this photo because of the feeling it provides of a storm. I was trying to catch lightening, and had it on Manual, bulb mode but I now see that I had the iso at 400 and I did not have a tripod. I will still give it a try for the learning experience.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Okay... I gave it a whirl.
    1. With the raw photo using noise reduction
    2. With the original jpeg using Strength 8 & PD 80%
    3. With the original jpeg using Strength 4 and 20
    For 2 and 3 I also corrected white balance


    1. Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    2. Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    3. Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    I think 2 looks the best, albeit still too,much noise... Thank you everyone... hope someone else learns from my question, and I will have to wait until next year for the opportunity for another sky like this.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    I like # 1. In 2 and 3, you have some serious banding in the sky, and lost the colour that made the picture.
    My 2 cents.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    What is banding? The darker upper portion of the sky?

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina Stobbs View Post
    What is banding? The darker upper portion of the sky?
    Hi Christina,

    Banding typically occurs when there aren't enough levels to smoothly transition one tone through to another, and thus there are visible "jumps" in the levels, which present as "bands" in the image.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Christina

    The best cure for noise is not to get too much of it into the image in the first place. That is not a glib answer.

    Understanding noise and how to manage it is one of the big steps forward along the learning curve.
    It's not a glib answer but sometimes you have no choice, except to use flash when you really don't want to, or as you said have the right equipment for the job. I was recently in a very dimly lit convention hall and try as I might, I could not get a decent shot without raising the ISO settin to 800 or sometimes 1600. Slow shutter speeds didn't work as people were constantly moving and if I tried with a faster shutter speed all I would get is motion blur. In Christiana's example it is a little easier to correct for noise but only with a tripod (not always necessary any solid support will do) and the correct aperture and shutter speed.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Thank you... Any recommendations for the best aperture and shutter speed for lightening shots ( Obviously, I missed the lightening bolt). And lesson learned, carry your tripod with you, wherever you go.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    I was recently in a very dimly lit convention hall and try as I might, I could not get a decent shot without raising the ISO settin to 800 or sometimes 1600.
    Out of curiocity John, how close to the top of the histogram were the highlights pushed on those shots? High ISO doesn't cause noise - it just reduces the dynamic range to the point where the signal and the noise are closer together (and thus revealed) if there's any "headroom" in the exposure.

    With most cameras - assuming a purely reflective scene (thus requiring only about 4 stops) - one should be able to get an acceptable image at even the highest ISO setting.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Out of curiocity John, how close to the top of the histogram were the highlights pushed on those shots? High ISO doesn't cause noise - it just reduces the dynamic range to the point where the signal and the noise are closer together (and thus revealed) if there's any "headroom" in the exposure.

    With most cameras - assuming a purely reflective scene (thus requiring only about 4 stops) - one should be able to get an acceptable image at even the highest ISO setting.
    Colin,

    Here are three examples.
    Mid
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo
    Over
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo
    Under
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    The highlights were close to the top on the photo labeled mid which I thought was the best considering the circumstances and camera shake.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Colin,

    Here are three examples.
    Mid
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo
    Over
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo
    Under
    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    The highlights were close to the top on the photo labeled mid which I thought was the best considering the circumstances and camera shake.
    Hi John,

    Since it's already converted to a JPEG I can't tell how close to blowing the originals were (top one in particular), but I think that none-the-less, it's a good case in point. I had a quick play with the top one, and I can't see ANY noise that's a problem (albeit you only shot it at ISO 640).

    It's just my personal belief that if folks used the higher ISO modes (like 1600 and 3200) - shot RAW - pushed the exposures as far as they could - reduced exposure in post-processing - forgot about pixel peeping - they'd more than likely get perfectly acceptable results. Or to put it another way, I think in many cases (speaking generally here) the "problem" people have with high ISO modes being noisy is generally a self-inflicted one.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    When forced to use a high ISO I generally follow Colin's capture process above but in ACR my initial sharpen masks all areas of solid colour and only leaves the edges that are sharpened. This way I do not amplify the noise. Any subsequent output sharpening only needs a very minor tweek, as flat areas (like sky) do nto need sharpening) and so has little effect on noise.

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    Re: Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi John,

    Since it's already converted to a JPEG I can't tell how close to blowing the originals were (top one in particular), but I think that none-the-less, it's a good case in point. I had a quick play with the top one, and I can't see ANY noise that's a problem (albeit you only shot it at ISO 640).

    It's just my personal belief that if folks used the higher ISO modes (like 1600 and 3200) - shot RAW - pushed the exposures as far as they could - reduced exposure in post-processing - forgot about pixel peeping - they'd more than likely get perfectly acceptable results. Or to put it another way, I think in many cases (speaking generally here) the "problem" people have with high ISO modes being noisy is generally a self-inflicted one.
    Colin,

    Here is an example of high ISO where everything including camera shake played apart in the final image.

    Seeking Advice on How to Reduce Noise in a Photo

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