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The Noise Reduction Tool In Lightroom 3 And ACR 6.0

When Adobe released Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3.0, Jason Bradley gave us his picks for the top new features in the new programs. He continues to detail how to use each of these features with an in-depth look at the new noise reduction tool.  Visit the Editing and Post Production section to see Jason's previous articles.

By Jason Bradley




And now……for one of my favorite new additions to ACR 6.0 (Adobe Camera Raw) and Lightroom 3……the new Noise Reduction tool!  All the screen shots here are from Lightroom, but for those of you just using Photoshop and ACR to convert your raw pics, it all works the same. 

Noise reduction technology has been available from Adobe for a while now, but they have recently reengineered their version.  In the past, I’ve used tools such as Noise Ninja and Grain Surgery in addition to Lightroom.  They have been good options to have in the toolbox and I use them as Photoshop plug-ins, which allows me to target specific areas of the image for noise reduction using layer masks and hiding and revealing the parts I want.  I point this out because noise reducers thus far can help one part of an image while making other parts looks soft or pasty and synthetic.  That said, Lightroom 3’s noise reduction is the best I’ve seen to date and the easiest to use.  I rarely need use my Photoshop plug-ins anymore and have even revisited some of my old D100 files (that camera loved to generate noisy photos) to give them a modern touch-up.  Here are the steps:

1. For Lightroom users, bring your image into the Develop module, or simply open your raw file into ACR if you’re only using Photoshop.  I suggest doing noise detail adjustments, like any detail adjustment, while viewing the file at 100% or 1:1 so you can accurately see what the sliders are doing.  If raw files are not part of your workflow but you still want to open up your image in ACR, go to the File menu and look for the option to Open in Camera Raw.





2. As you can see, when the Luminance and Color sliders are at 0, the Detail sliders and Contrast slider are grayed out.  Adobe wants you to play with the big hammers first.  Simply drag the Luminosity slider to the right until the unwanted noise is gone.  You shouldn’t need much and if you go too far your detail can begin to look flat and synthetic, but this new tool does a great job of maintaining detail.





3. While the Luminance slider targets the more common grain-like noise patterns on your image, the Color slider will target the red, green, and blue spots that can appear on your photos at random.  Although color noise is not as common, I find it more troublesome to look at.  Like the Luminance slider, simply drag this one to the right until your unwanted noise is gone.




4.  After using your “big hammers,” do your fine-tuning with the Detail and Contrast sliders.  Your detail slider is great at bringing back any detail lost from using your Luminosity and Color sliders.  Your Contrast slider is good for redefining edges and works in a similar way to the Clarity slider found in your Basic development tool set.





I should point out that if you're outputting your images to email or Flickr and keeping their sizes small, such as JPEG’s, this fine detail adjustment won’t matter all that much.  On the other hand, if you like to print, especially if you like to go big with your prints as I do from time to time, this tool can help a great deal.  Now go and play.  You’ll love the results!







About The Author

Jason Bradley is a professional nature and underwater photographer based in Monterey, California.  He leads seminars on digital workflow using Adobe products and field expeditions immersing the photographer in coastal and underwater environments.  To see his work and view a list of upcoming workshops, visit www.BradleyPhotographic.com


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