Smooth out un­de­sir­able im­age noise while pre­serv­ing de­tail

Lauren Scott shows you how to smooth out un­de­sir­able im­age noise while pre­serv­ing de­tail us­ing the Re­duce Noise fil­ter

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When shoot­ing with a tra­di­tional film cam­era, you could use film with dif­fer­ent ISO speeds to cap­ture more de­tail in low-light con­di­tions. The faster (higher) the film’s ISO speed, the more sen­si­tive it was to avail­able light. A fast film en­abled you to avoid us­ing slow shut­ter speeds in low light, so you could cap­ture de­tail with­out the need for a tri­pod. You could also shoot hand­held in lo­ca­tions where flash was pro­hib­ited, such as in a mu­seum or church. To­day’s dig­i­tal cam­eras can reach blis­ter­ing ISOS com­pared to the film cam­eras of yore, but bump­ing up the sen­si­tiv­ity of the sen­sor isn’t with­out any noise at all. You’ll know that the higher you push your ISO, the grainier your im­ages be­come, but did you know that there are two types of dig­i­tal noise – lu­mi­nance (greyscale) and chroma (colour)? Lu­mi­nance noise ap­pears through­out the tonal range of the im­age as tiny dots. It can be com­pared to grain in ana­logue film, so it isn’t as un­de­sir­able as chroma noise, which man­i­fests it­self as mul­ti­coloured speck­les. How­ever, you may still want to smooth out high Iso-in­duced lu­mi­nance noise to get a more pris­tine dig­i­tal photo. When re­duc­ing the pres­ence of lu­mi­nance noise, you have to be care­ful not to blur im­por­tant de­tails, or end up with an im­age that looks soft and muddy. Fol­low th­ese quick steps for an idea on how to get started.

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