Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photo Tip #11 - Noise Reduction

Last Photo Tip, we talked about using higher ISO settings to get more light into your camera. The trade off for doing this is your photos will have more digital noise in them...a digital version of film grain. In this photo tip I'm going to show you how you can use some cheap digital noise reduction software to improve your photos.

There are several noise reduction software programs out there these days. Many of them do a good job at reducing digital noise. I have been using a program called "Neat Image" for quite some time. It's easy to use and does a good job for me. You can buy Neat Image as a stand alone software package, or a plug in that installs right into Photoshop Elements, or the bigger Photoshop CS programs. I use the plug in version for Photoshop Elements. Neat image is one of the best tools in the bag.

The following photos were all taken with my point and shoot camera, a Panasonic DMC-ZS3. It's a handy camera when I don't want to carry my big boys around. As with any point and shoot camera, they all have a tiny sensor when compared with a DSLR camera. The tiny sensors are OK, but they get extra noisy at high ISO settings. I'll show you some examples.

Here is are 3 shots at ISO 400, ISO 800, and ISO 1600 with no noise reduction.

ISO 400 without noise reduction
ISO 800 without noise reduction
ISO 1600 without noise reduction

ISO 400

Now here are close ups of the noise in each of these photos. As you can see, the digital noise gets much worse in each photo.

ISO 400 with noise reduction

But, you can see the difference Neat image can make in each photo.
ISO 800

ISO 800 with noise reduction
If you have a DSLR camera, your photos will be significantly cleaner at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 to start with. This is because DSLR cameras have much bigger sensors and produce much better images. When you use Neat image on those, your photos really pop!

I will say this, be careful on what kinds of photos you use noise reduction on. It can work great for landscapes, but is a little challenging for portraits.

ISO 1600
ISO 1600 with noise reduction

Another way to get noise reduction software is to use Adobe Lightroom. The new version has it built in and works very nicely!

You can download a free trial of Neat Image at You can download a free 30 day trial of Adobe Lightroom at Adobe Lightroom.

Good luck practicing!

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