how to reduce noise in photoshop

As a wedding photographer, chances are you are no stranger to noise in your images. Digital noise is a discoloration of a photo that often degrades the quality. When you zoom in closely on an image, the noise may cause it to appear pixelated. There are several factors that can cause noise in your photos, including low light scenarios, high sensitivity modes, or slow shutter speeds. Unlike using Lightroom to reduce noise, Photoshop gives you a lot more versatility and refinement. So if you’re ready to dive into learning how to reduce noise in Photoshop for your wedding photography, read on! In the past, we have covered this process in Lightroom. Today, we will walk you through the specific steps needed to reduce noise in Photoshop.

Types of Digital Noise

One of the first steps in the process of reducing noise in your images is to identify the type of digital noise. Below, we walk through the different types of noise you may find in your images.

1. Color Noise

The first type of noise is color noise, which appears when the color is distorted. Color noise appears as a variety of colors instead of a color showing as solid.

2. Luminance Noise

The next type of noise is luminance noise, which shows up as grain on your images. Unlike color noise, you will not see the color variations with luminance noise. This type of noise refers to the brightness of the image instead of the colors.

Quick Tip

Since noise can often be challenging to see when an image is zoomed out, zoom in to help identify which type it is. If you see color distortion on the image, this means it is color noise. If you see black, white, and gray dots, this means it is luminance noise.

Note: Noise reduction in Photoshop starts with identifying its type. Now that you know more about the types of noise you may encounter in your wedding images, here are the steps to take to reduce noise. These are basic guidelines for you to follow, though the amount of noise you reduce will depend on your unique photography style.

How to Reduce Noise in Photoshop: Reduce Color Noise

To reduce color noise in your images in Photoshop, follow these steps:

1. Open the “Reduce Noise” Filter

selecting noise reduction photoshop
Image by Image Studio Photography

The first step to reducing noise in Photoshop is to open the “Reduce Noise” filter. To access the “Reduce Noise” filter, click on the “Filter” menu, choose “Noise” and then choose “Reduce Noise.”

The “Reduce Noise” dialog box features a preview area and different sliders and options available to help you reduce different types of noise. This is dialog box is the single best way to perform noise reduction in Photoshop.

2. Set the “Reduce Color Noise” Slider

You will see a “Reduce Color Noise” slider and the next step is to set this slider. Slowly drag the slider toward the right until the color noise blends with the image as much as possible. You can use the preview area as you drag the slider so you make sure to avoid dragging it too far.

Quick Tip

If you want to see the original version of your image, click and hold on the preview area. This helps you see what the original image looked like and how much more you should adjust the slider.

How to Reduce Noise in Photoshop: Reduce Luminance Noise

To reduce luminance noise in your images in Photoshop, follow these steps:

1. Switch to Lab Color mode

Click on “Image” from the menu, hover over “Mode,” and select “Lab Color.” This will allow you to switch to the “Lab Color” mode. In the “Channels” palette, you will now notice you are working with “Lightness” “a” and “b” instead of “Red,” “Green,” and “Blue” from the “RGB” channel.

The “Lightness” channel features details about the black and white, or the luminance, of the image. The “a” channel contains green and magenta details and the “b” channel contains yellow and blue details.

2. Create a New Layer

After you switch to “Lab Color” mode, create a new layer. To do this, drag the existing background layer to the “Create New Layer” icon at the bottom. Creating a new layer keeps the original photo intact, while you make adjustments to the new layer.

3. Select the “Lightness” Channel

Once you create a new layer, select the “Lightness” channel. This is the channel you want to use to remove luminance noise from your image.

4. Create a New “Lightness” Channel

Just like you did in step #2, create a copy of the “Lightness” channel. Drag the existing channel to the “Create New Channel” icon at the bottom. The same concept applies here. Creating a new channel allows you to change the image as needed, without adjusting the original version. Before moving on, be sure to adjust the name of the new channel so you know which one to click on to make additional changes.

5. Add Effect to New Channel

With the new channel available, add the “Glowing Edges” effect to the image. Simply click “Filter” and click on “Filter Gallery.” Then, click on “Stylize” and select “Glowing Edges.” The “Glowing Edges” effect finds the edges in the photo and highlights them in white. All smooth surfaces are left black.

There are a few areas for you to work within the dialog box:

Extra Tips On Reducing Noise In Photoshop: Pay Attention To –

  1. Edge Width: Find “Edge Width” to the right of the dialog box. This where you can adjust the width of the white selected areas. Keep this rule in mind: The finer the details are in the image, the lower the value that should be used.
  2. Edge Brightness: Find “Edge Brightness” under “Edge Width” in the dialog box. This allows you to set the brightness of the area selected. To avoid highlighting noise, use a lower value for this.
  3. Smoothness: Find “Smoothness” under “Edge Brightness” in the dialog box. This allows you to blur the light areas and to avoid highlighting the noise. It also makes important areas bright enough.

6. Invert Channel

Now that you made the adjustments to this channel, click “Image,” hover over “Adjustments,” and then select “Invert” to invert the channel. Then, hold down “Command” for Mac (“Control” for PCs) and click on the new channel. When you perform this action, you will see that the white areas are selected and the dark areas are not.

7. Blur the Selection

The next step is to click “Filter,” hover over “Blur,” and select “Smart Blur.” In “Smart Blur,” set the “Quality” to high. For the “Radius,” select a lower value to avoid adding too much blur to the image. Under “Radius” is “Threshold,” which controls the extent of the blur you apply. Be sure to use a value that is around 10 to avoid damaging the details of the photo.

8. Set the Opacity

After you apply the blur to the image, access the “Layers” palette to set the “Opacity.” This will help refine the results of your adjustments. The “Opacity” you set depends on your unique photography style and the results you would like to see.

The percentage you choose for “Opacity” will incorporate both the bottom, original, unchanged layer as well as the upper, adjusted layer. Setting the “Opacity” can also help you refine the details in the original layer.

9. Flatten the Final Image

Now that you have made the necessary adjustments to the image, you can now flatten it. Click “Layer” and click “Flatten Image.” You can then switch back to RGB color mode by clicking “Image,” hovering over “Mode,” and selecting “RGB Color.”

Additional Options to Reduce Noise in Photoshop

An additional way to reduce luminance noise in Photoshop is to adjust the “Strength” and “Preserve Details.” Here’s how you can do that –

  1. Click on “Filter,” hover over “Noise,” and click “Reduce Noise.” Set the value of “Strength” to 0% to start. Drag the “Strength” slider to the right to remove as much of the luminance noise as possible. Avoid dragging the slider too far to the right to remove the details from the photo.
  2. After you reduce the noise as much as you can, drag the “Preserve Details” slider to the right bring back the detail of the image. This should be done slowly so you can maintain the detail and avoid bringing back the noise.

Advanced Ways to Reduce Noise in Photoshop

If the above steps do not achieve the goal of reducing noise without losing too much detail, you can try an advanced option. This option involves reducing noise channel-by-channel.

Channel-by-Channel Technique

We will start with color noise. Set the “Strength” slider to 0%. Select “Advanced” instead of “Basic.” Then, select “Per Channel” tab, located next to the “Overall” tab.

Earlier, we talked about the 3 color channels (“Red,” “Green,” and “Blue”) earlier in the article that make up most images. Often times, one channel will feature more noise than the others. When you take the steps to reduce noise channel-by-channel, you can adjust the channels that need it (without taking too much detail from the channels with less noise).

As you work through each channel, adjust the “Strength” and “Preserve Details” sliders as you would in the previous option. The only difference in this process is you are choosing the “Strength” and “Preserve Details” for one channel.

Follow the same process of setting both sliders to 0%. Drag the “Strength” slider to remove as much noise as possible for that channel. Then, once you reduce the noise as much as you can, drag the “Preserve Details” slider to the right bring back the detail of the image. This should be done slowly so you can maintain the detail and avoid bringing back the noise.

After you complete the “Advanced” option to reduce noise, click the “Overall” tab to switch back to control all channels. Go through the process of adjusting the “Strength” and “Preserve Details” sliders to make any further adjustments that are needed.

Further Read: How To Edit Portraits In Photoshop

Depending on your unique photography style, you may want to add more noise to the image to improve its quality, to achieve a certain look, or to add interest to it. You can also add grain to an image in Photoshop with a lot of noise to achieve these goals. Learning properly how to reduce noise in Photoshop can help you make adjustments to your images. When you have the knowledge and skills, you can avoid editing nightmares photographers may face.

There are several actions you can take to create unforgettable images in Photoshop, as well as Lightroom. But have you been spending tons of time editing wedding images? Do you love it or hate it? Maybe it’s a love/hate relationship. At ShootDotEdit, we LOVE editing wedding images, especially if it means delivering you consistently edited images that you can then work extra special magic on and make them your own, really impressing your clients. If you want to chat with someone on our team about how we do that, and how we can do that for you, check out our pricing page and click that chat bar!

1 comment

  • Dimuthu Ekanayaka

    very good explanation

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