Noise is common in photos. To some extent it can serve as a creative tool, but most of the time it’s a nuisance. It usually appears when you shoot in bad lighting conditions while using a high ISO. But you can remove it using computer editing. Let’s take a look at how to do that.
Often the lighting conditions for a photo shoot aren’t good, and there isn’t enough light. That’s why you need to adjust your camera settings to match these conditions. Usually the immediate solution is to raise the shutter speed and f-stop. However, that sometimes isn’t enough. In that case you need to adjust the ISO.
Higher ISO: More Light and More Noise
If you’re shooting in a location with bad lighting and you can’t raise the f-stop and shutter speed any more, you need to raise the sensitivity of the image sensor—ISO. That way, you can take a photo with good exposure. But you will pay for it with stronger noise.
That’s because raising your ISO will accentuate noise. However, that doesn’t mean that the solution is to leave the ISO at a low setting—leaving the photo underexposed—and then brighten it using computer editing. Not at all! You run the risk that there won’t be enough data in darker sections, and blotches far worse than noise will appear. So it’s better to raise the ISO slightly and have a photo with good light exposure.
The highest ISO that will still give you good results differs from camera to camera. When it comes to compact cameras, it’s around 800, while basic DSLR and mirror-less cameras can produce good results with values around 1600–3200. And professional cameras can make even ISO 10,000 work with an acceptable level of noise.
2 Basic Possibilities For Removing Noise
Zoner Photo Studio will help you with removing noise. It offers two basic ways to deal with it.
- One is the Develop module, which guarantees non-destructive editing for your photos.
- The other is the Editor module, which works well for even quite complicated and extensive editing.
Removing Noise in the Develop Module
You’ll find noise reduction tools in the right panel when you’re editing photos in the Develop module. They’re in the Noise Reduction group.
Before you start removing the noise, zoom in to 100% zoom. To do this, either click inside the photo preview or use the 1:1 icon above it.
If you’re only looking at the shrunken photo preview, it can look like there’s almost no noise. It’s also possible that you won’t estimate the effect’s strength correctly and you’ll reduce the photo’s sharpness when reducing its noise.
You have two sliders for controlling noise removal in the Develop module.
- Brightness eliminates grayscale noise—that’s the white graining in this photo.
- Colors gets rid of colored noise.
The ideal noise reduction value in our example is around 50. That value removes the most noticeable noise while keeping the sharpness intact.
If you’re working with photos that have all been taken in the same conditions, it’s usually best to set the same level of noise reduction for all of them. To do that, just select all the photos and then adjust the noise reduction however you wish.
Removing Noise in the Editor Module
The other, more advanced option is to remove noise in the Editor. You’ll find the Remove Noise (Ctrl+Shift+N) fitler in the Adjust group. Here again, it’s better to zoom in to a 1:1 ratio.
The Remove Noise filter also offers two ways to reduce noise:
- Salt and Pepper—removes striking, unevenly spread dots. Their presence is usually connected with so-called “hot pixels” causing the sensor to overheat.
- Additive Noise—removes dots that are spread out evenly over the whole picture.
In practice it’s usually best to combine both of these methods. Additive Noise removes most of the subtle spots and Salt and Pepper deals with the rest.
Besides these overall settings, you can also work with noise removal for selected colors and brightnesses. That’s what the two local-correction bars that have curves with predefined points are for. You strengthen or weaken the noise reduction for a color or brightness level by pulling the points and reshaping the curve.
If, for example, you have a single-colored background (which happens to be a classic case where you’ll want to specifically denoise that color), click the eyedropper icon and select that color. This color appears as a new point on your curve. You increase the noise reduction for this color by pulling the point upwards. Brightness levels work on the same principle.
You’ll find both of these settings in the Develop and Editor modules.
Tip: If a photo contains a very large amount of highly colorful noise, it’s sometimes better to convert it to grayscale. That’s because its colors will look very unnatural after you remove the noise.
What’s the Right Way to Reduce Noise? With caution
Since each photo is different, we can’t recommend just one set of values for noise removal. Still, remember that the result should have minimum noise and maximum detail. The search for an appropriate compromise is on you.
Try it right on your own photos. Download the Zoner Photo Studio X 30-day free trial… and get rid of noise!