I recently shot my first wedding that forced me to shoot in low light situations. The actual ceremony seemed like it had enough light, but for shots which required a decent amount of zoom I had to slow the shutter speed down, open up the aperture and raise my ISO. Then came the reception with even lower lighting, which would often dip to nearly no light for different songs the DJ would play. At the end of the night I had taken many photographs with high ISO. With the light sensitive ISOs like the 800 ISO I was using noise becomes noticeable, especially when there is still not enough light. Utilizing the flash more efficiently would have been more ideal but now afterwards I need to reduce the noise that is visible in my photos.

To work on reducing noise in photos I prefer to use Adobe Photoshop CS4’s camera raw function that I was introduced to by Ray Villalobos from planetoftheweb.com. If you shoot in RAW format the panel will automatically open when you bring a raw file into photoshop. For other formats like jpeg images the raw panel functions are still available with the change of a setting. Access to the camera raw panel can be found by opening Photoshop, then going under Edit and on down to Preferences where you’ll see the different options available in a fly-out menu. The last option in that list will be the Camera Raw. Once clicked the window will open where you can set it so that any jpeg or tiff can trigger the raw panel to open for adjusting the photograph. 

Now that photographs of any format can be opened in Photoshop’s Camera Raw we’re ready to utilize this awesome tool. Camera Raw in Photoshop has many incredible functions available to enhance and correct images, but back to that grainy ISO 800 I used for the wedding photos, so I’ll focus on the noise reduction.

Here in the Camera Raw window you’ll need to go to the Detail tab and that is where the Noise Reduction sliders are found. There are two sliders one for the Luminance and the other for the Color noise. Luminance primarily works to smoothen out the patterns of noise created by the sensitive high ISOs. Working with the Luminance can tend to blur the image so a balance must be found between softening the grain and losing important details. The Color slider helps remove those overly saturated color spots in the noise. Below are screenshots displaying not just how Camera Raw looks, but also the difference that the Noise Reduction tool can make.

There we have it, the use of Adobe Photoshop’s powerful Camera Raw editor and photographs with less noise! I also need to mention that in Camera Raw you wont notice the changes the Noise Reduction makes unless you view the image at 100% or further in. Once you have the photo adjusted as desired there is the option to simply save it right there or open the image into Photoshop where any other modifications can be made.

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