There are so many noise reduction software, that it can be difficult to decide which one to use.
Each noise removal software uses different algorithms to attack the digital noise from our photographs. Some of them will allow us a greater control margin so that we can remove the noise selectively without affecting globally to our whole image, while others are automatic.
In general, through anti-noise plugins and software, we can reduce luminance noise and chromatic noise in our images, but with an important side effect: we lose sharpness and detail.
If you’re still not familiar with the basics of noise in photography, I recommend you start with that article.
Finding a balance where we eliminate the noise, but at the same time, we maintain the maximum amount of detail it is crucial when comes to decide which noise reduction software to use.
In my case, I usually reduce the noise in Lightroom to later remove the noise in Photoshop in combination with other plugins. However, I think it is useful to know the best tools to reduce the noise that we can find in the market, so we can choose the one that suits us better.
To help you choose the best noise removal software, in this article you can find the following content:
- Best software and plugins to reduce noise in digital photography
- Comparison of the best noise reduction software with graphical test
- What anti-noise plugin or software should you use?
It should be remembered that noise reduction programs help, but if you want to have completely clean photographs, the first step will be to learn how to reduce digital noise using the appropriate camera setting when shooting.
Best noise reduction software and plugins
Briefly, these are the best noise reduction software and plugins to remove noise in photography:
- Lightroom: Reduces the noise in the RAW file in a simple, fast and accurate way.
- Photoshop: It is one of the best noise removal software since it allows us to selectively reduce noise using masks.
- Skylum Luminar: Offers different ways to eliminate noise in a similar way to Lightroom.
- Noiseware: Plugin developed by the company Imagenomic. It is one of the simplest and most effective ways to get rid of the noise.
- Topaz Denoise: Anti-noise plugin using a smart function that analyzes and treats digital photography noise.
- Nik Dfine 2: Offers a relatively simple noise reduction plugin inside the Nik Collection pro package.
- Capture One: In addition to luminance and chromatic noise reduction adjustments, provides a slider called “single-pixel” for the hot pixels reduction.
- Noise Ninja: One of the most popular plugins to reduce noise for photographers. It is included in the Photoninja package.
- Neat image pro: External plugin dedicated to the elimination of noise in photography.
- DxO Optics pro 11 elite: This software offers different algorithms and can be used both independently or integrated in Lightroom.
Reducing digital noise in Lightroom is simple and effective, and that’s the main reason why it’s one of the most popular software to reduce noise in the Raw file.
The catalog and editing functions are very extensive, and very straightforward, which makes Lightroom the main editing software in the market.
In relation to noise reduction, inside the “Develop” module, there is a “Detail” section where we can find different sliders to reduce the luminance noise and to reduce the chromatic noise, with the possibility of adjusting the reduction according to our photograph.
The price of Lightroom varies depending on the Adobe package. As a reference, the basic photography package (which also includes Photoshop) has a price of $9.99 per month.
As it is the most used noise reduction software in photography, we created a specific article on how to reduce noise in Lightroom.
As we previously mentioned, noise reduction in Photoshop is the most effective technique to reduce and remove digital noise.
Using this software, we can make the noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw (that uses the same algorithm used in Lightroom), but with the enormous advantage of being able to apply these adjustments in a much more selective way.
In addition, we can use noise reduction filters, and other more advanced techniques to get rid of noise such as blending noise reduction or stacking noise reduction.
To sum up, the possibilities to reduce and eliminate noise with this software are endless. That is the reason why we created a specific article on the best techniques to remove noise in Photoshop.
Like Lightroom, the Photoshop price in the basic Adobe photo package is $9.99 per month.
The last alternative to Lightroom that offers a noise reduction module is Luminar.
To reduce noise in Luminar, in addition to the main functions you have in Lightroom, you can make adjustments more selectively through masks and layers as if you were using Photoshop; with the advantage of processing in a non-destructive way.
The Luminar noise reduction is applied through a filter called “Denoise“, which will allow you to reduce luminance or chromatic noise, increase or decrease the overall effect through a “boost” slider, and finally adjust the opacity.
It can be used independently or as a plugin in Lightroom or Photoshop
The price of Luminar 3 is $69 (check the offer) for a permanent license, which makes it a very economical and interesting option.
This noise reduction plugin was developed by Imagenomic.
Reducing noise with Noiseware is very simple since it offers the possibility of removing noise with a single click, without having to make manual selections or adjusting settings.
Noiseware includes different preset modes depending on the amount of noise we want to reduce.
It’s one of the best plugins to eliminate noise in photography and the one I use on my workflow.
The price of Noiseware is $79.95 and can only be used as an extension in Photoshop.
The plugin Topaz Denoise removes noise after analyzing our image by automatically getting rid of the digital noise in grainy areas while preserving the detail in areas where a strong reduction is not required.
We can adjust the noise removal through a number of preset settings and sliders as in most plugins.
Topaz Denoise can be installed both in Lightroom and Photoshop for a price of $79.99 (check the offer).
Included with the Nik Collection package, one of the most popular extensions is Dfine 2, a plugin that removes noise quickly and easily.
In order to use the Nik Dfine noise reduction, we can manually select areas so the software can adjust the noise reduction and apply it more selectively.
This filter became very popular when Google started to provide the package Nik Collection for free with this plugin included.
Nik collection was purchased by DxO, and the package is currently priced at $69. It can be used as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop and DxO Optics Photolab.
Capture One has become one of the best alternatives to Lightroom in recent years.
With this software, you can edit RAW files, including the possibility to import Lightroom catalogs.
Capture One offers different powerful editing tools and a wider variety of settings and options than Lightroom. Considering the price and features, this software is usually aimed at professional photographers.
Speaking about the noise reduction in Capture One, in addition to settings like luminance or chromatic noise reduction such as those previously seen in Lightroom, Capture One includes a slider called “single-pixel“ dedicated to the Hot Pixels reduction.
The price of Capture one is $299, so it is not a cheap option unless you want to develop your entire editing process on this software.
Even so, the results reducing the noise with Capture One really surprised me, as I tell you in the comparison that you will see below.
Noise Ninja 4, integrated into the package Photo Ninja, is one of the most popular noise reduction software and it is renowned for its effectiveness and preservation of detail.
Historically, Noise Ninja focused solely on noise reduction, but currently, Photo Ninja offers more functions as lights recovery or color enhancement.
The noise reduction panel in Noise Ninja is similar to other plugins, with luminance and chromatic noise settings. It can be used both in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Noise Ninja 4 cannot be purchased separately, but only within the Photo Ninja package, which has a price of $129. They also charge $59 for the upgrades.
Neat Image Pro allows you to automatically analyze the noisier sections of the image and apply anti-noise settings to eliminate them. In addition, you can adjust the reduction through several sliders set on the software by default.
Reducing noise in Neat Image Pro is simple, but you need to be careful since the adjustment could have side effects on the sharp areas of the image.
We can use it as a plugin for Photoshop for a price of $39.
As Capture One, this software is offered as an alternative to our editing workflow, providing many camera profiles, local adjustments, and similar functions to Lightroom.
In order to reduce noise in DxO Optics Photolab, this software includes a function called “Prime Noise reduction“, that has gained a lot of popularity. In fact, many photographers use DxO to a large extent only for this function, since it is one of the best noise reduction software.
It can be used both independently or integrated with Lightroom as a plugin.
The price of the basic version known as “essential” includes the famous “Prime denoising technology” for a price of $129.
As you can see, the offer of software and plugins to remove digital noise is overwhelming.
COMPARISON: What is the best noise reduction software? – Graphic Test
All the aforementioned noise removal software fulfill their function very effectively. However, there are many variables when deciding what is the best program to reduce noise in our photographs: compatibility, speed, functions, effectiveness, etc.
To find a response, I made a comparison analyzing the following image that I took in the surroundings of Grand Canyon NP, in Arizona:
In the editing process, with Lightroom and working just on the RAW, I made the following adjustments to extract as much information from the image as possible.
- Exposition: +0.75
- Lights: -100
- Shadows: +100
With Capture One and DXO Photolab 2, I used equivalent settings on the RAW.
I chose this image for several reasons:
- The image was captured at a high ISO and in a completely dark area, without light pollution or artificial lighting.
- In the image were captured both the ground and a starry sky. These are the perfect elements to do this sort of test since some noise reduction software have side effects such as the stars removal.
- There is luminance noise across the whole image.
- There is color noise with two outstanding vertical bands on the right side of the ground and along the central tree.
- By zooming in, you can also spot Hot pixels and other artifacts.
In order to analyze which is the most effective noise reduction software, you can see below the test performed with each software and the main pros and cons I found in each anti-noise plugin:
I made the basic noise reduction of Lightroom by balancing the luminance noise, the color noise, and the detail, as I explain in this article on how to reduce noise in Lightroom:
It eliminates a lot of luminance and color noise, although the main color bands are still visible.
In addition to the basic reduction through Adobe Camara Raw (same as in LR), I added an advanced reduction using the noise filter in the red channel, since it was the one that more noise presented.
The results between the Photoshop and Lightroom noise reduction are very similar, but analyzing the comparison you can see more detail using the advanced noise reduction of Photoshop.
In order to reduce noise in Luminar, I applied a more aggressive color noise reduction since I could see that it was very effective without excessively washing the image, and applied a slight luminance noise reduction.
I was surprised by the great noise reduction while retaining the details of the image.
The only cons I can see in the Luminar noise reduction is a star-elimination side effect when we move in higher values of luminance noise reduction.
In my normal editing and processing flow, I always make a reduction in LR before making a more selective reduction through Noiseware in Photoshop.
In this case and to make this comparison, I made a noise reduction in Noiseware starting from the profile “Strong Color noise” and later fine-tuned the setting using the different sliders.
As the main pros of Noiseware, I would highlight the speediness with several default modes and the great tonal and contrast recovery.
As a cons, although it is not a real disadvantage, it is that the results are much better when using Noiseware together with the LR and PS noise reduction.
To process the Topaz Noise removal, I applied a more aggressive color reduction and used the “Reduce Lens blur” slider in an intensive way to extract as much detail as possible.
Working with Topaz, I especially like the simple but effective presets, the possibility of adjusting the opacity and adding layers with more adjustments to refine the detail if it’s necessary.
But without a doubt, my favorite Topaz feature is its “Reduce Lens blur” mode when it comes to reducing noise on skies. In all the tests I performed, I could see how it keeps all the stars in perfect detail while removing all residual noise.
Removing noise with Dfine 2 is more or less quick and simple, although there are several aspects that I do not like:
- The automatic analysis of the noise is not very accurate and I ended up doing it manually.
- The local adjustments through circles are applied too generally and you have to spend a lot of time tweaking them.
- The edge conservation mode pulls out too many artifacts.
- The Jpeg artifacts reduction has no real effect.
- The banding elimination washes out too much detail in the photograph.
- The zoom is small and slow.
I would not use it individually to get rid of noise, although you can use it as a complement to the LR and PS noise reduction if you already use the Color Efex Pro package.
To remove the noise in Capture One, I moved the single pixel reduction slider to the top right, applied a stronger color reduction and a small level of luminance noise reduction.
My perception of this software is that it is complex to use and it takes time to load the before and after. However, I like the single pixel slider, which automatically removes all the defective pixels and generally reduces noise while retaining a lot of detail.
What I certainly loved about Capture one, is the color noise reduction, eliminating completely the color bands and blotches, and providing the image with a very natural color. I would dare to say that it is the best color noise reduction software of all the ones tested.
To reduce noise in Noise Ninja, following the noise reduction that I applied in the other software, I made a stronger color noise reduction and a slightly softer luminance noise reduction.
I also used the “defringe” slider to avoid halos when I tried to recover more detail.
What I liked most about Noise Ninja is that it is very easy and intuitive to use and it loads the settings extremely fast. What I liked the least was maybe the loss of contrast, especially when compared to the other software.
To reduce the noise with Neat Image pro, I applied a considerable level of luminance noise reduction and a strong recovery in the detail.
What I liked the most is the variety of options to fine-tune the reduction it has, but however, it gives too much impractical information, the before/after zoom is messy and is extremely slow when loading settings.
In DXO Photolab there are two options to reduce noise:
- On any type of file other than RAWs: The noise reduction is very limited, with two simple adjustments of luminance and color noise not very effective.
- On the RAW file: the popular PRIME reduction, which includes more sliders such as a “low freq.” slider to control the detail or a slider to eliminate the dead pixels, although in the latter I couldn’t see great results.
Results of the graphic test
After comparing more images with the different noise reduction software and carefully analyzing the graphic results, these were my conclusions:
- The best luminance noise reduction software would be tight between Noiseware and Luminar. They are even more effective when they are used as a plugin after having made a first noise reduction in Lightroom.
- The best noise reduction software in terms of detail conservation, according to all tests performed, is Noiseware. As regards starry skies, I think here Topaz would be the winner following its “Reduce lens blur” slider since it cleans and preserves starry skies surprisingly well.
- The best color noise reduction software is, without any doubt, Capture One. All you need to do is to review the test images to see it at a glance. Not only it effectively eliminates all the color banding, but it also provides the photo with a very natural color.
Just a caveat about Capture One. In Northern Lights pictures, it can change the color of the Aurora and spread this color around the edges.
Color Noise Reduction with Capture One. 4 sec, F/2.8, ISO 6400
The reduction is apparently correct, but if we zoom at 100% in one of the edges where this Aurora color is locted:
Color extended over the edges using the noise reduction of Capture One in Northern Lights. Zoom 100%
You can see how the green color spreads over the edges. I consistently saw this issue in all my Northern Lights imagen when reducing noise with Capture One.
In order to extract your own conclusions, below you will find the graphical test of all the noise reduction software in the previous photo, with a 100% crop image to see the reduction in more detail.
WHAT NOISE REDUCTION SOFTWARE OR PLUGIN SHOULD I USE?
As you can see after the previous comparison, the best noise reduction software does not exist.
There is not a top Noise reduction plugin we can clearly proclaim as a winner. Each software has its own pros and cons.
Choosing the best noise reduction software will depend on many factors, such as the type of photography you do, the workflow you follow and your budget.
Just as general advice, I would suggest:
- If you are already working with Lightroom or Photoshop, you can leverage all the features they offer using a plugin that is simple and effective, such as Noiseware, Luminar or Topaz; adjusting and making the noise reduction selectively using Photoshop tools.
- If you don’t use any photo editing software and Lightroom exceeds your budget ($9.99 per month), you can start working with a cheaper photo editor that include noise reduction tools such as Luminar, which has a fixed permanent price of 69$.
- ALL plugins and software covered in this article offer free trials, so you can download the different plugins, test them with your own images, and choose the plugin that best suits your needs.
And for you, what is the best noise reduction software?
If you use any other plugin that we didn’t mention leave a comment to take it into account in future updates. Thank you!
P.S: If these noise reduction software seems very complex for you, you may be interested in our article on mobile applications to reduce noise on iPhone and Android.