guide to photograph the milky way and get rid of noise in lightroom

How to reduce noise in Lightroom – Best techniques and plugins

How to reduce noise in Lightroom – Best techniques and plugins
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Reducing noise in Lightroom is one of the easiest ways to get rid of the noise in your photos. If you already use this software, you’ll know that you can apply Lightroom Noise reduction to your RAW files, and that you can always use other software or plugins to remove noise in a more selective way.

Nowadays, there is a wide variety of noise reduction software, but Lightroom is the most used for a simple reason: It’s quick and easy to use.

how to reduce Noise in Lightroom

5 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600. Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8

As you may know, noise is one of the most undesired effects in digital photography, so it is very important to know what the noise is and what types exist, and how to reduce digital noise using the right camera settings.

In this article, we will focus on Lightroom Noise Reduction:

  1. Basic steps to reduce Noise in Lightroom
  2. Best noise reduction settings in Lightroom
  3. Best workflow to reduce noise in Lightroom
  4. Local noise reduction in Lightroom
  5. Best plugins to reduce noise in Lightroom
  6. Noise reduction presets for Lightroom
  7. Noise reduction in Lightroom mobile
  8. Last tips to remove noise in Lightroom

How to reduce noise in Lightroom STEP BY STEP

In a nutshell, you can reduce the noise in Lightroom by following the steps below:

  1. Upload your image in Lightroom.
  2. Zoom in 100% on the image to see the noisy areas and the effect of the adjustments.
  3. Go to the detail tab, where you will find all the sliders.
  4. Increase the luminance slider until the luminance noise is reduced; try not to make the image too “washed” out, so you still have some sharpness and detail
  5. Increase the luminance detail slightly and progressively, to recover part of the sharpness you might have lost with the noise reduction in Lightroom.
  6. Increase the contrast to recover part of the contrast you might have lost with the initial luminance noise reduction.
  7. Adjust the color slider if your picture has color noise until you get rid of the noise. Pay attention to the side effects in the other colors.
  8. Adjust the color detail to fine-tune the previous setting.
  9. Try adjusting the smoothness to finish the Lightroom color noise reduction.
Milky Way Lightroom Noise reduction

Panorama of 6 vertical images at 30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200

Throughout the article, you will see how these adjustments work and the most effective way to use them to reduce noise in Lightroom quickly and easily.

best noise reduction settings in Lightroom

Lightroom Noise reduction allows you to remove noise in an effective and customized way for each image.

To reduce noise in Lightroom, you can use different settings that will be globally applied to the RAW file, with the advantage of being able to control the noise reduction through different adjustments.

The basic option is to use the sliders found in the detail panel, but there are other Lightroom noise reduction tools, such as noise reductions plugins for Lightroom, local adjustments, and even Lightroom noise reduction presets.

Before moving on to the steps to remove noise in Lightroom, you need a solid understanding of the different ways to get rid of noise in Lightroom.

DETAIL PANEL TO REDUCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM 5

This is the main tool to eliminate noise in the latest version of Lightroom. you’ll find it in the detail panel, where you’ll see different sliders to balance both the noise reduction and the detail.

Detail panel lightroom noise reduction

Detail panel in Lightroom

LUMINANCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

If you want to reduce luminance noise in Lightroom, there are three settings:

  • Luminance: Used to eliminate luminance noise in Lightroom. This adjustment works over the general RAW file. The more you move to the right, the more noise you reduce, but with a downside: you also sacrifice sharpness and contrast. In general, it’s more convenient to use lower values.
  • Detail: After applying the luminance noise reduction, you can recover part of the detail lost with this slider.
  • Contrast: After recovering the detail, with this slider, you can recover part of the contrast you had before the first luminance adjustment.
COLOR NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

To reduce color noise in Lightroom, we can adjust the following sliders:

  • Color: With this setting, you can reduce chroma noise in Lightroom. It’s a very effective setting, but it does have possible side effects, such as color shift in areas that were previously fine.
  • Detail: This slider helps to recover detail, but without adding noise as you would with the detail adjustment for luminance noise.
  • Smoothness: This adjustment allows you to smooth all the areas where you’ve applied the color noise reduction in Lightroom.

With all these sliders, you can adjust the Lightroom noise reduction for each of your pictures.

It is also important to:

  • Identifying if the digital noise in your image is luminance noise or color noise to know which settings you need to adjust. You’ll be able to see the noise with your naked eye when you zoom in and out.
  • Balancing the different sliders to reduce noise in Lightroom,  keeping as many details of the image as possible.

Best workflow to reduce noise in Lightroom

Each sensor and each photograph has different characteristics, and, so we can’t give you general reference or values for the adjustments.

However, you can follow the same workflow we use in our images to apply the best possible Lightroom noise reduction. Below, I’ll show you the steps that I follow in my editing workflow to remove noise in Lightroom.

HOW TO REDUCE LUMINANCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

Luminance noise is the most common adjustment you’ll use in Lightroom.

This effect is very powerful. Keep it under control so it doesn’t leave the image with a “washed” or “waxed” look.

Each photograph requires different settings depending on the lighting conditions and noise, but you can follow the next few steps to reduce the luminance noise in Lightroom:

  • Adjust the first luminance slider, moving it to the right until you can’t see the noise in the image when you zoom in at 100%. It doesn’t matter if the image loses a lot of detail, since you’ll recover it with the next few sliders, and then, you can lower the luminance noise reduction again.
  • Tweak the detail adjustment until you find a point where you can recover details in the image without increasing the noise again.
  • Move the contrast slider in the same way, recovering part of the contrast lost with the first luminance noise reduction.
  • Go back to the first luminance slider and make some adjustments by moving the slider little by little until you find the perfect balance between noise reduction and detail conservation.

Below, you can see an example where I applied luminance noise reduction in Lightroom and the settings I used:

Luminance noise reduction Lightroom

Luminance Noise reduction settings in Lightroom


Get rid of noise using Lightroom

how to remove noise in Lightroom
Luminance Noise Reduction in Lightroom (10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000)

 

And now zooming in at 100%:


How to reduce noise fast in Lightroom

Lightroom noise reduction tutorial
Luminance Noise Reduction in Lightroom (10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000)

HOW TO REDUCE COLOR NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

Color noise is not as common, but you’ll often find it in the same image as luminance noise, so you should adjust it after having reduced the luminance noise in Lightroom.

These are the steps to effectively reduce color noise in Lightroom:

  • Move the color slider completely to the right.
  • Move the detail slider completely to the right
  • Tweak the color slider to the left until you find a point where you reduce the color noise without altering the original colors of the image. Pay attention to the color patterns that form, especially the infamous bands of color also known as “banding”.
  • Adjust the smoothing slider, checking how it changes the noisy areas of the image and finding the sweet spot between color reduction and balance.

Below, you’ll find another example of applying color noise reduction in Lightroom. These are the settings I applied:

How to reduce color noise in Lightroom

Color Noise reduction settings in Lightroom


how to remove noise from milky way photograph with lightroom
how to reduce noise in milky way with lightroom

Before/After Color Noise Reduction in  Lightroom. 25 sec, ISO 5000

And now zooming in:


color noise reduction with lightroom step by step guide
noise reduction in lightroom

Zooming in Before/After Color Noise Reduction in  Lightroom. 25 sec, ISO 5000

Note: The color detail slider will always be 100% since this, unlike the luminance detail slider, does not increase digital noise.

Local Noise reduction in Lightroom

As you can see, reducing noise in Lightroom is relatively simple and effective. The main disadvantage is the inability to apply noise reduction in Lightroom to some areas of the image selectively, as you can, for instance, when reducing noise in Photoshop.

Even so, if your workflow is based solely on Lightroom, you have the option to reduce noise selectively through local noise reduction Lightroom settings.

In order to reduce noise locally in Lightroom, you have the following options:

  • Noise reduction in Lightroom through the graduated filter
  • Lightroom noise reduction through the radial filter
  • Lightroom noise reduction with the brush
Reduce noise locally in Lightroom gradient filter

Local noise reduction in Lightroom through a gradient filter

HOW TO REDUCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM WITH LOCAL ADJUSTMENTS

Reducing noise in Lightroom through selective adjustments has the great advantage of removing noise in specific areas of your image. However, there are limitations, since there’s only a single slider to reduce noise, and you can’t adjust the luminance or color noise reduction as you can in the detail tab.

You can apply selective noise reduction in Lightroom through local settings by following these steps:

  1. Analyze the noise in the image and assess whether it’s better to reduce the noise in a general way or a specific way, especially if the noise only appears in one area of the image.
  1. If the noise is in a specific area, check this area in order to decide the type of filter:
  • In night photographs, noise commonly appears in the lower part of the image. If this is the case, we can try using a graduated filter.
  • If noise appears in a specific and significant area of the image, such as a shaded area on the right side, try drawing a radial filter.
  • If the grainy area is a small irregular section, try to paint the whole area with the Lightroom brush using a medium-lower opacity.
  1. Slide the noise slider to the right until the noise vanishes.
  1. Finally, you won’t be able to make any further adjustments on the noise reduction slider, but you can still adjust other local settings, so if you lose detail or contrast, you can recover it through the clarity and contrast settings.

Before talking in depth about noise reduction with plugins in Lightroom, I wanted to answer a question that many photographers often ask:

WHEN SHOULD I REMOVE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM?

When working non-destructively with Raw files, it doesn’t matter when or at what step you reduce noise in Lightroom, since you can undo this step at any time without affecting the file.

In my case, I like to do it at the end of the process, after having applied all the basic and color adjustments, although, as we said, there’d be no problem if you did it at the beginning.

Best plugins to reduce noise in Lightroom

In addition to the Lightroom noise reduction through the default Lightroom tools, you can also use plugins to remove noise in Lightroom.

These third-party plugins will allow you to use different ways to remove noise in Lightroom, and, in some cases, to compensate for Lightroom downsides, such as with more advanced local noise reduction adjustments.

BEST PLUGINS TO REDUCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

There is a wide variety, but these are the best noise reduction plugins in Lightroom:

Luminar noise reduction in LightroomLUMINAR NOISE REDUCTION IN LIGHTROOM

Luminar is a great plugin to reduce noise in Lightroom, since, in addition to reducing the luminance and color noise like in Lightroom does, it allows you to use masks and filters to apply the settings more selectively.

The main side effect I saw when reducing noise in Lightroom with Luminar was some star-removal after applying the luminance noise reduction. To avoid this, simply mask the starry area with a medium level of opacity.

Luminar best plugin to reduce noise in Lightroom

Luminar Noise reduction panel as a plugin in Lightroom. Noise reduction applied using a mask created with the brush

Reduce noise in Lightroom with Luminar

Luminar best plugin to reduce noise for lightroom
Noise Reduction in Lightroom with Luminar 3 (10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250)

 

You can install Luminar in Lightroom through this link. You also have the option to download the trial version.

Topaz Lightroom noise reduction TOPAZ Denoise NOISE REDUCTION IN LIGHTROOM

After having performed many tests, in my opinion, Topaz Denoise is the best plugin to reduce noise in Lightroom.

Topaz uses an advanced algorithm to reduce noise in Lightroom while preserving great quality details.

As you can see in the best noise reduction software comparison, Topaz includes a feature called “Reduce Lens Blur” aimed at extracting high-quality detail after canceling the noise. This adjustment is especially effective for starry skies.

how to remove noise with Topaz for Lightroom

Topaz Denoise Noise reduction panel as a plugin in Lightroom

Lightroom noise reduction using Topaz Denoise

Best software to reduce noise in Lightroom Topaz
Noise Reduction in Lightroom with Topaz Denoise (10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250)

 

In addition, like Luminar, Topaz allows you to work with an advanced system of layers, masks, and opacity, which helps to adjust noise reduction in Lightroom in a very selective way.

You can download the Topaz Denoise plugin for Lightroom here.

Dfine 2 plugin lightroom noise reduction DFINE 2 NOISE REDUCTION IN LIGHTROOM

Another option is to reduce noise in Lightroom using Dfine 2, a plugin included in the Nik Collection package.

In Dfine 2, you have the option to use an automatic noise reduction and, also, the option to select the noisy areas of the image yourself so the software can adjust the noise reduction.

Dfine 2 best free plugin to reduce noise in Lightroom

Dfine 2 Noise reduction panel as a plugin in Lightroom

Free plugin to reduce noise in Lightroom Dfine 2

Dfine 2 Noise reduction best techniques in Lightroom
Noise Reduction in Lightroom with Dfine 2 (10 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250)

 

Although you can use it for extra noise reduction in Lightroom, I find it too slow and I always end up selecting the noisy areas by myself. The local settings are not as selective as those of Topaz or Luminar.

You can get this plugin on the DXO website.

Noise Ninja Noise reduction in lightroomNOISE NINJA FOR LIGHTROOM

Noise Ninja is famous for being one of the best noise reduction plugins on the market for many years.

Although there are ways to use it as a noise reduction plugin in Lightroom, it’s not optimized for this, so it works better as a plugin for Photoshop. Because of this, I can’t consider Noise Ninja as a plugin for Lightroom.

After this list, you may be asking yourself the following question:

DO I REALLY NEED A NOISE REDUCTION PLUGIN IN LIGHTROOM?

The answer, however, will completely depend on your editing workflow.

The Lightroom noise reduction options included with the software are very powerful, but they can’t be applied selectively and all settings must be adjusted manually to be effective.

Thanks to the plugins, you can quickly make a thorough noise reduction with the option to apply noise reduction selectively.

Best way to eliminate noise in lightroom using Topaz

Lightroom noise reduction using Topaz Denoise through an advanced mask.

On the other hand, if you’ve already decided to get a plugin, you may be asking yourself:

WHAT NOISE REDUCTION PLUGIN FOR LIGHTROOM SHOULD I USE?

The answer isn’t easy, since all the plugins on the list are effective and good options to reduce noise in Lightroom.

In my opinion, if I had to choose a noise reduction plugin for Lightroom, I would opt for one that allowed me to apply noise reduction more selectively in order to compensate for the great disadvantage of Lightroom. Furthermore, I’d look for a plugin with more functions besides noise reduction.

Both Luminar and Topaz are designed to work with advanced masks and opacity options to apply the Lightroom noise reduction locally.

Topaz Denoise preserves details in a far superior manner to Luminar, especially in terms of skies, thanks to its “Reduce Lens Blur” setting. In addition, although the selective adjustments are similar, Topaz offers an edge localization function, something really useful for applying adjustments even more selectively.

However, Luminar, in addition to the function of noise reduction, allows you to use digital filters to fine-tune the reduction and extract more details. Moreover, for a similar price to Topaz, you can get a whole software with very useful processing tools and digital filters to get atmospheric light effects, micro contrast, etc.

If you’re still in doubt over which plugin is best for you,  I recommend you download the free trial versions of Luminar and Topaz, so you can perform your own tests and see which one best suits your processing needs.

* Note: Once you use a plugin in Lightroom with one of your photos, the file will no longer be a RAW file and will change to another format like Jpeg or TIFF. In that case, I suggest you apply the noise reduction at the end of the editing process.

PRESETS TO ELIMINATE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM

One option to speed up the workflow editing process in Lightroom is to use Noise Reduction Lightroom presets. These preset adjustments will remove digital noise in your images with just the click of a button.

The main drawback of using presets is that by default, they apply general adjustments to all your images in the same way, and although you can always apply some adjustments automatically , such as profile correction, noise is something that changes in every image and requires specific adjustments according to each case.

Northern lights lightroom noise reduction

Each photograph requires different settings and parameters, so I do not recommend the use of Presets. 4 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000

Therefore, and although some photographers do it, I wouldn’t recommend using Noise reduction presets for Lightroom.

REDUCE NOISE IN ADOBE LIGHTROOM MOBILE

In addition to the desktop version, Lightroom also has a mobile application, which includes the option to reduce noise in the Adobe Lightroom mobile app.

Lightroom mobile noise reduction

The Lightroom app offers a great variety of adjustments, and one of them is the noise reduction for phone images, since it’s one of the best noise reduction mobile apps for Android and iOS.

These are the steps to reduce noise in your mobile photos with the Lightroom mobile app:

  • Download the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Mobile app. ($4.99/month)
  • Load the picture you took with your smartphone that you want to apply the noise reduction to.
  • Create a local adjustment in the noisy area, like a gradient or radial filter.
  • Click the triangle in the central part.
  • Adjust the necessary noise reduction to remove the noise from the image.
  • Close the local adjustment and consider if the image requires you to increase the detail. If so, just add some clarity.

As you can see, reducing noise in your smartphone photos in Lightroom mobile is possible. It’s true that the application doesn’t include advanced noise reduction, but it’s useful for removing noise quickly.

Latest tips for removing noise in Lightroom

Reducing noise in Lightroom is one of the best ways to get rid of noise if you already use this software in your editing workflow or if you want to use an easy tool to do it.

The noise reduction in Lightroom will depend on each image. It’s important that you tweak the different adjustments in your photographs to see how much noise reduction needs your image needs. Do not use automatic functions or Lightroom Presets for noise reduction.

Lightroom noise reduction workflow

Examine each photograph on a case-by-case basis to see what adjustments you need in order to reduce noise in Lightroom. 30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250

IS LIGHTROOM THE BEST SOFTWARE TO REDUCE NOISE?

As a final thought, I would like to highlight the main disadvantage of removing noise in Lightroom: it is difficult to apply adjustments more selectively to specific areas of the image.

You can always apply Lightroom noise reduction selectively through local adjustments such as gradient filters, radial filters or even reducing noise with the Lightroom brush. However, these settings only allow the use of a single slider to reduce noise, which generally limits the adjustment.

Also, when you want to reduce noise in Lightroom, keep in mind that you can’t use luminosity or color masks to their full advantage.

For this reason, I would recommend using Lightroom in combination with any of the plugins we’ve previously suggested like Luminar or Topaz, or if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, apply the reduction selectively through this software.

In my case, during my workflow, I first make a small noise reduction in the Raw file in Lightroom, and later I remove the noise locally in Photoshop, using plugins, in a much more selective way.

What about you? How do you remove noise in Lightroom?

Text and Photography by Dan Zafra - Capture the Atlas Photography Blog

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