Removing noise in Photoshop is the best way to get rid of digital noise in our photographs by using different selective settings and advanced techniques.
Thanks to the noise reduction in Photoshop, we can get noise-free images, while keeping the important details of the capture.
Nowadays, there is a wide variety of noise reduction systems, but Photoshop is the most effective software to remove noise for many reasons:
- It offers an advanced noise reduction tool through Camera Raw.
- It allows using external third-party plugins.
- It let you use advanced noise reduction techniques.
- You can apply noise reduction adjustments selectively.
Of all the advantages, the fact of having the possibility of applying the adjustments locally is the most important, since, through different adjustments and masks, we can get rid of digital noise in Photoshop in a much more specific way than with any other software.
Throughout this article, we will see in depth how to reduce noise in Photoshop, in addition to the best noise reductions techniques in PS from basic to advanced levels:
- Basics you should know before reducing noise in Photoshop
- Best noise reduction settings in Photoshop
- How to reduce noise in Photoshop
- Best plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop
- When and how to add noise in Photoshop
- Noise reduction in Lightroom vs. Noise reduction in Photoshop
- Noise reduction in Photoshop express mobile application (PS Express)
- Latest tips to reduce noise in Photoshop
BASICS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE REDUCING NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP
In photography, digital noise is one of the crucial factors that make our images to lose quality, so it is essential:
- To know what is digital noise and difference between the two main types of noise in photography
- To know the best settings to avoid camera noise
- To know the best software to reduce noise
All this is thoroughly explained in our guide to reducing noise in photography, so in this article, we will only make a small mention of the most important concepts to know before diving deeper into the different ways and techniques to reduce noise in Photoshop.
WHAT IS NOISE?
Digital noise in photography is the random variation of the tone or color in the pixels of an image.
Noise is generated in our images by one of the following two factors:
- By amplifying the signal of our camera, our sensor is forced to register some information that has not properly captured. (Normally when we raise the ISO or lift shadows in processing).
- When the sensor of our camera is heated, our camera generates noise. (Usually when doing long exposures or long photo shoots at high ISOs).
Under these two circumstances, our camera can generate two different types of noise.
Luminance noise is the common “grain” or random brightness generated by our camera when we raise the ISO.
It is usually evident in elements of the photograph that have a smooth uniform tone such as, for example, clouds or water.
It will be the easiest noise to see in our images, and when we reduce it we will have to pay attention to avoid the side effect of losing details in the image.
COLOR NOISE OR CHROMA NOISE
Color noise is generated as a random variation of the colors of the image when the temperature of the camera sensor increases.
It is identified as blotches or color bands, usually in the shadowy areas.
Sometimes it is not as easy to see as the luminance noise, and reducing it requires to keep a close eye on the right colors of the image, as these are also sometimes affected by the color noise reduction.
An image can have color noise, luminance noise, or both types of noise. An example where we can see both types takes place when we shoot long exposures at high ISOs for a long period of time, as in Milky Way photography or Northern Lights photography.
Best noise reduction settings in Photoshop
As we mentioned in the introduction, one of the biggest advantages of reducing noise in Photoshop is the large number of options that this software offers to get rid of digital noise.
When we want to remove noise in Photoshop, in addition to using the same noise reduction algorithm as Lightroom through Adobe Camera Raw, we also have the possibility to reduce noise using an advanced Photoshop filter or external plugins in a much more selective way with the use of different masks.
Besides, removing noise in Photoshop is the most effective way because it allows you to use more advanced noise reduction techniques, such as stacking noise reduction via smart objects as we will see in the best techniques section.
Talking about the available tools to reduce noise in Photoshop, there is a long list of adjustments and filters. Following that, below, we will only mention the most effective options.
These are the best adjustments and tools to reduce noise in Photoshop:
- Adobe Camera Raw noise reduction: We can reduce noise in Photoshop with Adobe Camera Raw in the same way as we do in Lightroom, since both Adobe programs use the same noise reduction algorithm.
Therefore, we can use the following adjustments to remove noise in Adobe Camera Raw:
♦ Luminance noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw: We can reduce luminance noise in Photoshop through different adjustments like luminance, luminance detail and luminance contrast.
♦ Color noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw: We can remove color noise in Photoshop through the color, color detail and color softness sliders.
The settings, effects and even algorithm noise reduction are the same as in Lightroom, so if you want to know more about this, I advise you review our article on how to reduce noise in Lightroom.
- Photoshop noise reduction filter: This noise reduction filter can help reduce noise in Photoshop in a similar way to the Camera Raw / Lightroom noise reduction.
In addition, this filter allows to reduce noise in Photoshop more selectively through:
♦ Photoshop noise reduction on the RGB channels: From the “advanced” module of this filter, we can control the noise more selectively. Here we can adjust the reduction through the Intensity and Preserve details slider.
- Plugins and extensions to reduce noise in Photoshop: In the extensions section, we can set third-party plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop, as for example Luminar, Noiseware, Dfine 2, Noise Ninja and other plugins that we will see later in the best Plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop section.
- Image Stacking noise reduction via smart objects: Through this adjustment, we can easily remove noise in Photoshop using several images with the same settings. It is one of the most effective noise reduction techniques in Photoshop and we will see it in depth in the best techniques section.
How to reduce noise in Photoshop
In addition to the different options to reduce noise that we can find in Photoshop, there are also many different techniques to do it.
Some are more basic and others more advanced, but all of them will allow you to remove noise in your images in Photoshop more or less effectively depending on the amount of noise.
BEST TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP
In summary, these are the best techniques to remove noise in Photoshop:
- Bracketing noise reduction in Photoshop, one of the best techniques to reduce noise with entry-level cameras.
- Image stacking noise reduction via smart objects.
- Using Adobe Camera Raw noise reduction selectively.
- Using Photoshop noise reduction filter locally.
- Applying an external noise reduction plugin through masks.
- Creating luminosity masks to apply the noise reduction to specific areas.
Before diving deeper into the best techniques, I would like to answer a very common question that I am often asked:
WHEN SHOULD I REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP?
This is a question that generates a great debate in the photographic community.
In my opinion and according to the results that I have seen in my images along the years, although you can reduce noise in Photoshop at any time, it is advisable that the main noise reduction is processed at the beginning of your workflow, and especially before sharpening the image.
When we start the processing of our image and this has some noise, as we start our workflow, we apply different adjustments of sharpness, brightness, contrast, color, etc. these settings often makes the grain more evident, especially in the shadows and underexposed areas.
My advice is that you apply a moderate reduction at the beginning of your workflow and, if at the end of the processing you can see that the noise is still evident, apply a second noise reduction very specifically in the noisy areas.
Now, let’s see in more detail how to apply each of the basic and advanced techniques to reduce noise in Photoshop.
BASIC TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP
These are some basic techniques to reduce noise in Photoshop effectively:
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP USING THE ADOBE CAMERA RAW FILTER
In order to reduce noise in Photoshop through the Adobe Camera Raw filter, we will reduce the noise in the same way that we did in the Lightroom noise reduction, but with the great advantage of applying this filter through Photoshop selectively.
PHOTOSHOP NOISE REDUCTION FILTER
To apply this technique to remove noise in Photoshop, simply go to the Filter → Noise → Reduce Noise and adjust the noise reduction settings similar to the Adobe Camera Raw noise reduction process.
The big difference of this process is the advanced module, where we can reduce noise in the R, G, B channels.
To do this, we simply select the channel where we want to remove noise, and adjust the intensity and preserve detail sliders until reaching a balance.
Finally, we can also apply it selectively through adjustments or masks, keeping the details in the important areas of the image.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP THROUGH PLUGINS
Through third-party plugins, we can quickly and easily get rid of noise in Photoshop.
The process will depend on the type of plugin that we use, although the basis will always be to make the adjustments within the Plugin and then apply it selectively as we did with the previous filters. Later we will see in-depth the best plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop.
ADVANCED TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP
One of the great advantages of using Photoshop to remove noise compared to other software is the possibility of processing more advanced techniques, such as:
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP THROUGH A NOISE REDUCTION BRACKETING OR BLENDING
The bracketing exposure technique consists of taking several shots at different shutter speed settings in camera to later merge the images in Photoshop using the best exposed and quality areas of the set of mages.
To remove noise in Photoshop using this technique, we need to do an exposure bracketing, that is, we need to merge several photos in Photoshop taken using different shutter speed. In this way, we will get all the information with the highest possible quality in our final image.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP USING IMAGE STACKING NOISE REDUCTION VIA SMART OBJECTS
The image stacking noise reduction technique is a very effective process to reduce noise in Photoshop, especially in crop sensor cameras.
This process consists of taking several shots while keeping the composition and settings. Later, we just need to stack them in Photoshop via smart objects using the median mode.
Digital noise always appears in a random way, so the same pixel with the different brightness or color will change from one image to another. With this process, Photoshop will analyze the parts of the image without noise to merge them and obtain a cleaner image.
This effect also has a big side effect such as the elimination of details and stars, so it will have to be masked and applied always locally.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP THROUGH LUMINOSITY MASKS
Undoubtedly, the biggest advantage of Photoshop compared to other software is the possibility to adjust the noise reduction processed through Camera Raw, filters or any other plugin and apply it selectively through luminosity masks.
This step will give us absolute freedom to apply basic and advanced noise reduction techniques in Photoshop to the noisiest areas of our image like, for example, shadows, without affecting the general sharpness and details.
BEST PLUGINS TO REMOVE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP
One of the fastest and most effective techniques to eliminate noise in Photoshop is through Plugins.
These noise reduction software developed by third companies will help us greatly in our workflow, speeding up noise reduction.
Best plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop
Currently, there is a great variety of noise reductions plugins for Photoshop, but these are the best plugins to reduce noise in Photoshop:
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH LUMINAR
We can reduce noise in Photoshop using Luminar as a plugin, and in a fast and selective way since Luminar also includes an opacity adjustment and the possibility of working with masks.
In addition to noise reduction, Luminar offers a very useful filter package and it can be installed as an external plugin in Lightroom, making it a very well-rounded software for photographers.
The price of Luminar is $67, and you can download it through this link.
You can also download the Luminar trial version for free here.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH NOISEWARE
If you want to speed up the noise reduction process in Photoshop, I would advise using the Noiseware plugin, since it offers several noise reduction automatic settings and just with one button we can perform a smart noise reduction preserving the details.
I usually select the “landscape” mode on my workflow
The price of Noiseware is $62, and you can download it through this link.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH DFINE 2
This plugin became very popular when Google started offering the Nik Collection Package for free, which meant having a free plugin to reduce noise in Photoshop.
It allows you to treat the noise in Photoshop either automatically or by selecting manually the grainy areas so the software can apply the best noise reduction in Photoshop.
Nik Collection (the package where it is included Dfine 2) was purchased by the software company DxO and currently has a price of $69. You can download it here.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH NOISE NINJA 4
Removing noise in Photoshop with Noise Ninja has been the favorite choice of many photographers for years, especially for the quality of the noise reduction algorithm offered by this company.
Currently, Noise Ninja is not sold separately but within the Photo Ninja package, which also includes more processing options.
The price of Photo Ninja is $113, although they charge $52 for the upgrades. Here you can download it.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH TOPAZ DENOISE
Topaz Denoise is another of the most popular plugins for Photoshop noise reduction.
It works in a similar way to other plugins, offering a series of noise reduction preset adjustments that can be customized through different sliders.
Its price is $70.50 and you can buy it here.
REDUCE NOISE IN PHOTOSHOP WITH NEAT IMAGE PRO
Neat Image Pro reduces noise in Photoshop after automatically analyzing the sections with the most digital noise in our image. You can also adjust the reduction through different sliders.
We can use it as a noise reduction plugin in Photoshop for a price of $34.50. You can download it here.
After reading this list, you may ask yourself the following question:
DO I REALLY NEED A NOISE REDUCTION PLUGIN FOR PHOTOSHOP?
The answer, however, will completely depend on your processing workflow.
The options to reduce noise in Photoshop set by default within the software, are quite advanced, but it is true that to be effective we need to spend some time tweaking the different sliders and adjustments.
Using plugins, with just a simple button we will have the noise reduction layer ready and we will only have to deal with applying it generally or through local adjustments/masks.
On the other hand, if you have already decided to get a plugin, you may ask yourself:
WHAT NOISE REDUCTION PLUGIN FOR PHOTOSHOP SHOULD I USE?
The answer, in this case, is more complex, since all the plugins listed in this article will help you to quickly and effectively remove noise in Photoshop.
In my case, if I had to invest in a plugin, maybe I would go for one also offering more functions besides noise reduction.
An example is Luminar, that also includes a package of useful digital filters with some useful effects like glow light, micro contrast, etc.
Regarding the other Plugins, Noiseware is the one that I normally use for its effectiveness, so it’s also a great option.
Why, When and how to add noise in Photoshop
Although it sounds contradictory, sometimes it is possible that our images might benefit from adding noise.
WHY DO WE ADD NOISE TO OUR IMAGES IN PHOTOSHOP?
Particularly, it is advisable to add noise to our picture when we paint with colors and use lights in the image artificially.
Some of these examples are:
- When we add a great amount of light and color to flat surfaces of the image as skies.
- When we have “burned” areas in the image and we paint over them.
In these cases, these artificial elements tend to be unnatural, and often a side effect takes place consisting of bands of light and color, a phenomenon popularly known as “banding”.
This effect can be subdued by adding a minimum amount of noise or grain to the image.
HOW CAN I ADD NOISE TO MY PHOTOGRAPHS ON PHOTOSHOP?
These two techniques would be the best way to add noise in Photoshop:
- From the Adobe Camera Raw panel, in the Effects tab, we have a section called “Granulate”, where we can adjust the noise that we add to the image in Photoshop through the Quantity, Size, and Roughness sliders.
- From the Noise Filter panel in Photoshop, curiously the first option that appears is not the noise reduction, but quite the opposite: The Add Noise adjustment.
Through this adjustment, we can select the percentage of noise we want to add, decide if we want to follow a uniform or Gaussian distribution and finally to choose between grain with color (by default) or select the monochrome option where we will add black and white noise.
Noise reduction in Lightroom vs. Noise reduction in Photoshop
Talking about the photoshop noise reduction, one of the most common questions out there is:
IS IT BETTER TO REDUCE NOISE IN LIGHTROOM OR PHOTOSHOP?
While both programs are from the same developer, Adobe, and offer similar features, such as Adobe’s noise reduction algorithm both on Camera Raw and Lightroom, in practice, there are some big differences:
- Lightroom is a software aimed at reducing noise in the Raw file, offering advanced adjustments but with hardly any options to apply them selectively.
- Photoshop, as we have seen throughout this article, includes many basic and advanced options to reduce noise, and also offers the possibility of applying the noise reduction selectively.
A priori, it seems clear that it is better to just reduce noise in Photoshop because of the greater noise reduction options.
However, if our workflow is based on just editing the photograph in Lightroom, or we use Lightroom as a library and editing software before working with your image in Photoshop, It may be useful to combine both pieces of software.
In my case, for example, when it is necessary to reduce noise, I always make a small reduction in the Raw file in Lightroom and later reduce noise locally in Photoshop through a plugin, masks, and adjustments.
Noise reduction in Photoshop express mobile application (PS Express)
Reducing noise in our mobile photos with Photoshop is possible thanks to the Android and iOS application Adobe Photoshop Express (PS Express)
This application includes in the settings a noise reduction for mobile photos offering two possibilities:
- Luminance noise reduction in Photoshop express: Like the Camera Raw setting, it reduces the noise in the grainy bright areas.
- Color noise reduction in Photoshop express: Reduces the random blotches and patches of chroma noise.
The Photoshop express app is free, however, the noise reduction function requires a payment or subscription.
Latest tips to reduce noise in Photoshop
As you can see, Photoshop is the most advanced tool to reduce noise in digital images.
We can use it in combination with Lightroom/another editing program, or independently since Photoshop has many options and possibilities to process advanced techniques to fight against digital noise. In addition, most of the noise reduction plugins on the market are available for Photoshop, so the possibilities are endless.
I advise you to try the different techniques and plugins and decide which is the one that best works on your processing workflow.