Don’t Let Low Light Get You Down!

Noise… that is to say image noise, is most notable on images taken in low light or with higher ISO. When using digital cameras noise is produced by the sensor randomly attributing light and dark pixels to various areas of the image. This blog isn’t so much focused on the causes of noise, but rather how to deal with it once it exists. For more information on the types and causes of noise, click here. 

One doesn’t necessarily need to know all the intimate details of noise, to realize that its impact on most (not all) images is unpleasing. One way to minimize noise is to use a lower ISO (varies depending on camera manufacturer). When photographing still subjects low ISO is really the best option because you are limiting the noise accumulated in camera. But using low ISO is not always an option, for example if you are capturing an image while moving (from planes, trains, or automobiles for instance) or if the subject is in motion (subject movement or wind movement). In these circumstances, using a lower ISO will result in a longer shutter speed which will result in motion blur. So there may be times when the only choice, (to capture a particular image) is to increase ISO and accept that there will be noise in the image.

There are a number of software products that help reduce noise within the image.  Camera Raw in Photoshop, Lightroom Develop Module, NIK Dfine, Topazlabs DeNoise (discount code: roadrunner), to name a few. These products have been on the market for some time and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Lately though, I have been using Macphun Noiseless Pro (discount code: ROADRUNNER). Macphun was founded by some of the original NIK developers. (Side Note: Macphun products are for Apple users only.)

Noiseless Pro has become my go to program for managing noise. I say managing because to eliminate noise from an image will generally cause the edges in an image to become too soft. Therefore, the goal (for me) is to manage noise to an acceptable level, as oppose to removing it entirely. The interface in Noiseless Pro is simple to use and the program offers a number of presets, with visual hints, that do a pretty remarkable job of removing noise while maintaining detail.


Noiseless Pro Presets

Here is an example of how well this program works.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.31.27 PM This image was taken about an hour before sunset from a plane (Cesna) through an open window. On the left, the image is noisy and pixelated. On the right, the noise has been removed using Moderate preset. I think the noise has been handled very well, while the detail in the image remains. Because the program provides presets with varying degrees of noise reduction, the photographer is able to choose the option that will achieve the most pleasing results. In addition to providing various noise reduction presets, the opacity of each preset can be adjusted in the program or plugin, thereby giving the photographer even greater control.

If you are an Apple user and are interested in learning more about Macphun Noiseless Pro or any of their other image enhancement products, click here: Macphun Noiseless Pro (discount code: ROADRUNNER).

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