In the age of incredibly high ISOs and camera sensors that seem to get better by the day, noise and grain are not nearly as much of a problem as they used to be, but when you need some help turning down the grain or noise in your photos there are some great options in Photoshop. We’ll talk about the subtle noise reduction that Smart Sharpen has available, how to use Reduce Noise with the Blend If sliders to get a great mix of noise-reduction only in the areas that we need it, and also the very useful and powerful noise reduction tool in the Camera RAW editor and how you can use that on any photo you have in Photoshop (even if it’s not a RAW image.) Check out this tutorial and I hope you love it!
1. Working with a Smart Object
As I do so many times in these tutorials, we want to convert our layer to a Smart Object by right clicking on that layer and selecting “Convert to Smart Object”.
2. Method One: Smart Sharpen to Reduce Noise
Go Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen. Notice the third slider here is one that will allow you to reduce noise. I tend to keep the “Amount” and “Radius” sliders at zero while cranking up the amount I reduce the noise to 100. This method will give you a very subtle noise reduction and will not work well if you have lots of grain/noise that you’re looking to get rid of.
3. Method Two: Reduce Noise + Blend If Slider
Duplicate your Smart Object and go Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise. I’m going to reduce as much noise as I can while setting “Preserve Details” really low and setting “Reduce Color Noise” to about 50%. Sometimes I choose to sharpen details a little too, but keep things simple for yourself and don’t worry about too much about this slider right now. The key is to get lots of smoothing in the darker parts of the image-even if that means you lose details in the brighter areas (the buildings!)
4. Method Two (Pt. 2): Reduce Noise + Blend If Slider
Let’s clean up those lighter areas that we don’t want all soft and smooth. Go Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options and look to the bottom of this dialog box for the “Blend If” sliders. Hold down your Alt/Opt key and “split” the white slider on the top slider and pull back to the left. Do the same with the bottom white slider. Watch your image carefully and look for detail to be brought back into the brighter areas of the buildings while keeping the darker sky areas smooth.
5. Method Three: Camera RAW Noise Reduction
One of my favorite, and most effective, ways to get rid of grain in Photoshop is with the reduce noise engine in Camera RAW. If you convert any layer to a Smart Object, you can apply the Camera Raw Filter by going Filter>Camera Raw Filter and in the Camera RAW dialog, choose the “Detail” tab and look for the “Noise Reduction” section. The key with this filter is to increase the “Luminance” slider while decreasing the “Luminance Detail” slider. Keep pushing and pulling these sliders until you get a good amount of noise reduction without losing the details too much.