Shooting with a limited amount of natural light at a high ISO can result in a lot of noise in your photos—like the image below that Deke shot in Carlsbad Caverns, 800 feet below ground. But if you have a high enough number of pixels, you can rescue the photo and smooth it into a print-worthy image with the assistance of Adobe Camera Raw.
1. Before you begin, open the image in Photoshop and zoom in to actually see the noise. It appears as a kind of grainy texture.
2. There are two methods to open the image in Camera Raw from Photoshop, depending on what version you’re using.
2a. To open the image in Camera Raw CS6 or earlier, go to File > Browse in Bridge. When Bridge opens, right-click the image and choose Open in Camera Raw.
2b. If you’re working in Photoshop CC, choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Since this method is actually a filter, it can be applied as a dynamic Smart Filter. To take advantage of this, we’ll convert the image to a Smart Object in the following steps:
• Double-click the background layer to convert it to a floating layer. Name it appropriately and click OK.
• Right-click in the image window and choose Convert to Smart Object.
• Now choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter.
The remaining steps in this tutorial will work the same in all versions of Camera Raw.
3. Experiment with the temperature, tone, and color channel adjustment to find what works best for your image. If you’re using the exercise file Deke provides, go to the Basic panel and reduce the Temperature to -40 and Tint to -20. Switch to the HSL/Grayscale panel and reduce Purples and Magentas to -50. Finally, go to the Color tab of the Lens Correction panel and raise the Purple Amount of Defringe by 2.
As Deke mentions in the video, Defringe is only available in Camera Raw 7 and later versions of the program.
4. Go to the Detail panel and review the Noise Reduction options.
• Increase the Luminance value until you see the noise drop out of your image.
• Reduce Luminance Detail to remove any “pockmarking” that appears.
• Increase Luminance Contrast to regain any contrast loss that might have occurred by increasing Luminance.
• Return to Luminance Detail and increase it until the pockmarking returns.
• Finally, to reduce any color noise that may have entered the image, increase Color.
5. Now you need to reestablish any detail lost in the noise reduction process by using the Sharpening controls.
• Increase Sharpening to its max value.
• Take Detail down to zero.
• Increase the Radius to 1.5.
6. Switch back to the Basic panel and increase the Clarity value to regain edge contrast.
7. If you’re working with a model, like Deke is, here’s one last trick for whitening and brightening teeth in Camera Raw.
• Select the Adjustment Brush and choose a small brush size, a Feather and Flow of 50, and a Density of 100.
• Make sure Auto Mask and Show Mask are left unchecked. Increase Exposure to .25 and Saturation to -25.
• Then simply brush inside the teeth.
8. Click the OK button at the bottom of the Camera Raw window to return to Photoshop and view your enhanced image.
That’s how to eliminate a lot of the noise in low-light photographs with Camera Raw. Pixel-rich images like this one print well, so take advantage of this technique to fix images you might want to frame.
Come back next week and learn how to add reflectivity to a model’s sunglasses, resulting in a cool, high-fashion look.
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