Applying Noise Reduction With Layers

No noise reductions software that I’ve tried so far is perfect and while you may try by working through the many options, choices, and sliders the software offers, you may never achieve digital noise nirvana.


More often than not, you will obtain an image that is too smooth. When that happens to me, here’s how I fix it using Adobe Photoshop.

  • First Undo the noise reduction power tool you just applied and create a duplicate layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer.)
  • Next, I apply that somewhat over-smooth effect to the duplicate layer.
  •  Go to the Layer palette and change the Opacity of the noise reduction layer to 50% effectively blending the noisy original with smoother duplicate layer.
  • Then flatten the file and “Bob’s your Uncle.”

The above image of a race car made during a night race at Laguna Seca Raceway had all of the ingredients of a noisy image. Exposure was 1/20 sec at f/8 at ISO 800 and an on camera flash was used. Noise Reduction software was applied to a separate image then that duplicate layer was faded 50% to maintain some detail. Just because I used 50% for this example doesn’t mean you have to. Experiment to find what works best for your photographs.

Safety tips: Shooting at any racetrack especially at night can be dangerous. Only make photographs in designated areas and if you do use flash make sure that you only fire it at the side of the racecar. Using flash when a car is coming directly at you is foolish and places you and the driver in serious jeopardy. He or she has enough to do without being blinded by your flash. In this case, I “dialed down” the power from my Canon 550EX flash by minus one and one-third stops reducing the impact of the flash further on the driver while only providing some fill flash and making the reflective decals on the car “pop.”

Author: Joe Farace

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