How do you balance noise and sharpness when processing high ISO images?


posted Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 7:00 AM EDT


When you are shooting high ISO images, it can often be difficult to balance noise reduction and sharpening during your RAW processing. Adobe Camera Raw offers numerous tools to help you reduce noise and increase sharpness, but how do you use them both together? Blake Rudis of f64 Academy has a new tutorial showing his personal image processing workflow when sharpening high ISO images in particular.

It is often the case that you have to perform both noise reduction and sharpening when processing your RAW files. On the other hand, when you shoot JPEG, your camera performs a lot of processing to make your images look good straight from the camera. With RAW, those tasks are in your hands. It's great to have that level of control, but it's important to understand the ways to get the most from your RAW files.

If you have a noisy image that you want to sharpen, what do you perform first, noise reduction or sharpening? Rudis suggests that you override the ACR defaults and immediately reduce all of the sharpening sliders to zero. Now we want to work on noise reduction. Rudis typically moves the "Luminance" slider and "Luminance Detail" sliders to 25 and 50, although you may need to adjust them a bit for your image and personal taste. To see how Rudis uses other sliders, check out his video below.

As you can see above, when you reduce noise, you will also be reducing detail in your image. There is no way around this, but that doesn't mean that there aren't methods for bringing detail back up after performing noise reduction. How do you bring detail back into your image without reintroducing noise? Utilize the Masking Slider. If you hold Alt or Option while moving the slider, you can see precisely where your image is being sharpened again. You want to see only high-detail areas in white on your display, which means that you are only bringing detail back in the desired areas of your image. You want detail in your subject but you don't want to add noise back into areas like a sky or a flat, smooth part of your image.

To see more videos like this, head over to f64 Academy on YouTube and the f64 Academy website.

(Via f64 Academy)