1st
April

Today, I will take a look at noise reduction and Imagenomic noiseware. Imagenomic Noiseware is currently for me the best way to remove noise in my photos. I’ve been using for a long time now, and I haven’t found one that makes cleaner photos yet.

1. Decide if you really need noise reduction

Let’s start with a general thought. Noise reduction is not always needed, and sometimes it can even make you photo worse. It very often can cause a big lose of detail and make the photo look softer. So my tip is, if you can, first look at the photo in the desired size you want to show it, and only then think about if noise reduction is needed (but always use noise reduction on full size photo).

2. Use it selectively

Continuing from the previous point, use noise reduction only on parts of a photo where it’s needed. Especially in two cases, you should think about avoiding it. First is when you have an area with a lot of small detail. Using noise reduction on that can remove all the detail and make the whole area looking just blurry. Secondly, when you have a color gradient (usually the sky) a noise reduction could cause a very ugly color banding. It’s just looks better with noise than with color banding.

3. Use Gaussian blur for a very strong noise

From time to time you will get a very strong noise, especially if you brighten underexposed areas of your photo. For noise like this, no noise reduction will work, as that will create more of a jagged blobs. Easier is just duplicate the layer, blur it with Gaussian blue, and then mask it in where you need it.

4. Remove noise before filters & retouching

If you plan to use special filters on your photo, like Color Efex Pro, or Topaz Adjust, remove the noise first. This is because a lot of these filters work with detail in your photo, and can interpret the noise as additional detail. You don’t want them to make the noise even more visible.

It’s similar for when you do retouching. For instance if you use content aware fill to remove dust spots from the sky in your photo, having the sky noisy, will create a worse result. Photoshop is just not so great when it tries to replicate a noise pattern. It’s much better when replicating a smooth transition.

Noise reductionOnly luminance noise reduction
Noise reductionOnly color noise reduction

5. Know the difference between color and luminance noise

There are two kinds of noise that you can get in your photos. You have have luminance noise and color noise. The luminance noise is what creates the variations in brightness (the small brighter/darker dots all over your photo) and the color noise creates a variation in color (especially with longer exposure)

So when reducing noise, you have to think, if only reducing a certain type of noise, will work better. If you want to protect the detail, do only color noise reduction. If you want to protect the color, do only luminance noise reduction.

In Imagenomic Noiseware (and all other noise reduction programs) you can choose the strength separately for both, so experiment, trying to see which one work better for the specific situation.

Noise reductionNo detail protection
Noise reductionDetail protection used

6. Use detail protection

Again, in most noise reducing programs, you can turn on detail protection. In Imagenomic Noiseware you have this option for Luminance and also Color noise. What it does, is tries to determine what is detail, and what is noise. It’s not perfect, but it does quite a nice job overall. So if you have an area, where the detail is getting lost in the noise, try this.

And that’s all for today, will show you more about noise reduction next time :)

31st
March

User stories

On the web-page of Oloneo, the maker of Photoengine, you can find also a category called User stories. These are more of a short interview, and from today, you can find also one with me there. Just head over to Oloneo site to check it out :)

Missing photos

Some of you may have noticed that for 2-3 hours today, all photos were missing from the blog, and also the portfolio site was not accessible at all. This was caused by a DNS problem from the site of GoDaddy, and regrettably I could do nothing to correct or prevent it. I just hope the problem was solved permanently by now, and will not occur again.

Bratislava landmarks

The Bratislava castle and the SNP bridge are just the most dominant landmarks in Bratislava. Especially if you are in the center, you see them from quite far away. And I very happy that I have them both in one photo :) Usually it’s not so easy, as they are on the opposite sides of the Danube.

Different view
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 5, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS II, Focal length: 123mm, Aperture: 8, Middle exposure time: 4s, ISO: 200, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.134279,17.106281
30th
March

Welcome to a new week, and as almost every week, let’s start with a new process post. For today I chosen a fireworks shot, so this will be a editing of a single exposure. So let’s take a look at it.

As with most of my fireworks photos, I like to push them into a single color, where the overall color of the photo aligns with the most dominant fireworks color. For this shot it was quite easy to choose, as it was already quite red. So my goal here was to make it even more red. Other than that, I wanted to recover detail from the tree ans the sky, and add more contrast to the fireworks. Lastly, I wanted to recover some of the highlight on the parliament.

Dark skiesFinished photo
Dark skiesOriginal photo

I started in Lightroom. There I cropped away part of the photo, removed lens distortion and chromatic aberrations. Then I exported one version of the photo, recovered the highlight and exported a second copy of the photo.

Dark skiesLightroom tweaks
Dark skiesPhotoengine edit

The first copy I loaded into Oloneo Photoengine, and changed the strength and contrast. Like this I got an evenly exposed photo, which was just very colorful. But my plan was not to use the whole photo anyway, as I wanted to mask in parts of the original exposure. So I loaded the Photoengine result with both of my exported exposures into layers in Photoshop, and I continued form there (layers numbered from bottom up):

1. Oloneo Photoengine result
2. First export, from which I corrected the very colorful areas. I left only the trees and the fireworks untouched.
3. Second export, from which I corrected the parliament buildign
4. Color effex Pro contrast, with which I recovered more detail in the foreground
5. Color effex Tonal contrast to get more contrast in the fireworks
6. Copy of the 5th layers, just set to luminosity, to get even more contrast in few areas.
7. Noise reduction for the trees in the bottom left corner.
8+9. Toned down the highlights on the parliament by using curves and luminosity masks.
10. Brightened the white parts of the fireworks to make them more visible
11. Added a little overall contrast
12. I still was not happy with the amount of contrast in the explosion, so I added a little using Detail Extractor in Color Effex.

And that’s all I did with this image. To find out more on how I edit, check out the guides and before after categories on this blog, or check out my video tutorial series here:
Master exposure blending

29th
March

For today, one more shot of the same bridge in Vienna as yesterday. For those curious it’s the Reichsbrücke (Empire Bridge) in Vienna. I actually walked around, trying to get photos of other things not just the bridge that evening, but this walkway, the one close to the water, was the only place where I was protected from the wind enough to get anything usable. The weather recently has really been against nice photos :) It’s either raining, windy, or just completely ugly. I can’t wait for some better weather finally, to be able to do more photos.

The same bridge
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 6, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 16-35mm F2.8, Focal length: 22mm, Aperture: 11, Middle exposure time: 10s, ISO: 200, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.228242,16.411141
28th
March

I spend the evening in Vienna yesterday, and while the weather was quite bad, I spend a hour taking some quite long exposure photos. And here is one of them. I’m actually quite pleased how it came out, taking into account the strong wind, rainy weather and the late hour. I hope nobody will notice where I had to remove ugly flares from the water drops that landed on the lens :).

The dark tower
Technique: Oloneo Photoengine, Number of exposures: 5, Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D mark II, Lens: Canon 16-35mm F2.8, Focal length: 18mm, Aperture: 11, Middle exposure time: 10s, ISO: 200, Tripod used: yes, Location: 48.228242,16.411141