Modern cameras do a pretty amazing job of minimizing noise in high ISO images. But they also let you go up to some pretty crazy high ISO settings! If you’re trying to eliminate the noise from any photo, there are multiple approaches. Indeed, let’s see how to eliminate noise reduction in high ISO images in Silver Efex Pro.
There is also a video version of this tip, which will cover some of the same info. There will be a lot of other tidbits but it may not include everything listed in this article. In other-words… enjoy both!
Two Base Approaches to Noisy Photos
There are really just two primary approaches to eliminate noise in high ISO images. You can try to eliminate the noise, or try to disguise the noise. And the best idea may be to do a combination of the two.
Elimination means noise reduction, which works well at low settings. But if you crank it up too high, the image becomes plastic and artificial looking.
Disguising it means adding grain, which has a completely different pattern than noise and looks more natural than noise. Even though the image may not be “cleaner”, it will look better and more pleasing to the eye.
Other tips include mixing the two (reducing noise a little bit, then disguising what’s left with grain). Or embracing the grain by converting to black and white and adding a lot of grain to it (which is generally more acceptable in B&W than in color). And even scaling an image down to shrink the noise.
Embrace the Grain in Black and White
If it suits the image, one of the easiest approaches is to simply convert to B&W (which also eliminates many of the unpleasant color casts that tend to accompany very low light photos) and add grain to it (which makes it just look like a B&W film photo).
This photo is very high ISO (shot at 51,200) and so of course is quite noisy. The before and after below shows the image using the HQ (Fast) Noise Reduction. This is available in DxO PhotoLab Essential (the version that is included with Nik Collection 2) . VS with noise reduction turned off.
The photo still is noisy though, so I’ll disguise it with lots of grain.
Opening that photo in Silver Efex Pro and clicking through a bunch of presets. This is a great way to quickly find a setting that looks great on this image. Of course the treatment you choose will depend greatly on the subject matter. And this photo already has a dark and foreboding look to it, so building on that makes sense.
I chose the preset Dark Selenium in the new En Vogue collection to start with. Then reduce the highlight brightness to reduce the intensity on her face. Added a yellow Color Filter to even out her skin tones a bit, and cranked up the grain. I think it looks great!
Eliminate as Much Noise as Possible
If you just want to have a very clean image, then you shouldn’t dial noise reduction up to 11. As I mentioned earlier, this can appear artificial looking. It’s better to bring the noise reduction as high as possible without making it look bad. And then adding a little film grain on top of it to break up the pattern that tends to emerge from high levels of noise reduction.
This photo is very noisy. And if I bring the noise reduction up to 100 the noise is most certainly gone. However the image takes on that plastic look I was talking about. At 70 though, a lot of the noise is gone and we’re still below the “fake” threshold.
I’ll open this photo in Color Efex Pro, with the intention of just adding a little bit of grain to the image. Here’s a before and after of that, with the film grain set to 375 and the soft/hard slider set all the way to soft. Remember I am trying to hide the noise and noise-reduction artifacts.
This breaks up the remaining noise pattern and the remnants of noise reduction that were left behind!
It’s a Balancing Act
Extreme noise reduction really is a balancing act. You may need to try a few different approaches to see what works best for your particular photo. I think it’s more important to reduce the appearance of noise than it is for the image to look clean. So my approach is almost always to reduce some noise, then mask what’s left with grain. This can look great both online and in print! Here you go now that you have learnt how to eliminate noise in high ISO images in Silver Efex Pro!!