Reducing noise in a digital photo is a hot topic, particularly for photographers who frequently shoot at high ISOs. Even if you’re not a typical low light shooter, the temptation may arise with some of the newer digital cameras that offer incredibly high ISO speeds which still produce pretty pleasing images, even with noise. There are many factors that can produce noise in your images, and there are many ways to reduce or sometimes even avoid noise all together. This article in particular will highlight one post-processing trick to reduce noise using a third party plugin called Photo Ninja.
Made by the folks over at PictureCode, Photo Ninja is a RAW converter for both Windows and Mac OS X computers. It uses a built-in browser to open most RAW file formats, as well as JPEG and TIFF images. It also integrates well with many photo browsing and editing applications including Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. The plugin has been around since 2003 when it was launched under the name Noise Ninja. Today, the current product has expanded and is now known as Photo Ninja, and it offers a host of editing adjustments with its signature Noise Ninja 3.0 included.
How to Get Photo Ninja
Photo Ninja software can be downloaded and installed at no cost, however you cannot render and save files without purchasing and installing a license key. The cost is currently $129 for a lifelong license, with free upgrades for one year. Is it worth the cost? Let’s take a look.
How to Use Photo Ninja
This tutorial will demonstrate usage of Photo Ninja as it is integrated with PhotoShop CS6. The plugin can also integrate with Lightroom, but the procedure is slightly different. In this demonstration, Photo Ninja is used as a “filter plug-in,” applying a noise reduction filter to a photo opened in Photoshop. Here’s how it works.
Step #1 Open your image in Photoshop
Start by opening your image in Photoshop. This example was shot at ISO 3,200 in RAW format with a Canon 6D.
A magnification of 150% reveals quite a bit of noise in the image.
Step #2 Open noise reduction plugin
To apply Photo Ninja’s magic, head over to Filter and find PictureCode in the drop down menu. Select Photo Ninja Filter Plugin.
(Read their tutorial on how to install Photo Ninja as a plugin here if you need help setting that up)
Step #3 Choose Noise Ninja 3.0
The Photo Ninja browser will pop up, offering you an image preview as well as a host of adjustment options in the left hand column. Since we are focusing on noise reduction in this tutorial, click on the Noise Ninja 3.0 option.
Step #4 Choose noise reduction settings
After clicking into the Noise Ninja 3.0 section, a new set of adjustment options will appear in the left column. Be sure the enable box is checked up top to enable adjustments. Use the zoom icon buttons in the toolbar to zoom in and out of your image. Available adjustments for noise reduction are divided into two parts as follows:
- Luminance noise reduction: This deals with the brightness aspect of your image. When setting the luminance sliders, this procedure is usually effective:
- Set “Residual noise and detail” to zero.
- Adjust the “Smoothness slider” until you strike a balance between image smoothness and detail preservation. Generally, the lower the smoothness value, the better.
- Adjust the “Residual noise and detail” slider. Generally, this value falls between 50-75. Consider retaining some image noise to make your photo appear more natural.
- Chroma noise reduction: This targets the color aspect of the image. Usually these sliders can be left at their default values
Step #5 Apply settings
After you complete your Noise Ninja adjustments, hit the Apply button in the left column. You will then be taken back to the Photo Ninja home browser. To render and apply your corrections, select the Done button to render and view the resulting image.
Photo Ninja is one of many ways to reduce image noise in post processing. Do you have another method that you use on a regular basis?
For more on noise reduction using other methods read these dPS articles:
- How to do Noise Reduction in Lightroom
- How to Avoid and Reduce Noise in Your Images
- Reduce Camera Noise in 3 Easy Photoshop Steps