How to Reduce Noise with Photo Ninja


Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

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.

Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

A magnification of 150% reveals quite a bit of noise in the image.

Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

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)

Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

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.

Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Chroma noise reduction: This targets the color aspect of the image. Usually these sliders can be left at their default values

Photo Ninja noise reduction plugin

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 noise reduction plugin

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:

Read more from our Post Production category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Peter Teuben

    I’ve always used the Filters->Blur->Selective Blur in Gimp, and have always been happy with that. Of course that plugin ignores chroma noise, although I would need to see an example where you have one and not the other. So this made me curious about when you get into a situation where you have one of the two dominating.

  • Michael Owens

    I for one, love getting rid of noise in ALL my images, even at ISO 100, I shall give this a try (I assume there is a demo?), as I currently use ImageNoise – and it works well enough for me, especially on some of the low light imagery I take.

  • I just use LightRoom…

  • Timesshadow

    Hi Michael. I’m curious why you “love getting rid of noise in ALL” of your images. You were very specific and stressed “all” and this drew my attention. I’m not baiting or going to debate the point, its just that I love to learn from everyone. Is it really an absolute for you? How successful have you been at it? What are the results and how pleased are you with them? Thank you for your time and anything you share.

  • Michael Owens


    For me, I think it harks back to before my photography life, when I was a graphic designer where pin sharp detail was a necessity.

    So having that cleanliness in my photography just followed me.

    As for the comment of ‘all’ noise, we know that noise will always remain on even the best imagery when you look closer.

    I just try to make my images look pin sharp at all times if possible. Unless of course that sharpness interferes with the overall look and feel of the image that was shot.

  • LightRoom and PhotoShop both offer their own inherent noise reduction tools, but I like how quick and easy Photo Ninja is, especially when I’m bulk processing images. But it’s a matter of personal preference 🙂

  • Thanks Michael! I’ll have to check out Imagemomic Noiseware. I’ve been using Photo Ninja for years now based on a recommendation from a friend, but I’m always open to exploring other tools.

    I also agree with you that I generally prefer taking out as much noise as possible in my images.

  • Great question, Peter! I haven’t used Gimp in a bit, but I’ll have to try out your Selective Blur technique and see how it compares. I’ll also try doing a followup blog with my results. Thanks for the idea!

  • Michael Owens

    I’ll do that also – can only be a good thing to compare them and see which is better for our imagery eh!

    🙂 ????

  • Michael_in_TO

    I can not see any advantage of this software over those filters available in Photoshop (which I own/license already—and never use—ever). Noise reduction ALWAYS comes at the expense of sharpness (removing noise blurs the photo)…, to me, there is little value. @Michael Owens: I’m not appreciating your want to remove all noise (and what is the cost for “smooth” images.). To each their own (of course), but I feel a step back is needed here to anticipate how people (not photographers, but your audience) see photographs. People do not generally review pixels and noise. They are moved (or not moved) by the image before them. People don’t say, “Wow, what an amazing shot. Too bad about the noise. Wish this were shot with lower ISO.” (ever). It seems more interest needs to be paid to capturing better photographs and less time before our monitors at 400%. Just sayin’.

  • Michael_in_TO

    Sorry….just re-read my post. I use Photoshop constantly. The noise reduction filters within, I use NEVER.

  • Shendeti i Lumtur

    Lightroom or Camera Raw Filter, almost the same..
    and.. Photo Ninja??? WTF!

  • Keith Reeder

    Why not just use Photo Ninja for what it’s designed to do?

    Convert your Raw file in it, then you have no need to make it do double duty as a noise reduction plugin in PS.

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