Photoshop’s Sharpening and Noise Reduction filters are just two of the features that Adobe offers to those shooting in low-light conditions – especially when you can’t control the lighting such as photographing live performances (such as these promo shots by photographer Tigz Rice for the musical
Fame) or weddings.
See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials
By using these tools within Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter you can rescue images that haven’t come out of camera as sharp or as well exposed as you had been hoping for.
In this Photoshop tutorial, Tigz will be demonstrate in-depth how you can use these tools, including how each slider can help you fine-tune your retouching.
You’ll learn what the Noise Reduction filter’s separate Color and Luminance sliders are for – and which to touch first – and what their fine-tuning controls for Detail, Contrast and Smoothing are for.
For Sharpening, Tigz takes you through what you can achieve using the Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking sliders.
Finally, Tigz will show how to apply these filters in a way that allows you to go back and edit them later – in case they need to be adjusted due to other edits that you make to your photo.
Open your chosen image in Photoshop and convert the background layer to a Smart Object by
right-clicking on the layer and choosing Convert To Smart Object from the list of options. This will make the filters you apply non-destructive, so you can edit them later.
Next, go to
Filter > Camera Raw Filter… which will open up the Adobe Camera Raw window.
Using the Basic set of controls in the right-hand panel, move the sliders left and right to correct the exposure and tonal balance of the image (for more on this, see this tutorial,
Retouch photos using Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter.
Once you’re happy, bring up the Sharpening and Noise Reduction tools.
Both can be found in the Details panel, which is the third panel from the left in the right-hand panel.
Sharpening is controlled by one primary slider – Amount – and three secondary sliders: Radius, Detail and Masking.
The Amount slider dictates how much sharpening has been applied to the overall image. The ‘correct amount’ of sharpening will depend on personal taste, but somewhere between 25 and 35 would be a good starting point.
Radius controls the area of compression sharpening around the edges of objects in your image, with the default 1.0 setting referring to just one pixel width along each edge, with the ability to go up to three pixels.
Again, the ‘correct amount’ of radius will depend on the image and personal taste, but 1.0 will usually do the trick.
The Detail slider controls how the sharpening is distributed across the image: whether it’s applied to high contrast edges only or everything right down to picking up noise from shooting at high ISOs.
Detail is automatically set to 25, but as always, the ‘correct amount’ of detail is dependent on your image and personal taste. For live work – which can often be quite grainy, the default 25 should be fine.
Masking rounds off the four Sharpening tools and is the best of the three secondary sliders for gaining the most control over where sharpening is applied to your image.
Holding down the
Alt key whilst moving the slider will allow you to see which areas will have sharpening applied to them. Anything in black will not be sharpened, whilst white areas will have sharpening applied.
Now let’s take a look at Noise Reduction, which removes excess noise from images caused by shooting at high ISO as well as smoothing tones where the camera sensor has been pushed to its limit.
When working with Noise Reduction, start with the Color Slider, which assesses the colour of the noise and blends them into the appropriate colour to match the area of the image. This slider usually sits around 20-30.
You can then use the Secondary sliders, Detail and Smoothness, to finesse the overall effect.
The Detail slider controls how much detail to pop back in after you’ve sorted out colour, but I tend to leave this at its generic setting of 50%.
The Smoothness slider then flattens any patchy colours caused by the sen-sor and usually works best between 60-80%.
Working with Color first allows you to make minor adjustments first before having to get heavy-handed with the Luminance slider, which smooths out the entire image and can result in loss of sharpness.
The Luminance slider is incredibly powerful and for images up to 2000 ISO you won’t need to go any higher than 25%.
Detail and Contrast then give you the opportunity to bring back some of the detail removed by Luminance, but usually brings back in some noise.
By doing Color first, we’ve minimised the use of Luminance, so both of these sliders can usually be left at their default values.
Once you’re happy with your results, press OK to confirm the changes to your image. A new Smart Filters layer will appear in the layer panel, which contains all the Camera Raw Filter information.
By following this workflow on a Smart Object layer, it allows you to go back at any time and re-assess your changes by double-clicking on the Camera Raw Filter text in the Layers panel.