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Photography

How to Use Imagenomic Noiseware for Next-Level Noise Reduction on Photos

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
This post is part of a series called How to Use Noise Reduction for Silky Smooth Photography.
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Noise reduction is like a magic potion: every photographer has their own special recipe. Imagenomic’s Noiseware was a solution I hadn't heard of until recently, when I asked a photographer friend how he’d rescued a particularly noisy image so well. I downloaded it to try out and haven’t looked back since!

In this tutorial you will learn how to use Noiseware to effectively and efficiently remove unwanted noise from your digital images.

What is Noiseware?

Noiseware is a piece of software available as a plugin for Photoshop (demonstrated in this tutorial) and Adobe Lightroom for Windows and Mac and as a standalone program for Windows. Imagenomic describe their product like this:

Noiseware is a high-performance noise suppression software tool designed to decrease or eliminate noise from digital photo or scanned images.

Let’s put their claims to the test using this example, which I've deliberately added quite a bit of noise to:

noisy example
Our example photo, cropped, with noise added

1. Open Noiseware

Noiseware looks a bit daunting, at first. This is what you get when you open up the plugin using Filter > Imaegenomic > Noiseware in Photoshop:

Noiseware opening screen
Noiseware's opening screen

2. Try Preset Options

Lots of sliders, lots of options. Let’s look at a few of those now. Firstly you’ll notice in the top left, a drop down box for pre-sets:

Noiseware presets
Noiseware's pre-sets

This takes away a lot of the slider worry, as you can generally just pick whichever pre-set suits your picture and select that. You can see there’s a one marked Portrait which would be suitable in our case and also one marked Stronger Noise, again this would be suitable. As you click on each one it gives you a preview like the one in the bottom box, above.

Add Another Preview

You don’t need to hit OK and come out of anything yet to compare, either. Click the button marked Add Preview:

Noiseware add preview
The add preview option allows you to compare pre-sets without coming out of the plugin

This is incredibly useful if you have more than one pre-set that could possible apply to your photo, as it enables you to compare them side by side. You can also see from hovering over the preview tab, what changes the preset would apply to the sliders and options on the left. The preview also lets you see your image at a high magnification. At 400%, above, you can see just how well the noise has been reduced.

3. Adjust Settings as Needed

Truthfully, I rarely touch these sliders as this piece of software really does very well with its default settings. The one thing I do occasionally tweak is the Edge Smoothening option; I find zooming right in and checking those different options (depending on your image) is best.

noiseware before and after
A before and after, with Noiseware's pre-set on the right

Here’s the noisy version (left) compared with the Portrait pre-set on the right. You can see the difference is huge.  There’s a slight loss of sharpness and some desaturation. When you consider the original, unedited image it has done incredibly well.

original image
Original, unedited image

What’s the Downside?

The trade off with noise reduction has always been a softer image, as mentioned above; but Noiseware is more sophisticated than other noise reduction packages I've used in the past. Rather than applying the same setting across the whole of the image, it seems to hit more obviously noisy areas harder, and detailed areas (where noise is less noticeable), more subtly. For example, it will clear and smooth out a sky without killing the edges of a building. Again, I've added noise here:

night scene comparison
A night scene comparison

You can see that at 100% it really rescues the sky but doesn't blur the building too much. And when we take it back out to the full size image, any slight softening is barely noticeable:

Night scene zoomed out
Night scene zoomed out after Noiseware pre-set has been applied

This was processed using the Night pre-set without any changes to the sliders.

How Does Noiseware Compare?

As I’m using the Photoshop plugin it seemed only fair to compare it to at least one of Photoshop’s own pre-sets. This is Noiseware on the right compared with Photoshop’s Despeckle (run 3 times to really show a difference) on the left:

PS despeckle and Noiseware
Photoshop's Despeckle on the left compared with Noiseware on the right

Slight face mis-matching aside, you can see the Despeckle option is much, much softer, which would be far too much of a trade off for me personally. They both desaturate around the same amount, which isn’t surprising really given they’ll both tackle colour and luminance noise (often found when your photo is over saturated). Some colour can easily be brought back although I suggest you do this slowly and subtly, in case you add more noise again!

Conclusion

Noiseware is by far and away the best noise reduction method I’ve used and no, they aren’t paying me to say that!

I went to Germany last year and, after fiddling around in manual mode on my camera for some night time shots, had accidentally left my ISO on a ridiculously high number for day photos. This resulted in a couple of days worth of ruined pictures. I kept them but never did anything with them as they seemed beyond rescue. When I tried this software, I reopened the dreaded folder of noise and ran some of the pre-sets on a couple of the photos. To my absolute delight, they were so much better; not perfect – they were never going to be after my error – but they were at least now a pleasure to look at as memories.

Noise was the thing I always feared during indoor shoots too, whereas now, I relax a little more, knowing that if there’s some residual noise in my photos, this software can improve them. I’m not saying throw all your knowledge and expertise out of the window and this will fix everything, but know that if you’re not too confident about your settings or you want to shoot at a faster speed indoors and don’t want to use a speedlight, Noiseware will, in most cases, polish up your noisy photos quite nicely.

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