Friday, March 26th 2010

Noise Reduction in Lightroom 3

In my review of Lightroom 3 beta 2 I wrote:

… software still can’t do magic and I prefer to keep all the detail, and grain, in my photos. I only use colour noise reduction to get rid of the ugly colour blotches.

It turns out I had completely missed a very important slider, under the main luminance noise slider: Detail

And having discovered that slider I realize that software nowadays can do magic! Lets have a look at an example.

First, lets see what Lightroom 2 can do with luminance noise (grain).

While trying to find a good photo to illustrate this I realized that the photo I picked completely at random for my last post was actually a very good one for this puropse. Plenty of detail and grain in the same area of the photo. This is a 100 percent crop from a photo I shot at Christmas with my trusty 30D. 1/20th at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Hover the image to see what a noise reduction setting of 50 does in Lightroom 2.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 2.

As you can see, the detail in the painting is definitely blurred. And the frame, as well as the little gnomes at the bottom of the crop, are also slightly blurred.

Here is the same crop in Lightroom 3. You’ll notice there is much more detail to start with. This is one of LR3’s strengths. But when you’re shooting at ISO 1600 it means the grain will be very visible too. (My aggressive sharpness settings of 40 – 1.0 – 40 – 40 don’t help either.)

I set the luminance slider at 50, and the new detail slider at 70 (default is 50) while leaving the contrast at 0. That’s what you’ll see when you hover the image below.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 3.

In my eyes at least, the sharp grain completely disappears. Meanwhile the actual details are left virtually untouched! This is pretty amazing!

When looking at the painting I don’t get that feeling of greasy smear on my glasses that I get in the first demo.


To summarize, Lightroom 3 is much better at identifying which pixel variations are noise and which are part of some actual detail in the image. For the first time I feel that I have noise reduction that actually does more good than bad!

I will definitely be using both luminance and colour noise reduction in the future.

Finally a direct comparison of Lightroom 2 and Lightroom 3, both with NR on. Its like getting a new pair of glasses!

Lightroom 2 compared to Lightroom 3.

And to think that image detail was one of the selling points for me when I moved from Canon’s own raw converter to Lightroom. 🙂

5 Responses to this post:

  1. Robert D. McGee says:

    That is a pretty impressive demonstration. I have been a Light Room user since the beginning (I was a RawShooter user).

    I had already decided that I will be upgrading from LR 2 to LR 3 as soon as it is ready. Now, I am DETERMINED.

    I am presently using a 40D and a 7D. Proper handling of noise will be very useful to me and it appears that LR 3 is “ready”.


  2. James says:


  3. Charlie Walker says:

    David: This is an excellent comparison! I started with Raw Shooter Premium and I rarely use DPP. I am amazed at the results LR3 B2 is giving from my 7d & 40d. I probably need to be more agressive with the detail slider though. Thank you very much for your work and posting this.
    Charlie Walker – Newborn, GA

  4. David Naylor says:

    Thanks for your comments guys!

  5. […] are a few more hover comparisons of Lightroom 2 and 3. (Here are some previous ones I […]