I’ve gotten a lot of questions this last week about Adobe’s new Noise Reduction feature (referred to the rest of this article as NR) in Lightroom and Camera Raw. Pretty much too many to answer, so if I didn’t answer you, hopefully this takes care of it.

Also, just so you know, I didn’t know this was coming. I’m working on a BIG NEW COURSE right now – my Photoshop “How To” Course. So I haven’t been paying much attention to beta’s and some of the emails I get from the Adobe team. Truthfully, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I found out about it when I saw an email that morning from my buddy Brian Matiash. I had no idea 🙂

Q. Wait… What happened? Adobe released something new?
A. Yes. Watch this video to see some of the new features added to Lightroom and Camera Raw.

And you can watch this video to see a deeper look in to the workflow and how the new noise reduction works.

Q. Is the DeNoise feature in Photoshop too?
A. Yes and no. Adobe Camera Raw is considered part of Photoshop so yes. But if you’re talking about the Photoshop interface with layers and all that, no. It’s not a filter. It’s something that you’ll find only in LR Develop and Camera Raw (which are basically the same thing).

Q. Is there a specific order or workflow now that we have noise reduction?
A. Yes. Adobe recommends you do your NR early. I’d say even first. But definitely before any masking or healing. Again, I’d say just do it first, or at the first sign of noise if you happened to have raised the Exposure or Shadows and noticed a lot of noise. And if all else fails and you’re not sure… try it and see what happens. Your image won’t delete itself and your computer won’t blow up if you experiment.

Q. The new Noise Reduction feature is really really REALLY slow – or it crashes on me. What gives and is there anything I can do to change it?
A. I hear this a lot, but then again I hear from more people that it’s really fast too. I can’t help you with this one. It is very intensive on your hardware and especially your graphics card. So even if you have a 2-3 year old computer, but maybe you unintentionally skimped on the graphics card (or didn’t even know that was an issue), you could be facing some prohibitive processing times of 5, 10 or even 20+ minutes. Best I can suggest is going to your Lightroom Preferences and messing around there as well as reading this article from Adobe.

REQUEST: Please don’t flood the comments with how long it takes you. I get it and I know it’s frustrating, but there’s nothing I, or anyone here can do for you.

Q. Matt, can you help me speed things up?
A. No I cannot. I can teach you how to use LR – and if things don’t work well I have nothing to point you to other than Adobe’s website support or Google searches.

Also, if there’s a question I missed here and you’re thinking of asking and it has the word “crash” or “doesn’t work” in it, guess what. See my answer above 😉

Q. I noticed that the new NR creates a new duplicate DNG file, and doesn’t actually edit my raw file. What’s up with that?
A. That’s just the way it works. You can’t change it.

Q. The new DNG file is huge. That doesn’t seem right?
A. It is big. However, if you used certain plug-ins, that always forced you to create a new file. For example, my Topaz workflow was to reduce noise last, which created a large TIFF. That TIFF is actually bigger than the LR DNG file that is created. Either way, as the popular saying goes… It is what it is.

Q. Will Adobe ever change this so that it doesn’t have to duplicate the file?
A. I read an article from Adobe’s website and he mentioned that they may do that one day. But I have no idea when.

Q. The new Noise Reduction feature isn’t available for me. Why?
A. If you’re 100% positive you’re using the new version of LR and/or Camera Raw (12.3 and 15.3) then the file type may not be supported. You can read this for more info.

Q. Can I use this on a JPG?
A. No… see above.

Q. Can I fool Adobe and convert my JPG to a DNG and use it?
A. Nice try. With all of the AI and milestones in computer technology, do you really think that the engineers who made this stuff, won’t know it was a JPG to start with?

Q. Can I batch process the Noise Reduction?
A. Yep. Go in to Library Grid mode. Select the photos you want to batch. Then right click and choose Enhance and it will apply to all of them. Just be aware that it takes time and a lot of disk space since the files are large.

Q. This has nothing to do with Adobe NR Matt, but I noticed that you use Topaz and they recommend doing noise reduction first before anything. Why don’t you do that?
A. Because I’ve done the tests and it’s not worth it to me. While there was a small benefit to it, the workflow interruption isn’t what I want. Plus, Topaz is not a raw editor and I don’t want them to be the first thing that renders my raw file. For me, the resulting DNG always looked “funky”.

Q. Matt, can you talk more about this?
A. Nope. Try it yourself and use whatever workflow you like. I shared mine, but what works for you is always the best way!

Q. Can I use the new NR with the masking tools in Lightroom / Camera Raw?
A. Nope. However I did a video that shows you a workaround. Click here to watch it.

Q. Will Adobe come out with a sharpening tool too?
A. They already did. It’s called Enhance Details and it came out in 2019. I was never a big fan of it, but it seemed to help with certain types of raw files. Whether or not they update it or do anything else, I don’t know.

Q. DeNoise seems like it’s actually doing a little sharpening too. Is that true?
A. Adobe’s DeNoise is also applying the Enhance Details sharpening feature, so yes – you’re getting noise reduction and a little sharpening too.

Q. Should I sharpen more after?
A. Totally up to you. It depends on the photo, what you’re doing with it, how soft it was to begin with etc… Give it a try and see how it looks. As always, let the photo – and your interpretation of it – tell you what it needs, not some middle aged dude, with a really long last name, on the internet who isn’t at your computer.

Q. I didn’t watch your Lightroom video. Just how good is the noise reduction?
A. I think it’s absolutely fantastic! Over the years, I’ve watched Adobe come out with Enhance Details, which is a sharpening enhancement, and I didn’t think it was that great. I also saw the Super Resolution upsizing feature, and didn’t think it was any better than using the “Image > Image Size” menu in Photoshop. So I figured they’d come out with Noise Reduction one day, but I wasn’t holding my breath on how good it would be.

Boy was I wrong. It actually took me by surprise and a week later I still don’t know what to make out of it. But all I can say is that it works great and far surpassed my expectations.

Q. On the topic, now that Lightroom has great noise reduction are you going to switch from Topaz?
A. To be honest I’m not sure. I’ve recommended Topaz for 2 years now and it’s a significant part of my wildlife high ISO workflow. I like the results. I can predict the results. I feel good about using it and I can look at a photo in my camera while shooting, and almost know how it will come out in the end because I have 2 years of editing experience with it.

Now that there’s something else that, to my eyes is pretty much as good (sometimes better, and sometimes not), I just need more time and editing to figure it out. I don’t make recommendations to people easily, so I’m taking the 5th amendment on this right now 😉 I don’t want to recommend something one way or the other, before I really have some time with it.

That said, I’m not going to make a career out of comparing the two either. They are both good and getting down into the weeds on this one is pointless for me. I’ve committed to editing only with the new NR in Lightroom for the next month or so. If I’m happy with the photos and my results, I’ll probably make the switch since it’s just simpler this way.

The best I can suggest is that if you have a plug-in, spend some time doing tests to see what you think. If you don’t have a plug-in for noise reduction, I don’t know that there’s a need to run out and buy one right now. You just got best-in-class NR as part of the money you already pay to Adobe.


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