The new Denoise tool that Adobe added in Lightroom Classic 12.3 (the April 2023 update) is a game changer for any photographer who works at high ISOs. If that applies to you then you’re going to be excited by this new AI based feature.
How do you use Denoise in Lightroom Classic?
Before we look at the Denoise tool in more detail, let me show you how to use it. The only thing you have to remember is that it doesn’t work with JPEG, TIFF or PSD files, only with Raw files that haven’t been demosaiced (more on that below).
1. Start by opening the Detail panel and clicking the Denoise button.
2. The Enhance Preview window opens, with the Denoise (and Raw Details) boxes checked.
Amount is the only slider you need to move. The default setting is 50, you can move it right to increase the amount of Denoise or left to decrease it. I find that 50 is a great setting – it removes noise without making the photo look too smooth.
Lightroom estimates the amount of time needed to process the file. The time depends on the size of your photo and the age and processing power of your computer and its graphics card.
On my 6 year old iMac, I get estimated times of around six minutes. With a newer computer this could be just a few seconds. On an older machine it could be much longer (there are some tips on how to deal with this below).
If your computer, like mine, takes several minutes to apply Denoise, then that limits the scope for experimenting with different Amount settings. Which is another good reason to stick to the default setting of 50.
3. Click the Enhance button to start. Lightroom applies both Denoise and Raw Details and creates a new DNG file appended Enhanced-NR.dng.
This screenshot shows the power of Denoise. On the left you can see a 100% enlargement of a photo made at ISO 12,800. On the right you can see the result after applying Denoise (with Amount set to 50).
There’s much less noise and no loss of detail. If anything, there’s even more visible detail, and that’s thanks to the Raw Details tool that Lightroom applies together with Denoise.
Considering that applying Luminance Noise Reduction manually in Lightroom softens the image and removes detail, this is an amazing improvement on the “old” way of applying Noise Reduction.
What you need to know about Denoise
That’s the basics covered, but there’s a few more things you need to know about Denoise.
• You don’t have to use Denoise on all images. For one, that might take too long. Second, it doesn’t (yet) work with JPEG, TIFF and PSD files. For those situations the old Noise Reduction sliders are still available. Adobe has renamed them Manual Noise Reduction and moved them to the bottom of the Detail panel (click the white triangle to view them).
- At the time of writing Denoise only works with Raw files from cameras with either a bayer array (most digital cameras) or the X-Trans sensor used in most Fujifilm X series cameras. It also works with DNG files created by Adobe software or the Lightroom app on your phone. These Raw files retain all the mosaiced data from your camera’s sensor, which is what Denoise needs to work with.
- Denoise doesn’t work with the reduced size Raw formats that some cameras offer, like Canon’s sRaw. It also doesn’t work with ProRaw iPhone files produced by the iPhone Camera app. These Raw files have been demosaiced, which means the data has been partially processed by the camera and saved in a format that Denoise can’t work with.
- It works with lossless DNG files created by Adobe software, and DNG files created by the Lightroom app on your phone. But it doesn’t work with lossy DNG files, which, like the Raw files mentioned above, have also been demosaiced.
- Adobe plans to extend Denoise to work with other file formats, like JPEG, in the near future, but hasn’t given any guidance as to when this feature will be available.
- When you apply Denoise to a photo Lightroom creates a new DNG file (appended Enhanced-NR.dng) that’s approximately two to four times the size of the original Raw or DNG file.
- You can apply Denoise to several photos at once by selecting them in the Filmstrip and clicking the Denoise button. This extends the time required to run the process, so it’s a good idea not to select too many photos at a time.
- It’s a good idea to apply Denoise early in your workflow, before using Healing or AI masking. AI driven tools like Content-Aware Remove and AI masking can be affected by noise, and work best with a clean starting point.
- If you apply Denoise to a photo that already has an AI mask or Content-Aware Remove settings, then Lightroom recalculates and updates those spots and masks. That adds to the processing time, and you also need to check the result to make sure everything is okay. This increases the work you have to do, which is why Adobe recommends that you run Denoise first.
- If the result is too smooth for your taste, you can compensate by adding Grain in the Effects panel.
- Applying Denoise automatically applies Raw Details to the image as well, so you get get the best of both worlds. But you can’t apply both Super Resolution and Denoise to the same image.
- For the best performance Adobe recommends a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) with at least 8GB memory, and updated GPU drivers.
Mastering Lightroom Classic: Book Two – The Develop Module
You can learn more about Denoise, Manual Noise Reduction and all other aspects of developing photos in Lightroom Classic with my ebook Mastering Lightroom Classic: Book Two – The Develop Module
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