Noise Reduction for Photographers

Have you ever looked at a photo and noticed a breakup in colours and some odd tones in your shadows? It’s probably down to digital noise. If you want to know about noise reduction, then we’ve got the beginner’s guide right here.

What is Noise in Photography?

ISO is the cause of all matters relating to digital noise and controlling it. The higher the ISO level goes; the more noise will be generated by your camera.

Increasing the ISO makes your sensor more sensitive to light and has the side-effect of creating random bits of data during the light capture which makes the noise.

Noise can reduce the overall quality of your image. It can skew the colours of some pixels making black pixels look grey or flat. This removes contrast and smooth tones and makes a photo look ‘blocky’ and just a general eyesore.

noise example
Join the iPhotography course
Join the iPhotography course

When Can Noise Occur in a Photo?

There are a few situations where noise is more susceptible than others. Long exposures are one of the most common causes of noise in digital photography.

During long exposure shots the sensor temperature rises and the amount of noise increases, especially the chromatic (colour) noise.

The same goes for night-time photos. When you are having to increase the ISO speed to improve your exposure then it’s more likely that noise will appear. It’s only advised to increase your ISO in situations where it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s best to open your aperture wide, improve the lighting (if possible) and slow down the shutter speed (slightly, and remember to use a tripod if shooting below 1/125th) before increasing the ISO.

Entry-level cameras will handle higher ISO levels worse than more premium bodies. Do a few tests at night time to see what ISO level your camera can handle before showing up noise.

How to Stop Noise in your Photos

Here are some practical steps to take to control the noise creeping into your shot in the first place.


  • Full frame cameras can handle higher ISO speeds than cropped sensors.
  • Shoot in RAW format.
  • Set the ISO level to 100 as default and raise it gradually when improving the exposure.
  • Expose your images correctly. Be guided by your histogram.
  • Long exposures are problem hot spots for digital noise.
  • Use lenses with fast (large) aperture settings – F/3.5 and wider
  • Avoid using burst mode a lot as this can increase the temperature of the sensor.

Check your camera for a function called High ISO Noise Reduction or Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Turn it on if you know you’re going to need a slow shutter speed or higher ISO setting.

After you’ve taken the shot, the camera will analyse the image and look for any pixels that are incorrectly rendered and do its best to re-correct them. Don’t fully rely on it though as it’s not always perfect.

How to Reduce Noise in Camera RAW

If you have Camera RAW through Photoshop or Lightroom then it’s a good idea to zoom your image to 100% to see the actual details of the noise in the image. Using similar options in both pieces of software we’ll outline a few steps that you can use to reduce those noise levels in your photos.

Lightroom has dedicated noise reduction tools under the ‘Develop’ module and in Camera RAW (for Photoshop users) you’ll find it in the ‘Detail’ tab.


Tips for Noise Reduction in Lightroom

  • Luminance Detail – This is good for shots with lots of noise. Moving the slider to the right preserves detail, but can produce noisier results. Whereas sliding to the left reduces detail but gives cleaner results in terms of noise.
  • Luminance Contrast – Pushing the Luminance Contrast slider to the left can give smoother results but can also have less contrast.
Noise Reduction Example Camera RAW

Image: Noise Reduction Tool in Camera RAW

Noise Reduction Example Lightroom

Image: Noise Reduction Tool in Lightroom CC

The Luminance slider is your main tool in stopping luminance noise featuring in an image but use it sparingly. Editing can only help after the problem has occurred, so it’s better to solve the problem in-camera first.

Secondly, it’s worth using the Black and Dehaze sliders too. They aren’t going to work on every photo, but given that noise occurs, mostly, in darker areas then it’s a good slider to tweak on full view. The Dehaze tool helps by making noise in the darker tones of an image less noticeable.

Hopefully, this guide on how to noise reduction has been insightful for your learning. Remember that shooting at night, indoors in low light and with long exposure photography are the main 3 occasions you’ll need to watch out for noise occurring.

We’d love to know if this article has helped you – get in touch and let us know!

What Others Are Reading

iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer.

architectural photography tutorial image 2

Architectural Photography Tutorial

Follow these steps to capture pro grade shots in this architectural photography tutorial. Includes tips on camera settings, angles & editing.

Car Photography Tutorial 2

Car Photography Tutorial: 7 Techniques

7 essential techniques to try out this Car Photography Tutorial. Master angles, camera settings, lighting, composition and how to do panning.

Online Course v College Degree

While sitting down writing a new blog for iPhotography we pondered, ‘What’s the best; an Online Course v College Degree?’

iphotography training online course learn more



iphotography training online course learn more



Who Are Photography Classes Made For?

Are our classes made for you? Well if you’re brand new to photography or been practising for a little while but starting to hit a wall then, the simple answer – YES! 

Whether you have just bought a camera or have spent years behind the viewfinder, our photography classes are comprehensive, educational, honest and cutting-edge – there are no other courses like it (believe us, we checked a lot!). 

We’re like the Wikipedia of photography – all of the answers are under one roof.

3 Ways to Use Natural Light

Sunlight can be discussed using a few different photography terms and approaches. There are normally 4 considerations photographers look at when using natural light in their photos - Direction, Colour, Intensity and Quality.

1. Direction

In which direction is the light falling? Is the direction of the light where you need it to be? While it’s very hard to change the direction of natural light unless you’re using reflectors you may have to move your subject into the path of the light to get the right finish.

There are 3 main directions that you can use natural light in a photo;

FREE - Optional Assignments

Some of our classes offer personal critiques and constructive feedback from qualified photography tutors. Receive 1-on-1 advice and tips from the experts.

5 Top Architectural Photography Tutorial Tips

How to Be a Nature Photographer

Going from a beginner nature photographer to making money from your camera you need dedication. It requires time and a never-ending passion to get outdoors with your cameras and practise new techniques. Get outdoors early and return when the sun sets.

Get familiar with your local woodlands and read nature books to learn about wildlife, birding and foliage. This will help you understand what you are shooting and when is the best time of year to find these subjects.


The other challenge when shooting through glass is the tinting. Unfortunately, architects and designers didn’t think about us photographers when creating these skyscrapers.

Their windows are invariably tinted in some way to help with heating.

This means that some of your photos may have a green/grey tint to them.

It’s not the biggest issue as you can rebalance this tint in editing with the ‘tint’ slider for example.