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Lightroom 4 Noise Reduction Tutorial — Part 2

In part 1 of the Lightroom 4 noise reduction tutorial I talked about different types of noises in digital photographs, global and selective noise reduction methods in Lightroom 4. So, I guess you are ready to process some ‘noisy’ images now. If you haven’t read the part 1 of this tutorial, please read it first.

Read: Lightroom 4 Noise reduction Tutorial Part 1

Global Noise Reduction

I am using a high ISO image here to show you how to reduce the noise. This image only has luminance noise. Using another image I will show you how to remove color noise. As I said In part one, when you do global NR method, it applies to the entire image. I am using the loupe window to preview the areas where there is more noise. Below are the steps (please click on the images to enlarge):

High ISO image for noise reduction
The photo is shot with my canon 1000D at ISO 1600

Step 1: Open your image in the develop module in Lightroom and click on the detail panel. It drops down the NR box.

lightroom 4 noise reduction tutorial
Click to enlarge

Step 2: Once you open the detail panel box, click on the marker to enable it. Now you will notice that the cursor changed to a ‘cross’ symbol. Click on an area where there is more noise. The loupe window previews this area.

image zoomed in lightroom 4

Step 3: Click on the 1:1 button on the navigation window. For effective noise reduction, I would recommend you to zoom in the image to 1:1 magnification. This will help you to see the changes effectively.

noise reduction sliders in lightroom 4

Step 4: Now you can only see the area where you have zoomed in. Use the noise reduction sliders to reduce the noise to a desired level. But don’t overdo it. As I have said in the part of this tutorial, removing all noise makes the pic soft.

effect of lightroom 4 noise reduction

Step 5: After your the process you want to see the changes that has taken place. For that, click on the before and after views button at the bottom (as shown in the screenshot above) This will help you to compare the level of noise reduction you applied in the image. This particular image did not have color noise. But I will show you how to remove color noise with another image.

Color Noise Reduction

Color noise reduction

I have opened another image which has some color noise. Here, I have magnified the image to 3:1 so that the color noise is more visible. The image preview on the left shows color noise and the preview on the right is after the color noise reduction. You can notice the changes. The red and blue splotches are disappeared.

That’s it. Above are the steps for global NR in Lightroom 4. While you are doing this process, you should zoom out the image to the original state to ensure that the image has enough details. I have mentioned about this in part 1 of this tutorial. Now, let me show you the selective noise reduction in Lightroom 4.

Selective noise reduction

As I have said before, the adjustment brush in Lightroom 4 is used for selective NR. In part 1, I have shown you where the adjustment brush is located and how to enable it.

Lightroom 4 adjustment brush selection

Step 1: Click on the adjustment brush button. It is located just below the histogram window (see the screenshot above). Now move the noise slider to the right to decrease the noise wherever you are going to paint with the adjustment brush. I have highlighted the brush settings box in the screenshot above. Use that setting now if you don’t know what those sliders mean.

adjustment brush noise reduction

Step 2: Now paint the area where you want to reduce the noise. The red area shows where you have painted with the adjustment brush. You can disable the red area by pressing the alphabet key ‘O’.

This is how adjustment brush is used to selectively remove noise from images. Please note that adjustment brush removes only luminance noise. So if you want to remove color noise separately, remove it globally, and then use adjustment slider to bring out the details in the areas you don’t want to remove the noise. I have mentioned this in part 1, too.

Some dos and don’ts of noise reduction

Now let me come to the last part of this tutorial. Please read this since it is very important.


  • Reduce the noise only if it is really necessary. Just because you shot the image at high ISO, doesn’t mean that you have to reduce noise. High ISO images from some DSLRs hardly have noise in them.
  • Reduce the noise based on the output. Noise reduction for digital sharing is different from the noise reduction for printing purpose. Read more on this in part 1 of this tutorial.
  • Before doing this process zoom in the image.


  • Do not completely remove the noise. Noise is good. Over noise reduction makes the image soft, devoid of details.
  • Always do noise reduction at the end of your workflow. Reduce noise just before sharpening and after the exposure adjustments.

So, that is all about noise reduction in Lightroom 4. I hope you find these methods useful. This is just a standard workflow. It varies from person to person. If you know a better workflow, please let me know.



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Vidhu Soman

Hi, I am Vidhu Soman, Editor of Shutterstoppers. I have been doing photography since 2010, and I co-founded shutterstoppers community in 2012. I love photography, writing, travelling, and reading. If you wish to contact me, send a mail using our contact form.

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  1. There is no such thing as noise reduction after the data is written to in-camera memory or a storage device. The signal-to-noise ratio for a given single image can not be improved after the fact. The noise is the uncertainty in the data. The noise is the uncertainty in the number of photons that reached the sensor sites. In other words the raw values for the pixels are estimates for the real, but unknown, number of photons recorded during exposure.

    Your tutorial details elegant and clever ways to suppress the noise. Noise suppression is not equal to noise reduction. These techniques, in every software algorithm on the planet, filter the data data in some way. The pixels with less noise are averaged with pixels with more noise. Two things happen with regard to noise. The noisy pixels with appear less noisy and at the same time the pixels with less noise become more noisy. Of course resolution, color saturation and other aspects of the data are compromised as well. Every post-acquisition noise filtering or suppression technique in existence reduces the data’s original information content.

    As your tutorial demonstrates, expert use of data filtering improves an image’s aesthetic appearance. This is important and valuable. The loss of in information content is more than offset by the aesthetic gains of skillful and thoughtful filtering. At the same time photographers should understand they are not improving the image’s original signal to noise ratio. The sensor and lens IQ and resolution we value and pay for can be needlessly compromised by sloppy post-processing noise suppression.

  2. Interesting thanks. But it would help greatly if we can enlarge those picture. When I click “enlarge” it is only open the picture on another page whitout enlarging.
    I tried on Firefox and Safari.

  3. Great tutorial!

    I’d like to ask about in camera NR. It really works? For high ISO, long exposure shots or both?
    I don’t know what is best, using in camera NR and then post processing or just post.

    1. Thanks for reading. I am glad you liked this post 🙂 I don’t prefer in camera NR. If you are a serious photographer, you should disable in camera NR since in camera NR softens the photo. It is just an automatic noise reduction process and you can’t control where it is applied on the photo. In most cases you may lose details on the area of interest in your photograph. It is always best reduce the noise by yourself. Also, try not to add sharpness within the camera itself. The point is, you should have full [manual] control over the photograph.
      However, you can enable these in camera NR method if you are in a hurry. I.e. if you don’t want to spend much time in post processing. Hope this helps.

  4. High Vidhu.

    Thank you so much for these precious piece of informattion.
    As an amateur photographer, I have tried to learn about LR4 in many tutorials and your comments have been of great value. Sharing our experience with others is the most valuable treasure of our knowledge.
    Regards from Brazil

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