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Chapter 2. How Camera Raw Works > Luminance and Color Noise Reduction

Luminance and Color Noise Reduction

While the Sharpening control is mildly convenient, the Luminance Smoothing and Color Noise Reduction controls in Camera Raw are simply indispensable. Luminance noise manifests itself as random variations in tone, usually in the shadows, though if you shoot at high ISO speeds it can spread all the way up into the midtones. Color noise shows up as random variations in color.

Before the advent of Camera Raw, I used to rely on rather desperate Photoshop techniques that involved converting the image to Lab so that I could address color noise and luminance noise separately, usually by blurring the a and b channels to get rid of color noise, and blurring or despeckling the Lightness channel to get rid of Luminance noise. Compared to the controls offered by Camera Raw, these techniques were very blunt instruments indeed—the round trip from RGB to Lab and back is fairly destructive due to rounding errors, and working on the individual channels is time-consuming.


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