How to Reduce Noise in Photography

In digital photographs, “noise” is a commonly used term to describe visual distortion. Digital noise is similar to the grainy quality found in film photographs, but it can also look like unsightly discolored splotches. When it’s really bad, it can ruin your photos. Noise typically gets worse when you are shooting in low light situations, like at night or in a dimly lit room.
 
In technical terms, noise is the visual result of a lower signal-to-noise ratio, which is represented in decibels. Most professional photographers aim for photos with at least a 30dB signal-to-noise ratio. Below, we’ve shared a few tips for how to reduce noise in photography. 

What is an Acceptable Amount of Noise?

An amount of noise that would be considered acceptable to an amateur photographer might be considered unacceptable to a professional. Many people take photos to post on social media, and they might not care about noisy images or visual distortions. In other situations, it’s important to minimize digital noise. For example, in architectural photos, where detail and color quality are crucial, noise may render the image unusable. The size of the prints you make also play a role, as larger prints will show noise artifacts more than smaller prints. 

How to Reduce Noise in Photography

There are a number of different approaches to reducing noise in your digital photos. 

  • Shoot at a Lower ISO: Since higher ISOs produce more noise, choose the lowest ISO possible that doesn’t ruin the exposure. For a compact camera, this might mean shooting at ISO 100. For a more sophisticated DSLR camera, you can probably achieve quality images at ISO 400-800 in low light situations. 
  • Buy a Camera with a Larger Sensor: If you’ve been using a compact camera, then you will see a big improvement in image quality if you move up to a DSLR camera with a larger sensor. 
  • Use Onboard Noise Reduction: Most digital cameras today have built-in noise reduction, and many will even apply noise reduction to JPEG images by default. Most DSLRs will have the following three options for noise reduction: on, off, and on with high or low settings. If you want to shoot without noise reduction, then you should take pictures in RAW mode so that it’s easier to fix visual distortions in the editing stage. 
  • Use Noise-Reduction Software: If your camera does not have built-in noise reduction, or you prefer to shoot RAW images and fix distortions after the fact, we recommend using noise reduction software on your computer like Topaz DeNoise. 

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