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High ISO Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

I recently updated my version of Adobe Lightroom. It prompty announced a new feature: High ISO noise reduction using AI. Adobe's AI based filters have been mostly positive previously. So, I was keen to try it out.

The first thing I discovered is that it only works with RAW files more or less straight off the camera. Anyway, I have tons of RAW files at medium to high ISO. In 2015 when I was first getting into photography seriously, I took a ton of pictures of my friend's sprint car at the dirt track. Often the racing would go fairly late into the night requiring a steady bump in ISO to maintain a decent shutter speed for the fast moving race cars. The photo I selected was shot at ISO 6400, 200mm, f/5.6, and 1/60s.

sunset with two sprint cars on dirt track. the low light requires high ISO which produces more noise


identical image to previous with the high ISO noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom applied


Zoomed out, they look pretty similar. If we compare at 100% zoom, the difference becomes very apparent. Again the original is above with the enhanced image below it.

zoomed in image to show the noise from the high ISO


identical view zoomed in to show the noise reduction


One of the primary use cases for a feature like this is astrophotography. I don't expect the stacking process will go away anytime soon but this filter certainly helps the more casual of us astrophotographers get decent results with a minimum of effort.

Here we'll take a look at a shot from my trip to Iceland last September. We were so lucky to have such an impressive display of aurora. I took this shot with the "night sight/astro" setting on my Pixel phone. I set it to capture in RAW and the first image is the original shot at ISO 787, 2.35mm, f/2.2, 0.5s (very strange settings if you ask me, but that's another story).

another example noisy shot of the northern lights from my android phone


same shot of the northern lights from my phone but with the noise reduction applied


In this case, we hardly need to zoom in to see the difference. So when we do zoom to 100%, the improvement is very impressive. I'll be interested to experiment with this feature as a precursor to traditional stacking.

zoomed in view of the big dipper to show the noise in more detail


zoomed in view of the big dipper to show the noise reduction in more detail


Time to take another look at my old pics to see how this feature can give them a new lease on life.

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