Lightroom 3 Noise Reduction: To Be Used in Moderation

Yesterday, I showed off a little of what Lightroom 3’s noise killing prowess could do.  And then, I started looking back at some of my basketball photos from this season, most of which were shot at ISO 3200.  Some of them could use a little help from Lightroom 3’s noise reduction panel; however, some looked just fine, even with a little bit of grain.

It’s easy to get carried away with ISO boundaries and post-processing effects.  Use it when you need it, and remember, that a little grain is ok now and then.

Take, for instance, the above shot of John Wall, who was probably complaining about the trouncing that the Vols were delivering to the Wildcats that night (yeah, I know he just went number one overall in the draft, but I gotta get my jabs in where I can).  I shot this image with the Nikon D3s at ISO 3200, f/2.8 and 1/1000s.

Now, let’s look up close at the orginal, grainy shot on the left (originally processed in Lightroom 2), and the new, de-noisified (is that a word?) shot on the right.

While this may come down to a matter of personal taste, I like the shot on the left more so than the shot on the right.  It’s grittier, sweatier and, yes, grainier.  It just evokes more emotion from me than the smoother and cleaner shot on the right.  To me, it embraces the physical battle on the court more so than the cleaner image, which has lost some of that fine detail and just the overall character that the grain brings.

I just pass this along as a reminder that just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.  Even if you have a different aesthetic viewpoint of my example image above, I hope the message gets across just the same.  Sometimes, it’s ok to leave in a little grain.



  1. Dr.Nick says

    The grain is one thing, but that yellow white balance just bugs me all to pieces. Wow.

    • says

      @Dr.Nick – Agreed. The WB is a little off. Not something I modified because I couldn’t change the LR2 settings in LR3 and I wanted both images to compare equally. Also, the WB is a bit challenging at times on UT’s court due to the orange paint on the floor. Note the reflection of orange on his front that isn’t as prominent on his back, which is lit more from above.

  2. says


    It’s an old story : too much noise reduction on people give a plastic look to the skin. Same problem with Noise Ninja for example.


    Pascal Riben