How to Remove Noise from a Photo While Retaining Details & Texture in Photoshop

Noise is an inherent part of photography. Whether you’re shooting at noon, dusk, or at the dead of night, a varying degree of noise is always going to be a part of your imagery. Of course, that depends on the quality of the sensor and the underlying technology, and some cameras handle noise better than others. Jimmy McIntyre has a technique that allows you to handle noise better:

There are many post-processing techniques for noise removal. Some use click and forget tools, which make the while process of noise removal a breeze. But as with all techniques, there are some limitations. Not all of them tend to work in all situations. This technique also has its limitations. But first let’s describe the technique.

This is one of the frames McIntyre captured before post-processing in Photoshop:

noise removal using stacking method

This is one of the frames before the technique is applied

Looks fairly decent until you zoom in and then it when the noise hits you.

noise removal in photoshop

Level of noise when zoomed in

The technique to remove this from the final image is to shoot multiple exposures and then blend them together in Photoshop. Here’s how it is done.

  1. Make multiple frames of the same composition with the same exposure details.
  2. Import the images to Photoshop as different layers.
  3. Make sure that the layers are correctly aligned. If you are using Raya Pro you can simply click ‘Auto Align’ to align the layers. For other users, click on Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
  4. Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.
smart object in photoshop

Convert the layers into a Smart Object

When you do that all the layers will be flattened into a smart object.

  1. The final step is to go back to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median. This triggers Photoshop to find the mean value of all the pixels from each layer stacked on top of each other. You will notice that noise moves in between frames. Thus, there is a good chance that the final image is going to be a lot cleaner than any single frame.

Once Photoshop finishes you are likely to have an image that is a lot cleaner, like this one:

blending layers to remove noise

The image after the layers were blended using Stack Mode > Median

Here’s a quick before and after comparison:

using stacking in Photoshop to remove noise

Here’s a quick before and after recap

As has already been mentioned, this technique has some shortcomings. It will work best when the frames have been made on a tripod. You’ll also want to have as little exposure changes as possible and as little movement in front of the camera as possible.

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  1. Bill Wasp says:

    Does this work for cs4?

  2. Debbie says:

    Nice….can you do one for LR6

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