Today’s Question: I see that Adobe has added an AI noise reduction feature to Lightroom Classic [and Camera Raw in Photoshop]. Do you recommend using this new option over the manual approach to noise reduction?
Tim’s Quick Answer: While I find that the new AI-based noise reduction available in Lightroom Classic as well as Camera Raw in Photoshop is very good, I do find that I’m able to get slightly better results with the manual noise reduction controls.
More Detail: The new AI-based Denoise feature from Adobe is impressive, to be sure. With a careful adjustment of the strength of the effect you can get a very good result with minimal effort. However, there are some drawbacks based on my testing.
First, when you use the Denoise feature you will be creating a new Adobe DNG file rather than applying noise reduction to the existing raw capture. This can be a minor disadvantage in terms of having an “extra” file to manage, but I don’t consider this to be a major barrier.
I’ve also found that the default value of 50 for the Amount slider is far too aggressive, resulting in considerable loss of detail and texture in the image. I recommend starting at a value of around 20 for Amount, fine-tuning based on the specific image you’re working on, and the results you’re seeing in the preview. But in my testing a value of around 20 for Amount was far superior to the results I achieved with the default value of 50.
The results with the new Denoise feature compared to the manual noise reduction controls were rather mixed. I was consistently able to retain better texture and detail in images with manual noise reduction, but I was able to retain more of the natural colors, especially in small areas, using the new AI-based Denoise feature.
Based on my experience, I would say that the manual approach is best when your priority is to minimize the appearance of noise while retaining texture and detail in the image. If the priority is to retain even the finest color details and you’re willing to slightly degrade texture and detail, then the AI-based Denoise feature may work better. I’ve also found that the best solution varies depending on the image, so it isn’t a bad idea to test both options for images that exhibit considerable noise.
I think it is worth keeping in mind that the new Denoise feature is new and will certainly be improved over time. In addition, because the image is based on artificial intelligence, as more images are processed the quality of the results will surely improve over time as well.
The Denoise feature is found in the Detail section where the existing noise reduction controls are found. You simply click the Denoise button, adjust the Amount setting in the Enhance dialog, and click the Enhance button to process the image and create the new DNG file. The process is simple, but I do find that I’ve been able to achieve better results in general using the existing manual controls for noise reduction.