Sharpening After Noise Reduction


Today’s Question: I apply Noise Reduction, and then I use Sharpening to improve softness that was caused by Noise Reduction. Is it okay to do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can most certainly apply a small degree of additional sharpening to help compensate for a loss of sharpness caused by noise reduction. However, in many cases you’ll likely find that increasing the value for Texture and Clarity will provide a better result.

More Detail: By its nature, noise reduction reduces the sharpness of a photo, at least to some degree. That’s because noise reduction operates in large part by averaging neighboring pixel values to minimize the appearance of noise. This is the reason that noise reduction should be applied in moderation, especially when it comes to luminance noise (you can be a bit more aggressive in many cases when it comes to color noise).

Because noise reduction can reduce the sharpness of a photo, it is common to want to apply some additional sharpening after you have applied noise reduction. However, I find that in many cases a better result can be achieved by using the Texture and Clarity adjustments available in Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic, and the cloud-focused version of Lightroom.

Texture operates at a very small scale and is therefore the most similar to sharpening. It is best used for images where there is a lot of fine detail you want to maintain or enhance. Clarity operates at a larger scale, enhancing midtone contrast, which can provide a nice supplement to Texture when it comes to enhancing perceived sharpness in a photo.

Today’s question, by the way, was a follow-up to my recent presentation on “Noise Be Gone!”, as part of the “GreyLearning Live!” webinar series. You can view a recording of the full presentation on my “Tim Grey TV” channel on YouTube here: