Noise reduction in Aurora HDR - my final step in creating an HDR photo
Ok, I promise, this will be the last page of “work” on this whole subject of HDR. Sorry, I had to add this in - it's too important. There is one more page after this one, but it’s a summary with some parting thoughts, so it’s not a detailed read. Hang in there - we are almost done!
But first - noise reduction!
When you create an HDR photo, you often end up creating some noise in it during the process. When you are accentuating details and structure in the photo it just happens. While it usually is not noticeable in a lot of areas, there are two areas that I notice it in rather frequently - skies and water.
And it drives me crazy!
In the old days (that is my current term for anytime before I started using Aurora HDR), I would create my base HDR in Photomatix, then run to one or two other programs to add filters for color and detail work, and then - my last and final bit of work on a photo - I would head off to another program to reduce the noise. In other words, I made multiple roundtrips from Lightroom before I got to the finished product. The last stop was always for noise reduction.
When I first started using Aurora HDR, I couldn’t really believe that in addition to all the other amazing components it also has noise reduction built into it! And on top of that, thanks to the power of layers, I can apply it selectively to only specific parts of a photo. I absolutely LOVE that about Aurora.
So after I have done all mypresets and layers and masking and color shifting and whatever else, I add a final layer and apply noise reduction.
It’s a quick, easy and yet very capable adjustment that only takes a moment, but improves my photos considerably.
I always finish my HDR photos with one last layer, which is reserved for noise reduction. I just like to do it last - it feels like the right time to do it, and it always signals to me that I am on the last step. But that's me.
Anyways, add a new layer, name it DeNoise if you want to, and then all you do is move the sliders in the right-hand DeNoise menu until you get things looking the way you want them. Remember, when you move slider it affects the entire image, so after it looks right to you in the right places (sky, water, etc) then you grab the brush and paint it in where you want it.
For comparison purposes, here is a screenshot of a sunset that I processed. You will notice I have a layer at the top of the layers panel called DeNoise. Then look at the sliders in the HDR DeNoise panel on the right side.
Here's a close-up which gives a better visual on how it affects the sky:
Of course, since this image has several presets and other effects, the color difference is noticeable right away, but look closely and you will see that the sky and water are much softer and less detailed - that's the noise reduction. It basically smooths out a photo.
The next step is to brush it into the sky and water - the mask looks like this after doing so:
And the final version of the photo looks like this:
If you want to see this in action, here is a video of me processing this photo and you can see the noise reduction steps live towards the end of it:
2 tips for better control over noise reduction
I created the below video which I think will give you some good ideas and help you with applying noise reduction to your own photos. It's not too long and I go into detail on 2 different ways you can more finely control how noise reduction is applied to your photo. This will give you exactly the final look you want.
I personally feel like having noise reduction built into the product is a HUGE advantage for Aurora HDR over any other product out there. I use it on almost every image and having it right there saves me time and money. It's super easy, efficient and fun to just apply this right in Aurora.
Ok my friends - that is (and I really really promise this time!) the last page of work on this tutorial.
Click here to get to the final HDR Tutorial page - and thanks!