Controlling noise in HDR is no easy matter as HDR applications invariably multiply noise . There are several noise reduction opportunities within the editing workflow and careful consideration must be undertaken in deciding “when” and how much noise reduction must be applied to each image. As you’ll see in the video, my preference is for denoising before tonemapping then applying noise reduction sparingly and selectively afterwards as/if needed.
For most images Lightroom’s noise reduction controls are a good choice, but for full control over denoising (especially for underexposesd or night images), I use Topaz Denoise. Dont’ get me wrong, Lightroom is a top-notch tool and it does a pretty good job, but it’s limited; It does not allow you to control the application of noise reduction to the highlight and shadow areas of an image or control over color channels. Topaz gives you a granular control for when you need it and I find it does a better job maintaining details because of the granularity of its controls. It also does give you some presents to use as starting points to get you going (I go over this in the video)
While the video is focused on using Topaz Denoise, I also talk about my camera setup and considerations during shooting. After the session, I was asked to clarify my camera setup. Here’s what I recommend:
Register Custom User Settings
These are the C1, C2, C3… etc on your dial (if you’re not sure how to do this, take a look here). I setup C1 on my camera for f/8, 0.5″, ISO 100, Auto Exposure bracketing (-2,0,2), White Balance to tungsten, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction. This basically is my “HDR Shooting Mode” so to speak. This makes my life easier as I don’t have to fumble around with settings when I’m ready to shoot. Keep in mind: these aren’t absolute settings; they are a starting point. A tip: I start with the settings I mentioned at C1, the adjust to the scene I’m shooting and register to C2 that way if my camera “goes to sleep” I can quickly start at where I need based on my lighting conditions.
Shoot the Lowest ISO Possible
The same rules for minimizing noise when not shooting HDR apply: your ISO should be as low as possible to accomodate the shutter speed you are looking for. As a general ISO 100-200 is where I’m typically at. If time is not an issue, i’m at 100. If I want to half my shutter speed, I just double up to ISO 200.
Alright, for the rest, you’ll have to watch the video. Keep in mind, I focus mainly on Topaz Denoise and noise reduction. I do go over Photomatix and tonemapping but only briefly and not in detail; I am putting together a tutorial on Photomatix that’s coming up. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a discount code use: CertainPointofView for 15% off Photomatix and let me know if you have questions.