How To Handle High-ISO Noise in Post-Processing

In almost every genre, you will encounter situations in which you are using your lens' widest aperture and you can't make your shutter speed any slower, meaning all you can do is raise your ISO. That will introduce noise into your images, but thankfully, modern post-processing software can do quite a lot to correct that, and this excellent video tutorial will show you how to leverage it to do just that.

Coming to you from Anthony Morganti, this great video tutorial will show you how to deal with high-ISO noise in post-processing. One common mistake I see many newer photographers make is using too slow a shutter speed for the action they are photographing (or for preventing camera shake) in an attempt to keep their ISO down for better image quality. While it is true that raising the ISO will introduce some noise, that is something you can always work on in post. On the other hand, if a photo is blurry due to too slow of a shutter speed, there is generally not much you can do to save it. So, don't be afraid to raise the ISO if it will help you get the shot! Check out the video above for the full rundown from Morganti. 

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11 Comments
Jacques Cornell's picture

"One common mistake I see many newer photographers make is using too slow a shutter speed for the action they are photographing (or for preventing camera shake) in an attempt to keep their ISO down for better image quality."

Yeah, as a low-light event pro, I had to learn this the hard way. Once I realized what was happening and raised my ISO ceiling by one stop, I got sharper shots with more detail.

FWIW, dealing with high-ISO noise is EZ - process your RAWs with DxO PhotoLab Elite or PureRAW and apply DeepPRIME (DP) noise reduction. In PhotoLab, you can dial down the default DP level if you feel the images are crunchy and/or you have a certain tolerance for noise/grain. With my Sony a7RIII files, though, I use the default. DP is AMAZING. I now let Auto ISO drift up to 25,600 in my low-light event work, and the results look great.

Also, as my a7RIIIs are ISO-invariant, when I don't need to deliver OOC JPEGs, I dial in -2EV exposure compensation to protect highlights, then boost exposure +2EV in post. Works a treat.

P.S.: Anthony's workflow is convoluted because he's using DeNoise AI, which requires that he minimize adjustments prior to exporting a TIF for noise reduction. However, DxO applies DP as part of the RAW deconvolution process, which means that the whole question of chronology in applying adjustments is a non-issue: you can apply all your adjustments AND noise reduction simultaneously to the RAW file and it's all non-destructive. If you prefer to apply adjustments in Lightroom Classic, you can have DxO apply optical corrections and DP to the original RAW file and export a DNG to LRC, where you'll have all the RAW data available for further tweaking, again, non-destructively. DxO is so superior in this regard that it's a mystery to me why anyone working on high-ISO images wouldn't use it.

Emir Horozovic's picture

Now I'm really tempted to try it out and compare it to Denoise AI that I already use.

Jacques Cornell's picture

PhotoJoseph.com has a video comparing the two. It was several months ago, so you may have to search a bit to find it.

John Davis's picture

DeepPRIME is so good, it feels like I'm somehow cheating..... Taking early morning shots of our birdfeeder (which is usually in the shadows) used to be an exercise in frustration: blurry or dark photos (heh, sometimes both!). Blurry as the shutter was too slow, or dark trying to expand the DOF to have more than just the birds beak in focus. DeepPrime allows me to raise my ISO way past my previous comfort zone (100 - 400) and therefore gives a much greater flexibility for the settings I can try. Although I still consider myself a novice, the satisfaction of getting more 'keepers' is massively encouraging. I've set my Auto ISO range to top out at 3200 (YMMV), which usually allows me to take pictures without having to compromise the shutter speed or DOF more often than not.
"DxO is so superior in this regard that it's a mystery to me why anyone working on high-ISO images wouldn't use it."
I totally agree.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

I use DenoiseAI for all my high iso images. I use it as a plug-in on RAW files within Luminar 4. Update to be able to do this too with Luminar NEO is pending (hopefully coming soon!). Luminar just adds a non destructive adjustment layer with the DenoiseAI correction to its own adjustment layers. Much better workflow in this aspect that Adobe’s software.

Alessandro Morino's picture

Do any of you use or know DFine from the Nik Collection by DXO? I don't know what the best way to use it is, and if it's a good quality plug in.

Jacques Cornell's picture

I used DFine many years ago and liked it enough to write a blog post about it.

(https://www.jacquescornell.photography/blog/2013/4/nik-dfine-noise-reduc...).

I'd be surprised if DFine has been substantially improved since then. DxO's DeepPRIME is so far beyond it they're not even in the same ballpark.

Patrick Pause's picture

Magic solution. DXO deep prime. Once you've tried it, you'll never be able to go back.
And there's a free trial.

Giovanni Stoto's picture

Suggestion to the website: no video pls but text with images, 99% of the time I'm in a situation when I dont have headphones and csnnot use the speakerphone

Stijn Surname's picture

Can I become an editor too? Sounds like an EZ job. Just posting videos from YouTube

Bert Nase's picture

DeNoise AI introduces too much artifacts as does Sharpen AI. You have to be careful with the axe!