Applying Noise Reduction Using Layers

by | Aug 17, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

No noise reduction software that I’ve tried so far is perfect and while you may try by working through the many options, choices, and sliders the software offers, you may never achieve digital noise nirvana.

More often than not, you will obtain an image that is too smooth. When that happens to me, here’s a simple way that I fix this problem using Adobe Photoshop. Disclaimer: This technique is mostly useful for older images, like the one featured. Newer DSLRs and mirrorless camera have such improved high ISO performance that you might not even need this techniques, unless shooting at elevated ISO settings such as 25,000 and maybe not even then.

  • First Undo the noise reduction power tool you just applied and create a duplicate layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer.)
  • Next, I apply that somewhat over-smooth effect from the noise reduction software to the duplicate layer. (Some DNR software, like Dfine that I used on this image, will automatically create the additional layer.)
  •  Then, go to the Layer palette and change the Opacity of the noise reduction layer to 50% effectively blending the noisy original with smoother duplicate layer.
  • Just because I used 50% for this example doesn’t mean you have to. Experiment to find what works best for your photographs.
  • Then flatten the file and “Bob’s your Uncle.”

How I made this photo: The above image at Cruise Night in Escondido, California with a Canon EOS 509D with EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at (65mm.) Exposure was 1/8 sec at f/5 and ISO 800. The noise reduction software used was Dfine.

Safety tips: Shooting at any nighttime can event can be dangerous. You should only make photographs in designated areas and if you use flash make sure that you only fire it at the side of the car. In this case, I “dialed down” the power from my Canon 550EX flash by minus one and one-third stops reducing the impact of the flash further on the driver while only providing some fill flash and adding sparkles to the paint job.


If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat Joe to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, many thanks.


Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography.  New new copies are available from Amazon for $21.49 and used copies starting around nine bucks, as I write this. No Kindle version is available,sorry.