DSLR Video – Noise Reduction Software Really Works

I’ve used the noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom and liked it, but I never realized how much it could do. I captured some freeze frames from a video I’m working on. It’s concert video and the lighting was dark, so I used ISO 2000 to get the video bright enough. I thought the pictures looked OK, but decided to clean them up a little in Lightroom.

I imported the .BMP freeze frames into Google Picasa, then exported them as JPGs. Those are the before pictures. I imported those JPGs into Lightroom and ran some basic image tuning (which is why the exposures are a little different) and then reduced the noise.

Click any picture to embiggen. The bigger they get the more obvious the difference is. The difference is also more obvious in the better-exposed areas, like the guitar and the shirt.

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Before Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

After Noise Reduction in Lightroom

I’m amazed enough that I’m shopping for noise reduction software for video editing.

P.S. I also realized I like the more-exposed (brighter) version, so I’ve increased the exposure in the video a bit.

More on the Adobe Creative Suite/Photoshop Subscription Pricing

Mike at The Online Photographer is talking about Adobe’s new subscription model and whether it’s going to be the end of the Photoshop era for him. His main concern isn’t the price so much as having the software changing constantly as new updates roll out. He wonders if that’s going to require him to continuously relearn the interface.

I think most professionals will talk about switching and how unhappy they are with the new licensing. Then they’ll keep on using Photoshop and the other Adobe apps anyway. They’ve got too much time invested learning how to use it, too many files in that format, and the need for file compatibility with colleagues and clients. In Mike’s case, learning a new version of Photoshop is still easier than learning an entirely new program. Inertia is a thing.

For people who aren’t locked into Adobe, DPReview’s 10 Photo Editing Programs That Aren’t Photoshop has some alternatives. I can vouch for two of the options.

  • For photo editing I like Adobe Lightroom better than Photoshop. There are some very technical things it can’t do, but it can do some things Photoshop can’t, and the workflow is faster and more intuitive. The price is crazy cheap for Adobe – $86 at Amazon.
  • For Photoshop on the cheap there’s Photoshop Elements. For what I do in Photoshop I haven’t noticed any major deficits for the relatively simple way that I use Photoshop. What I have noticed are small reductions in features. For instance, there aren’t as many filters and layer effects. (You can see a list of all differences here.) Price is $67 or $114 bundled with Adobe Premier Elements video editor, which is how I bought it.

If consulting turns into a full time gig at some point I’ll need the full Adobe Creative Suite 6. The Web and Design Premium Edition ($1,407) doesn’t have video editing, so I’d need the Master Collection ($2,200) so I can get Premiere and After Effects.

Expensive stuff, ain’t it? (That’s why I’m amazed by the low price of Lightroom and Elements.) If I’m taking a $200 non-credit photography class at the University of Tennessee I can get student pricing. That drops the price to $912. At that point you’d have to use the software for a year and a half before it becomes a better deal than paying $50/month for a subscription. Without the student discount it would take almost four years.

The only downside I see is that if you ever stop paying you won’t be able to access those files. Even then, if you really need to do something you could install a 30 day trial. So yeah, the subscription is looking better and better, especially since you don’t have to pay everything up front and you’re getting a newer version of the software with free updates.

Photography Links and Focus Talk

The Noir Photos of Brassai

5 Tips for a Faster Lightroom Workflow


Photography Life (formerly The Mansurovs)How to Use Prime Lenses in Low-Light Environments This is by Romanas Naryškin, rather than Nasim Mansurov. Naryškin is young and his stuff is just OK. I’m linking this to say that the article has a couple of good tips (like shooting in bursts if you have to be sure to get focus and the subject is moving, calibrating your lens if your camera supports it), but that it misses some of the big points.

Use single point (center) focus for best precision or when shooting cameras with poor focus systems
My first DSLR was a Nikon D40. Great camera, but the focus system had just three focus sensors (for comparison, my new D7000 has 39 and some pro cameras have 50 or more). I quickly discovered that the only way to get food focus was to use single point/single area autofocus and pick my focus point instead of using area focus and letting the camera do it for me. Naryškin hints at this when he discusses cross-type focus sensors and mentions that the center sensor is usually of the cross type.

Single point means that you get one dot in the center of the viewfinder. You aim that at what you want to be in focus. Then you either take the picture or press the shutter release halfway down to lock focus then recompose the picture and then press the shutter the rest of the way down. Compared to other focus options such as area or matrix you get complete control and you always know exactly where focus will be. For people and animal pictures I prefer to focus on the eyes, for instance. An example of a time you wouldn’t want to use single point focus is when you’re shooting very fast and don’t have time to pick a focus point. In that situation you could accidentally pick a focus point in front of or behind your subject.

Use continuous focus to track moving objects
The focus system usually locks in the focus point and doesn’t change. This is called AF-S on Nikon and (I think, correct me if I’m wrong, Canon guys) One-Time on Canon.. If the distance between you and the subject changes (because your or the subject moved) the focus will be wrong. The way to prevent that is with continuous autofocus (AF-C on Nikon and AI-Servo on Canon) which updates focus up until the picture is taken. Turning on the Sports scene mode will usually activate continuous autofocus; check your manual.

Another nice thing about continuous autofocus is that it will take a picture even if it doesn’t have definite focus. Some scenes (like tall grass swaying in a breeze) will throw off AF-S and keep it from locking focus and taking a picture.

Note that continuous focus will disable the half button press method of locking focus and recomposing with single point focus (at least on Nikons; I’m not 100% sure about Canons). In that case you have to lock focus using the AE-L/AF-L button or AF-ON button.

Back button focus
Speaking of which, pressing the shutter release halfway sets focus. Pressing it the rest of the way trips the shutter. Some DSLRS have a dedicated AF-ON button that will set focus. With others you can program one of other back buttons for focus lock or AF-ON, and all DSLRs have an AF-L button to lock focus. Even if you don’t use single point focus you’ll find that AF-L makes the shutter button more responsive and gives you manual-like control over focus, with less hunting.

I’ve experimented with configuring the AF-E/AF-L button on my D7000 as an AF-ON button a few times for sports photography in situations where I knew something was going to happen quickly at a fixed distance and liked it. Here are a few articles explaining some of the advantages of back button focus.

On-camera autofocus assist lights – hate ’em
Naryškin recommends using them. I took Thom Hogan’s advice and turned them off on my cameras for reasons of etiquette. They shine in people’s eyes in dark settings and draw attention to your picture taking.

On-camera AF assist lights are only good to maybe 10 or 15 feet if you’re lucky. They’re often blocked by large lenses or even lens hoods, which I always use. If I really need AF assist I’ll bring along my SB-800 flash. It has a bigger, stronger AF assist lamp that’s red instead of white. Since the flash sits on top of the camera the AF lamp isn’t blocked by the lens.

Become passingly familiar with depth of field
Another term for depth of field is depth of focus. Henri Cartier-Bresson I ain’t. I don’t have depth of field tables memorized, but I’ve got an app on my phone now and I try to consult it now and again. Here’s a video where I explain exactly how my depth of field mistakes destroyed the focus in that video. Distance and small apertures and wide angle lenses are your friends. Back up a little and stop down a little, especially with longer lenses and group shots.

Nasim Mansurov’s Lightroom 4 Review

Check it out.

Scott Kelby on Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

Scott Kelby’s Photoshop InsiderWhy I Think Lightroom 4 is Going To Sell Like Crazy:

The improvements in Lightroom’s Development module are so significant, and so much better than what we’ve ever had before, that I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find most anyone still using Lightroom 3 in just a few months from now. In fact, if they didn’t add another feature, it would still be worth the upgrade just to get better looking images. If you haven’t downloaded the beta, here’s the link-see for yourself.

Lightroom 4 is the first version that supports video editing. It’s very basic, but it’s a start.

Moving Adobe Lightroom files to a new hard drive

I installed an extra hard drive today. I used the first option in these instructions (PDF link) to move the pictures without losing my Lightroom changes. Easy-peasy.

Picture: Closeup of Bumblee on Purple Coneflower

Bumblebee on Purple Coneflower

Bumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Antique LightBumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Infrared EffectBumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Sepia ToneBumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Yesteryear EffectBumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Greens and Yellows DesaturaedBumblebee on Purple Coneflower with Everything Desaturated Except Orange and Yellow

Photography Notes

  • The first four variations are done with Adobe Lightroom presets. The last two are manual color desaturations. Click to enlarge, or mouseover for notes.
  • Pics taken at F16 to get enough depth of field.
  • There was enough light that I could handhold at 1/500sec. VR in the lens helped.
  • I don’t have a macro lens. I used the Canon 550D closeup adapter on a Nikon 70-200mm lens. For some reason that combo never worked on the D40, but it works fine on the D7000.
  • I used the Adobe Lightroom saturation remote control that I learned about last week. Go to the HSL panel, click the remote, then put your mouse over the color you want to effect. Use the up and down arrow keys to adjust. The advantage of the remote thingie is that it can detect multiple colors – purple and magenta in the case of the purple flower petals – and adjust both as needed.
  • I really like the vignette on this photo. Here it is without vignette for comparison.

What I did last night instead of blogging

Went to Lightroom class and then when on a photowalk to shoot models. Somebody’s gotta do it. Still working on the photos, but here’s one of the best.

Lightroom Class Shoot

I set a Nikon SB-800 flash behind and to the right for edge lighting. The on-camera popup flash triggers the SB-800, so you get a little cross-lighting, with some light from front left and some from rear right.

I had the SB-800 set low, like 1/64 and I partially blocked the built-in flash with my hand. I need to order one of these guys to reduce the built-in’s output when using remote flash.

Lightroom Performance Tips

from Adobe.

This week I’m upgrading to a bigger, faster hard drive. Mine’s filling up fast with movies and RAW files, which are about 3x bigger than JPEGs.

Adobe Lightroom Class Notes

Stuff I didn’t know:

  • The 1 to 1 relationship between different zones in the histogram and the Basic panel sliders for Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, and Blacks.
  • Using the masking tool for sharpening and exposure.
  • How to correct vertical distortion on buildings the way I would with Photoshop’s distortion filter.
  • Lots of tricks for color adjustment on the HSL/Color panel.


I used to be kinda against vignettes. I thought of vignetting as an exposure or lens problem to correct – I wanted a bright image from corner to corner just because. Now I’m I’m starting to like adding vignettes to move the attention away from the corners and towards the subject.

Without vignette:

With vignette:

Adobe Lightroom Class Notes: Collections, Sync Settings

I had my mind blown a couple times tonight at Colby McLemore’s Lightroom class.


I finally get Collections. I’m used to organizing my photos by physical folders/directories. Collections abstract all of that. It’s the difference between the files that are on your Web site versus how search engines see and organize your Web site.

Unlike physical locations, the same photo can appear in more than one collection. Just add it manually to multiple collections and it’s in all of them.

Smart collections are like agents or background processes. Instead of manually adding photos to collections, smart collections can automatically add photos to themselves based on:

  • Keywords you’ve added to the photos during the import and editing process
  • The photo’s filename
  • The photo’s date
  • GPS data
  • Lens used
  • Camera or camera serial number used
  • Flags
  • Labels
  • Rating
  • Metadata and dozens of other criteria

Besides all the organizational and searching advantages, Collections make it easy to use photos from multiple physical locations on your hard drives for printing, slideshows, and Web output.

Sync Settings

You make changes to a photo in the Develop module. Then you decide you have bunches of other photos that need the exact same changes.

Just select the photo you edited. Then select the other photos. Now click the Sync Settings button. You can choose which settings you changed to the original photo that you want applied to all of the photos you selected. Kick ass. This is exactly the kind of automation I wanted to get with Lightroom. Photography is a hobby for me, not a job, and I have two kids. The faster I can edit photos the better.

Count me as an Opinel knife fan

Opinel No8 Knife Closed

I bought an Opinel No8 pocket knife at a local store last weekend. I love this thing.

The thin carbon steel blade is wicked sharp. Thanks to that thin blade, the wood handle, and the general lack of anything heavy it’s the lightest 3″ lockblade I own even though it has the longest handle. Weighs about an ounce and a half.

The metal collar at the top of the handle twists around a rivet and blocks the blade from closing. You can even lock it closed so it can’t open in your pocket or pack. I can operate the lock one-handed with my thumb.

The mind-blowing part is that it only cost $12.95. And not to get all mushy, but there’s something very organic about the shape of the knife and the feel of the wood handle. It’s a big change from the usual parade of black tactical folders I carry. It’s opened my eyes to some different knives. I also bought a Scandinavian grind J. Marttiini fixed blade knife I like a lot. I can’t believe how good these traditional knives are full stop let alone how good they are for lunch money prices.

Now I’d like to have some others. The Opinel saw is cool, weighs 3.5 ounces, and it’s only $29. At that price it isn’t so much a question of why as why the hell not? The No13 with the 8.6″ blade is closer to a Benjamin, but that price guarantees you’d win any “that’s not a knife, this is a knife” encounters. I thought they were novelties until I saw this video of a German guy using one to chop down a forest.

Opinel No13 Outdoor Knife Test:

Opinel Links

Quick Opinel Facts

  • First made in 1890. The locking collar was added in 1955. It was later modified so the knife could be locked closed.
  • If you have trouble opening an Opinel the sharp blade may be stuck in the wood handle. Tap the wooden end on a hard surface to free the blade.
  • The models are numbered 1 through 13 or so. The 1 and 11 are no longer made.
  • The model number roughly corresponds to the length of the blade in centimeters. The 13 is longer – 22 cm. There are 2.54 cm to the inch.
  • If you pick up an Opinel and don’t know the model, check the locking collar. The model number is stamped on the back.
  • Outside of a specialty knife store not many retailers sell Opinels. There are two places you may be able to find them locally. One is a camping store or camping section of a department store. Coghlan’s Camp Knife is an Opinel in a shrinkwrapped, carded package. I’ve heard that gourmet cooking shop Williams-Sonoma sometimes sells a stainless steel model as a steak knife, though I couldn’t find it on their Web site.

If you want to know more about Opinels YouTube is your buddy

Adobe Lightroom note: I shot the photos on a white piece of paper and bounced the flash off the ceiling. The background looked more grey than white. Since I took the Lightroom oath I could only use Lightroom to fix that versus going into Photoshop and Magic Wanding my way out of my problems. I’ll have to learn the Lightroom way of fixing grey backgrounds before my class is over. Tonight I used the Adjustment Brush and jacked the exposure to Jesus, which is why the pics are overexposed.

Notes on Adobe Lightroom, Nikon D7000, DSLR Video

Katie at the Daisy to Brownie Bridge Ceremony

Katie at the Daisy to Brownie Bridge Ceremony

Adobe Lightroom

  • I’m used to working with 6 megapixel JPGs. 16 megapixel, 14-bit RAW files take a lot more time to transfer and load. It would be nice to have a new internal cardreader that supports UHS-I.
  • On the other hand, if I set up a default import profile with the major post-processing steps I want I can start the import and walk away.
  • I’m gonna need a bigger hard drive.
  • Lightroom is going to help me get the color right more often. Looking forward to learning the color controls in class.
  • Lightroom 3.4 should support profile corrections for all of my lenses. Where are the profiles for the 35mm F1.8 and 18-105mm VR?
  • The publish to Facebook feature might be handy, but is there a way to publish images as a folder rather than Wall images?
  • I liked the Star feature in Picasa for marking the best photos. The 1-5 rating system in Lightroom is even better for grading and sorting photos.

Nikon D7000 and 70-200mm F2.8 VR lens

  • You’re shooting manual, Les. You gotta check the meter every single time you put the camera up to your eye. If you don’t have time for that then shoot Aperture priority or Shutter priority so the exposure is correct.
  • Most lenses don’t look their best at the aperture extremes or focal length extremes. Instead of shooting the F2.8 wide open, stop it down a bit to 3.2 or 3.5. If you hit the 200mm end, back off just a bit.
  • Just because it’s an F2.8 doesn’t mean you should always shoot it wide open. If you’re shooting a scene rather than a person or a thing stop down to 5.6 or 8 or 11 to get more depth of field.
  • Just because you camera has 39 focus points doesn’t mean that’s always the best solution. With single point focus you always get focus where you expect it, just like you did with the D40.

First experiments with video

  • Is 1080p overkill? It makes for an awfully big movie window and an enormous file size. Try 720p.
  • For telephoto I’m gonna have to use a tripod. Even with VR/IS I’m way too shaky with that big lens. Shorter focal lengths and smaller lenses might be doable handheld. My 18-105mm VR could be an ideal video lens.
  • The internal microphone isn’t terrible, but a shotgun mic would upgrade the sound quality and eliminate ambient noise.
  • After some of the horror stories I’ve heard about DSLR video I had low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t detect any noise from the camera’s autofocus system, zooming or VR/IS. I didn’t notice any jello effects, but I wasn’t doing any fast pans, either.
  • It seems like the video might be fairly useful for family video use and talking head video.
  • I need some video editing software.