Helpful Practical Filters
Let's go ahead and take a look at some more practical things. Those, I would say, are probably more of your creative effects, but let's take a look at some practical effects with filters. And more specifically, let's do noise reduction and sharpening. We're gonna do the same on this one image. So if I zoom in to this photograph, we can see that this is a relatively noisy image to start with right there. And I wanna fix up the noise on this. Noise reduction and sharpening are some of those things that, there's always the "When do you do them?" Do you do it first? Do you do it last? Do you noise reduction first and your sharpening last? I'm kind of a person who's like "You know what? I do it when I do it." There are people that avidly say "No, no, you can't sharpen that now, you've gotta sharpen that at the end." Well, maybe, but you can wherever it fits comfortably in your work flow is where you can do these things. If you're doing a lot of pixel-based things during your work flow, then...
yes, sharpening at the end is probably a good idea. If you're compositing and adding all these pixel-based layers on top of layers, you would do your sharpening at the very end of that whole stack. But if I'm just starting this off and I'm gonna be doing adjustment layers on top, adjustment layers don't technically care about the sharpness that's underneath because they're just calculation layers based on gradients, or gradient maps, or curves adjustment layers that aren't really gonna affect the sharpening of my image too much. So, I guess it just depends on your work flow and where you want to use them. For our sake, I'm just gonna do it right now at the very beginning of this work flow before we would move on. I'm gonna press Command or Ctrl + J on the background and I'm gonna start with noise reduction first. If we click on this, we'll just say "Noise Reduction." Go up to Filter, and go to Noise, and go to Reduce Noise. And you're gonna see something that looks totally different from Adobe Camera Raw. It's not the same engine. It's a different engine. You could, however, if you really like Adobe Camera Raw as a noise reduction engine, use that now instead of the Noise Reduction filter. There's nothing wrong with that. This is all just a matter of what you want to use in your work flow. Looking at this, there are two settings here, Basic and Advanced. You have your preset settings that you can create and then Remove JPEG Artifacting are your main tick boxes. Strength is gonna be how much of your sharpening are you doing and Reduce Color Noise is gonna be how much of that color noise gets reduced. As we've already talked about color noise when we talked about Adobe Camera Raw, if we boost up that color noise, if there is color noise in this image, it's gonna reduce that color noise. There's not a whole lot in this one. So, as we increase the Strength though, take a look at areas in the image that need noise reduction, like back here in this area. If I bring this strength up to something like 10, it's gonna be a lot of noise reduction happening really fast on the photograph and really hard. The one underneath it is called Preserve Details. If you move the Preserve Details up, it's going to try to preserve the detail areas within the image with that Strength setting that you have set. A strength of 10 is typically something that you're not gonna see too much, so I'm gonna drop the Strength down to something like seven and then bring down the Preserve Details a little bit here. What you'll find in here, also, is that there is, in the Advanced Settings, this would be just about it. I mean, it's pretty much that simple and it's pretty powerful when used in conjunction with Blend If and I'll show you that in a second but if you put Advanced on, this allows you to go into each individual channel within the image. So you have channels like your red channel, your green channel, and your blue channel. Typically, a lot of your noise is gonna exist in the blue channel. The blue channel just carries a lot of that data in with it. Green channel is typically gonna be more of your lighter, brighter areas, and then your red channel is kind of like a blend between the two of them. It just depends really, but typically, where I'm gonna find a lot of that noise is gonna be in the blue channel. So, I could go into the blue channel. It's gonna show you a black and white version of the image. If you bring up the strength on that, it's going to happen just in that channel, so essentially what it's doing is it's taking that channel that we have and we've showed you channels before, it's going into the channel of blue and blurring a little bit of that to make that noise reduction happen. In years past, noise reduction in Photoshop was not a very valid place to do it; it really wasn't. It was just that the engine that they had in there before would just blur the junk out of your photographs, and it didn't really look like it was reducing noise, it looked like it was just smudging your image and smearing your image a little bit. But now, it's awesome, so much so that I don't find myself ever leaving Photoshop. It has everything that I need, even now with the noise reduction being so great in both Adobe Camera Raw and the filter. So if I press okay here and commit to that, it might be a pretty heavy-handed noise reduction and that's okay because we still have all of our settings to use with that layer. It's its own layer, right? So we can use things like Opacity. We can use things like Fill. We can use things like Blend If and Blend If is definitely something that I do when I reduce my noise. Typically, noise reduction needs to be done on dark areas, right, because that's where a lot of our noise tends to live. So if I wanna protect my highlight and midtone areas from that noise reduction and allow that midtone and highlight area underneath my image to show through, if I double click on this Noise Reduction and I look at my Blend If settings, let's go ahead and turn on our Color Overlay to make this easier to see. I'll turn on Color Overlay, go back to Blend If, and move this down. Now, what that's telling me is "Hey, anything that's magenta right now, "that is where our noise reduction is happening." Everywhere else on this photograph, these areas that are showing through, no noise reduction is happening there. And that's ideally what I would like. I don't want noise reduction to be a global thing. I want noise reduction to be a local thing. So as we talk about noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw, on your raw file, the noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw is global. The sharpening is local. Here, we're making a very local noise reduction on just the areas that are dark, and not the areas that are light or midtone. And if I wanna clean that up a little bit, Alt or Option to split and feather that, and now we've got a really nice noise reduction that's pinpointed on our shadow areas. If you don't wanna see the magenta anymore 'cause we're done with our Blend If, just turn that off, press okay. Now if I zoom into this image, turn this layer on and off, especially right back in here, look at this area and then look at this area. Very little noise reduction is happening on here, and the only noise reduction that's happening on here is the noise reduction that needs to happen because this dark area matches the profile of that dark area. If I turn that back on, nice, smooth noise reduction there, that's something I can live with. I don't tend to be very heavy-handed with my noise reduction. I tend to be very delicate with it. I don't like going too far.