Blend If for Noise Reduction
So we're gonna do our noise reduction and our sharpening on here. So I'm gonna zoom in on this image, specifically into areas where I have noise. So it's pretty much gonna be in my shadow areas, but I also want to find an area that not just has shadowy noise, but also has a little bit of highlight that I can work with in there too. So, maybe somewhere back here would work out pretty well for me. So I'm gonna zoom in pretty close. So I'm gonna duplicate this layer. Anytime you're working with Blend If, especially on noise reduction, you don't want to do it on your background information, because that's the important stuff. So if I had a series of layers underneath this, like a curves adjustment layer, hue/saturation, all the work that I'm doing, I would essentially do a stamp. But because I just have my background layer and I'm just starting out, I can just press Command or Control + J. And I'm actually gonna call this Noise Reduction. It's always a good habit to name your layers, okay?
Because I used to do composites that had 100 layers deep, and I'd be like, uh. And you're like, which layer was that? Well now the cool part with, back in that day they didn't have this really cool thing where you could look up your layers, yeah. Just name them, makes it easier. Especially if you know how to type. Reduction, there we go, good job Blake. I probably still spelled it wrong but it's really small so I can't see it. So, what we're gonna do is we're gonna go to Filter, we're gonna go to Noise, and we're gonna go to Reduce Noise. Now I know a lot of people don't feel very strongly about this noise reduction in Photoshop. They feel it's substandard, they feel like it can't do what it needs to do. Because when we do noise reduction in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, we have the ability with a lot more sliders to do a lot more things, and protect things along the way. Whereas here we don't, because whether that's because Adobe just doesn't think they need to update this, I don't know, I haven't talked to them, they don't talk to me. But maybe it's because there's other tools that we can use along with this, that this is good enough if you know those other tools, and that's kind of what my assumption is gonna be here. So if we zoom in a little bit into that background, you can see that when I click on that preview, we're going from like detail to losing everything. And that's actually okay with this, with this method of noise reduction, because we have a couple different tools that we can go with this. So, I like to do things pretty heavy handed, so if we think of like Commando, like, you ever see Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Like, he just goes in, he dives in, he's like, ahh, that's how I like to handle my tools. Dive in, get as hardcore as you can, and then taper off. Like maybe they should say, hey come on back a little bit. Maybe he went in there a little slower, maybe a little more surgical. So I go a little heavy handed. I go heavy handed on purpose, because I know that I can taper those things back, with what? I know I can taper it back with my opacity of my fill. I can taper it back with the blend mode, I can taper it back with a mask, I can taper that back with Blend If. So I've got all kinds of tools that I can taper back that Commando attitude with. But when you go in there with that, the thing is if you try to like fine tune things and just be really nitpicky, and then you do something like, oh that looks great, then you come back and then you turn the eyeball on and off and you're like it doesn't look any different. So you really gotta make sure that you go that Commando route, okay, so that's just a little workflow tip for you. So you might be thinking, dude that is some wicked noise reduction that you're doing there. What I would do here is typically this is a smaller image, it makes it a little bit faster for doing tutorials and stuff, but I've been known to put my Strength up to 10 here. Bring that Preserve Details down even a little bit more. For this image we'll just go about 25, and I usually reduce the color noise quite a bit. Because, noise is an interesting thing. We call noise noise in Photoshop, but you don't know noise until you have three boys running around your house. Okay, that's noise. Noise can be a very nice thing on a photograph, if we call it grain instead. But we can't call it grain instead, until we reduce the color noise. Because back in the film days, when we had analog film, we'd actually pick a film that had a faster ISO because it made a beautiful grain on the photograph. Well, now we call that noise. We're throwing something that was an art form back in the day into a bucket of things that are just gross. Nobody wants noise in their photo. Well, the thing we don't want is color noise. So if we reduce the color noise pretty heavy, that's okay. And we'll just drop, we'll bring the Sharpen Details just up a little bit. Ah, we'll just drop it down completely because we're gonna sharpen this afterwards anyway. So now when I press OK on this, if we look at the image, it looks like someone just like digitially smear painted this, right? It doesn't look good at all, and that's okay because we're doing the He-Man method or like the Commando method. So I'm gonna double-click on this, and I'm gonna start using Blend If, but I'm gonna teach you a little cool trick here, because Blend If by itself, you're not gonna see it. You're gonna be just like that guy or girl who's like, oh yeah it looks so much better, wait it doesn't look different at all. Because when you start moving these sliders to blend it you're not gonna be able to see what happens. You know what a highlight and shadow is here, but how do you see a highlight and a shadow, okay? This is where we go to the color overlay. Because this is a layer style, it's built right into the layer. So if we turn this into magenta instead of blue, because we always use magenta, right? A very violent eye-cracking magenta. And then we go to our blend options. Down here, watch as I start moving this. What? Are you not excited about that? I mean, like, I'm telling you, my wife is in the room right now, but in my office, I'll usually start clapping. And I've been doing this for like five years. I'm like, ahh, look at it. Because I can see it. If you're in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, and you move a highlight slider, does it ever tell you what a highlight is? No, it can tell you when you're blowing out a highlight, but it cannot tell you, okay Blake, you're affecting a highlight. Well, call me a control freak, but when I'm doing my workflow, I want unprecedented control. I want to know exactly what a highlight is, exactly what a shadow is, and when I'm doing noise reduction, I want to know exactly where I'm putting that noise reduction. So, where do we want to reduce the noise? Typically we don't necessarily want to reduce the noise in the things like the midtones and the highlights, because that's where detail lives. The thing about noise reduction, why we do noise reduction, is because if we use a higher ISO, and then we go in and we crank up our exposure or something in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, guess where those gremlins of noise come out? In the shadows, okay? So I'm gonna drop down this slider right here, all the way down, all the way down, all the way down, until I start getting to my shadowy areas. Then if I press Alt or Option, I can split this, feather it in so that we get a nice transition between those shadow areas and those midtone areas. And then if I press OK on that, we zoom out here, that's all the stuff in this image that is considered that pixel value. So we have a lot of really dark areas in this image. So now looking at it holistically I might double-click this again, and maybe feather this down a little bit more. Maybe feather this down a little bit more, so I really know where those shadow areas are, and press OK. So now, you're thinking, well it's magenta, Blake, I can't print that. You're right, but there's a little eyeball right here. You don't have to turn off the effects for all the layer styles. You just turn off that eyeball on that color overlay. Boom, we don't have the magenta there, and if we zoom in, we still preserved all of the detail in our midtones and our highlights, but our shadows get noise reduced.