Photoshop's Reduce Noise Filter FTW

Posted 8 years ago by Evan Tishuk

Detail of original resolution low-quality photograph

Sometimes clients provide photos. Often times those photos are in rough shape. Today we addressed a particularly rough-looking image. It appears to be a photograph taken around 1991 with a disposable camera and digitized in 1994 using a fax machine, then JPG compressed and converted to a TIF (it was sent to us as a TIF). Anyway, it was a tough case that we had little hope for.

After several marginally successful attempts to despeckle the photograph with blurs, unsharpen mask, and resizing, we experimented with Photoshop's noise reduction filter. Never had much success with it in the past but, this time it was like magic. VoilĂ :

Detail of cleaned-up photograph

It took a few minutes to dial in the right filter settings. Here's what I used in CS3 from my Vista PC (don't hate).

The filter settings we used

Additionally, the levels and hue/saturation were tweaked to make the image look less washed out. Aside from those layer adjustments, the Reduce Noise filter did a remarkable job interpolating and smoothing the surfaces--even around areas with fine details. Of note, the "remove JPG artifact" actually deteriorated the quality, so maybe this photo never was JPG-compressed and converted to a TIF. Here's another before/after set with the entire photograph.

Full context low-quality photograph

Full context touched-up version

Scaling down the full-scale photos hide some of the noise and speckling that was overcome, so for the full effect here's the actual sized side-by-side comparison image (at 1.4mb).


Nobrainer ~ 8 years ago


Come on, that's not real.

Jim F. ~ 8 years ago

Nice recovery. Noise ninja or neat image are a couple of non-Photoshop pieces of software that do a pretty good job at getting rid of noise if you find yourself doing this sort of thing on a regular basis. Photoshop's reduce noise filter can sometimes do a lot more harm than good (especially when you're looking at images that are going to be used for non-web applications).

Evan Tishuk ~ 8 years ago

Thanks for the suggestions. Maybe I'll run the same experiment with Noise Ninja and Neat Image. Like I said, I've never been this successful using the Reduce Noise filter before; perhaps it was the uniform distribution of noise or that we weren't looking for absolute perfection.

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