What is noise?
One of the greatest give-aways that a photo was captured on a smartphone is the noise and grain typically found in the dark areas (shadows) and low light images. Effective noise removal can make your low light photos look much more professional.
Noise (aka grain) is a random variation of speckled brightness or colour detail in the image. This is usually a by-product of having a high ISO sensitivity setting. It is most evident in the dark areas (shadows) of the image. It is also caused by sensor size, pixel density and noise reduction algorithms. All very technical isn't it? If you find yourself taking lots of low light photography - this is one of those rare occasions, when I will actually say it is about the camera. Technology has improved leaps and bounds in this area and is definitely worth the upgrade.
Good news, all smartphones, including the iPhone already has image noise removal and reduction built in and does a great job. If you use the standard camera, this happens automatically before the photo is being saved to your Photos app.
Note: When you utilise a camera replacement app and select RAW (dng) file format - this bypasses the Apple noise removal software and the noise can become increasing evident.
Enough technical stuff - Live Photos very easily applies noise removal.... and no-one knows about it!
I must admit, I was never a fan of Live Photos until Apple released iOS 11. Now, I believe it has a real competitive edge compared to the Android smartphone camera options. I wrote about more of these upgrades in this article - 25 new hidden features in iOS 11.0 for iPhone photographers
Want to see noise in action?
Of course you do – you are a photo enthusiast and we are visual people.
- Open the native camera app
- Carefully place your iPhone lens against something to block any light entering the lens
- Notice the speckles jumping all over the place.
- Now when you take a photo - you are taking a snapshot of this random noise jumping all over the place. Doesn’t that look weird?
How do we use Live Photos remove noise and grain?
- Open a photo in the Live Photos album and swipe up on the photo to reveal the Effects options (available since iOS 11 update)
- Swipe up on a selected Live Photo to reveal three settings (bounce, loop and long exposure) and tap on long exposure
How did it do that?
Remember, the noise artefacts are random. It is not found in the exact two locations in two different images. During a Live Photos recording, your iPhone is creating the three second video via a capture of many, many images.
During the Long Exposure creation, the software is blending all those images together and averaging and retaining only the content in the image that is constant. The noise in a single pixel may only be there in one out of one hundred images, so it is completely averaged out!
Noise removal on other iPhone photos – Noiseware app (iOS)
This noise removal app is amazing. The developers have been providing various image enhancing software for years as a plugin that works alongside desktop based software.
The user experience could not be simpler. Tap on albums, locate the image and it automatically applies a default setting. You have the option to choose a stronger or weaker enhancement > tap the share icon and save it to your Photos app. To compare the original image > tap and hold your finger on the photo to reveal the before image.
This app does a fantastic job of blurring the noise, whilst retaining textures and areas containing contrast without blurring the entire image.
Noise reduction app for Android photographers
I didn’t forget you – PicsArt is a great noise removal alternative that is available on both iOS and Android.
Open the app > tap the Plus icon > Edit > Select your image > Effects > Scroll right across the titles at the bottom and tap on Corrections > Denoise > tap Denoise again to access the Denoising and Details slider.
Lightroom CC is a great noise removal alternative that is available on both iOS and Android.
iOS app app > tap the Adjustments icon > Detail >then select either Noise Reduction or Colour Noise Reduction. Fine tune the adjustments using the Detail, Contrast and Smoothness sliders.
Android app > tap on the Filters icon > Components > then compare the results of Noise Reduction - 01 - Low, 02 - Med or 03 - High
Love taking photos on your smartphone and want to create images you thought only possible on an SLR? The Get Started page will help you navigate to the:
- Free mobile photography course and regularly tutorials
- Instagram page and Facebook community - full of tips and weekly photo themes