As nature photographers, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. We generally must work with the light afforded to us, and doing so means that sometimes we need to boost up the ISO setting of our cameras. The downside, of course, is noisy images. In this paid video tutorial by Steve Perry of Backcountry Gallery, he teaches the basics of noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as well as his own advanced techniques for saving his images from the trash pile.
Released just this week, “Noise Reduction Using Lightroom and Photoshop” is an up-to-date tutorial that is compatible with the latest releases’ panels, menus, and workflows. The workshop download spans four video files of instruction, one supplementary video to situate those working exclusively with Photoshop, a “Getting Started” PDF guide, and a “Web Sharpen” action set created by Perry for outputting images in Photoshop. The series is 1.5 hours in length and will require 6.5 GB of drive space on your computer.
Information and Content
What this video tutorial does best is overview the noise reduction capabilities using Adobe Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw). While the facts of the noise reduction control panel can be found from various sources online for free, it may be worth paying some money to save time and get a focused, deep-dive example into how they function on a real image in real time. As the series explains, knowing what each control does independently is obviously important, but knowing how they work in tandem with each other and also with the sharpening controls is where the critical knowledge lies.
Yes, sharpening is also an important factor in this video workshop. Perry explains that noise reduction is dead simple if you never had to worry about the end result also being sharp; you could max out the noise reduction panel settings and be left with zero noise, but obviously a very soft photo. The videos be sure to keep image sharpness always at the forefront when dealing with unsightly noise. So while this is an educational series about noise reduction, it is equally a series about achieving sharp photos down the same path.
As an advanced user of Photoshop, I was personally looking for content that went above the basics and was more in the category of “trade secret.” Happily, Perry does share a really interesting trick for sharpening a photo without affecting the noise level (out of respect I’ll leave this intentionally vague, but it’s a method that’s probably different than what you think it is). This tip alone was worth what amounts to a few coffeehouse drinks.
If you’ve watched Perry’s videos on YouTube before, you should have a good idea of the production quality of this video workshop as it is on par with what we’ve seen from him before. The noise reduction tutorial videos are primarily screen recordings from an Apple computer running macOS.
There is more effort put in to these recordings, however, than just a literal sharing of his screen. Perry takes care to be sure the viewer is easily following along through his use of editing. Portions of the screen are highlighted or enlarged, or his cursor is enlarged and making motion to draw attention, all so that following along with each direction is clear. I never found myself getting lost on his screen or trying to figure what control he was manipulating in the software.
In the voiceover, Perry speaks at a comfortable pace for instruction and lingers on any topic that might require extra effort to grasp the concept being taught. The audio is high quality and never becomes a distraction or hinders what is being said.
Where I could see improvement comes down to the file delivery method that is used. Due to being a download-only video tutorial, there are limitations in the video quality that can be sent to customers so that the file size doesn’t balloon to something ridiculous. The video files here are 1080p at 30 fps, however I would really prefer an online streaming option so that I could watch a much higher resolution video with a faster frame rate, like 4K at 60 fps. That would make for a much cleaner viewing experience as it would truly look like the recording was happening on my own screen rather than obviously watching a recording of someone else’s screen.
This video workshop costs $14.97 as a direct purchase from Backcountry Gallery. The way I see it, $15 is a deal when it comes to knowledge that will benefit me for years to come. It’s not like I’m going to stop creating noisy, low-light images anytime soon. So if I’m using information that will be relevant for, say, the next three years, and I’m performing some form of it with improved skill on ten or so images a month, there’s no argument from me that $15 is overpriced for the resulting 360 better looking images.
“Noise Reduction Using Lightroom and Photoshop” is a great foundation that anyone who isn’t comfortable with Lightroom and Photoshop’s noise reduction controls or hasn’t been happy with the results they’ve gotten while trying it out on their own. And for those that are just looking for that little extra bit of advice that they haven’t found on the Internet, I think the workshop has that to offer too.
You can learn more about the video workshop and buy it direct from the Backcountry Gallery website.