What is Image Noise, and How to Fix it

1005134_69006544If you have ever been shooting in extremely dark locations, you have probably discovered that there are tiny dots all over your photos that get even more noticeable when you’re post processing. If you’re hoping to get a nice, clean, perfect photo, the specs that almost look like dust have probably ruined the shot. Trust me, I’ve been there too. So what are those dots, and how do we get rid of them forever?

What is Image Noise

Image noise is the official term for the dust-like spots on photos shot in low light conditions. Depending on how poor the light quality, combined with the settings on your camera, you might have worse image noise than other photographers.

How Image Noise Happens

Image noise can occur from a variety of different ways. The most obvious are your camera settings. A higher ISO causes more image noise because higher ISO values make the camera’s sensor more sensitive to incoming light. The higher the ISO, the more image noise. Now, there are DSLR cameras out there that provide very good low light capabilities.

The size of the sensor has a lot to do with the low light performance of a DSLR. Full frame cameras will outperform APS-C sensors because there is a larger sensor area, there is less noise. For example, a DSLR with an APS-C sensor at ISO 1600 will show the equivalent noise as a full frame DSLR at ISO 3200.

Another factor to the amount of image noise that’s visible in photos is temperature. It’s known that higher temperatures create more noise. Photos taken during the summer will actually show more noise than photos taken during the winter (if you live in an area with varying seasons of course). I’ve even heard of some night photographers putting their cameras in the refrigerator before shooting to cool the sensor.

How to Fix Image Noise While Shooting

Well, the process for fixing image noise in camera while you are at a shoot is quite simple. All you really need to do is change your camera settings. Longer shutter speeds and higher ISO values will increase the amount of noise in a photo (ISO more than shutter speed).

Obviously, you don’t always have the option of changing your camera settings. If you have maxed out your ISO and can’t see anything at a lower value, you will just have to deal with image noise while you’re shooting until later. Sorry!

How to Fix Image Noise Later

There is hope for those who are stuck with DSLR cameras that have poor low light performance! You can always enhance your low light photos in Lightroom. While you’re editing your photos, you can reduce the amount of image noise by increasing the noise reduction luminance slider located in the “Detail” section of Lightroom.


I will warn you, though, that enhancing this feature too much will make the edges of objects in your photo muddled. Too much of the noise reduction luminance slider and it could ruin the photograph. Always be aware of the give and take of post processing.

Here’s a short video showing you the effects of using the noise reduction luminance slider slider in Lightroom.

For more instructional videos, be sure to subscribe to my Vimeo channel so you can see videos whenever I release them!

2 thoughts on “What is Image Noise, and How to Fix it

  1. Very informing! Ahead of time if I can’t use a short exposure or low ISO, I try setting my Nikon D300s in the menu to Long Exposure NR (noise reduction) or High ISO NR depending on how I am shooting. Doesn’t work perfectly, so now I have a backup in my computer!

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