Three Tips for Image Noise Reduction

Digital grain, or noise, can’t always be avoided in photography. Despite massive advances in camera sensor technology over the years, noise is still a major issue for all different types of photographers. There are a few things you can do to help reduce the noise in your photos, one of the more useful ways is to use an AI image denoiser and we will get to that in a second. Ultimately, noise reduction starts when you’re shooting your photos, but powerful software can help you to correct noisy images. In this post, we’ll look at a few of the best tips to reduce noise in your photography.

Do it in Your Camera Settings

Increasing ISO of your photo will add more noise. If you can, keep your ISO as low as possible for the least amount of noise. If you need to gather more light for your image, consider increasing the shutter speed or opening up the aperture. Using a tripod can help you have the ability to open up your shutter speed, rather than the ISO, so the use of a tripod is generally recommended in low light situations. Sometimes, you have no choice but to increase the ISO, due to shutter speed or aperture constraints. In this case, you’ll have to use one of the other tips provided in this post. Also keep in mind that new software tools, such as an AI image denoiser, allow you to shoot at a much higher ISO to get the shot. These new technologies are incredible at removing noise and adding sharpness no matter the ISO.

Shoot in Raw

Raw files take up much more space on your memory card, but will result in photos that are much easier to adjust after you’ve taken them. Jpeg photos are compressed, so it is much more difficult to remove noise after the fact on jpeg photos, compared to raw. Raw files also work better when using software to reduce noise, there’s more data in these files for the software to interpret. Another benefit of using image noise reduction software on either file type is that programs like ON1 NoNoise AI give you amazing results regardless of raw or jpeg.  

Use a Noise Reduction Plugin

Undoubtedly, most photographers will still run into noise problems in their photos, even when taking all precautions to reduce noise in their photos. For those times, using a noise reduction plugin, such as ON1 NoNoise AI can save your photos from being burdened by noise. ON1 NoNoise AI uses AI models to remove noise from your photos. This works much better than using the noise reduction slider in Lightroom or Photoshop. The results are incredible! Keep in mind that sometimes when reducing noise your image may start to lose details. Well, not any more. The newest version of ON1 NoNoise AI also includes the new Tack Sharp AI for saving out of focus shots, deblurring, or maintain your image details. You will get cleaner and crisper images using this AI noise reduction plugin.

Let’s look at how to use ON1 NoNoise AI. ON1 also offers a free Getting Started Course for ON1 NoNoise AI you can either stream online or download. 

First, open your file into ON1 NoNoise AI. This can be used as a plugin, or as a stand-alone app.

Once open, zoom in to your image by using the options on the top of the screen. Start off between 100 and 200 zoom, and adjust as you see fit. Next, find the Noise and Sharpening Dialog box on the right side of the screen.

This is where you can adjust the settings to dial in the noise reduction. Start off by making sure that the “Auto On” box is present. If the box says “Auto Off”, click the box once to turn automatic settings on. This is a good place to start. Review the adjustment made by looking at your image, and sliding the bar in the center to the left and right. On the left side of the frame, you’ll see the image before any edits, and on the right side, you’ll see the image after. You can click and drag on the image itself to move around the frame.

After you’ve reviewed your image, you can make changes to the automatic settings. If necessary, start by adjusting the Luminance slider, and then work your way down the sliders from there. Here’s a brief explanation of what each slider does:

Noise Reduction

Luminance: Effects how much or how little noise is removed from the image

Enhance Detail: Helps to bring more detail back into the photo, very similar to sharpening

Color: Targets color specific noise


Amount: Increases the amount of sharpening being added after noise reduction

Detail: Effects how detailed you want the sharpening to work

Threshold: Changes how much or how little is sharpening in the image

Once you’ve nailed in the perfect settings, click Done in the bottom right corner. Then, you’ll have the option of how and where you want to save your image. Save the image as you see fit and continue editing your photo in your normal workflow.

Noisy photos aren’t quite the detriment they were many years ago. With AI technology and a few in the field tips, you can basically eliminate noise from your photography.


5 Things to Know About Using Plugins in Photoshop

You can do a lot in Photoshop. It’s no secret that Photoshop is one of, if not the most powerful photo editing programs in the world. For years, Adobe’s pinnacle program has been the gold standard in photo editing. In the last few years, Photoshop plugins have been on the rise, and there are now thousands of different plugins available for Photoshop.

These plugins can do a variety of things, from adding special effects, to removing noise, or even resizing your photo or using AI technology to remove stray hairs from your model. Many plugins allow you to do things to your image that you otherwise can’t do in Photoshop, while others just have an easier, or more effective way to do things that are already possible to do in Photoshop. 

If you’re a Photoshop user and you do not yet have any plugins, you’re missing out. Having powerful Photoshop plugins can expand the power and capabilities of Photoshop by using other software that integrates very well with Photoshop and its non-destructive layer editing system. 

Take ON1 for example. For the last 17+ years they’ve been developing Photoshop plugins to create a faster and easier workflow for photographers.

In this post, we’ll look at 5 things that you should know about using plugins in Photoshop.

#1 Plugins Can Give You “Finishing Move” Effects and Filters

Many plugins, especially ON1 Effects, offer many effects that work great to give your photos a finished look. Consider these effects to be like a photo filter that you’d apply at the end of your edit, but they are highly customizable and look much better than your average Instagram photo filter. Some of the best effects for finishing off a photo include Vignette, Dynamic Contrast, and Sharpening. These all work with the single click of a button, and then you have sliders to fine-tune each effect. You can reproduce a lot of these effects and styles in Photoshop alone, but it is really time consuming and difficult to remember all of the steps. Having these styles built right into the plugin saves a ton of time.

#2 Plugins Allow You to Do Things that You Don’t Know How to Do in Photoshop in an Easier Way

Plugins allow you to do things that you otherwise would not know how to do. Photoshop is an advanced program with tons of tools and techniques, but oftentimes these tools are overly complex. Usually, plugins have a very simple and highly effective way to create your desired outcome. Take masking as an example. It can still take a bit of practice to get good masks in Photoshop. A lot of plugins have easier to use masking tools to let you take total control of how your image ends up looking.

#3 Using Plugins with Smart Objects Provides a Completely Non-Destructive Workflow

One of the benefits of using Photoshop is using a non-destructive workflow, and plugins are compatible with this non-destructive workflow. When you’re editing your photo as a smart object, you can launch the plugin from Photoshop with the smart object selected. Then, after you make adjustments, the plugin will appear under the smart object. If you wish to make adjustments to the plugin later, simply double click on the plugin and it will reopen that particular plugin for re-adjustment.

#4 Plugins like ON1 NoNoise AI Provide Much Higher-Quality Noise Reduction than Photoshop

For photo editing, Photoshop is truly the jack of all trades. Because Photoshop is such a large program, many things that you might be able to do, you can do better in a plugin that is dedicated to doing just one single thing. One great example is noise reduction. The options for reducing noise in Photoshop are pretty minimal, and the available options don’t work as well as a plugin. ON1 NoNoise AI uses AI technology to reduce noise, and therefore provide a much higher quality result than Photoshop. See the examples below for a comparison. 

#5 Plugins Can Be Used at Any Time While Editing

Most Photoshop plugins can be used at any time during the photo editing process. While some effects created by plugins may work better at the beginning of your edit, other effects might seem more logical to apply at the end. Any of the ON1 Plugins can be used at any time during the editing process during Photoshop, so you don’t need to drastically change your current workflow to incorporate plugins.


ON1 Releases the Next-Generation Photo Enlargement Software

ON1 Resize, powered by Genuine Fractals, has been the gold standard for photo resizing and preparing your photo’s final output, and it has been for over twenty years. ON1 says the new ON1 Resize AI is by far the most significant improvement they’ve made to their industry-leading photo enlargement software since the early days of Genuine Fractals.

In the past, interpolation methods were used to add new pixels to photos to make them bigger. You simply can’t stretch an image to be bigger without adding pixels, or the photo becomes pixelated in appearance. ON1 Resize AI uses state-of-art machine learning to create the details and sharpness that get lost when photos are enlarged. Resize AI goes well beyond just keeping the edges sharp. It interprets elements in photos like animal fur, tree bark, feathers, grass, leaves, rock, and skin to man-made textures like concrete, fabric, or brick and keeps those details looking crisp in the enlarged photo. In some instances, Resize AI can create details to keep your enlarged images looking even more clean and crisp than the original. 

“We trained ON1 Resize AI on a variety of photos. It can see textures like rocks, skin, fur, feathers, masonry, tree bark, etc. You get the idea. The technology can recreate these textures and make them look realistic in the enlarged photos making super crisp and clean enlargements” says Dan Harlacher, VP of Product.

How It Stands Out from the Competition

ON1 Resize AI is the perfect solution for cropping a section out of your photo if your lens can’t get you close enough or preparing and printing your biggest and best photos. It can crop, resize, and sharpen all at once. It can add wings for printing on canvas or create tiles for a mosaic. You can also batch process images and print them right from the app. 

You will be amazed by what you can do with ON1 Resize AI. ON1 Resize AI works as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Resize AI goes beyond the average plugins. In Lightroom you can batch process easily with powerful new resizing options. And in Photoshop it can handle layered files with masks, alpha channels, text, and adjustment layers in RGB as well as CMYK, Grayscale and LAB.

“I can see a lot of photographers using this app to crop out sections of their photos. Let’s say you forgot your long lens at home and can’t get close enough to your subject. You can still get a really good photo and even better print with ON1 Resize AI,” adds Craig Keudell, President and CEO of ON1.

Resize AI’s primary features include:

  • Create large prints. Easily crop to a specific paper size, resize the photo with the ultimate detail, and then print it directly or save the file to send to a photo lab.
  • Crisp details. Resize AI upscales your photo to any size and sharpens the final details incredibly well. Even crop a portion of a photo and still have amazing quality and detail which equates to having a longer lens.
  • Breathe new life into old photos. With older digital photos, you can remaster old images, making them bigger, sharper, and cleaner than ever before.
  • Reduce JPG artifacts. Whether you have over-compressed or photos that are small in size, Resize AI can reduce the compression artifacts while creating new details.
  • Gallery Wraps. This feature can add reflected or stretched wings to the edge of your photo to make a canvas gallery wrap.
  • Tiling. Divide the photo into tiles make it easier to print a mural. 
  • Batch processing and export. Enlarge a group of photos all at once, and control how they are named, saved, file type, and more. 
  • Print presets for easy automation. When it comes to preparing photos for print, knowing the proper resolution for your printer and the correct amount of sharpening for your paper choice can be daunting. In Resize AI, just pick the printer, the type of paper, and the size.
  • Complete printing support. Includes a full print engine to print directly from the app, whether used in standalone mode, or as a plug-in. You can even use Resize’s soft proofing feature to see how your photo will look when printed using specific printer and paper profiles.
  • Powerful workflow integration. Resize AI works either as a standalone application, or as a plugin for Capture One or Adobe’s Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. 


Lens Flares & Film Effects in Lightroom with Boris FX Optics

By Ross Shain

If you enjoy exploring lighting and special effects in your edits and would like to do more in Lightroom without jumping to Photoshop, this tutorial might be for you. Boris FX Optics is a unique plugin, literally packed with creative options. Optics can be used for subtle lighting and color grades to full blown Marvel film style photo manipulations. Here, I’ll show how Optics can be used to add cinematic lens flares, particles and chromatic aberrations to make your shots stand out. The tutorial was done with Optics in Lightroom Classic, but the same steps will work with Photoshop, or the Optics standalone application. 

if you’d like to follow along, I’ve provided a quick screen recording that you can pause, rewind and follow at your own pace. (You can download this source image from Unsplash.) And if you don’t own Optics, you can download and install the free 15-day trial to follow along. 

Launching Optics

Apply Optics in Lightroom classic by selecting Photo>Edit in>Boris FX Optics

I recommend, choosing Edit a Copy

Adding Light Effects

Optics has its own interface with a layer system on the upper left and effect categories below the image. We’ll start by choosing the Light category and selecting S_LensFlare effect. This will add the Lens Flare effect to our image and we can choose from the flare presets in the lower left. Optics ships with 126 Lens Flare presets and all can be edited, customized and saved.

Position the lens flare by clicking on the center of the flare and drag. You can also position the pivot, or adjust the position sliders on the right in the Parameters window. 

I chose the Zeiss LWZ flare prest and positioned the flare to the top lext of the image. To zoom the image canvas in/out, use the middle mouse scroll wheel OR short cut keys I + O

To add a smoky feel to the lens flare, twirl down the Atmosphere tab in the parameter window. Increase the Atmosphere Amplitude and Frequency settings to your liking. 

Optics allows you to stack and edit unlimited effect layers. Next, we will Add a New Layer, by selecting the Add Layer icon in the upper left or using shortcut key (CMD/CTRL + L). 

Particles for Dummies?

Now, to add more depth and atmosphere, we will explore the Particle Illusion category. Here you will find hundreds of environmental effects like smoke, clouds, explosions, fireworks, and so much more. The particle effects are generated by a powerful animation engine but the interface hides much of the complexity typically found in 3D animation tools. 

Particle effects are broken into sub categories (Clouds, Water, Fireworks, etc), but if we want to search them all, choose PI Complete. We can scroll through the presets or use the search window. 

I’ll type “Seed” in the search window to find a floating dust particle emitter. I will position the emitter to the upper left to accentuate the lighting effect. Particles properties such as position, number, and size can be edited in the Parameter window, making Optics such a value add compared to buying overlays or stock images. Its addictive making your own effects libraries. 

More Light Effects

We can add a new layer again (CMD/CTRL + L) and continue to explore effects. In the Light category, one of my favorite effects is S_GlowDarks which adds a beautiful, diffused glow to the darks — all in one effect. I chose a preset called  “Beauty Pass”, then dialed the layer’s opacity down in the upper left. Every layer in Optics has blending modes and masks for combining and isolating effects. 

Finalizing the Look with Film Lab

Once I am happy with my lighting or effects, I typically use the effects found in the Film Lab category to add grain and a color grade. You can find hundreds of color, black & white, and historical film process presets in the Film Stocks effect. I chose the Cross Processing effects and preset “Cross Processing 2”, then dialed the opacity for this effect down to 40 in the layer opacity. 

Final Touch: Chromatic Aberrations

Lastly, to really make digital images look more like film, I like to apply “chromatic aberrations” to add a little color fringing and movement.  There are a couple ways to do this in Optics, but I like the “Chromatic Aberration – Subtle” preset which is found in the S_WarpChroma effect. 

Comparing and Exit: 

Above the viewer, find compare modes to view the before/after images with “side by side” or “split screen” options. Optics is always procedural, meaning you can simply double click on any effect layer to edit the corresponding parameters. 

If you are happy with your your image edit in Optics, simple select the Apply button in the lower right OR go to File>Exit, short cut key (CTRL/CMD + Q) and select Save. 

More About Optics:

I hope you enjoyed this Optics tutorial. If you’d like to learn more, here are a couple useful links: 

Optics Tutorials

Optics User Forum

For a limited time, take 25% off Optics! 

Optics is available to purchase OR choose an annual or monthly subscription plan. 

Visit Boris FX and enter code on checkout: Kelby25 


Electric cars have much lower life cycle emissions, new study confirms

Enlarge / If we’re serious about decarbonizing, the internal combustion engine has to go by 2030-2035, according to a new study.
Reinhard Krull/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you listen to electric vehicle naysayers, switching to EVs is pointless because even if the cars are vastly more efficient than ones that use internal combustion engines—and they are—that doesn’t take into account the amount of carbon required to build and then scrap them. Well, rest easy because it’s not true. Today in the US market, a medium-sized battery EV already has 60–68 percent lower lifetime carbon emissions than a comparable car with an internal combustion engine. And the gap is only going to increase as we use more renewable electricity.

That finding comes from a white paper (pdf) published by Georg Bieker at the International Council on Clean Transportation. The comprehensive study compares the lifetime carbon emissions, both today and in 2030, of midsized vehicles in Europe, the US, China, and India, across a wide range of powertrain types, including gasoline, diesel, hybrid EVs (HEVs), plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), battery EVs (BEVs), and fuel cell EVs (FCEVs). (The ICCT is the same organization that funded the research into VW Group’s diesel emissions.)

The study takes into account the carbon emissions that result from the various fuels (fossil fuels, biofuels, electricity, hydrogen, and e-fuels), as well as the emissions that result from manufacturing and then recycling or disposing of vehicles and their various components. Bieker has also factored in real-world fuel or energy consumption—something that is especially important when it comes to PHEVs, according to the report. Finally, the study accounts for the fact that energy production should become less carbon-intensive over time, based on stated government objectives.

According to the study, the life cycle emissions of a BEV driving around in Europe today are 66–69 percent lower than a comparable gasoline-powered car. In the US, that range is 60–68 percent less over its lifetime. In China and India, the magnitude is not as great, but even so, a BEV is still cleaner than a fossil-burner. China is at 37–45 percent fewer emissions for BEVs, and India shows 19–34 percent.

Assuming the four regions stick to officially announced decarbonization programs, in 2030 the gap widens in favor of BEVs, even accounting for more efficient engine technologies and fuel production. In Europe, the gap is predicted to be 74–77 percent; in the US, 62–76 percent; in China, 48–64 percent; and in India, 30–56 percent. Bieker writes that the wide spread is due to “a large uncertainty… in how the future electricity mix develops in each region.”

There’s some good news for hydrogen hounds in the paper, too. Although FCEVs are currently only abut 26–40 percent less carbon-intensive than a comparable gasoline vehicle, if hydrogen was produced using renewable energy rather than steam reformation of natural gas, that number would jump to 76–80 percent, even better than a BEV’s numbers.

But Bieker’s analysis says that there is no future for internal combustion engine vehicles if we are to actually decarbonize. HEVs only reduce lifecycle emissions by about 20 percent, and PHEVs are little better in Europe (25–27 percent lower than gasoline), a little worse in China (6–12 percent lower than gasoline), and adequate in the US (42–46 percent lower than gasoline). But compared to BEVs, a PHEV will have much greater lifetime emissions in all three areas. (India has almost no PHEVs, apparently.) And the advantage of BEVs over HEVs and PHEVs only grows as the grid decarbonizes more.

Even the introduction of biofuels will not help the internal combustion engine stay relevant, and Bieker writes that “the registration of new combustion engine vehicles should be phased out in the 2030–2035 time frame” if we want to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. Last September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order setting 2035 as the date that all new vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles.


Bad infrastructure and not being male among reasons people give up EVs

woman's hand plugging in a charger in an electric car socket
Enlarge / Poor charging infrastructure is a big reason that some Californians decided not to get another electric vehicle.

By now, we know a lot of ways to get people to buy electric vehicles. In Europe and China, it’s simple: mandate them. Policymakers aren’t nearly that brave here in the US, so instead we’ve been relying on subsidies for early adopters and the fact that a test drive is often enough to convince someone to switch to a plug-in.

Much less is known about why someone might buy an EV but then decide to go back to fossil fuel for their next vehicle. The very idea is probably enough to stimulate some outrage among the Ars audience, but according to a new study in Nature Energy, not only does such a thing happen, but it has happened at a rate of about 20 percent among early adopters in California, the largest market in the US for plug-in vehicles.

Scott Hardman and Gil Tal at University of California, Davis decided to examine the rate and reasons that Californians abandoned their electric cars, something the researchers say has not been examined until now. With the help of the Californian Air Resources Board, Hardman and Tal surveyed Californians who bought either plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) or battery EVs (BEVs) between 2012 and 2018, contacting more than 14,000 households. In total, 4,167 households completed the survey, but only 1,842 respondents had made a decision about whether or not to keep that plug-in.

Just under four-fifths (1,458 respondents) said they planned to keep their plug-in. Of these, 1,213 had already moved on to another EV and another 245 had bought their EV after the end of its lease. But just over 20 percent (384 respondents) went back to pure internal combustion for their next vehicle (a weighted 18 percent for BEV owners and 20 percent for PHEV owners).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sociodemographics of the EV abandoners was the opposite of the traits that correlate highly with buying an EV. (The sample size here is slightly smaller at 1,727 households, 356 of whom left the EV life.) They were more likely to have smaller households and have fewer vehicles in the household; they were younger, earned less, rented more, were less likely to live in a detached house, and were less likely to be male than the Californians who stuck with EVs.

The pleasure points of plug-ins were broadly the same for those who kept their EVs versus those who didn’t: recharging costs, then reliability, then safety. And in each of those three cases, the EV keepers were a few percentage points happier.

Electric driving range and the convenience of charging were the pain points, but charging was the biggest culprit: the authors found that “[f]or a one-point increase in satisfaction with the convenience of charging a BEV, there are 19.5% lower odds of discontinuing BEV adoption.”

Also unsurprisingly, those keeping their EVs had more access to level 2 (240 V AC) charging at home, as well as more access to charging generally.

Tesla had the lowest rate of abandonment at 11 percent, which may well be a reflection of both the maturity of the Tesla electric powertrain during the sample years and the expansive reach of its public charging infrastructure. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Fiat accounted for the most departees; this is in addition to the company losing a staggering $20,000 on every Fiat 500e. (In the supplementary data, you can see the full breakdown of the different brands of EV that people gave up.)

Nature Energy, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s41560-021-00814-9  (About DOIs).