Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I've been looking for a new Library / Photo Editing software, iPhoto isn't really cutting it any more. I've been using both Aperture and Lightroom a bit now (trial licenses) and I noticed a big difference in the noise reduction capabilities.

Lightroom does a really amazing job with noise reduction on some of my long exposure northern light photos. Apertures noise reduction on the other hand barely makes a difference. This might be due to how I use Aperture and Lightroom, but I've seen reviews that praise Lightrooms noise reduction while almost bashing Apertures (lack of).

I like how Aperture creates "Libraries" and organize the photos. The "do what you want at any time" aspect of Aperture is also something I prefer, but it's extremely slow on my computer which is quite fast (MacBook Pro 15" Early 2011, i7 4GB Ram).

I guess my question would be: Is there any other really good noise reduction plug-ins for Aperture? Can I get noise reduction that even get close to the quality of Lightrooms in Aperture?

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2 Answers 2

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Yes Lightroom 3.6 noise reduction is quite good but not great. You can get better results with dedicated software. I've read a number of reviews of various software packages and plugins but there is only one I personally use: NIK Dfine 2.2

I found it to be FAR better then Lightroom and NIK is also available for Aperture. How it works in Lightroom is that you have to select your image then right-click and choose edit in NIK Dfine. This opens your image in the plugin application where you work on the noise reduction. Once your work is completed, your image is added into the Lightroom library. You can choose to edit the original or a copy of the image with adjustments. The plugin is not seamlessly integrated within the application framework as the word "plug-in" would suggest, but it is not very cumbersome to use. Personally, I use Lightroom tools for most of my work and only use specialized plugins such as this one for selected photos.

After your noise reduction is complete I would also suggest to use more advanced sharpening utility. Again, I use a NIK plugin Sharpener Pro 3.0 for the occasional photo i deem worthy.

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It should be noted that Lightroom's noise reduction can be adjusted in non-linear fashion at any time without affecting any other adjustments, where as using a plugin like NIK Dfine requires creating a copy of the image with permanent noise reduction in place. While Lightroom's (which is really superb in and of itself) may not be quite as good...it has the added non-linearity benefit, which is quite valuable in and of itself. –  jrista Feb 1 '12 at 1:09
    
Good point @jrista. Only about 1% of all my images get the "NIK" treatment. Out of those most are HDR which are inherently noisier. Lightroom is great for most family photos and snapshots but as for the handfull of images I actually spend some time on in post processing I usually have several copies of in various stages of processing. –  Jakub Feb 1 '12 at 13:52
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@jrista: You can work around that by applying noise reduction first (which you should do anyway) and edit that copy; further changes to noise reduction can then have the old edits copied on top of the new image using lift & stamp. –  Kendall Helmstetter Gelner Feb 1 '12 at 18:04

I am a happy user of Aperture 3. As you mentioned, the built-in noise reduction is not very good. Since I do not have Lightroom I have not done any comparison of the two.

I have tested Noise Ninja as it is a bit cheaper than Nik Dfine. I liked it since it was very easy to get started with and I was satisfied with the result.

But I have not compared it against Lightroom. I mention it for you so you could try it and figure out if this is something for you.

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