Forgotten in its old age

by Aditya

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I bought the Canon 650D about six months ago and have taken almost 1000 photos with it todate. I always shoot Raw+ jpg so I never really had the need to process my Raw files until now when I got interested in stock photos and stuff.

To get up to speed with the world of stock photography, I’m reading Rob Sylvan’s terrific guide Taking Stock.

In it, he emphasizes that you’ve to inspect your photos 1:1 to identify any aberrations and unwanted artefacts, because that’s what the inspectors at any stock agency do to judge your photos.

Now the problem is that when I imported my photos into Lightroom (4.4), which I’m using for the first time, I discovered that at actual size all my photos have noise. Not just some noise but considerable noise, at least to me, unless I’m being overly critical of my own work.

What on earth is happening here?

Here are two specific examples: IMG_0651 and IMG_0671.

  1. Am I doing something wrong here? I always strive to shoot at ISO 100. Sometimes I use the tripod, sometimes I don’t. But that seems to have no bearing on the noise outcome.

  2. Is there something wrong with my camera? Or is it an inherent problem with 650D?

  3. Is there something with the lenses? I mostly shoot with Tokina 11-16mm. Noise remains constant whether I shoot at wide open at 2.8 or at F22. Ditto for the time of day. Sometimes I shoot with the kit lens 18-55mm. Both lenses are giving the same noise level. Both can’t be faulty at the same time, or can they?

  4. What can I do to stop this from happening in the future?

  5. What can I do to salvage my previous work?

  6. Should I use Lightroom to reduce luminance and color noise on all my photos? Rob discourages from reducing too much noise as it reduces sharpness and turns the details all mushy which will defeat the purpose of noise reduction in the first place as it will get the photo rejected by the stock inspector. What do you think?

  7. How much noise reduction to apply so that it gets the pictures past the inspector? Remember no noise is visible when you see the images in normal view.

  8. Is there a better tool than Lightroom for reducing noise? Should I use that before importing the photo into lightroom for further processing?

  9. Or is everything ok and the only thing wrong is my laptop monitor calibration? If that’s the case how do I rectify that?

  10. How much Luminance noise should I remove from these images using LR? By how much I mean how far should I move the slider, 25%, 50% or some other number, so that the noise level is acceptable by a stock agency?

Here some some more examples starting from day 1:

1st picture out of the box:

First capture from 650D

100% cropped

After a month: tonga in Jakarta Indonesia

Cropped image jakarta tonga

After two months: Train station bangkok thailand

 cropped image of Train station bangkok thailand

smiling baby smiling baby cropped 100%

Night bazaar bangkok Night bazaar bangkok cropped

Images taken After 6 months of 650D usage: Arabian Sea Country Club

Arabian Sea Country Club golf course

Arabian Sea Country Club

Arabian Sea Country Club cropped image

enter image description here

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5  
What ISO are you shooting at? Can you post a example picture? Having at lease some noise is normal, it's a inherent part of the way the image sensor works. –  Fake Name Sep 20 '13 at 6:08
    
I almost always shoot at 100 unless I'm forced to change it in low light. I'll try to upload one of the RAWS. I don't know if the site would let me. –  Saqib Khan Sep 20 '13 at 11:04
    
May be you need to switch to 100% true pixel camera –  Sourav Sep 20 '13 at 14:30
    
Agree with @FakeName, please post sample pictures. –  khedron Sep 20 '13 at 14:59
    
Tried in vain uploading the RAW file. Will have to convert them to JPG in LR before uploading them. –  Saqib Khan Sep 21 '13 at 10:03

2 Answers 2

Photos taken with digital cameras will, for the most part, show some amount of noise when inspecting them at 100%. The tripod and lenses won't affect the noise because the noise comes from the sensor, something that remains constant regardless of which lens or tripod you shoot with. Generally, you can lower the apparent noise by reducing the ISO but proper exposure at any ISO will not be terribly noisy. As long as your exposure is on point and you aren't pushing the shadows too far, ISO 100 should be nice and clean.

Like Fake Name and khedron, I would recommend uploading a RAW file to something such as Google Drive or Copy and providing a link so we can see exactly what you are seeing. Then we might be able to really figure out what is going on.

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I've uploaded two of the most recent RAW images I've taken on the following links: [url]docs.google.com/file/d/0B1nEL-Pztkm6dmxsNjBpR242NE0/… [url]docs.google.com/file/d/0B1nEL-Pztkm6LUxPQUpMTTZQUWs/… Both these were taken at sunrise, and as you know, exposure becomes a little tricky at the dawn of the day. –  Saqib Khan Sep 21 '13 at 14:04
1  
0651 looks slightly underexposed so I am going to assume that you have tried to compensate with the exposure slider. Like I mentioned above, underexposure combined with pushing shadows too far will greatly accentuate noise in a photo regardless of the ISO used. 0671, on the other hand, was pretty well exposed and noise only becomes apparent in the shadows once you start bringing the exposure up. In my opinion, a GND filter would have greatly helped both images in terms of balancing exposure without having to push or pull in post, thus accentuating the noise. –  masonlong Sep 21 '13 at 23:17
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If it isn't asking too much, I would be curious to see additional samples where you aren't competing with such a high dynamic range in the scene. –  masonlong Sep 21 '13 at 23:31

Visible noise is caused by not having enough light.

How noise works

You can think about your camera has having a fixed amount of noise (not accurate but close enough to reality to understand how noise works)

If you have a totally black picture (like taking a picture with the lens cap on) all you see is the noise, it's visible but has a relatively low brightness.

In bright parts of an image will the actual image is so much brighter then the noise it will totally overpower it and you won't see noise.

In dark parts of the picture the image isn't bright enough to overpower the noise and the noise is visible.

Increasing the ISO will increase both picture and noise equally - so if you don't have the light to overpower the noise at ISO 100 increasing the ISO will make the noise more visible (but increasing ISO will usually make less noise then shooting at ISO 100 and increasing brightness in post)

Notice how daytime outside pictures have very little noise and indoors/night pictures have lots of it, especially in dark areas (except for the first out of the box picture that has enough light because its a picture of a row of light bulbs).

By the way, it may be the laptop monitor I'm using right now but I can't find noise in the daytime 6 months pictures, the gulf ball picture has a lot of technical issues but noise isn't one of them and I really can't find the technical problem in the building picture.

What can you do

  1. Get some lights (I prefer speedlights) and learn how to use them, at the end of the day getting things right in camera is the best option.

  2. If the dark areas are very dark (like the train station roof or the night sky) you can use a lot of noise reduction on those areas only, there isn't any detail there anyway so the blurriness of excessive noise reduction doesn't hurt the picture.

  3. There are noise reduction plugins that are much better then lightroom, I've seen example pictures that are just amazing, unfortunately, I don't remember that specific plugin name - but you can download a trial version of all the plugins you can find and see what works.

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Thanks man! Really appreciate the time you took to go through the pics and explain everything. –  Saqib Khan Sep 25 '13 at 11:32
    
Yeah I've heard there are better NR options than lightroom. Just don't know which one to go for. –  Saqib Khan Sep 25 '13 at 11:33

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