Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Layering Noise

Part 2 in a series on

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Try Multipass Noise
Noise applied multiple times adds up differently than noise applied once. This is true of all filters that involve an element of randomization. In rare instances, when one application of noise won’t do the job, consider applying a filter (or filters) multiple times at reduced intensities. There are three ways you can do this: 1) Use a lower filter setting and apply it multiple times to the same layer; 2) Apply the filter at full strength and reduce the Opacity (or Blend Mode) by fading it (Edit > Fade), and repeat; 3) Apply a reduced application of noise to multiple effects layers. Multipass applications of noise can be particularly useful when trying to reduce extreme banding. If one pass won’t do, try two.

4) Curves Allows You To Control The Contrast Of Noise
5) Layer Styles Allow You To Target Noise By Channel, Noise Tonal Range Or Image Tonal Range 6) Layer Masks Allow You To Reduce Opacity And Target Noise Locally

Try Noise On Image Layers

Noise builds up differently on image layers than it does on effects layers (filled with 50% gray). In most cases, the difference isn’t significant or useful. In rare cases, it can be. In some extreme cases of banding, filtering a duplicate image layer multiple times (at lower intensities) may be helpful. In other extreme cases of banding, add more noise than is needed and use software filtration to reduce that noise (I use Imagenomic Noiseware Pro).

Avoid adding noise to the Back-ground layer as long as possible. Try duplicating that layer and then applying noise. If you’d like to apply a single noise effect to multiple layers, you have two options. Merge them into a new layer. Hold the Command/Control key before selecting Merge Visible from the Layers palette submenu. Make sure adjustment layers are turned off and that the noise layer is moved to an appropriate position in the layer stack. Or, place the layers you want to affect into a group. Press the Shift or Command key to highlight them all and select New Group From Layers in the Layers palette submenu. Change the Blend Mode of the group from Pass Through to Normal, so the noise layer will affect only the layers inside the set. Finally, add the noise layer inside the group. It can take some time and experimentation to create a custom noise you like, but once you find it, you can use it again and again. Noise on effects layers can be easily dragged and dropped between open files.

7) Banding

8) Banding Disrupted By Noise
9) Noise Reduced After
Disrupting Banding

Take a little time to explore your options here. This tool set is relatively easy to master. The key to applying it masterfully is in looking carefully and responding sensitively to what you see. Use noise consistently in your images and you can mimic any other preexisting noise structure or customize a unique look no one has seen before. Noise is an essential quality of photographic images. With a little preparation and effort, you can virtually have as much or as little of it as you like.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist and authority on digital printing. Get over 100 free downloads and his free enews Insights at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.


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