Note that the Noise Reduction function in Lightroom 3 beta is not yet complete (the Luminance slider is unavailable for now, so focus your efforts on using the Color slider and new Edge Detail slider). The good news is the color noise reduction tools in Lightroom 3 beta produce noticeably cleaner results than previous versions. Typically, the more you reduce noise in an image, the softer the image gets, sometimes to the point of creating “splotchy” areas where the noise was heaviest. Lightroom 3’s noise reduction remedies this problem by not only removing most (if not all) of the noise, but by doing a much better job of maintaining the texture detail in the process.
Figure 3 shows the improvements made to color noise reduction. Again, the Develop settings were the same, except that for purposes of this example, I actually used a less intense Color setting in Lightroom 3 beta, and still achieved more visually pleasing results. Notice how much smoother the wall texture appears to be and that even with a lower setting, the color noise artifacts are almost completely absent whereas they are still present in the Lightroom 2.5 example. This is a bit of an extreme (zoomed in) example, but it shows what Lightroom 3 can accomplish in darker areas of your photograph, where color noise often rears its ugly head.
As you might expect, the Edge Detail slider allows you to maintain the sharp appearance of high contrast edges or textured areas in your image. Generally a modest amount of this setting will go a pretty long way, especially if some judicious capture sharpening is applied ahead of time.
Figure 3 While it’s not 100 percent complete, the noise reduction technology in Lightroom 3 Beta offers a nice improvement when correcting images with darker color regions or which were shot at a high ISO.
Another useful tip for Lightroom 3 beta users is that when working with Sharpening and Noise Reduction, you no longer have to view your image at 100 percent to see the effect the various sliders have. Even so, I still try to view things at 100 percent when I can, as it helps to evaluate the small details a bit better. As you work with Lightroom 3 beta’s sharpening and noise reduction, don’t be afraid to push those sliders a bit further than you may have in the past. You should be pleasantly surprised by the results, without introducing unwanted effects.