Noise reduction using Nik Define 2

by Paul Schmitt

Digital cameras offer the photographer the ability to immediate boost the ISO speed in response to low light conditions. One of the arguably most powerful plug-ins for noise reduction comes in the Nik Collection. ( See ) Within the collection one finds Define 2. Notable, at present there is no charge for the Nik Collection. Here is an example of what can be done.

On this rainy morning, I looked out my kitchen window to see a doe with fawns in the neighbor’s lawn. Grabbing a camera, I ran the speed up to ISO 1250 on my Nikon D800 and edged around the sunroom corner to capture a few images.

After some cropping for composition, here is one photo.

PRE NR Nik-20160608_663


Let’s look at a 1:1 sample from the top edge of the photo. Note the speckle in the medium green areas.


Within either Lightroom, you select Library>Photo>Edit In>Define 2. (For Photoshop go to the Nik Selection menu box to find Define 2.) For my photo, I got the following screen. Note the four small boxes where Define 2 has found a region of uniform tone. Usually it finds larger regions. If the tone is uniform, then what variation exists is noise, so there is a baseline to reduce the noise.

deer in Nik

Generally, the automatically selected areas work fine.  The frame in the lower right area shows a split screen of uncorrected and corrected. Moving your mouse pointer around the image reveals the change expected. If it looks good (and it nearly always looks terrific), then select save and look for an output TIFF file in your Lightroom or Photoshop catalog.

So, for this case at ISO 1250, let’s look at a greatly enlarged sample of the before (top image) and after (bottom image).

DETAIL-PRE NR Nik-20160608_663

DETAIL-POST NR Nik-20160608_663-Edit

The Define 2 has worked well for this example as it does for the majority of images. On a few images, it has been unable to find regions of uniformity in which case I have usually settled for the Adobe noise reduction.

Give Define 2 a test drive and decide for yourself. It is revealing to shoot purposefully at high ISO and explore the limits of your camera sensor and Define 2.