Using A.I. To De-Noise and Mask An Extremely Dark Photo With Lightroom

Josh Rose
6 min readMay 4

Most scenarios in photography aren’t so severe that noise is really a horrendous issue. For the most part, we hover somewhere under 2,000 ISO and the noise is mostly only noticeable to those of us who are looking for it. Most casual observers of a photo shot at even 3,000 ISO won’t lose their minds over the noise. And most wildlife photographers, who really rely on high ISOs in order to keep high shutter speeds in dark situations know all about this.

The de-noising technologies within Lightroom have been more than sufficient for most of us. But I have one really big exception: dance performance photography.

Stage performance use beautiful, but often very dim light. Normally in the 5–10% of power range of what they are capable of. So, even in a normal lighting scenario inside on stage, I’m already pushing the limits of my settings. And the lighting design of a choreography is ever-changing, creating a wide variety of light scenarios, some of which are almost entirely enveloped in darkness.

My usual settings approach for performances is to stay at a fastest aperture of f/3.5 for sharpness and to keep a dancer’s body in focus. I also prefer faster shutter speeds when shooting dance, for the most part, for obvious reasons. However, in many light setups, those settings often aren’t letting nearly enough light in. I end up having a lot of unusable images coming out of a performance for this very reason.

With Lightroom’s recent updates, including a number of A.I.-driven tools, I thought it might be a good time to see how it might help me in these most-difficult scenarios. I had a dance performance to shoot this week and last night was the dress rehearsal. Dress rehearsals are fun to shoot because they are low-pressure. With two more performance nights to shoot, you can experiment a bit with dress rehearsals. I challenged my Nikon Z9 with some very normal settings to see if I could fix any issues in post, rather than trying to constantly change my settings on the fly. I went with an aperture of f/4, which I prefer with dance photography, but rarely have the luxury to do indoors. And I set my shutter speed at 1/500th of a second — also something I would prefer, but rarely do indoors. I upped my ISO to 2500. Slightly higher than normal and…

Josh Rose

Filmmaker, photographer, artist and writer. Writing about creator life and observations on culture. Tips very very much appreciated: