The Camera Raw Detail tab (shown in Figure 4-8) offers three controls for applying sharpness and noise reduction to both the luminance and the color of the image. Okay, what does that techno-babble really mean? Simply that you can sharpen the outlines of the image, and reduce those tiny messy bits in the grayscale areas, and get rid of the color-speckle thingies that show up in the color areas of the image. Both are referred to as noise.
The Luminance Smoothing slider is sheer death to grayscale noise, while the Color Noise Reduction slider is a hefty weapon against the color noise that can plague images shot in high-ISO settings or long exposures.
Reducing luminance and color noise during the raw conversion workflow should be your preferred method for handling noise. Though Photoshop CS2 offers the new Reduce Noise filter, the goal is to be able to make as many adjustments as possible before you open images in Photoshop.
Save the sharpening of any image for the very last steps in your image-processing workflow. Use the Sharpness adjustment only for previewing images in Camera Raw. (There's more about sharpening images in Chapter 12; you might want to review it when preparing images for output.)
You can set Camera Raw Preferences to limit the application of sharpening to Preview Only. (I show you how to set Camera Raw Preferences in Chapter 9.)
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