Reader Question: Should I Turn Long Exposure Noise Reduction On or Off?

I’m wondering whether to turn “Long exposure NR” on or off. What does it do, and how does it affect my photos taken at blue hour?

Question came in from Matthew

What Does “Long exposure NR” Do?

Photos with long exposure typically result in “hot pixels” appearing as brightly coloured little dots. Turning on “Long exposure NR” (Nikon term for long exposure noise reduction, Canon calls it “Long exp. noise reduction”) lets you remove them. The catch? The exposure takes twice as long. For example, if your exposure (shutter speed) is 120 seconds, it takes another 120 seconds to run this noise reduction processing, and you can’t take a new photo while “Long exposure NR” is running.

Should I Use It or Not?

Probably no, unless you’re a pixel peeper and allergic to noise like myself. Generally speaking, we have no time to waste when the beautiful bluish hue in the dusk sky only lasts approx. 10 minutes and quickly turns into darkness of the night. Further more, hot pixels are not quite visible when you resize your images down to 1000-2000 pixels wide to post online (for your website, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

Comparing the Dusk Sky Shot with Long exposure NR On and Off

Comparing the dusk sky shot with “Long exposure NR” on (left) and off (right). If you want to pixel-peep, download the photo (100% crop) and zoom in to 100%. At 100%, hot pixels are a bit more obvious.

When to Turn “Long exposure NR” On

Having said all these, I still turn it on more often than not (my perfectionist nature makes me do so because I hate noisy photos!), especially when I’m at a familiar location and pretty confident that taking one photo is all that is needed, or when I shoot the very last photo of a day (because there is no more photo to shoot after that, and I’m perfectly fine with waiting for an extended exposure time to capture a cleaner photo).

Do you have any blue hour photography related questions? Feel free to send in via Contact Me page. I’ll be happy to answer for you!


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