Hello, I could use your help again. This is a situation I run into quite often. I am an outdoor photographer and often have to photograph in low light conditions with a fast shutter speed. This results in noise due to a high ISO. I assume my problem here is noise. Or am I missing something else?
For noise reduction, I first reduce the noise until it begins to disappear and then I try to regain some details.
Perhaps using noise reduction it has made the image rather soft. If you look at the eyes, they are not sharp.
It could also have just a bit more contrast and vibrance added.
Make sure you are viewing your images at 100% when you are editing, the entire image is all smudged so way too much noise reduction. If you aren't already, you can try and do selective noise reduction, less on the animal so it remains sharp, and more on the background which matters less if it is blurry. In some instances, it will be impossible to recover if in very poor light.
Your photo is a bit to cool. You may add a little warmth and possibly contrast to it. The ear also seem to display a small amount of chromatic noise.
Try to utilize exposure compensation when shooting in low light if you need speed. Your entire file need to be noise free, hence to make sure you do not adjust noise excessively you may zoom to 100 or 200% while adjusting, and as soon as the noise is clear, you stop adjusting. The other adjustment of the noise adjustment tool will help to restore some sharpness, as you already know.
Try to utilize exposure compensation when shooting in low light if you need speed.
Fist: Low apperture value.
Second: longer exposure time, use a monopod or a tripod.
Take a lot of pictures ... one of them may be in focus... 🙂
Third only: underexpose slightly only as you probably need to compensate for this in post and that augments again the noise level.
To avoid noise, the only magic formula is to keep ISO low...