Improving grainy pictures

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by KettyKrueger, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. KettyKrueger macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    Hi All

    I'm a novice when it comes to photography, I do try though!!

    I've got a bunch of photos of my daughter from Xmas Day that all suffer from the same problem, due to the time of day (6am) the only source of light came from a low-light ceiling lamp and a flash (if I remember right).

    The photos are dark and grainy and generally look terrible. I noticed that iPhoto '09 has a nice Denoise setting which I will be test-driving as soon as it's available but are there any other methods to denoising?

    Please be gently with technical terms!

    Thanks.
     
  2. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #2
    I am sorry to hear those photos came out dark and "grainy."

    There are several softwares out there that will do better for your needs than what you will get in iPhoto 9.

    The first thing that comes to mind is that if you want to "hobby" with your camera you might consider getting Aperture software. It is exclusive to Macs and a nice easy but powerful software for everyone. Aperture has also the ability to add "plug ins" which are additional tools to help you improve your images. What first comes to mind is Noise Ninja as a plug in. It rates very well and usually sits within the top 5 noise handling softwares by Pro and Novice ratings.

    I believe you wont get a perfect copy from what you describe but perhaps can save some at a level that is acceptable.

    The alternative is to get software such as Photoshop which would probably be overkill in cost and learning curve. Lightroom is Adobes counterpart to Aperture and have versions for both Mac and Windows. In terms of being "Mac Like"...Aperture is a better bet.

    You can probably download Aperture for a trial and not sure about if Noise Ninja has a trial. - Something to investigate <grin>.

    From a Photoshop perspective there are several things that could be done ranging from typical "de-noising" as mentioned above to some pretty slick tricks (that I have used). Just for discussion here -

    De-Noise your photo then duplicate it. Take the copy and blur it slightly. The next step would be to overlay the two and adjust the opacity. The means how much will show thru each image. The 50/50 or 40/60 rule works well. This means that (for the first one) each image contributes about 50 percent of the image (akin to placing two slides on top of each other). The net result is a less "grainy" image. After this, you can do some sharpening of the image to your taste. The sharpening is done to edges. This makes the picture seem sharper overall along with contrast adjustments. In Photoshop the "copies" are really layers and sit in the same file.

    As you can see, chances are Aperture with Noise Ninja or similar is probably more up your ally and certainly lots of fun. Check it out!

    - Phrehdd

    Lightroom 2.x, Photoshop CS4 for digital restoration of photos.
    Scanners - V750, Minolta Dimage Elite 5400 Transparency/neg scanner
    Epson 1800 and 2400 13x19" printers.
     
  3. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

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    #3
    Hi,

    Many thanks for your reply.

    I have considered Aperture but decided it was overkill for my needs. I've also considered Photoshop but again, overkill. Plus I'm not a fan of photo manipualtion and iPhoto generally is sufficient for the tweaks I need to make (saturation, cropping, etc).

    The method you described in Photoshop sounds interesting, would I be able to do this with Gimp? In my very limited experience and knowledge, I think this would be possible.

    I'm going to give it try tonight anyway and I'll report rback with results!!
     
  4. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

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    May 5, 2007
    #4
    If that does not work, you could always try using photoshop elements. I'm not sure about these particular photographs, but it's a pretty impressive package in its own right.
     
  5. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

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    #5
    Is Elements a watered-down version of the full version?

    Would that be a worthwhile purchase considering Gimp is free? How do the two compare?
     
  6. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    Mar 10, 2005
    #6
    Just an aside... adjusting saturation and cropping is "manipulating" an image.
     
  7. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

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    #7
    Well, I meant stuff like putting someone's face on another body or other big changes to someone's appearence.
     
  8. PCMacUser macrumors 68000

    PCMacUser

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    Jan 13, 2005
    #8
    Yes, Elements is a 'feature reduced' version of Photoshop. Gimp is quite a high level package - you talked about Aperture being beyond your needs - Gimp probably falls into this category as well. And also, since this thread is about noise reduction, I'm not sure if Gimp has noise reduction capabilities or plug ins available.

    Photoshop Elements is compatible with the noise reduction plug-in 'NeatImage' and probably also 'Noise Ninja'. Both are highly recommended, and although they can't fix everything, they can make a big difference. I use NeatImage regularly, and I like it. They have a free trial available for download. I think you can also download a free trial of Elements, so if you download both trials, you can test the whole setup out before paying anything! Now that's handy!
     
  9. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

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    #9
    Sweet! Are Noise Ninja and Neat Image one-click solutions? I don't need to manually adjust channels, etc?

    Yes, Gimp is a bit technical for me. I watched a few video tutorials and then tired to replicate the results...it wasn't easy. Needless to say, I've forgotten everything that I learnt in that afternoon!!

    Will be checking out Elements and those plug-ins.

    Many thanks for the replies.
     
  10. Chappers macrumors 68020

    Chappers

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    #10
  11. bking1000 macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 29, 2007
    #11
    You can spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to "degrain" your pictures, but you should consider the source of the issue, which is the shooting conditions and the camera.

    First, the shooting conditions. Low light conditions are difficult for cameras just like they are difficult for our eyes. Our eyes and cameras need lots of light to see. If there is too little light, then our eyes maybe can't see. But, the camera can cheat (at least for a certain amount).

    The camera can cheat by raising the ISO, which is essentially boosting the gain on the electronic signal. If you don't know that means, think of a bad radio station -- one that you are barely getting in on the radio, with lots of static. You can barely hear the song over the static. You can turn up the volume, but the static turns up at the same time. Maybe you can more clearly make out the song lyrics now, but the static is even more annoying. That's one way your camera can cope -- it can raise the ISO, but at the same time, you'll get more static (that is, noise or grain).

    Two other ways the camera can adjust for low lighting -- one is by increasing the size of the aperture. Just like our eyes, the camera has a pupil called the Aperture. The bigger that pupil is open, the more light that comes in. Our eyes' pupils open wider automatically in darker conditions. Camera's can, too. How wide it can open is dependent on the camera. There are also trade-offs to opening or closing the aperture more, but I'll leave that alone for right now. Suffice it to say, the darker the conditions, the more open you might want the aperture, but your camera is probably trying to go as wide as possible, anyway.

    Another way for the camera to adjust is to lower the shutter speed. The shutter speed is the length of time the shutter opens to let in light. This is a bit different than the way our eyes work. Our eyes are more like movie cameras -- always taking in images. A camera captures an image frozen in time. The longer the shutter is open, the more likely the subject will move during that time, and the more likely the subject will be blurred. For kids, anything below 1/60 second will likely look bad (unless you are going for an effect that shows blur to demonstrate movement). 1/125 second and higher is preferred.

    In low light situations, if you're camera is on automatic, the camera will try to get as fast a shutter speed as possible. This means it will open the aperture as wide as it can, and will raise the ISO as high as the logic in the camera allows. Even then, it might not get a high enough shutter speed to "freeze" your subject.

    So, there are two other things you can do.

    1) Get more light. Just like our eyes, the camera needs more light to get really good pictures. This might mean turning on more lamps, or it might mean more flash. However, many people really want to take more "natural" looking photos in what you would call "available light", so that leads to solution #2 which is

    2) Get a different camera (!). I am guessing you are using one of the many, many, many models of consumer-level pocket cameras. (Let us know which camera it is). Have a look at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SensorSizes.svg

    Do you see in the lower right corner, where it says 1/2.5"? That is likely the size of the sensor in your pocket camera. Have you heard of a DSLRs? Look at the second row, where it says "APS-C" (Canon or Nikon -- they're close enough). That is the sensor size in the typical consumer-grade DSLR (the larger sensors are getting towards pro level). As you can see, the APS-C sensors are, what, ten times bigger than the 1/2.5" sensor? That means much more light gathering ability for the same shot! What this means practically is that if you have the same aperture and the same shutter speed, the DSLR ISO's (remember the signal gain) can be boosted much higher before you see noise/grain. My Canon DSLR can make shots at ISO 1600 that look better than my Canon pocket camera at ISO400. This means (if the aperture is the same), I could take a picture on my DSLR at ISO 1600.

    If you want to see just how different, go to this site, and choose "Canon SD1000" and "Canon D1000" to compare a pocket camera (SD1000) to a DSLR (D1000). Compare the ISO800 pictures on both, and your jaw will hit the floor over the difference.

    If you want to learn more technical stuff, you could visit a site like this one: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials.htm or buy a book like Understand Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

    That's the long answer and the background. Here's the short answer; you can try to "de-noise" your picture, but you'll likely spend a good amount of money and a lot of time to find this simple truth: you can only remove so much noise before the picture really starts to lost detail and look more like an impressionist painting than a picture. So, you need to either a) add more light for your camera, or b) get a different camera with a bigger sensor.

    You could also help yourself if you learned how to balance shutter speed, aperture, and lighting.
     
  12. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #12
    Frankie <GRIN> yer a killjoy.

    Okay not to get into it all, but I believe when they talk about manipulation of digital images its more a reference of taking a file and intentionally altering beyond "adjustments."

    In film, going to the dark room and cropping, electing paper "hardness" (contrast), developer choice, and exposure was never considered "manipulaton" of an image.

    Cheers

    - Phrehdd
     
  13. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    Mar 10, 2005
    #13
    Not to get into it at all either :) but deciding that criteria and making adjustments is inherently manipulating a negative to a final vision you intend of it. It's all manipulation. Some is just more extreme than another. Even deciding to shoot in color or black and white is manipulating the scene in front of you. Photography IS manipulation.
     
  14. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #14
    Thanks for the comprehensive reply. I fully understand that I should be aiming to get my pictures right to begin with. I reviewed my Xmas pics last night and they're not too bad to be honest. I had a go with Aperture (downloaded a demo) and it seems nice. The denoise setting didn't do much if I'm honest.

    As per your advise I decided to read the manual for my camera last night (Fuji F31) which I should have done to begin with! To be fair when I bought the thing I thought the 'auto' mode would suit my needs but since having a little girl I care more about my photos and want to do the best I can.

    I've been trying to wrap my head around the various techy things (iso, aperture, shutter speed, etc) and I'm getting there. I did some experimenting last night (although the results weren't good!).

    My daughter is 1 now, I aim to be taking great pictures by her 18th birthday!

    Thanks again for all the hints and tips.
     
  15. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #15
    It's time-consuming to deal with 'noise', or 'grain' or other perceived 'defects' after taking your shots. If you can make sure there's enough light when you press the shutter, you won't have to consider any of these 'techy' solutions. Aperture and Photoshop are terrific (I use both...) but are overkill for the kind of family photos you want to take. Stick with iPhoto to keep your pix organised and for making minor adjustments.

    You call 'aperture" and 'shutter speeds' techy, but you can learn the basics very quickly (a lot quicker than mastering Photoshop ;)). No matter how many programs your camera is supposed to have, there are really only two variables in each exposure: the size of the hole that allows light through the lens (expressed in f-numbers... biggest number = smallest hole and vice versa), and the amount of time the hole is open to let the light through (expressed in fractions of a second). Get this straight in your mind and you'll be well on the way to taking images in a more informed way.

    Fortunately, you can experiment with digital (unlike film) without paying $$ for your mistakes. Keep the ISO down and get some light into your pix. Natural light is more flattering than flash which (unless you 'bounce' it or use diffusers, etc) can look very harsh. Don't expect your camera to produce good pix in very low light; this is the usual source of grain and noise...
     
  16. Lovesong macrumors 65816

    Lovesong

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    #16
    Actually I'm a bit surprised that you're having issues with the F31 and noise. For anyone that knows about the F30 and F31, their noise levels are bar none- I remember DPReview comparing the output of the F31 with a D50, and more than holding its own.

    Basically work on your low light technique- get a tripod for still things, figure out how to work the flash for moving things, and see what ISO (sensitivity) levels you're comfortable with. The camera that you have is a very good one. Just keep at it, and soon it will all start to make sense.
     
  17. KettyKrueger thread starter macrumors 6502

    KettyKrueger

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    #17
    Yeah, the f31 is totally adequate for me. I'm just having trouble with low-light settings. I'm actually put a lamp in the living room now to help with the poor light.

    And I agree that iPhoto is sufficient for my needs. I did feel a bit like I wasn't worthy of using Aperture!
     
  18. bking1000 macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Doylem has a good point. Much like anything, photography takes practice. I realize the camera is there to take pics of your daughter, but try shooting everything. Also, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (it's like $15 from Amazon) is a very easy, very essential read to learn the very things you are struggling with now.

    Good luck!
     
  19. flinch13 macrumors regular

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    Jul 4, 2004
    #19
    Use a flash, provide more light. Both good tips and I'm not the first to offer them.

    I did not, however, see anyone recommend you to a gem of a program called NoiseNinja. It has helped me out of a lot of tough situations with noisy pictures.

    Have a try. Feel free to PM me if you've got questions about it.
     
  20. pprior macrumors 65816

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    Aug 1, 2007
    #20
    Noiseware or Noise Ninja.

    I use the former, the latter is just as good.

    Nothing better exists.

    In the future, get a newer camera with better high ISO, turn up the lights, or use flash.
     
  21. Captpegleg macrumors member

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    Jan 19, 2009
    #21
    Noise Ninja

    Not meaning to hijack but since there are some folks knowledgeable about Noise Ninja I thought someone may have an answer to this.
    I have an old jpeg photo that is about 360K. After running it through NJ, it gets somewhat chubby. About 9 meg. Tried several other photos and get the same results. A 10 meg raw file gets up to almost 40 meg.
    Thanks in advance.

    Forgot to add I'm using Aperture 2.
     
  22. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #22

    First off is the image really that bad? Remember to evaluate it after it is resized to the size you want. Down sampling to a smaller size is actually a good noise reduction technique.

    The other technique described about is to blur the image. This works if you don't want to or can't downsize the image. Both techniques do the same thing: they create new pixels from averaging over a larger area. Backing up and looking at the image from a distance does the same thing too. All de-noising methods trade away detail for a less noisy image. It is not free.

    What you really need is more light on the subject or a camera with a larger sensor (like an SLR or 35mm film)
     
  23. PCMacUser macrumors 68000

    PCMacUser

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    #23
    Ughh I hate statements like this. Although I haven't heard of Noiseware (it doesn't even get a mention in the latest digital photography magazine I looked at, which had a special feature on noise removal software), I couldn't rule it out as being a great piece of software. Likewise, it is naive to suggest that nothing better exists.
     
  24. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    #24
    I use NeatImage and it does a very nice job. I got the Pro version, since it does both 16-bitt and 8-bitt images. PSE6 also has a noise filter that works fine, but I mostly use NeatImage as a PSE6 filter.
     
  25. pprior macrumors 65816

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    #25
    Well if you haven't heard of it, that says volumes about your experience in the area of noise reduction.....

    My point is that either noiseware or Noiseninja are state of the art. They have slight differences in interface and features, but overall they both do a great job and I would strongly suggest you don't waste time spending hours searching for something better - it doesn't exist. Like it or not, move on with your life.
     

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