Sophisticated control to conquer noise
By Wendell Benedetti
Electronic noise is one of the inherent problems of digital photography. The larger the sensor chip, the hotter the operating environment, the higher the ISO equivalence, and the longer the exposure, the more electronic noise is introduced into an image. Noise is also a problem with scanned images, especially in the deep shadow sections where the scanner has less light to deal with.
At times noise looks like exaggerated film grain. More often, it appears as tiny blotches in the image. While not as distracting as the jaggy artifacting introduced by excessive JPEG compression, noise can degrade an image to a point where it becomes unusable.
To avoid even minimal artifacting, most commercial photographers don't shoot in the JPEG file format, but it isn't as easy to get around the noise problem. Some solutions do exist. A number of software companies have released plug-ins and stand-alone applications that reduce the distracting effects of noise.
The Photoshop-compatible Kodak Digital AIR Professional plug-in, for example, is especially good for portraits that are marred by noise. Similar applications include Dfine by nik multimedia, Grain Surgery by Visual Infinity, Power Retouche Noise Filter and Noise Fixer by FixerLabs.
PictureCode Noise Ninja 2 is the latest of the noise removal programs. It takes one of the most sophisticated, wide-reaching approaches to the problem, by using detailed digital camera and scanner profiles. Despite the software's advanced mathematical algorithms, it's easy to use. Simply start the application, load an image, do a quick auto profile, and hit the Remove Noise button. This works well enough in most cases.