Step 2: Run Grain Surgery Plug-in

■ Choose Filter ^ Grain Surgery ^ Remove Grain to get the dialog box shown in Figure 37.3. If the preview windows does not show at 100%, then click the + button just below and to the left of the preview image until the image is shown at 100%. Click in the image and drag it up toward the left until you can see the grain to the left of the owl and yet still be able to see the highlights in the owl's left eye and the fine feathers on its ears. This view makes it easier to view the tradeoff between noise reduction and image sharpness.

■ Click once in the preview image to see the difference between the before image and the image created by the current settings. Amazingly, you find a good balance between lessened grain and retained image sharpness at the initial settings.

One of the attributes that I like most about this grain-reduction filter is that it offers many different parameters which allow complete control; yet, the default is totally automatic and rarely do adjustments to the default settings result in better grain-reduction. Mostly, changes are made to suit individual tastes.

■ An increase in Noise Reduction reduces image sharpness — so a 100% setting is just right. Changes in Degraining Passes, Noise Model, and Degraining Mode all result in poorer results, so leave them set to 3, Multiplicative, and Single Channel respectively.

To the left of the preview box are buttons to take snapshots and to create a split-screen view in the preview box; both of these features are to make it easier for you to compare different settings. There are also R, G, B, and I buttons that allow you to look an individual color channels. Finally, as successful sharpening of an image with digital noise is so dependent on the grain (or lack of grain), Grain Surgery lets you apply Unsharp Mask settings while viewing the effects in the preview image.

■ Try setting Amount to 175%, Radius to 1.0, and Threshold to 3. These settings favor adding some sharpness to the image over nearly complete removal of the noise.

Click OK to apply the grain removal settings while sharpening the image at the same time with Unsharp Mask.Your image should now look similar to the one shown in Figure 37.4.

Now compare the results of using the Grain Surgery plug-in with the results from Technique 11. The image produced using Grain Surgery should look sharper, without sharpened noise on the owl. While the background may look smoother in the image

created in Technique 11, it is overly smooth relative to the part of the image showing the owl. Minimizing noise in an image is important and I find that there is no substitute Photoshop 7 process or filter that minimizes grain as well as these two specialty plug-ins.

Figure 37.5 shows the Quantum Mechanic Pro dialog box. Once again, I highly recommend that you download trial versions of these and other noise-reduction plug-ins to see how they work on your images. It is my opinion that digital camera vendors will build noise-reduction features into their cameras. Canon's EOS 1D is an excellent example of this trend. While it does not completely remove digital noise, it does a very good job of making it less noticeable even when shooting at the 1600 or 3200 ISO settings. In the meantime, these tools will give you the results that you want.

Noise-reduction plug-ins can require some experimentation to get the best results and so they can be quite time-consuming. However, once you find a range of good settings for certain types of images, the process of removing noise can be a short and simple task. If you want your images to look good, my recommendation is to get one of these two plug-ins — you'll never get the results you can get with these plug-ins by using the standard Photoshop 7 tools — period.

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