How to Improve a Grainy Face
In working with my 30+ year old images of Guatemala and the Yucatán, I ran into a lot of grain problems. I think some of the negatives and slides deteriorated because I had printed many of these in the darkroom after my trips.
I decided to see if noise removal programs would work to remove grain since some of the problems looked similar even though their origin is very different. I tested about twenty noise removal programs and found that I liked Imogenic's Noiseware the best. I bought the Professional Plugin version for $69.95. It has been an excellent investment. On my website is another article on grain reduction. The other program I used for this particular work is Alien Skin's Exposure 2 It retails for $249. I have a review of it on my website, also. I used it to add grain to the images; Yes, I added grain.
Below is the original 100% blowup of the face. Notice the "blotchiness". This face wasn't as grainy as some were. This technique will work on most levels of grain and with images that are "blotchy".
Step 1 - I made a duplicate copy of the layer with the person on it. I, then, made another layer to use for the Noiseware variation. In Noiseware, itself, I have made a number of presets for various degrees of noise and various types of formats - slides, black and white film, etc.
Step 2 - I applied Noiseware using one of my custom presets. Notice how smooth it is. It didn't lose too much contrast, but it is too smooth for my taste.
Step 3 - Using the Noiseware layer as my base, I added noise from Alien Skin's Exposure 2. I added just a little noise.
Step 4 - I adjusted the opacity of these two layers.
Below is the composite at 100%. Notice how it is less blotchy than the original, but still has definition and "character."
Here is a part of the total image at print size.
I did screen captures of some basic settings that I have found work, but each image will differ. I don't recommend just using these. Use them as a starting point, perhaps.