How to Fix Grainy Photos in Photoshop and Lightroom

December 16

20 min. to read

99% of camera users are non-professional photographers. So sometimes they can take low-quality pictures: too light or dark, with noise, red eyes, etc. Our tutorial will tell you how to make a grainy picture clear.

Imagine the situation: the superstars came to your city - your idols, you dreamed all your life to see them. And now the miracle happened - not only did you buy the last ticket, but you also managed to take a picture with the Legend. But unfortunately, the man you asked to take your picture has never picked up a camera.

And what did you get? The photo is noisy, fuzzy, and blurry. If you are in this situation or have a picture you would like to fix grain photos with, the information below is for you. More often than not, grain appears when photos are taken at night. So what are some ways to remove digital noise?

What is Grain in Photography?

So what are the grainy images and what program should you use to fix them? There is a similar term in digital photography - digital noise. It refers to the excessive redundancy of video interference in the final image. The effect appears as colored dots scattered chaotically all over the image.

There are two types of interference:

  • Color. In this case, pixels scattered around the image are colored in different colors. This type of noise is the easiest to remove - it is enough to discolor it, especially in a graphic editor in a couple of seconds.

  • Brightness. Brightness noise appears as scattered pixels of different brightness - they may be light, almost white, gray, or dark. If you fix a grainy photo, it will inevitably lose sharpness. This is because brightness noise is removed by blurring the photo. That is why it is considered more difficult or even impossible to take such interference away. Naturally, if you do not want to lose quality.

Sometimes it is easier to avoid the problem than also fix it later. If you know why noise occurs, you can take measures in advance and reduce the chance of its occurrence. Let's look at the most common causes.

What causes grainy photos?

Before we tell you how to make a picture less grainy, let's talk about why grainy appears.

  • The ISO value is too high. 

Noise occurs when there is not enough light. In this case, the photographer gets into a trap - he needs a brighter picture, but if he raises the ISO, the quality will drop. You should either accept this or buy a brighter lens. To help you fix this problem you should lower the ISO setting,

  • The condition of the camera matrix. 

The sensor may be physically damaged. For instance, it may have some broken pixels. These are called "broken" pixels that don't reproduce color or always shine one color - red, green, or blue.

  • Matrix pixel size. 

The bigger it is, the better. 

  • The camera and lenses are designed for amateurs.

As a rule, the more expensive the digital camera, the larger the pixel size and also the higher the ISO setting the camera allows. Where an amateur camera is unsteady at ISO 800, another can easily keep your ISO 1200-1600 without noise or loss of quality.

Professional lenses also make photos less grainy than their budget counterparts. This is when you overpay not for marketing but for better technology. Besides, only in more expensive models, you can find really fast lenses with f/2.8 or lower. The lower that number, the darker you can be shooting photos without blowing up the ISO.

  • Incorrect post-processing.

Noise can appear if you use a graphics editor:

  • too much exposure;

  • radically brighten the dark areas;

  • sharpen the image;

  • raising the saturation - this highlights color noises;

  • when editing white balance. For example, you want to remove cold blue from a photo and naturally add yellow to do so. In doing so, the yellow noise that was in the picture will intensify. 

But do not rush to upset, because you can also use the same graphic editor to eliminate them. But how to make pictures less grainy? We tell you in the next section.

How To Fix Grainy Photos Without Photo Editing

We'll look at the easiest and fastest ways to remove noise from a photo using graphics editors. But keep in mind two things: 

  • You cannot always remove grainy completely;

  • Be prepared that suppressing brightness noise will "kill" the sharpness of the picture.

Switch the camera exposure to manual mode and adjust settings that may produce interference.

  • It is okay to use exposure compensation in semi-auto mode, just remember to set the ISO to the minimum value.

  • Reduce the ISO.

  • Use short shutter speeds, or rather, avoid long exposures.

Use an extra light if you can. Even the cheapest external flash in a reportage will raise the quality of your shots and reduce noise.  When choosing a camera, give preference to one with a larger pixel sensor.

Take photos in a RAW format it will remove grains from the photo. It is much easier than works with jpeg photos In post-processing, it will be easier to "pull out" the picture without losing quality. Sometimes the grainy effect is added to a photo intentionally. Considering that the photo was taken with a 21mp sensor, it is quite appropriate to use this kind of monochrome graininess to emphasize the mood of the more artistic shots. As you can understand from this section, the correct camera settings allow you to get rid of graininess without Photoshop.

How to Fix Grainy Photos in Photoshop?

Now we will demonstrate it in several ways.

Method №1

The Dust and Scratch filter is the answer to questions about how to remove grain from the photo.

To apply this filter:

  • open the photo in Photoshop;

  • go to Filter - interference - Dust & Scratches menu;

  • play with the settings. Increase the radius parameter. The bigger the radius, the softer the picture becomes. It is important to find a compromise - remove the noise, but not turn a more or less clear image into a muddy one.

Method №2

There is another way how to take grain out of photos. You can reduce the interference filter.

To remove graininess from photos in Photoshop, there is a special filter Filter - Noise - Reduce Noise. The pop-up window presents two modes of the filter:

  • Basic - sets the parameters for removing interference from all channels equally.

  • Advanced - there is a possibility to set the parameters of noise removal in each channel individually. The Strength parameter adjusts the degree of brightness (tone) reduction in all channels.

Preserve Details allows you to preserve some details of the photo. But the higher the value of the parameter, the less noise is removed. The value of the parameter is determined experimentally, depending on the original image and the Strength parameter.

The Reduce Color Noise allows you to reduce the chromatic noise.

Sharpen Details allows you to sharpen and fix the grainy photo.

The Remove JPEG Artifact option masks the JPEG artifacts that occur during JPEG compression.

To apply this filter:

  • Open the photo in Photoshop;

  • Go to Filter - interference - Reduce Noise menu;

  • Play with the settings again. Drag the sliders back and forth and see what happens. As soon as you like the result, click OK.

Like the Dust and Scratch filter, this one softens the image but does it in a slightly different way. You can try applying both filters at once. The filter can be applied several times to enhance the effect.

Method №3

Now let's talk about another method how to make photos less grainy. Open the photo and duplicate the original layer. To do that, right-click and find the command Duplicate layer (hotkey Ctrl + J).

Stand on the duplicate layer by clicking on it. Go to the Filter / Filter - Camera RAW Filter / Camera Raw Filter menu (hotkeys Shift + Ctrl + A).

You will find yourself in the Adobe Camera Raw module. It is needed to develop images in RAW format but also allows you to work with files in JPEG format. Camera Raw has great built-in noise reduction, so there's no need to download or buy additional plug-ins.

Find the Detail tab and two groups of sliders in it: interference Reduction / ND and Color brightness Reduction / Color ND. The first group is responsible for brightness noise, which creates graininess, and the second group - is for color noise.

There are three sliders in both groups:

  • Noise Removal / ND and Color Removal / Color ND. Brightness is removed by blurring, and color interference is removed by discoloration and color blurring. This is the main slider to remove noise.

  • Detail / Detail. It tries to retain the sharpness that the previous slider removed. The higher the value of the slider, the more noise will return to the photo. In the Color Noise Removal / Color ND group, this slider protects color transitions. It is needed so that the discoloration will concern only noise and will not crawl on the model, clothes, or interior.

  • Contrast / Contrast. The higher the value, the greater the contrast of the image, which the first slider could remove. High values can show dirt on the picture - spots, and graininess. 

To remove grains from the photos, it is necessary to go to the Detail tab. In the column Noise Reduction, it is necessary to raise Luminance to the level when the noise begins to disappear and to lower it to the minimum Luminance Detail, with the subsequent rise for revealing of small details. Similarly with Color, Color Detail. The Luminance parameter adjusts the level of brightness suppression. The Luminance Detail parameter adjusts the noise suppression threshold. A lower value gives a cleaner result, but with noise, the details disappear too. The Luminance Contrast parameter adjusts the brightness contrast on the border between light and dark areas. Lower values give better results in interference reduction, but at the same time, lower contrast and a more blurred image. The Color parameter adjusts the level of chromatic noise suppression. Color Detail adjusts the chromatic noise suppression threshold.

Method №4

And the last way how to reduce grain in Photoshop. In addition to Adobe Photoshop, other programs and plug-ins (most often RAW converters) are used to suppress noise. They come in both paid and free versions.

Plugins for Photoshop: Adobe Camera RAW, Topaz DeNoise, Neat Image, Grain Surgery, Noise Ninja.

How to fix Grainy in Photos in Lightroom

There are a few ways how to fix grainy photos in Lightroom. Removing noise in Lightroom is very similar to the same algorithm in Photoshop. The fact is that Lightroom is a full analog of Adobe Camera Raw, but with a slightly modified interface.

  • Open the image and go to the Development / Develop tab.

  • In the settings panel on the right side, find the Detail tab.

  • On the Detail tab, locate the column Noise Reduction.

The Luminance slider is responsible for brightness noises, and the Color slider - for color noises. These are the basic tools for noise reduction. The Detail / Detail sliders, like in Photoshop, define the effect threshold, bringing back detail and - often - noise, too.

The Contrast / Contrast slider brings contrast back to the photo, and Smoothness / Smoothness for color noise sets the smoothness of the transition between colors and does not allow the tool to discolor objects other than noise. 

Method №2

Read below to know how to get rid of grain in photos. The first section of the Noise Reduction tool contains sliders related to Luminance: Luminance, Detail, and Contrast. They control the three aspects of luminance noise.

  • The Luminance slider focuses on the graininess of the noise. As you increase the effect, the grain will merge more and more. If you move the slider too far away, details such as hair and fabric texture will simply disappear.

  • The next Detail slider adjusts the effect threshold, which creates a change in Luminance. That is, it helps to restore some details that were lost after using the slider responsible for noise brightness (Luminance).

  • And finally, the Contrast slider affects the contrast of each individual "grain". It works similarly to the standard contrast tool, but on a smaller scale. The effect of its use is hard to catch, even at a value of 100.

Now let's talk about another way how to reduce grain in photos.

Method №3

Next is the section with sliders that control color noise suppression. These include Color, Detail, and Smoothness. They control the three aspects of color noise.

  • The Color slider affects the "color ripples" in grainy photos, bringing the pixels to color uniformity. But if you take the slider too far away, all the similar colors will blend and flatten out.

  • The Detail slider works similarly to the slider of the same name in the Luminance section and adjusts the threshold of the effect.  

  • The Smoothness slider determines how smooth the transition between the corrected colors will be. It is similar to the Contrast slider. Its effect is also subtle.

Method №4

It is the last way how to fix a grainy photo. Sometimes you need to apply noise reduction selectively, i.e. not to all parts of the image. Three tools in LightRoom allow you to do this: Radial Filter, Gradient Filter, and Adjustment Brush. Each of these tools has a slider that can be used to adjust noise only in the areas to which the tool was applied. Selective application of the Noise Reduction feature is especially useful in cases where a global change will result in a loss of image quality, or when you want to have more control over the application of the effect. For example, shadows tend to be noisier than highlights when brightness is increased. You can apply one of these tools to reduce noise specifically in the shadow areas of your photo.

How to Fix Grainy in Photos in Luminar Neo

Of course, Luminar Neo can also do all of this. As in the other programs, the Color and Contrast functions are related to the noise in the photo. It is up to the user to experiment with the settings to achieve the desired result. Luminar Neo has a Noise reduction tool where you can adjust Luminosity and Color separately. It would be best if you were careful because too much noise reduction can decrease the quality of the photo. 

Final Verdict

Now you know why there is graininess in photos and how to get rid of it with a photo editor without ever using it!