Noise is a serious problem that hinders high quality digital image processing. In digital photography, consumer- and prosumer-level cameras produce images with an easily noticeable noise component, resembling the grain in photographic film, which is especially strong in images taken at high ISO rates. Scanned photos contain a similar film grain component. The noise and grain reduce the visual quality of digital images and resulting printouts.

There are several different iterations of noise reduction software out there. Many are plugins for PhotoShop and similar image manipulation applications. Other are stand-alone. I’m sure everyone has their own favorite, but since I only report on stuff I’ve used extensively, I can’t speak to most of them. I can recommend one, though.

I’ve been using Neat Image pretty much every day for several months. It is a digital filter specifically designed to reduce visible noise in digital photographic images produced by digital cameras, as well as film and flatbed scanners. The current free demo version is easy to use, and produces excellent results. The paid version has a number of additional capabilities, but none that the casual user can’t do without. Example: it will only save at 90% resolution, which seems uncool until you realize that 90% in modern multi-megapixel cameras is so good you probably can’t tell the difference from full resolution anyway.

The older demo version will save at 100%, and you might be able to find it on the ‘net someplace if you can’t make do with the current one. Or, you could send the guy some bucks and go legit. The demo and “Home” edition ($29.95) won’t process queues or batches of more than 50 jobs, or work as plugins, but the more sophisticated versions plug in to most of the common PhotoShop-like programs.

It’s way too much to get into how digital filters or this program operate. Download a copy and play with it. It’s pretty intuitive, and there are decent tutorials on the site. If you make digital photos, you need this program or a similar one. Try it, and you’ll understand why.