How to fix grainy noisy negative scans

Grainy Negative Scans: How To Fix Noise And Grain From A Negative Scan

Learn how to use your scan software, GIMP, and Photoshop to fix grainy negatives scans...

If you use the tips you're about to learn, you will get smoother looking negative scans, without grain.

And you're going to learn something about "noise". If you remove too much grain (noise), you'll also take away a lot of picture detail.

1. Why Negative Grain Is VERY Important

Do this right now... take out an old negative strip, and take a closer look.

negative film scan iso grain

You'll notice an "ISO" number. Maybe your ISO number is 200, 800, 1200?

The higher the ISO number, the grainier your negative scan will be. But hold on! This grain is important because its what gives you detail, sharpness, and depth. That's why negative film with a higher ISO number was more expensive.

negative film scan noise grain

Here's an example of a photo taken with ISO 200 film vs. one taken with ISO 1200. Higher ISO film means that it can take in MORE light. And more light coming in through your camera and onto the film means you'll get a sharper, more well defined picture.

But here's the problem -- scanning is different than printing. This noise is needed when printing. But when scanning, it means your digital images will also be grainy.

So how do you get rid of grain from a negative scan? And how do you get rid of it WITHOUT messing up any detail?

I'll show you...

2. Fix Negative Grain Using Your Scanner Software

You can use your scanner's software to remove negative grain. When you fire up your scanner, look for something like, "Grain Reduction". And some scanner's will give an option of how much grain you'd like removed.

Here's an example from my Epson and Nikon scanner's software settings...

negative film scan digital ice scan software grain

Your scanner's software will have an option to remove Grain. My Epson V500 calls it Grain Reduction, and my Nikon Coolscan calls it Digital GEM.

Big problem, though. Your scanner is great at scanning. But it's not so great at editing digital images. And since every negative is different, you can't apply the same Grain Reduction setting to ALL your scans. Every scan is different.

This is why I strongly recommend that you don't use your scanner to fix your negative scans. Instead, use software designed to fix digital images. You'll have more control of how you fix your negative scans. And if you have the time, and you're serious about fixing negative grain, then keep reading...

3. Use GIMP To Remove Negative Grain Without Removing Detail

GIMP is a FREE image editing application. You can download it here: http://www.gimp.org/

 
 

Open your negative scan, and find the NL Filter. Here's how...

negative film scan grain gimp

Filters > Enhance > NL Filter

Here's how to use the NL Filter:

negative film scan grain gimp

Increase the Alpha and Radius. In my case I've increased it close to 1.00. But your negative scan may be different. So increase those two values and use the Preview to check back and forth. What you don't is your image too look too smooth, or like a painting.

Here's the before and after (100x zoom):

negative film scan grain gimp  

4. How To Use Photoshop To Remove Negative Grain Without Removing Detail

You can get a 30 day trial of Photoshop, here: Adobe.com

Open your negative scan in Photoshop, and use Noise Reduce. Here's how...

Fix negative scan grain using Photoshop

Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise

Here's how to use Reduce Noise...

Fix negative scan grain using Photoshop

Drop all the values -- except for Reduce Color Noise. What this will do is remove all the little red, blue, green dots you don't need.

Now, lets smooth out the pixels by using Dust & Scratches. Here's how...

Fix negative scan grain using Photoshop

Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches

Here's how to use Dust & Scratches...

Fix negative scan grain using Photoshop

Keep the Radius down pretty low, and adjust the Threshold. Don't increase the Radius too far because then your pixels will be too smooth, and your image will look like a painting.

Here's the before and after...

Fix negative scan grain using Photoshop  

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Which of these saning troubles do you want to overcome?

  • What's the best resolution / DPI to scan your slides, negatives, and photos -- so you don't lose details
  • Best method to digitize slides, negatives, photos using your regular flatbed or film scanner
  • How to clean your negatives, slides, and photos before you scan them -- so you don't scratch them
  • What side should you scan a slide or negative -- so they're not backwards or facing the wrong way
  • How to setup your scanner to get higher quality digital images -- 24bit JPEG? 48bit TIFF?
  • How to fix your digital images using Digital ICE, GIMP, or Photoshop and make them look new
  • How to improve your scan workflow so you can double your productivity and finish your project twice as fast
  • Understand the technical stuff of a digital image so you can make sideshow videos, reprints, and more!

Hey, my name is Konrad. I've been scanning professionally since 2005. I've helped multi-billion dollar companies, pro sports teams, pro photographers, artists, museums, book publishers, etc. I've scanned over 930,000 slides, negatives, photos.

The reason I'm telling you this is because no matter what challenge or frustration you're having, I know exactly what you're going through. So, to help you RIGHT NOW, I've put together a super simple scanning guide to get you started.

It's free (for now). So, fill out the form you see on the right:

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