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How to quickly clean up grainy photos

Not every picture can be perfect, but you can clean up the ones that aren't.

There are times when your feature phone is the only camera you have on hand for a picture opportunity. While you might be grateful that you snapped the shot, you probably won't be thrilled with the quality. The same goes for older digital pictures stored on your computer--happy to have them, but not necessarily happy with them. Here's how to clear up a bit of the grainy noise in your photos, old and new:

Step 1: Download Neat Image--you can find the Windows and Mac versions, and plug-in for Adobe Photoshop on CNET, and other versions on NeatImage's Web site. This tutorial is going to work with the Windows 7 demo version.

Step 2: Open the application and then click the Open input image button.

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

Step 3: Locate the image you want to clean up on your computer.

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

Step 4: Go to the Device Noise Profile tab, and click on the Auto Profile button.

Screenshot, photo by Nicole Cozma

Step 5: A small blue box will appear somewhere on the photo. This is the application taking a sample of the kind of noise found in your photo. If the area is very small, Neat Image will alert you of this, but you can continue even with a small sample.

Screenshot, photo by Nicole Cozma

Step 6: Go to the Output Image tab. This is what your finished photo looks like.

Step 7: Save your filtered image by clicking on the Save output image button, and then typing in a name for the image.

Screenshot, photo by Nicole Cozma

Screenshot, photos by Nicole Cozma

The full version of this app, and also the plug-ins, will allow you to adjust many other settings. However, if you're just looking for a quick fix to spruce up some of your photos, the demo version for desktop does the trick.