On the weekend I attended a wedding and took my camera along. I was not the official photographer -- just a guest.
My camera is a Canon 5D Mark III, and I was using an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. At the evening reception, which was a dark room with disco lights etc, I was going round taking lots of photographs of all the party people and in order that I didn't have to worry about my camera settings, I shot in Aperture Priority mode, with auto-ISO, and f/number of mostly around f/2 - f/4. I used AI Servo mode so that it would track people dancing etc. Of course, I also shot in RAW. It is a testament to the 5D Mark III that it was able to find focus in such challenging conditions!!
However in my stupidity, I didn't change the maximum auto-ISO setting, and most of the shots were taken at a whopping ISO 25,600 -- the camera seeming to prefer to increase the ISO rather than slow the shutter speed to get an exposure. The shutter speed in most shots is probably faster than it really needed to be - around 1/125-1/250th... For a 50mm lens I probably only really needed 1/80th-1/125th to freeze the action?
This has resulted in some incredibly noisy and grainy shots, lacking in the detail I'm used to. Note that I don't think it's a focus issue - the focus is fine, and the shots aren't blurry either. Just noisy.
I imported all the photos into Lightroom 4, and have been playing with the Noise Reduction and Sharpening sliders, but in order to really get the noise levels to a normal or acceptable level, I've had to push that NR slider all the way up to 80 (choke!!). Normally I'd only apply at most about 40, even in a low-light photo! This much NR has meant that the detail in peoples faces is overly softened, and skin tones are looking almost plasticky.
So my question is, what would you say is the best way to "recover" these photos and balance noise reduction against sharpening, or to reduce the noise in another way? I do also have Photoshop Elements 11 at my disposal, though I'm not the best with it. However, if there is another way in which I could use that to achieve the same thing, I'd also appreciate some pointers.