AddingGrain

This is an excerpt from our new book on Developing Images in Lightroom (currently free).

Grain is a word used in film photography to describe the fineness of detail a film or paper is capable of capturing. Landscape photographers typically want the finest detail possible, which comes from fine grained films. Documentary photographers and journalists may need faster speeds (higher ISO’s) and will compromise detail for speedier films that have more grain. In digital, noise is the compromise we make for shooting faster ISO’s, and the latest camera’s biggest improvement is usually related to the detail maintained even at very high speed ISO’s.

So, if detail is the desired result, why would we want to add grain and reduce detail in an image? There are three reasons I might add grain.

To Cover Up Imperfections

First, If I’ve fouled up I might use grain to fix it. I liked this photograph of Jane and Cody in the desert, but the sharpest focus is actually on a rock behind the couple, leaving them just a little soft. This kind of thing drives me nuts! I’m a snob about where sharpness falls in a picture.

Grain_Fig1a

So I used the Grain adjustments to remove just enough detail that the difference in sharpness is unnoticed. Slide the Amount to the right and adjust the Size and Roughness. I think you’ll find that more Roughness is better than less; when Roughness approaches 0 it begins to look distinctly digital and distracting. Having altered Size and Roughness, go back up to Amount and see if you can get away with less.

Grain_Fig2aHere’s another image where focus was way off, but the expression made the image worthwhile, so adding grain made the thing more artsy.

The sharp focus is no longer distractingly inaccurate, and there’s the added bonus of a vintage look, which is the next reason to add grain.

 

Grain is Cool

Let’s face it, shooting film is hip. In fact, Kodak had a booth all about film at WPPI this year, and that’s the first time I’ve seen them there. I live in Portland where hipsters abound, and old cameras are selling for more than new.

 

Grain_Fig3a

One of the big allures of film is the classic look of the grain. Simply adding a bit of grain to an image helps remove the focus on technical perfection and emphasizes the composition and color and tones. Add grain, then sculpt it to perfection. Come back an hour later and look at the image again with fresh eyes to see if it’s too much. If you’re like me, you’ll do too much at first, and but with time you’ll refine a style to your grain use.

Reduce Noise Reduction

The third reason I add grain to an image is to ease Noise Reduction. Noise Reduction is a great boon, but it may leave my photograph looking something from Barbie Doll world, with skin that’s just too smooth and everything looking like molded plastic.

Grain_Fig4dAdding a little grain back in makes the image more believable. In this case, I’d be very gentle. This portrait was shot at ISO 25,600 on my old D700. It’s got all kinds of grid-like noise and color noise from the high ISO. Here you can see the original, the noise reduced version, and the grain added version.


This Post Sponsored by:

LensRentals.com Be a kid in a camera store. Rent lenses, cameras, lighting and more from the original and best online photographic and video equipment rental company.  Use PHOTOFOCUS15 in the checkout special instructions to receive 15% off your next rental.

Photoshop World, the ultimate Photoshop, Photography & Lighting Conference. Las Vegas, NV, September 3-5.  Use the promo code PSWFOCUS414 to discount $50 OFF a full conference pass. Learn more in three days than you have in three years! 

Mosaic A complete solution for photographers using Lightroom who want to access, manage and share their photos on the go. You can easily view images with their iOS app or in your personal Google Drive account, and you can even star/flag images in the app and sync the changes back to Lightroom on your computer. Be sure to also check out the Lightroom Learning Center to learn new ways to work in Lightroom.

lynda.com Learn photography anytime, anywhere, and at your own pace—from bite-sized tutorials to comprehensive courses. Try lynda.com free for 10 days by visiting lynda.com/ Photofocus.

ViewBug  Stick With ViewBug & Photofocus throughout 2014 – because we’re announcing the biggest contest in Photofocus history — coming soon!

The HDR Learning Center Check out new ways to use High Dynamic Range photography to make compelling images. Free tutorials and posts to get results. Produced in partnership with HDRsoft.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    Reply

Let us know your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Levi Sim

Photography is my life, and I'd like my photography to be part of your life, too. Whether I make pictures with you or help you learn to make your vision pop out of the camera, I'm happy to help.

Category

Adobe, Software, Technique & Tutorials

Tags