Day 319- Grain and Me

There are so many aspects of photography that I still don’t understand.  One of them is the whole area of noise and grain.  About half the time, I remember to use the noise reduction feature of Lightroom to reduce the noise in photos I have shot at a high ISO- but I often forget.  And then there is the whole sharpening issue- I don’t totally get all of that either.

Today’s topic in my daily challenge group is grain.  The photos posted so far have been wood grain or grain as in wheat, but I decided to interpret it as grain as referred to in photography.  I’ve always been a bit very confused about the difference between noise and grain- especially because I’ve heard them referred to interchangeably.  Noise always seems to be a BAD thing; we use noise reduction to get rid of it!  But grain is sometimes added to photos to simulate the look of old film photos or movies.  There is actually a slider in Lightroom to ADD grain.  I googled noise and grain today to find out once and for all what the difference is.  As I understand it, noise happens in digital photos that are taken at a high ISO (knew that. . .), is regular in shape and size (1 pixel) and can include color noise (horrible!).  Grain is irregular- no color (I think it’s actually silver) and more pleasing to the eye.  That’s as much as I care to know.

I haven’t done a selfie in awhile, so decided to do a grainy self-portrait.  This isn’t a very scientific demonstration, because I took the photo early this morning in low light with a high ISO (1000)- so there is digital noise already in the photo- especially because it was underexposed.

Here I am with no grain added and some noise reduction applied (there is still some digital noise present, alas- in the shadows especially).  And, for my friends who know that I ALWAYS re-touch photos (skin-smoothing etc.), I DID NOT do any of that in these photos in order to not mess up the scientific results! 🙂

And here I am with LOTS of added grain. At first I added grain by adjusting the Lightroom grain slider- eventually to maximum.  But to really show OBVIOUS grain, I ended up using a preset.  I’m not sure WHAT it did, but yes, it is really grainy.  Not sure this is pleasing to the eye, but I’m considering that it could potentially hide wrinkles!

UPDATE:  I just looked carefully at the sliders in Lightroom to see what the preset actually did to make the photo so grainy.  It not only pushed the amount of graininess way up, but also increased the size and roughness of the grain (I had ignored that part).

Actual settings for grain:

amount: 79, size: 47, roughness: 100

Just in case you want to try this at home!

2 responses

  1. joan

    I like the ungrainy Melinda !

    November 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

  2. What a great “selfie!” This is a really good photo of you. I like the light on your shoulder and on the left side of your face. The graininess looks like an old fashioned photo. i think it was a valid experiment. I really like this likeness of you. I think you should crop it and eliminate the furry thing in the front which I think would be a bit distracting for a portrait but I think the expression and angle of your eyes is very appealing.

    November 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

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