In the same forum (Fine Art Photographers) someone said they liked Noise as it gave them that grainy look of film. My reply.
On the grainy look….
OK lets get this clear, digital noise is NOT grain. It
doesn’t even approximate grain.
In traditional B&W film grain is caused by the size of
the silver crystals in the film itself. It is what creates the image in the
form of black on the negative. These almost invisibly small crystals take on
the look of grain when enlarged. This ‘grain’ is prized by many photographers
even to this day and it still plays a large role in the Fine Art photography
world of collectors.
B&W grain is uniform based on the film type. Different
films had different grains, some finer, some larger but generally always
uniform throughout the entire picture in the whites, mid tones and blacks (but
not in the blown out areas).
Photographers usually likes a specific film for the grain
(or lack thereof) and often shot all their work (or sometime specific projects)
with a specific film. The reason for this is because of consistency. They could
get very consistent repetitive results if they used the same film and the same
processes. This is important when creating a project or body of work.
Digital noise on the other hand varies greatly from picture
to picture based on not just the ISO setting used but on the scene itself, the amount
of light and dark areas, whether the scene is back lit or not and even on if
the exposure is perfect or not. Add to the fact the longer exposures change the
whole equation as does temperature. The hotter it is you usually end up with
Another issue with noise is that it varies not just from
picture to picture but within a picture itself. Each area light/dark will have
differing amounts of noise. And this noise is not shaped and randomized like
‘silver crystals’ but takes on blotchy areas and worse (or better if that’s
what you want) takes on colours.
It is this lack of consistency that can make your image not
work well together as a unified body of work. Typically fine art photographers
work hard at capturing the perfect images they require with the least amount of
noise possible. Then, they will remove any noise present and finally they will
add grain either in programs like Photoshop or they will use a program or
plugin like NIK Silver Efex Pro. Using this process, you can have complete
control (and repeatable control) over the look, feel and size of the grain and
you can make it consistent within all your images.
On the other hand if you like the look of ‘noise’
then by all means go for it! It has its own unique qualities that may work with
your images. Just remember that’s it not grain.
© 2014 Francois
Version 1.00 - February