Making Noise and Grain Work for You

Grain is the Brush Stroke of Photography.—Constantine Manos

Like most photographers I love to  to tinker with my images. If there’s too much grain in a photograph, I’ll use all kinds of digital methods to eliminate it. If there’s no grain in our digital images, I’ll want to add some.

Note: In the small JPEG files you see here, the grain may be too subtle to appreciate. The best way is to see how the grain really looks is try some of these techniques yourself and apply as much or as little grain as you like.

If you already have Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you can use it’s built-in Grain filter. That method may be too easy for some photographers, who prefer to find more difficult ways to create effects. If that’s you, here’s a trick I sometimes use: Use Photoshop’s or Elements’ Diffuse Glow filter. (below) This method produces a more subtle grain effect and doesn’t produce the mutilated pixels that the Grain filter does.

When working in the digital darkroom, I have a “20-minute rule.” If you can’t achieve the effect you want in twenty minutes, you probably never will. So if you’re in a hurry, you gotta use power tools.

Imagenomic’s Realgrain plug-in has several  methods for simulating grain patterns, integrating color and tonal response of different films and different scan resolutions to convey a truly film-like effect. It also lets  you automatically adjust  grain size based on the file’s physical image dimensions, which allows it to accurately render  grain patterns for varying image sizes.

Author: Joe Farace

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