Saturday, June 30, 2012

P41: grain

Grain in film is frequently referred to with the same reverence as it is in antique furniture, a property that conveys character and a sense of age.  It is the latter element that steers me away from its use in my work, working digitally I want to embrace the capabilities of my medium and not emulate an older technology.  Whilst grain is an accepted and much loved part of photography, I am sure many photographers of 50 years ago would have sold their soul for a film that could handle ISO1600 without graining, something that is rapidly becoming a standard for the very latest digital sensors.

I am happy to admit that the texture of an original print looked at close in a gallery is wonderful, but then again I also appreciate the superbly clean images that others produce.  My whole approach to photography is to reduce noise which is essentially what grain is, even if of chemical origin, it is essentially the limit of resolution of a particular technology.

Working this assignment I have taken a series of images from ISO200-6400 on my Fujifilm X100 a good low light camera.  I took the photos on a local road in fairly rainy dull conditions, ideal for looking at noise in an image:

Complete image at ISO 200

100% crop at ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

The images have been imported into Lightroom and converted to B&W, but with no other processing.  Up to ISO 800 there is little change in the texture of the image, at 1600 and 3200 I still have an image that could be rescued digitally and used up to around A4.  At 1600 the noise is very visible, but also not necessarily unpleasant.  I have then taken the ISO 200 original and introduced grain into the image using Lightroom:

100% crop of digital grain

The artificially induced grain has a more pleasant look than the very specally ISO 6400 shot and so if I wanted this look I would not shoot at ISO6400 to get the effect.  But I do ask why would I want to anyway.

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