embrace the grain

by Emma Wood

embrace the grain photo

It seems as though we spend so much time, effort and money to find the highest definition cameras and the sharpest lenses. We aim for low, or no digital noise (aka electronic noise – usually caused by signal amplification at high ISOs within the camera processing magic). We get the highest resolution of camera we can find and the lowest f-stop capable lenses, so we can shoot at lower ISOs. You may shoot in raw rather than in JPEG to help reduce digital noise too.

We try to produce the best quality images and prints we can. So why would we want to then go and add grain back into our images?

embrace the grain photo

Well, first-off, you don’t have to do this at all. Timeless images do not have to have any grain and some people prefer the smooth buttery look in their images.  Adding grain comes down to personal choice, there are no rights or wrongs, it’s entirely your own individual preferences.

However, with the evolution of digital photography comes a steady increase in resolution and a cleanness that wet-paper images just didn’t have years ago. Real-world images can have lots of noise introduced during processing: film grain, scanner lines, CCD noise, paper texture, and just about anything else you can imagine that is involved between the manufacturing of the camera-film and the hanging of the print in the darkroom.

Computer generated images, on the other hand, can appear almost too perfect. In order to create a similar feeling, and similar mood, to wet-paper prints, when using digital technology there are processing techniques that can be applied.

There are various different ways of adding grain to your images. In Photoshop I find the most effective is by using the texture grain filter.  The filter gives you multiple choices for using different kinds of grain and it’s nice and simple.

Before:
embrace the grain photo

To access it select ‘filter’ on the selection panel at the top of the screen:

Filter> Filter gallery > Texture > Grain

Next, click on the grain type dropdown menu to see the options.

There are a few, but I tend to stick with ‘regular’ if I’m using this method to add grain to my images.

The intensity option controls the strength of the effect and the size of the grain; the lower the number, the more subtle the effect will be.

The ‘contrast’ option allows you to adjust the tonal range of your image, on a scale of 0 – 100.

If you don’t want to change the contrast in your grain effect, just leave the slider at 50.

I don’t usually use the contrast slider but if I do, I don’t change it by more than about minus 10 to plus 5 (40 – 55).

After:
embrace the grain photo

And a side by side comparison:
embrace the grain photo

embrace the grain photoEmma Wood, United Kingdom
CM Mentor | CMU Instructor
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Emma currently resides in the United Kingdom with her RAAF pilot husband and their 7 crazy kids.  She loves any chance she gets to spend some one on one time with her children, watching a movie with her husband, or getting out and about and exploring new places.  Emma starts her day with a Latte and can’t live without her earl grey tea, camera, iPhone, iMac, her hair straightener, and miso soup.  Despite just recently, within the past few years, discovering photography as a means to document her children’s lives, she has always had a love for photography, “particularly black and white which stems from my love of black and white films when I was a child.”  Her passion is black and white photography, often described as moody and earthy, and bringing out beauty from the most simple concepts.  Emma arms herself with a Nikon D700, a variety of prime lenses, and a Lensbaby and is the instructor of the CMU workshop Shooting 201: Timeless Photography and Emotive Expression.

Read all photography tutorials by Emma Wood.

embrace the grain photo

 

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4 Responses to “embrace the grain”

  1. Oct 15 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I’m with you, a love an image with a nice bit of grain, giving it a kind of film appearance – especially with a lovely black & white photograph. :)

  2. Oct 15 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    I love adding grain to my images, although have yet to try it in PS. I’m looking forward to using your examples. Beautiful images as always, Emma. Thank you for this article. <3

  3. Ruthie
    Oct 18 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    emma, you are extremely talented in every which way.

  4. Oct 21 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Beautiful!

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