Noise vs Grain: Detailed Comparison

Noise vs Grain
Noise vs Grain

Took a photo and discovered that it’s all deformed and grainy?? After you shoot the photo, a pattern forms on it destroying its clarity. Depending on the camera, patterns that emerge in the photo are noise or grain.

Wanted a detailed comparison between noise vs grain?

When photographing with a digital camera, the patterns on the photograph are called noise. When photographing with an analog camera, the patterns are called grain. The difference in Grain and Noise is seen in the various patterns in photos.

Still puzzled? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve covered both noise and grain and different related issues.

What is Noise?

Noise is a visual distortion that alters the way areas of a digital image. It degrades the sharpness of the image and gives it a grainy appearance. Noise typically affects the pixels in a digital photograph.

It’s critical that noise is seen on cameras at higher ISO settings. When shooting photographs, keep in mind that it is impossible to exclude noise. Noise however can be removed afterward during editing, as we’ll discuss later.

Wondering what is ISO in photography?

One of three elements used to adjust exposure is the ISO setting. It comes to the rescue when you can’t use a wide lens or change settings. This works by increasing the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The greater the ISO, the better the photographs captured in low light.

What is Grain?

Grain is the small circles in an analog camera image. Grain exists in a variety of sizes and appearances depending on varying factors. It happens due to chemical solutions that are in the celluloid film rolls. It is a style of photography that traditional photographers adore. However, digital folk or individuals using digital cameras despise it to some level.

You’ve got a digital camera but you want to add grain to your photos. So, how to add grain to photos?

Grain in celluloid film can be reproduced in digital images using a software. For instance, you may use Photoshop to edit photographs. Grain can be added by heading to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Then select the “fx” tool. You’ll notice a Grain section with several options.

Mythbusting Some Misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding Noise and Grain. It tends to confuse most people new to this. Therefore, we have busted some of the most common misconceptions.

Are Noise and Grain the Same?

There’s a common misconception that noise and grain are the same. Unfortunately, this is a view shared by experienced photographers and newbies alike. Grain is a natural texture that takes place when shooting photos with film.

 Noise occurs due to the existence of chemical solutions in film. The sensor’s sensitivity to light causes noise, which is a flaw. It describes the visual disruption of the photo. So, it’s not right to compare them. 

Is there an Optimum Level of Noise and Grain?

Depending on the photographer’s photos can have varying degrees of noise. Grain is affected by a variety of parameters, including shutter speed and exposure.

Noise

Noise level seeming great to Person A may appear excessive to Person B. Noise gives an image a rough look and feel. Some photographers prefer photographs with visible noise. Some people do not want any noise at all.

Grain

The underexposing film will increase the amount of visible grain on film stock. The overexposed film will also have greater grain in the highlights and mid-tones. Higher ISO of film stock leads to visible grain. Additionally, a slower speed film has a finer grain.

Although the terms “noise” and “grain” are used in the same sentence together. They refer to two distinct aspects of photography. They don’t have an optimal level in the traditional sense. Since the level of grain and noise is left to the photographer’s will. 

Are Noise and Grain Dependent on The Camera?

To some extent, the answer to the question is yes. As stated earlier, grain is caused by the chemical solution in the film when shooting images. However, noise is a distortion generated by the camera sensors.

 Grain is reliant on an analog camera that uses films to capture images. Noise, on the other hand, is determined by the digital camera. Grain can also alter based on the ISO of the camera. 

Although lenses don’t have a direct effect on noise, they can affect our perception of noise in a particular image. A less sharp lens may appear to result in noisier images than a sharper lens. So choose carefully when choosing lenses between 24mm vs 28 mm when taking wide-angle shots.

Quick Comparison: Between Noise and Grain

Noise is a digital issue, whereas Grain is a film issue. Grain is regarded as a feature and liked by those using it. Noise is an annoyance, and photographers aim to reduce it as much as possible. 

Film grain is a texture bringing visuals to life. Whereas, noise is a flaw in the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light.

Increasing Noise vs Increasing Grain

So you have a digital camera and shot a film. But, perhaps you’re aiming for the grainy look.  So, how to add grain to digital films in a post?

Celluloid film is still used by a small number of filmmakers in 2021. Most people only use digital cameras. However, filmmakers seek to add a touch of texture to reduce the sharpness. You can simply add grain to your digital films by using the noise and grain effect in Adobe Premiere Pro.

While Shooting 

When shooting a photo, consider multiple factors like lighting, camera settings. We’ve covered all of these for your benefit.

Grain

To increase grain in your photograph there are two methods. They include altering exposure and lowering ISO. Let’s look at them both in detail.

When altering exposure you can either Underexpose or Overexpose. They lead to higher grain but with different results. The underexposing film will increase the amount of visible grain on any film stock. On the other hand, Overexposing leads to more grain in the image’s highlights and mid-tones.  

To underexpose, set your camera’s ISO to a higher value than the film’s. This quickens the exposures, exposing your film to less light.

By adjusting your camera’s ISO to a lower value than your film’s. You are, in effect, overexposing your film. Overexposing black and white film is a rather uncommon procedure. However, it can be useful when shooting images or situations with great contrast to reduce the range of values.

When setting the ISO, keep it low to add grain to the photo. A faster film will have more apparent grain. However, a slower film will have a finer grain. This is a trial and error process that depends on the photographer’s wisdom.

Noise

If you want to increase grain there are two simple ways. They are altering exposure and ISO. 

When working with exposures you will discover that long exposures can introduce static. Static can be a source of digital noise. When your camera is in any non-automatic mode, you can use the exposure compensation button. You can do it while your top dial is on P, S (Nikon shutter priority), TV (Canon shutter priority), A or AV, and M modes.

When photographing in low light, a higher ISO is required. However, this is not the primary cause of increasing visual noise. Sensor size is significant when it comes to noise. If you use a camera with small size sensors. Then the noise levels may reach unacceptably high levels. You will also discover that when using cameras with smaller sensors in place of larger sensors leads to higher noise.

While Editing

When it comes to editing Noise and Grain can be added using Adobe Photoshop. This is a pretty simple task. Let us walk you through the steps.

Noise

The steps that will need to be followed to add noise has been given.

Step # 1 Create New Layer

Make a new layer, set the blend mode to Overlay. Then choose the Fill with Overlay neutral color option.

Step # 2 Add Noise

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and make sure Gaussian is selected. Check the Monochromatic checkbox. 

Grain

The steps that will need to be followed to add grain have been given.

  • 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.

Don’t skip any step or grain will not be added properly.

Reducing Noise vs Reducing Grain

Some digital cameras have noise reduction capabilities built-in. However, they cannot be entirely erased photographing. As a result, noise can be removed during the post-production process.

While Shooting 

When shooting a photograph, different factors have to be taken into account. 

Noise

Take images with full-frame sensor cameras to avoid noise. Shooting in raw will also help to reduce noise. Set the ISO to a low value and ensure the photographs are properly exposed. Use cameras that have a noise reduction feature built-in.

Grain

Because ISO is important in the exposure triangle, a high ISO helps to decrease grain. Keep in mind that the higher your ISO setting, the grainier your photographs will be. As a result, keep the ISO number low.

While Editing 

Although noise and grain are minimized to some amount when shooting photos. They can be eliminated in post-production. The process for reducing Noise and Grain in post-production is the same. So, there is no differentiation.

Step # 1 Adjust the Luminance slider

To lessen luminance noise, utilize the Luminance slider. Adjust the Luminance slider until the noise is gone.

Step # 2 Fine-tune with Luminance Detail and Contrast sliders

The Luminance Detail and Contrast sliders adjust detail and contrast in images. You can keep detail and contrast by using these sliders.

Noise vs Grain and Printing

Noise to a certain level should be considered acceptable. A little bit of noise is not always bad. It’s likely that when printing large photo prints there’ll be higher levels of noise. But usually, when printing at large scales, you’ll face bigger problems. 

 If you’re using a full-frame DSLR, excellent lenses, and taking care in the shooting. Then taking an effort in post-processing it’s possible to make great prints at 24″ x 36″ sizes. Larger prints are possible but to a certain extent, quality will lessen. 

When printing photos grain doesn’t have an impact. It occurs when shooting photos with film or during post-production. 

 If you re-develop prints after bleaching them with re-halogenating bleach. It may end up changing the halogen from silver chloride to silver bromide. This will also change the grain and image color.

FAQ

Read through the article. However, still have a little bit of confusion regarding the topic? We’ve answered some of the most common inquiries on noise and grain.

Is there a distinction to be made between noise and grain?

The patterns in the noise are the most noticeable difference. Film grain is created by the presence of silver granules in the film. These don’t follow a constant pattern. ISO noise is generated in the digital sensor and is pixel-based, resulting in a pattern.

Why is film grain used in movies?

Film grain has a certain amount of grit to it. When used, this type of noise gives a video a more genuine sense. It helps to draw the audience into the reality being portrayed in the video.

Why is there noise in photographs?

Image noise is a random variety of brightness in photos that is a component of electrical noise. It can be generated by a scanner’s sensor or digital camera’s image sensor and circuitry. 

What causes an image to have more grain or noise?

Because noise hides in the shadows, increasing the exposure makes the noise obvious. An image shot at a lower ISO will exhibit grain, but a photograph taken at a higher ISO would not.

Bottom Line

Noise vs Grain is a part that’s not known by people outside the community. Their little differences are probably missed by most. We’ve tried to present the topic in a simple manner. 

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