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Grain, hate it or embrace it!


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This is a discussion I've had with some of my staff photographers. I always find it fun to hear the arguments of such divisive topic.

The question that I've asked them was: Would you capture a soft image to avoid grain, of embrace the grain and get a sharp image? The question was around indoor sports and performance arts, but let's include all genres here. It was interesting to hear what new photographers point of view, but was shocked with a couple of senior photographers opinions.

Personally, I used to hate grain and it was my immortal nemesis. But few years ago, my point of view changed. Not only did I embrace the grain for the sharp images, but I see how beautiful grain can be and how it is part of the story in some places.

Where do you stand on grain? And let's leave the de-noising tools for another discussion.

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Bottom line: if the image is soft - especially in sports - it is not worth keeping... Get it sharp and deal with the grain in post.

The number of times I had to say exactly that to some of the staff photographers. Personally I don't mind leaving it as is when it looks really nice. But I've seen some that fight it like the plague. Either slow shutter speed for the softest image, or 100% denoise in post rendering a weird image.

But what I've found funny are the people on the other side of the coin. Perfectly lit subjects and sharp at 100 ISO, then they add a great amount of grain in post. I understand it is a style and aesthetic, but when I tell my staff about them they react the same as spraying Dracula with holy water.

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Maybe because I started with film, I would go for sharp with grain/noise everytime

When we shot film we didn't see the photos digitally, it was the final product that we saw and admired. Not to mention that was analog grain and felt as part of the image.

I believe using the word "noise" is what giving grain a bad reputation with newer photographers. Digital noise is undesirable in all electronics applications, and since photography became digital it is seen by many as a bad property. And electronic monitors gives the opportunity to pixel peep and forget about the big picture (pun intended). I understand the desire for clean images, but it is my pet-peeve when a photographer believes a soft clean image is more desirable than a sharp and grainy one. Worst when they are one of my photographers, but they're students and I have to help them learn.

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