Making Noise and Grain Work for You

by | Nov 21, 2018

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

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. Tip: Dfine is my favorite noise removal tool.

But if there’s no grain in a digital image, maybe I’ll want to add some.

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: Try using 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 often does.


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.


When working in the digital darkroom, I have a “20-minute rule.” If I can’t achieve the effect  I want within twenty minutes, I’ll 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 dimensions that allows it to accurately render grain patterns for varying image sizes.

Along with photographer Barry Staver, I’m co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s available from Amazon for $21.88 prices with used copies selling at giveaway prices—less than four bucks, as I write this, which is cheaper than your morning Starbucks coffee.