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Thread: reducing grain in poor light

  1. #1

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    reducing grain in poor light

    Hi all, took a series of images of smoke leaving an incense stick underlit with a desk lamp.
    I like the effect but its wild grainy. increasing shutter speed would blur image increasing ISO would increase grain and image is at max aperture.
    increasing the ambient light would change the atmosphere of the shot.
    any tips or am I just pushing the limits too far?
    post process could I try stacking this image on itself or would that increase grain?

    1/30s f5.6 ISO 1600

    reducing grain in poor light

    Thanks for any advice
    Kenny

  2. #2

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    I would apply noise reduction software to everything except the smoke. I quickly tried it and everything worked fine.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Did you use a Nikon D3100 with Nikkor 18 to 55F/3.5~5.6 “kit” zoom lens and have the lens zoomed at FL = 55mm?

    If so, then you could reshoot and use the lens at around FL = 22mm and just move closer to make the same framing of the shot. You’ll move to a slightly shallower DoF - but that shouldn’t matter and there’s no need to worry about Foreshortening, for that Subject.

    Shooting with that kit lens at FL = 22mm, will allow a maximum aperture of F/3.5, which will in turn allow an ISO 640, at the same Shutter Speed 1/30s.

    Using ISO640 you should have LESS noticeable noise – AND / OR – you have the option of pushing the exposure more to the right (by increasing the ISO and still using F/3.5) or a combination of both.

    Either way you should be better-off, even before you apply any de-noising programme in PP.

    WW

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    If you apply the curves tool to make the background closer to black, it'll make the grain almost totally disappear.

  5. #5

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    HI all
    thanks for the assistance. I have applied some noise reduction using Gimp's gaussian blur. this has yielded a nice near black background and eliminated the speckle effect. Thanks Mike. Blake I'll have a go with your idea it sounds good.
    William Yes that's the kit I used. Unfortunately I went to work Tuesday night and came home with a suspected broken wrist :-( so in the interests of not having my camera join it i'll have to take a rest for a bit but I will be playing with the idea again because i am really pleased with the type of image it produces, its quite artistic and could be developed further. I also added an opaque orange blur to the smoke to slightly enhance the colour / contrast . Here is the result, I will have a bit of time now to learn more P.P. techniques so I'll see what else I can do.

    reducing grain in poor light

    Thanks to everyone who shared their knowledge.

    Kenny

  6. #6

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    So sorry to learn about your wrist, Kenny!

    What is an opaque blur? I like the result of using it but don't understand what actually happened when you used it.

    At least at this small size, I don't see any difference in the two backgrounds.

    Just in case you're not aware that Gaussian blur and Noise Reduction aren't intended to have the same effect, keep in mind that they actually will to a certain extent when applying them to a plain background such as in this photo. However, when applying them to an area of an image that has detail, Gaussian Blur will obliterate the detail. Noise Reduction is capable of preserving most of the detail, depending on the capability of the software and the user's skill.

    By the way, I often apply Noise Reduction to a background when there is no noise and when most people would probably apply Gaussian Blur. That's because of a slightly smoother look that I can achieve that often improves the quality of the bokeh, at least using my particular software.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Sorry to hear about your wrist. That puts a rear crimp in trying to work with a camera.

    Photographing smoke was pretty well the first photography I did after I had surgery on my foot and I got into a walking cast. If you have an off-camera flash and a light modifier, you can do some interesting work, as shoot fast enough so you don't have to crank the ISO up too high. I used a black background . Set up the flash slightly behind the smoke source and point if ever so slightly toward the camera to prevent light spilling onto the background. I used a light modifier (small softbox), so didn't need to use any flags. I used the curves adjustment in Photoshop to darken up the background, and then reassembled the smoke images into various patterns in Photoshop.

    reducing grain in poor light


    reducing grain in poor light


    reducing grain in poor light


    All good fun. The biggest problem that I had was with smoke build-up in the room. These were shot with a D800 at ISO 800. This was the first (and only time) I played around with this. Great fun on a rainy day....

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Hi kenny,
    nice shot.
    I applied noise reduction using 'Neat image noise reduction' which is a plug-in for Photoshop-Eements.

    reducing grain in poor light

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    The Blue Boy's Avatar
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Just had a quick play with this in raw CS5, as you can see you can pretty much do whatever you like,

    reducing grain in poor light


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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    The biggest problem that I had was with smoke build-up in the room.
    I look forward to making images like this some day using a setup in our carport. The advantage of a carport is that it provides ample protection from the elements though being open enough to allow the smoke and its smell dissipate. At least, that's my theory. If my theory isn't proven, I'll be hearing about it from my wife.

  11. #11
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    I must admit to being a bit inspired by this.

    I'll be having a go with incense sticks and off camera flash with some gels for a bit of fun.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    I look forward to making images like this some day using a setup in our carport. The advantage of a carport is that it provides ample protection from the elements though being open enough to allow the smoke and its smell dissipate. At least, that's my theory. If my theory isn't proven, I'll be hearing about it from my wife.

    I don't think the carport is going to work. One needs a dark place with minimal air movement. Once the incense got going I create air movement by waving around a board to cause patterns in the smoke and then shoot lots of frames. The only problem is that smoke does build up over time and reduces the contrast. I suspect the car port would be a bit to open to wind.

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    A simple solution is to stop being so sensitive to noise ... I saw a picture in the first place and only noise when viewed at 400% which wasn't objectionable even then, just there.

    It has been suggested to me that people like me who grew up with film grain don't bother about noise the way people who perhaps started photography with digital do and have only a technicians approach to photography, or unduely influenced by that. It suggests to me that with the proliferation of photography that all photography has to offer people these days is the technically perfect image instead of interesting captures of light and form.

    So Sorry! ... I don't see any noise in an otherwise interesting shot with potential.

  14. #14

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    A simple solution is to stop being so sensitive to noise ... I saw a picture in the first place and only noise when viewed at 400% which wasn't objectionable even then, just there.

    It has been suggested to me that people like me who grew up with film grain don't bother about noise the way people who perhaps started photography with digital do and have only a technicians approach to photography, or unduely influenced by that. It suggests to me that with the proliferation of photography that all photography has to offer people these days is the technically perfect image instead of interesting captures of light and form.

    So Sorry! ... I don't see any noise in an otherwise interesting shot with potential.
    Personally, I think noise is bit of a problem in the original posted image (at least with the editing as it was). I agree that often people are too concerned. I had a guy return a camera a Pentax K30 today at work (I sell cameras) saying it was too noisy. I was very politely explained that everything is noisy at 100%.

    Anyway this particular shot *does* look quite noisy at a rather small size.

    I still stick by my solution of just darkening it down, though!

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    As there is no detail in the "noisy" dark background, the easiest solution of course is just darkening it. I would prefer it pitch black. Another way to reach that goal would be to assure that there is not so much light from the background that it would leave any impression in the exposure, which would make it naturally black. Either way, more or less the same result.

    Of course it is possible to increase lighting of the smoke without illuminating the background if you want a shorter exposure. Flags may be placed at the side of the lamp, so that it does not throw any light at the background. If increased light is not needed, a flag that shades the background is sufficient to make it black.

    It is an inherent property of digital photography, that a very dark area, if rendered as some visible shade, will be noisy. If it is a large background area, mostly the image looks better if the dark part is taken down to pitch black instead of any brighter tone.

  16. #16

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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Manfred,

    Thanks for the reasons that you think the carport won't work. My wife, who of course has not read your post, especially thanks you.

  17. #17
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: reducing grain in poor light

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Manfred,

    Thanks for the reasons that you think the carport won't work. My wife, who of course has not read your post, especially thanks you.
    It sounds like it is a good thing that our wives don't know each other. They seem to have similar loveable qualities....


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