Embrace the Grain

Embrace the Grain??

Photographers that shoot film talk about Grain. We love grain, especially in black and white photos. Digital shooters tend to like grain when it’s buttery-smooth at ISO12800. I’m not that guy. I crank the ISO up on my digital cameras. I shoot ISO6400 on all my Fuji digital cameras because I like that grain. It’s pleasing. Grain isn’t going anywhere, either. There are grain emulations in almost every photo app you can find, because while digital is better technologically, the aesthetics of grain are universally liked my almost everyone. There are, however, limits to how much grain is too much to embrace. In color photography it’s more difficult to make grain aesthetically pleasing. The technicolor-noise can be too much.

Too Much Grain
Too Much Grain – FPP RetroChrome 320 f/16 1/250 xprocessed C41

But in Black and White photography, grain is a thing to behold.

Kodak Retinette / Cowboy
Cowboy stare…

The Causes of Grainy Photos

There are a handful of causes for grainy film. Had that roll of film sitting in your glovebox for a few years ? It’s going to look horrible. Decide to cross-process in older film chemicals ? It’s going to look like the photo above. That’s a bit too much grain, even for me. There is intentional grain. Push-processing, where you under-expose your film and then over-process it to make up the difference, can be really pleasing. So can using films known for their grainy qualities.

Memphis Zoo, 2017
Memphis Zoo, 2017 Kentmere 400 (mild grain)
Make up your mind
Too…many…choices, daddy. Kentmere 100 pushed

Color Grain

Color grain is a little harder. It’s most easily achieved by using high-ISO color film or by push processing it. I get the best grain from cross-processed images, usually slide film processed in C41 color negative chemicals. The color shifts are interesting and the grain is thick.

The Drain
The Drain – FPP RetroChrome 320 xpro in C41 chemicals

Although, sometimes it bites hard and there’s just no way around it. The photo below is from the same roll as the one above.

Grainy Cheeks
Grainy Cheeks FPP RetroChrome 320 xpro in C41 chemicals
Canon F1, Tamron 28-70mm, Expired Kodak Gold 400.
Canon F1, Tamron 28-70mm, Expired Kodak Gold 400. Much better grain.

Want to try grain on digital ? It’s easy. Go into your camera settings and tell it to use ISO 800 or higher.

Butterfly – ISO 6400 Fuji X Pro 1

So Embrace the Grain!! It can add an additional dimension to your photography, and allow you to shoot more places since it can be accomplished by pushing film or adjusting for higher ISO speeds. Just be careful or you could end up with something that’s really hard on the  eyes!

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