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Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?  
User currently offlineSNATH From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 3254 posts, RR: 21
Posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 4755 times:

Hi all,

I recently got a shot rejected for grain. It was accepted in the second attempt after I got more aggressive on it with Noise Ninja. Here's the shot in question (included this way here so that I'm not accused of plugging my own shots).

Rejected (grain):




Maybe I'm weird, but I personally (strongly!) prefer the first version. Sure, it has a bit of grain. But it also has much more detail and texture on the buildings and on the ground (and note that, on low light / backlit shots like this, it's hard not to get noise in the shadows). On the second version the noise has been reduced but, along with it, a lot of detail has been nuked too. To my eye, the second one looks flatter and lifeless, as if everything has been wrapped up in plastic film.

So, what I'm wondering is: is a.net's obssession with no-grain shots really for the better? I would claim that, at least in this particular case, aggressive grain reduction can make a shot look worse, not better (this is my own personal opinion, of course).

So, what do you all think? Do you really prefer the "plastic" look?


Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
8 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinePsych From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 3077 posts, RR: 53
Reply 1, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 4685 times:
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Hello Tony.

I hope things are well with you.

You post a nice example of this grain issue here. Or are we actually talking about 'digital noise'? I agree with you that the 'plasticky' feel to a photo is not one to which we should aspire. Also, particularly in lower lighting conditions/dark/shadow areas, grain/noise is an inevitable by-product of photography. For me it is simply one of those situations where we have to decide the degree to which we are prepared to 'doctor' an image so that it meets the requirements set down by A.net acceptance criteria. Another good example for me would be 'ensuring' whites look white even when the hue of, say, a low angle sun, might make it look orange or reddish. That one has been debated a lot in the past.

I must admit I don't really like to see grain in the sky, but in your example it doesn't seem that this was a significant issue.

I recall having a photo rejected for grain where - to this day - I still cannot see it. So grain on one person's monitor may not be apparent to another. It's a fine line, and I agree with you that it should not become so fine a line that we end up having to see the 'plastic' lifeless look just to avoid the risk of any slight grain being apparent. Of course, too plasticky a result following addressing grain will (and should) attract the eye of a good screener who then may consider rejecting for editing. Again, A.net's 'lines' can often be very fine, and subjective. That's life.



User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 5072 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 4685 times:

I often prefer a little grain when editing for personal use. Images often have much more pop with the added texture. I'm talking about small amounts of noise/grain though.

This place is getting carried away with this obsession for a perfectly clean image. Some of the grain rejections I see in the feedback forum are sickening. And I mean it's the fact that they are rejected that is sickening.

My motto when shooting is make sure I get a fast enough shutter speed to guarantee a tack sharp image. To do so I will gladly boost ISO. A sharp but grainy photo is a winner in my eyes. A clean but slightly blurry image is not. So it's frustrating that some really great photos get rejected because they are not perfectly clean.

I have recently become interested in printing my photos. It's amazing to me how clean a print can be, when on the computer it shows some grain. So that further proves to myself that my images don't have to be sqeaky clean.

I often see amazing photos in magazines, poster-size prints etc and they are not 100% clean. It doesn't take away from the overall impression of them. So why does it here??

Noise reduction software can help, but the most common side effect is loss of detail and a washed out, water-color appearance. I try not to use it. Give me a little noise/grain instead.

[Edited 2010-03-06 00:38:10]

ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlineviv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 23
Reply 3, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 4634 times:

Less grain is not always considered better, except on Anet.

I submitted a shot taken on ASA 100 slide film on a bright sunny day, f/8, then scanned on a dedicated slide scanner.

The grain was not visible to me, but the shot was rejected for grain.

On this issue, Anet is out of step with the wider photographic community.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently offlineAKE0404AR From United States of America, joined May 2000, 2535 posts, RR: 41
Reply 4, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 4531 times:

Quoting Silver1SWA (Reply 2):
Give me a little noise/grain instead.


Quoting viv (Reply 3):
Anet is out of step with the wider photographic community


nothing more to add!!!!!


User currently offlinedl767captain From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 2539 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 4506 times:

I like the second photo better, the noise/grain is very noticeable in the first one to me

User currently offlinePlainplane From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 859 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 4494 times:

Sorry to take this off topic but your accepted version just made Photographer's Choice, congrats Tony!

User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 5058 posts, RR: 34
Reply 7, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4475 times:

My thoughts are that your rejected image does have visibly better detail, while not having very bad noise. Yes, I can see some, but it doesn't detract from the image.

I've been doing a bit of high ISO photos recently as well, couple of ISO1600 images and the ISO2500 image. I don't really see that it is easy to use much more than that due to the noise generated. It's difficult to use noise reduction software on ISO6400 without wiping out detail as well.


User currently offlineThierryD From Luxembourg, joined Dec 2005, 2157 posts, RR: 37
Reply 8, posted (6 years 2 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4407 times:

Hey Tony,

suffering from some recent grain rejections as well, I can clearly see where you're coming from.

I don't want to argue here whether or not the set standards are justified but did you try to just use selective noise reduction? It did help me with some of my shots to reduce the noise on some parts but also keeping the necessary details.



"Go ahead...make my day"
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