Topic Author
Posts: 3049
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:23 am

Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 3:35 am

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'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.
Posts: 2947
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2004 1:17 am

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:34 am

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 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,'s 'lines' can often be very fine, and subjective. That's life.


Posts: 4462
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2004 6:11 pm

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better

Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:34 am

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.
Posts: 2953
Joined: Tue May 31, 2005 5:17 pm

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:32 am

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
Posts: 2383
Joined: Wed May 24, 2000 10:55 am

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:54 pm

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!!!!!

Posts: 1206
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:51 am

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:16 pm

I like the second photo better, the noise/grain is very noticeable in the first one to me
User avatar
Posts: 636
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:50 pm

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:45 pm

Sorry to take this off topic but your accepted version just made Photographer's Choice, congrats Tony!
User avatar
Posts: 5050
Joined: Sat Jun 28, 2008 4:46 am

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:24 am

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 avatar
Posts: 2032
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2005 6:58 pm

RE: Less Grain -> Less Detail: Is It Really Better?

Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:20 pm

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"

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos