What’s all the Noise about?
Is it that squeek you hear when your camera zooms in and out? Is it the whines of protests from your family members who don’t want to pose for ANOTHER PICTURE?! Is it the click, click, click of the shutter button? No, when photographers talk about noise, they’re referring to the randomly-spaced speckles that appear in a photo and reduce clarity and detail. You’ll often notice noise as colored speckles where there should be none. For example, when taking a picture of a blue sky, you might notice faint pink and purple amongst the otherwise blue sky.
Here’s a close up of a solid brown shirt from the image I posted yesterday. But because the picture was taken in low light (the sun had already set!) and a high ISO, the brown shirt looks speckled. Click the image to see it closer.
Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding noise:
1–A slow or long exposure introduces noise. Avoid using really long exposures if not necessary.
2—The higher the ISO number (such as 800 or 1600), the greater the chance that you’ll have a “noisy” photo. Use the lowest ISO number possible (such as 100 or 200 or 400) for your lighting conditions.
3—Here’s something to simply keep in mind. One reason that dSLRs produce images that are appear more “crisp and clean” than images taken with a point-and-shoot is that they usually have larger image sensors. It has little to do with the quality of the camera or the number of megapixels, and more to do with the size of the sensor. I’m not going to go into detail about image sensors here, but thought it was worth mentioning.
4—Use a noise-reduction software. There are many programs out there that do a great job of cleaning up the noise to an acceptable level in post-processing.
5—Remember that a noisy image is much better than no image at all. Don’t let the threat of grainy pictures stop you from snapping away. Sometimes you need a slow shutter speed or a high ISO in low light situations. I have often turned my grainy shots into something “artistic” so that it appears that I meant to make it turn out that way!
See what I mean? This shot of a precious baby girl was VERY noisy (the picture, not the baby!), so I converted it to black and white and added noise.
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