Embrace the Grain! [What I Learned from Shooting with Film: Part 3]
In this post Rachel Devine (author of our new kids photography eBook Click) continues to share her five reasons learning photography on film cameras made her the digital photographer that she is today. Also Read Part 1 on Shooting with Burst Mode and Part 2 on Natural vs Artificial Light
In the days when film was the only option for photographers, even 200 ISO gave your images some grain. Grain gave the image texture and now it seems that grain has become a naughty word in the world of kid portrait photography.
I have mentored many photographers who have told me that they try never to shoot over 320 ISO and really 400 is a number that makes them twitch. When I have asked “Why?” each and every time the answer has been “noise.” So many images of children are then polished into this weird digital plastic sheen that they end up looking more like dolls than real live children. Kids are naturally pretty smooth and childhood can get gritty (and sandy and chocolate covered etc…) but that is wonderfully real.
And just think of the benefits! You will have a lot more wiggle room with your exposure settings when you try working in the higher ISO ranges allowing you to shoot with faster shutter speed equation formulas and capture the motion of high energy kids in lower light. Or even their moments of stillness in extremely low light.
I know that the grain of the old silver particles is not the exact same thing as the noise of your DSLR, but there are a few things that you can do to get the best results possible.
The essential key to working with digital noise as grain is to get the image exposure right in the camera. The more under exposed the image is, the muddier it will look and the more the noise will be working against you. This is really how one should be striving to shoot children’s portraits anyway, but it is worth repeating here.
The second thing to help is a beautiful black and white conversion process for your editing routine. Turning the grainy image into black and white tends to unify the look of the noise as it removes any distracting colored pixels. It is also really reminiscent of the old old films.
Now sometimes this is an element of style and no one can tell another photographer what their style choices should be, but if the fear of digital noise making your images look bad is holding you back, I encourage you to celebrate the freckles, embrace the grain and shoot over 400 ISO once and a while.
For more on the topic of Kids Photogrpahy – Check out Rachel’s new eBook Click! How to Take Gorgeous Photos of Your Kids.