2022 WEEK 8: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Grain/Noise in Photography

ISO 8000: Irish Pub in Finland by Ulrike Lukasczyk 2019

Crank up your ISO and let’s play in low light! Once again it’s time to dive into a bit of a technical challenge and get to know your cameras a little better.


Grain has always been a part of photography even and especially in the old days. Analog photos show it depending on the light sensitivity of film material and something similar is true for digital sensors where it is called noise . In my opinion there are two ways to deal with it: embrace it or invest a fortune in equipment to avoid it. This week I suggest doing the first: let’s embrace the grain and see how far we are willing to include it into our photos.

1st Step: From no-problem ISO to the limit

ISO 640: I don’t see any grain.

With my first digital camera, a Sony Alpha 100, ISO640 would have been very grainy and looking at the photos the eyes would have seemed blurry in this photo. Newer sensors, higher resolutions, better software: all of that helps to increase the ISO, keep short(ish) exposures while still getting very nice sharp pictures. Now try to find out for your camera (even on your phones) how far you can push the ISO for your own taste. For this I suggest loading the photos onto your computer and judge them using the big screen. Zooming in to 400% on the other hand isn’t a good idea to judge them. Most photos will look unsatisfactory when doing this. And let’s get real: most of the time we are looking at (our) photos on the small screen of our phones.

2nd Step: High ISO for short exposures

ISO4000, 1/250 sec, f/2.2: Fine and the seals

Now keep in mind the exposure triangle. If you want to capture anything sharp that’s moving (like my daughter) you need at least an exposure of 1/250 sec. Even when opening the aperture very wide the light was rather poor so I decided to live with the noise just to capture the moment.

3rd Step: Creative use of Grain

ISO 1250: Film Noir in Paris 2019

And the last step then is to check if you can use the grain in your photo to create a certain look like in this case the film noir feeling.

The Challenge Goal

The challenge this week is to take a photo in low light with a high ISO and visible grain. Please explain to us what you learned about your and your camera’s limits and how you personally feel about noise/grain in photos. The grain/noise might not be very apparent once you uploaded your photo in Facebook. So this challenge is rather for you personally to gain experience with your camera’s limits and your personal taste.

And (*whisper*): If you don’t like it at all there are many ways to work around: Daylight photography, use of flash, neon signs, lights and reflectors, tripods and long exposure (not too long, otherwise the noise is back) and software tools like TOPAZ DeNoise.

Something to read and learn:


Challenge Summary

  • Take a new photo that shows a lot of noise/grain and explain your thoughts about it
  • Post your photo during the week of Sunday, February 20 and Saturday, February 26
  • Please remember to comment on at least FIVE photo submissions this week by answering the question “why?” in your comments. In other words, “why do I like (or not like) this photo?” or “why did this photo catch my eye?” 

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple

  • Take a new photo for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Post your photo each week to our active communities on Facebook or Flickr (or both). – Tag the photo:  #2022photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. 

Participating in the 2022 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

About Ulrike Lukasczyk

While photography always fascinated me I seriously started learning techniques and composition only back in 2016. One of my first sources of learning material and feedback was this group: The Trevor Carpenter PhotoChallenge. Being insatiably curious I dived into all kinds of subjects and techniques until I finally dared to photograph people. That really is what excites me most about photography: capturing real people at the right moment, their personalities, their stories and even their dreams. This is contrasting quite nicely with my day-to-day business. I’ve got an engineering degree in biotechnology and work full time as a scientist in research. At least my husband and two kids also like my photography hobby and encourage me to pursue it, modeling for me or discussing my ideas. We live in a village near Darmstadt in Germany. We like traveling with our Unimog camper (www.derullimog.de) and I also enjoy horseback riding and Yoga. Now I’m very happy and excited to join the admin team of this group and give something back to the community: challenge ideas, encouragement and photography tips. My photos can be found via the search function in the Trevor Carpenter PhotoChallenge group on Facebook, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/mindseyes_ul/ or my portfolio site: https://ulliluke.myportfolio.com.