sharpness, grain, film size, and aesthetics

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by jnanian, Jun 12, 2009.

do you like grain ?

  1. yes

    43 vote(s)
    30.3%
  2. no

    14 vote(s)
    9.9%
  3. it depends

    82 vote(s)
    57.7%
  4. i never gave it much thought

    7 vote(s)
    4.9%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    in a thread that began a week or so ago by bettersense
    regarding tri x and plus x and how to process or use
    a tighter grained film to take advantage of soft less pronounced
    grain, things came up regarding grain,
    film size and aesthetics of photographic image making.

    there are always threads that start up with people asking how to
    get really grainy negatives, what the best way to process film is to
    get a grainy 60s or 70s look and on the other end of the scale there
    are threads that pop up with people asking how to get smooth tonality,
    sharp and grainless images.

    sandy king reminded me in the other thread that in the early days of photography,
    images were contact printed, on pt/pd or whatever light sensitive materials they used,
    there was no apparent grain in the images almost like grain doesn't exist.

    nowadays many people are involved in wet plate making and other early processes
    where imperfections are flaunted and adored almost like a branding that the image is
    a what it is, a singular image, an early photographic process "photographic wabi sabi" .
    is it the same with grain, pronounced grain, smooth grain, grain that has
    part of the image itself ( maybe the photographic image is about grain ? ) ..
    do you flaunt it to show your work is a photograph?

    flotsam suggested that grain is supposed to be there.
    should it be? if it wasn't would you make it appear if you could ?
    if you shoot a smaller than 120film format, do you try to make grain,
    or eradicate it completely by your developers/agitation techniques?
    if you shoot larger than medium format, do you because you dislike grain ?

    as for me, i don't mind grain, but sometimes i have to do what i am told
    and do without.

    what are your views ?

    thanks
    john
     
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  2. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    One of the reasons I use 5x4 is that graininess is no longer a concern. It's a minor reason to move to LF IMHO, but a reason nonetheless. But it's nice to have basically eliminated that variable.

    I actually don't mind graininess in prints. Sometimes it's quite attractive. But for much of my work it's more like noise, and in 5x4 the noise floor is way down from the image signal.
     
  3. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    I originally voted "no" which is where I'm at now in taking pics, but you never know. I would have changed it to "it depends" but I see no way to edit the poll to change my vote, so disregard my very black/white :wink: initial response.
     
  4. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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    My personal preference is for crisp regular grain that enhances the perceived sharpness of a print. It is all a matter of taste and I have been through the minimal grain stage many years ago and have arrived where I am now, liking the tonality and nuances of some grain in my photos. I guess I agree with Flotsam..
     
  5. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    I think it's all in personal aesthetics and the vision of the artist.

    Nothing is able to invoke and capture a particular mood and move me as well as grain and tone.

    I love it, my father hated it....... the poetry of the print.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I voted it depends. I do like the look depending on the subject matter and the feel of a photograph that is lended by obvious grain. I want to start to toy with my exposure/processing to acheive this. Just never got around to playing with it before.
     
  7. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Grain is the fundamental difference between analog and digital photography. Sometimes I exaggerate it. Sometimes I minimize it. The best way to exaggerate it is with a small format (Minox). The best way to minimize it is with a large format (8x10).
     
  8. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I answered "it depends."


    In my opinion, this is only loosely true. D***tal exhibits noise, an inevitable part of the technology, and that gets worse at "high ISO speeds." I think the difference is that film grain is more or less truly random, whereas digi-noise is ultimately spaced in a regular grid defined by the sensor (and some electronic legerdemain). But this is probably dubious for APUG debate, not to mention I use and enjoy both technologies and don't stay awake at night about the peculiarities of either.

    In my current phase -- back to B&W after 25 years away -- I've been excited about more or less no grain, working from film like Acros 100 in medium format, but I also find a certain likeable and interesting "edge" in the prints from a film like 400TX. I'm sure I will ultimately play with some gritty looking stuff in the future.

    DaveT
     
  9. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    To me grain is a necessary evil which comes from working with fast films in miniature format. I'm willing to pay the price when the speed and convenience of miniature format are paramount, but I would never dream of deliberately accenting grain. If I wanted that kind of effect (and I've only wanted it once so far during my entire life) I would use a texture screen. I think that people have come to accept excessive grain because it has become so commonplace since the time when 35mm largely displaced medium and large format (for example, in reportage). We have gotten used to something which would have been regarded as a technical deficiency before the fifties and sixties.
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i wonder why it would have been considered a deficiency ?

    if i go to a museum or gallery i don't stick my nose right
    up to a painting or mixed media thing or a collage to notice all the brush strokes or glue or if it a sculpture the chisel or file marks ???

    i wonder why photographic aesthetics have been so hung up on all these things ...

    nothing is realism after all ... or is it ??
     
  11. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Grain is part of the tools that are available. Not just something we have gotten used to.

    Just as in painting and graphic arts different media (oil, acrylic, charcoal, gouche, pastels, etc.), it helps.
    When needed. If not, it is less nice.

    So it depends.


    When i go to a museum, i do indeed notice the different media used, the textures of the canvas, board, etc., the brush strokes and knife marks, or lack of those.
    If you don't you're missing something. :wink:
     
  12. I believe that grain, especially in formats smaller than medium and large, is inherent in the medium and process. Controlled, it's used subjectively in image-making. I, personally, don't get too hung-up with it. I've just recently returned to photographing and developing (after a long hiatus), and am using the same film for 35mm I used twenty-five years ago: Tri-X (200 to 800). It's what I know and feel; and I'm far from knowing all its limitations. Any number of developers out there will give my film as many perceived structures (mostly, today, I stick to Xtol). Also, with printing, typical viewing distances are a couple feet from the image, anyway, so grain is rarely visible, unless you put your nose up to the glass (which I admit to doing, anyway). It's part of the image, and it's what makes the medium in 35mm unique. Many noted photographers took (and take) successful advantage of this -- eg. Ralph Gibson, Elaine Mayes, Eikoe Hosoe, William Klein, Max Waldman, among countless others (professional and amateur).

    I do intend to add medium format to my black & white photography (I'm looking forward to it), soon, and will look at other visual and perceived considerations when the time comes.
     
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  13. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    It all depends on how it is used. Look at the work of Ralph Gibson (Tri-X in Rodinal) to see how a true master uses grain to his advantage.
     
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  15. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I voted "It Depends".

    As has already been noted grain is primarily seen in prints from medium format and 35mm film cameras. Grain is not generally seen in prints form LF negatives, except with very big prints. And as I mentioned in another thread, we rarely see grain in prints from the 19th century because most of them were made by contact from LF negatives. Grain became an issue with the popularity of the miniature camera in the 1920s and 1930s. With rare exceptions the desire by photographers, even with the small cameras, has been to minimize or suppress grain. However, that is not entirely possible with 35mm film so we have to accept some grain as an artifact of the format.

    It is important to note that grain is not an absolute as it varies a lot depending on the developer, method of printing, viewing conditions, etc . For example, grain from a direct optical print could well look very different from a print of the same negative made by scanning and digital output.

    So I don't buy the concept that grain "is supposed to be there." It is most definitely "usually there" with prints from small format negatives but it is not usually there in prints from LF negatives.

    A good read on film grain can be found in a .pdf document by Tim Vitale that you can download from here, aic.stanford.edu/sg/emg/library/pdf/vitale/2007-04-vitale-filmgrain_resolution.pdf

    It may have more information than you want to know, and you may not agree with everything there, but the article is well-researched and written by an important photo conservator and it has a lot of credibility.

    Sandy King
     
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  16. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Interesting article, thanks for posting the link.
     
  17. bill h

    bill h Subscriber

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    Grain is an inherent part of my 35mm photography. For me the image does not exist separate from the grain. When I wish to minimize grain, I use larger formats and different styles. But basically, I love the grain of film.
    -bill h
     
  18. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    I pretty much agree with this. Grain is a characteristic of film that can be exploited if you want to achieve certain looks. Whether or not the pioneers of photography regarded it as a deficiency is neither here nor there - approaches to photographic art are not fixed in time.
     
  19. Laurent

    Laurent Subscriber

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    I'm still no able to print my negatives so I may change my mind, but at the moment id do not really think about it.

    I'm more concerned about the "mood" of a given lens (I love Tessars for this) than the garin in itself.
     
  20. eddym

    eddym Member

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    It depends.
    For landscapes, I find grain distracting. So I usually shoot medium or large formats, and medium speed, fine grained films.
    For portraits, I prefer smooth grain for some subjects, but not for all.
    For street work and my dance photography, I don't mind the grain until it gets really big, as with TMax 3200. I switched to Ilford Delta 3200 because of that (among other things).
    I have never wanted to increase nor "enhance" grain.
     
  21. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    It depends.
    Some subjects lend themselves well to grain and others do not. Also it is the subjective vision of the photographer that comes into play to determine whether grain is warranted or not. The freedom of expression we enjoy with the medium leads us to many interpretations.
     
  22. Mark Antony

    Mark Antony Member

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    I voted I like grain, not that I think its always desirable just that I don't object to it at normal viewing distances for most subjects.
    I was once (believe it or not) one of those people who didn't like 'noise' especially in sky on landscapes and tried everything I could to minimise it.
    Then a road to Damascus moment occurred. I went to an exhibition by a local photographer who uses 35mm for landscapes, I noticed that although the sky had quite visible grain it looked well.. natural
    Talking to the photographer he made me realise that there is grain in the sky (well the observer), caused by the vitreous fluid in our eyes; we both went out and looked at the sky-yep noisy.
    So rather than thinking noise is evil, as long as its random the eye will accept it as normal–to a point.
    I'm much more relaxed about it and yet my prints still sell, in fact any digi stuff I shoot I add a little random mono noise too.
    Just a personal feeling, not supposed to be a statement of superiority it just works for me.
    Mark
     
  23. wayne naughton

    wayne naughton Member

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    I voted it depends....It's never been much of an issue for me, if it's there, it's there and if i don't want it to be there, i'll use the appropriate film and processing. I find the deliberate imposition of grain a bit pretentious sometimes.

    wayne
     
  24. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    It depends. I expect to see grain in enlargements from 35mm film. It's part of the process. It's not a matter of liking it or not. I personally don't like to see grain in enlargements from my MF and LF images. That's why I use the larger formats and 100ASA films. MF negs from faster films start to show grain in larger enlargements. I don't find it distracting. Again, it's characteristic of the process.

    Peter Gomena
     
  25. dphill

    dphill Member

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    I consider grain to be equivalent to the stroke of a brush or pen in traditional art.

    Use it to convey the feeling you wish to present.
    Its a tool like many other techniques available to a photographer.

    I don't pull it off often, but I like the "Pointelistic" (sp) effect I get sometime with a high grain negative and psuedo (or not) lith printing.


    Dan
     
  26. WGibsonPhotography

    WGibsonPhotography Member

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    Is grain still a deficiency if a grainy picture is the look I'm going for?


    I voted "it depends." For color, I like the fine grained look. I'm not sure why, though. For me, I think the grain interferes with the smoothness of the colors. I'm really not sure how to explain it :/ I guess I just dont like looking at specks of color. I'd rather see continuous color with no "specks." (I have a headache, and that's the best way for me to explain it right now).

    For black and white, I like grain. HP5+ and Delta 3200 in Rodinal are my combinations of choice