View Poll Results: do you like grain ?
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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.
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.
Last edited by Andrew Horodysky; 06-12-2009 at 03:35 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
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.
Last edited by sanking; 06-12-2009 at 03:58 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Interesting article, thanks for posting the link.
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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.
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.
Originally Posted by bill h
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.
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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.
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.