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Did You Know?

Some photographers intentionally introduce grain or noise in their photographs to render an artistic effect.

One of the most common problems in digital photography is the presence of digital noise. Noise, simply defined, is the ugly discoloration that makes the photos appear grainy or speckled. Noise is clearly visible across larger areas of uniform color, like the sky. They appear as tiny dots all over the image once it is viewed at 100% on your laptop or PC. Digital noise is directly proportional to the ISO levels in a digital camera. So to say, the higher the ISO level, the higher will be the frequency of noise.

Technically speaking, there are different types of noise, and it shows itself as speckles in otherwise clear areas of an image. The major advantage with digital photography is that you can change the noise/grain level from one frame to another. While it is impossible to completely get rid of noise, you can reduce it so that it is barely noticeable to the viewer. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when shooting in low light settings using higher ISO values.

Causes of Noise

A digital camera is equipped with a sensor that collects light particles via 'photosites' that get converted into pixels in the final image. Let's say, if your camera boasts of a 15-megapixel sensor, it means that there are 15 million photosites present on the camera sensor. The size of the photosite is an important factor that affects the amount of noise present in an image.

Reducing Noise

Shoot at Lower ISO Values

Use higher ISO values only when it is absolutely necessary. At all other times, we recommend shooting at lower ISO values so that you get less of noise in your final picture. Shooting at lower ISO levels reduces the chance of the camera generating noise in your picture. Digital cameras, these days, come equipped with a setting for noise reduction, and if your camera is equipped with this setting, you would rather switch it on than have a noisy picture.

Opt for a Camera with a Large Sensor

The latest cameras flooding the market come equipped with larger sensors that can accommodate higher ISO values without introducing noise to the photographs. This is seemingly the easiest way to get rid of noise from your photographs; however, investing in a new camera every now and then can sure burn a hole in your pocket. When investing in a new camera though, opt for one in which the sensors are equipped to collect more light. A full-frame sensor seems to be the perfect choice for a new camera. This will allow the electrons to travel further, before corrupting neighboring light sensors.

Shoot with a Wide Aperture Lens

A wide aperture lens allows the camera to maximize the light intake for a given image. As the lens is capable of capturing far more photons to process, the absolute size of the aperture is sure to make a difference in the image quality. Do remember though, the larger the aperture, the smaller is the area in focus or the lesser is the depth of field. In short, a large aperture will help you focus on the main object while blurring out the background, giving you crisp subjects in fairly low light situations.

Keep the Camera Cool

Low light setting entails exposing the lens for a longer time to absorb the light, which in turn, creates havoc with the final outcome of the picture. What a camera with long or slow shutter speeds does is, it exposes the sensor for a longer time. This allows the sensor to overheat, and the result is noise in the photographs. Using cameras with faster shutter speeds, on the other hand, minimizes the exposure time, thus, allowing you to click great pictures with minimum noise. In addition to that, you should avoid using the camera in burst mode for noiseless photographs. Besides, a heated-up image sensor is sure to trigger photons that will end up contaminating the photosites on the sensor. To avoid this, it is recommended that you avoid placing the camera out in the sun or in a parked car for too long. In short, the cooler your camera lens is, the better your pictures will turn out to be.

Use Noise Reduction Software

One of the simplest ways to get rid of unwanted noise in photography is to edit the photograph using a good editing software. The easiest way is to edit the photograph in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The inbuilt noise reduction feature in Photoshop will do the trick. You can manually edit images using Photoshop Lighthouse, which will allow you to sharpen images, reduce noise, and toy with the contrast to make the image according to your likeness.

Another important aspect of low light photography is getting your focus right in the dark, which will automatically reduce the level of noise in the photographs. Remember, a good photograph needs to have a steady hand, and using a camera stand will do the trick here. Last but not the least, try introducing a soft light around your subject to avoid the possibility of noise in your photographs.