Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

 

Workflow Techniques #095

Seeking realistic film grain with Photoshop


Photo Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller

essay by Nikos K. Kantarakias

 
 

Intro

Russell Brown’s technique for converting a photo in black and white became a favourite workflow for many (digital or not) photographers to produce b&w photos according to their specific taste.

Problem was, and still might be, reproducing realistic film grain in our photos. Several techniques where introduced using Photoshop generated noise or even real film scans of grainy films that where overlaid above our original image. Yet most presented techniques in the expert’s eye were obviously “Photoshop made”.

Another approach of generating near-realistic film grain with Photoshop is presented here intended mostly for full size digital images that are to be printed. Several real film images where studied in order to see how grain is distributed over film prints and the following conclusions where made:

• film grain is more obvious in midtones and less in shadows and highlights
• in shadow areas we see some “negative” (white grain?) noise
• Photoshop’s generated noise has too small grain size compared with real film’s grain

With the above conclusions in mind an action set was created for Adobe Photoshop that contains both the “Russell Brown” layers for b&w and the grain layers for midtones and shadows-highlights (separation of the latest is not made with use of luminosity masks).

The “action” in action

Download the actions from http://nikant.white-tree.net/pstechniques/.

Analysis of all Photoshop action-set steps follows: (an open digital image in Photoshop is presumed)

• Original document is duplicated to a copy and that copy is converted to grayscale.
• From that copy a selection is made with Color Range command and midtones selected.
• Selection is copied in memory, copy document is closed and selection is copied in a new layer at our original document.
• Russell Brown’s hue/saturation layers are created one named Film and one named Filter.
• A new selection is made with Color Range for midtones at our original document (which is RGB) and pasted in a new layer.
• The latest midtones layer is merged with the midtones layer taken from our grayscale image and the produced layer is named “NOISE – midtones”.
• That combined midtones layer is duplicated and named “NOISE 2 – midtones”
• The Add Noise command is used at the “NOISE 2 – midtones” layer with options: 20%, Gaussian, Monochromatic
• Opacity of “NOISE 2 – midtones” is set to 10%
• The Add Noise command is used at the “NOISE – midtones” layer with options: 20%, Gaussian, Monochromatic
• The Gaussian Blur command is used at the “NOISE – midtones” layer with Radius 0,5 pixels
• The Smart Sharpen command is used at the “NOISE – midtones” layer with options: Settings Default, Amount 40%, Radius 0,6 pixels, Remove Gaussian Blur and More Accurate selected
• Opacity of “NOISE – midtones” is set to 20%
• A new selection is made with Color Range for shadows at our original document and pasted in a new layer.
• A new selection is made with Color Range for highlights at our original document and pasted in a new layer.
• A new selection is made with Color Range for inverted midtones at our original document and pasted in a new layer.
• The shadows, highlights and inverted midtones layers are merged together the produced layer is named “NOISE – shadows - highlights”.
• That combined shadows - highlights layer is duplicated and named “NOISE 2 – shadows - highlights”
• The Add Noise command is used at the “NOISE 2 – shadows - highlights” layer with options: 20%, Gaussian, Monochromatic
• Opacity of “NOISE 2 – shadows - highlights” is set to 10%
• The Add Noise command is used at the “NOISE – shadows - highlights” layer with options: 10%, Gaussian, Monochromatic
• The Gaussian Blur command is used at the “NOISE – shadows - highlights” layer with Radius 0,5 pixels
• The Smart Sharpen command is used at the “NOISE – shadows - highlights” layer with options: Settings Default, Amount 40%, Radius 0,6 pixels, Remove Gaussian Blur and More Accurate selected
• Opacity of “NOISE – shadows - highlights” is set to 10%

Final document contains the following layers from top to bottom:

1. Film
2. Filter
3. NOISE 2 – midtones (opacity 10%)
4. NOISE – midtones (opacity 20%)
5. NOISE 2 – shadows – highlights (opacity 10%)
6. NOISE – shadows – highlights (opacity 10%)
7. Background

In that way we have our favourite Russell Brown layers for the b&w conversion and four adjustable grain layers with big and smaller grain size to choose.

The above method is not considered as the ideal or final solution to the “grain problem” but perhaps as a further step and a start for more ideas.

I have to thank the photographer and Photoshop expert Manos Lykakis (http://www.manlyk.gr/) for his help, ideas and provided samples that helped me to finish this project.The above action-set will be available at http://nikant.white-tree.net/pstechniques/ and at http://www.dpgr.gr/ .

This document in pdf format will be submitted to receive an Electronic Serial Number (ESN) at http://www.numly.com/ .

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

 
 
 
 
   

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