Film Grain


Film grain (FG) is the term used for creating intentional grain within an image by the adjustment of the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) number within camera.  This technique can achieve desirable effects to make the image more rugged and deep in texture. The ISO number is the electronic sensor replacement for the old film speed, or American Standards Association (ASA). The film speed process happens due to the presence of small metallic silver particles that are developed from silver halide via photons, so the faster the film reacts the more these particles become visible. In ISO the grain is introduced due to the sensor speed that the faster the sensor reacts, the more light it can capture but digital grain is introduced into the image, because of the electronic components.


For the Purpose of this study the following question(s) were addressed:

  1. Is achieving digital film grain possible without digitally post-editing with software?
  2. What will be the relationship between the triangle if ISO if at its optimum point? i.e. how will this effect the use of shutter speed and aperture?



(FG) will be easy to achieve as long as the aperture and shutter speed are set accordingly. The higher the ISO the more grain will be produced, also lower lighting conditions should be utilised to allow for higher ISO without over exposure.



Upon researching the film grain method I found William Klein’s work to be very appealing due to the use of evident grain, which to me adds an aged and rustic effect.

In photographic film the individual silver (or other metal) particles that make up the image of a developed and fixed, possibly also toned, black and white film. In the case of colour film, with exception of Polachrome, grain comprises the individual dye clouds that make up the image of a developed film. In photographic print the appearance of individual specks comprising the image in monochrome papers, caused by exposure of the paper through gaps between the grain of film or between the dye clouds of colour films. The specks in a print are themselves made up of individual grains. On paper or other substrate for printing: the texture of the surface, given by the calendaring and other finishing stages during paper manufacture. [1]


Klein uses film to create the grain, however I have used a high ISO to digitally create the grain within my images. I created an environmental portrait with the use of high ISO and the natural sunlight to highlight my subject, later remembering that I need dimmer lighting conditions to use a higher ISO. I used ISO 4000 with an aperture of f/4 to allow as much light as possible.

I also adjusted the setting in Photoshop (PS) to see what digitally enhanced results I could produce. As seen in the ‘film grain’ image below the effects are pretty over dramatic, resulting in too much grain and making the image look unnatural. However, as I have experimented further with this technique and I have created more grain within my photographs by experimenting with higher ISO settings.

Shoot 1



Shoot 2

This shoot was composed using ISO 1000 which has produced a much more textured  image compared to my original image above. I am pleased with the images from my experiment, although I remained with my original image at ISO 4000 for hand in as this has a subtle amount of grain and it was the more aesthetically pleasing image.




Overall, using (FG) as a artistic effect can add atmosphere to a normal looking image. It adds, texture, a certain sense of age and heightened drama to the aesthetic. (FG) is able to be used in many photographic situations enhance its overall appearance, this is a preference of taste and can be applied in a number of ways.

I now believe I have acquired the necessary skills and decisive ability to introduce (FG) into my future photographic work, where the situation requires it. Particularly where it would compliment the aesthetic and create atmosphere or presence.





[1] IDIGITAL PHOTO, (2016). Grain Definition. [Online] Available from:                                                              [Accessed: 06 May 2016]

[2] THE CULTURE TRIP, (2016). William Klein: Avant-Garde New York Photographer. [Online] Available from:                               [Accessed: 06 May 2016]

[3] STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE WORLD, (2016). Masters of Street Photography. [Online] Available from:                                                                                                                                          [Accessed: 06 May 2016]

[4] FIFTY ONE ART GALLERY, (2016). Fine Art Photography. [Online] Available from: [                     Accessed: 08 May 2016]

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