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Dash of Inspiration: Image Quality – Grain/Color Noise

July 8, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Image Quality: Grain/Color Noise

Let’s keep this series going by moving through the IMAGE QUALITY grouping of the Submission Guidelines, and next up  is:

IMAGE QUALITY: Grain/Color Noise      

The Submission Guidelines state this:

Grain is found when scanning old photographs or artwork.  In this digital age, it tends to be noise that is found in the image. This can be caused by low resolution when scanning artwork or when taking a photograph. It also is visible in photographs that were taken in low light without proper compensation. Color noise can occur when the image has been pushed to exceed its limits in a digital darkroom environment. Any form or intensity of grain and/or noise in artwork or photography will not render well in print on greeting cards and will not be accepted. 

Though there are digital post-processing filters which add grain to images, unless they are applied with a light-hand and the resulting image is well-suited to a retro/vintage look, these filters should not be used on your greeting card images. Grain and color noise, whether you consider it an intentional added touch to your card or not, in general gives the viewer the impression of poor image quality and that is why GCU rarely accepts imagery with grain or color noise.

Taking a photograph in low light conditions without using white balance adjustments and/or fill flash will cause quite a bit of noise in your photographs. In today’s digital camera environment, noise is a common problem which usually shows up as speckled pixels in a variety of colors or can also mask itself as grain, both are considered unacceptable. We see these unwanted artifacts more than ever as we move to digital capture. It’s this ‘electronic noise’ that occurs from unwanted fluctuations in the signal of electrons produced in order to convey light to the camera sensor.

Tips to avoid noise in photographs:

  • Purchase more recent technology – significant improvements have been made for noise reduction in new cameras and lens.
  • Use Manual Mode rather than allowing the camera to switch exposure by itself which often introduces noise.
  • Reducing your ISO will reduce digital noise and instead use a mono-pod or tripod when needed.
  • Higher-end cameras often have a Noise Reduction setting, turn it on especially for low light conditions and long exposures.
  • Remember, the less shadow area in your image, the less chance for noise. So choose your composition well. If shadows are not a necessary part of the image, try to choose a composition angle which offers limited or lighter shadow areas.
  • Digital zoom found on lower-end or point-and-shoot cameras are notorious for causing noise.
  • Make sure your camera is cool, particularly in hot weather.  Thermal reaction is a common cause of noise in photographs.

july 2 image 1

Next week we’ll continue through the Submission Guidelines: Image Quality section and discuss Poor Scans. Till next week, I hope I’ve inspired you to go look through your store and see if you can weed out any images that the reviewers will find during their weeding which might have grain or color noise issues.

For great resources & tips visit the SalonOfArt


4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2013 1:00 pm

    “Make sure your camera is cool, particularly in hot weather. Thermal reaction is a common cause of noise in photographs.” I didn’t know that. No wonder I was having some noise issues with my zoo pics last summer (90F weather) even though I had my iso on 100 and in manual mode. Thanks!

  2. paintedcottages permalink
    July 8, 2013 9:38 pm

    I actually like some noise in some px to express the pictorial quality, artist from photo secession like Stieglitz or Steichen, probably won’t be accepted by GCU

    • July 8, 2013 9:50 pm

      As I stated in this article … “unless it’s well suited to the retro/vintage theme” … that certainly would suggest since Stieglitz and Steichen’s work would be considered vintage/retro, it would be acceptable to GCU.

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