Adding Grain To Your Photos in Lightroom 3

Although we are normally always trying to shoot at the lowest ISO possible to get sharp, clean images sometimes the right look for a photo is a nice bit of grain. When I used to shoot wedding with film about 8 years ago I loved to shoot with T-Max 3200 for the nice large grain that it would give you. Moving over to digital I was always a little disappointed in the way that most programs tried to re-create grain. It never really looked good until Lightroom added a new film grain section in Lightroom 3. Today we will do a little walk through on the grain menu in Lightroom 3 and how to use them.

First it all starts with a image that would benefit from being in Black and White and have the grittiness of grain. Certain emotional moments from a wedding like a close up of the first dance, the toasts and key parts of the ceremony can look great in black and white. Stripping away the color in the image lets the viewer focus on the emotion of the moment. Then adding in grain gives the image another layer of depth. The grittiness you get with grain sometimes can set the image more into reality and brings out the emotions of the image more.

So, lets start with an image I liked from a reception toasting. On it’s own in color I do like the image but feel it would be stronger in black and white with a little grain.

Lightroom Grain

The first step is to convert it to a Black and White with a good amount of contrast. There are many ways to do this and check out a great video here: Black and White conversions in Lightroom.

Lightroom film grain

Now that we have a good Black and White image to work with, lets head on over to the Grain panel in Lightroom. This is located under the effects panel on the right side of the develop module and will have 3 different sliders:

Amount – This slider is straightforward, it simply will adjust how much grain is going to be on the image from a scale of 0 to 100. 100 is really, really heavy and I normally set the grain to under 50 even if I am going for a look like t-max 3200 would give. It’s always best when updating these sliders to be zoomed into the image, i’ll usually be zoomed in to a 2:1 ratio to see the effect close up.

Size – This will control the size of the grain. Also for color images over 25 on this slider Lightroom will add a blue tint to the grain which helps make the effect look better with noise reduction. Also remember when you are increasing the size of the grain this will make the image appear softer overall.

Roughness – This will adjust the uniformity of the grain. Move the slider to the left and this will make the grain more uniform. Move the slider to the right and the grain will be more uneven.

It’s pretty quick and easy to add a film grain look to your images! Try it out and let me know what you think, I would love to see some of your work on our Facebook wall.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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