Why do my photos look grainy? Three steps to decrease image noise.

Learning manual mode takes practice and there is more than enough trouble-shooting if you're learning how to use your camera.  One of the things you may have experienced as a new manual mode user is detecting a certain amount of grain in your photo.  If this is the case, you may have instances in which your photos look great in terms of proper exposure but look grainy or "fuzzy".  In photography terms, this grain is called "noise".  Here's an example of noise. 

Orignal photo, Sigma 50 mm 1.4, 2.0, SS 1/160, ISO 3200

This is the previous image that has been cropped to show the amount of image noise present.

This is the previous image that has been cropped to show the amount of image noise present.

If you think you might be experiencing image noise, the quickest way to diagnose this problem is to check your ISO number.  If your ISO number is in the 1000s range or higher, you're more than likely experiencing image noise- the product of using a high ISO setting on your digital camera. 

One component of the exposure triangle in manual mode photography is ISO. The higher the number, the more light your camera sensor absorbs, therefore increasing the exposure of your image. However, increasing the ISO too high results in image noise, which is why it's important to keep your ISO number as low as possible when taking your shot.

If your images are noisy, don't worry! It's an easy problem to fix and we have three easy adjustments you can make to get the photos you're wanting!

1. Lower your ISO number.

The first adjustment you need to make is to lower your ISO number. Lowering your ISO number will immediately fix the issue of noise. It will darken your image quite a bit, however, so you will need to try the following tips to get back to gaining the correct exposure.

TIP: We recommend keeping your ISO at 1600 or below as a rule of thumb to avoid noise. The clearest, sharpest images are achieved through shooting the lowest ISO possible at your desired exposure.


2. Adjust your shutter speed and aperture accordingly.

There are three components to the exposure triangle. These three components balance together to create the perfect exposure. If you lower your ISO number, you will then need to adjust your shutter speed and aperture numbers accordingly.  Typically, you can lower your your shutter speed and/or aperture after lowering your ISO and get the exposure you're looking for! 

 TIP: Try adjusting shutter speed and aperture one at a time, and one step at a time. Take test shots each time you make an adjustment and look at your image until you get the desired result. Taking it one step at a time will keep you from getting confused about which adjustments are getting your closer to the correct exposure.

3. Increase the amount of natural light available.

At Kindred we stress finding the best natural light for your photos. Perhaps the easiest trick in the book is increasing the amount of natural light available in your shot. Try opening the blinds and curtains if you haven't already, or opening a nearby door.

TIP: Don't have any more natural light available? Try moving your object or subject closer to a natural light source OR moving yourself at a different angle in relation to the light and the subject. Sometimes adjust the location of the camera allows more light onto the cameras sensor.

After lowering the ISO to 1000 and then making a quick adjustment to the shutter speed by bumping it up one notch, you can see that the following photograph lack the previous photo's image noise and appears much sharper!

Sigma 50 mm 1.4, 2.0, SS 200, ISO 1000

Sigma 50 mm 1.4, 2.0, SS 200, ISO 1000

If today's post on ISO noise was helpful, check out our other posts about the exposure triangle by starting with aperture here.

With Love,

Angela & Kacey