Noise As a Historical Artifact

In my spring release from O’Reilly Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers, I show that image noise can be used creatively. This material is in the ISO and Noise chapter. For example, the noise in this close-up capture of a tiny Lobelia flower is what makes the photo interesting.


View large size. Photoshop Nyet: see my blog entry for backstory information featuring this photo.

However, since I’ve begun playing with my new Nikon D300, my thinking about noise has shifted. It takes a fair amount of effort to get an extremely noise-filled image out of the D300, even at relatively high ISOs. Very long exposures do still create noise in the darker areas. But still, the direction of things is as clear as a noiseless image.

Within the next few years, five or ten at the outside, noise generated by digital sensors will be a thing of the past. If you want noise, you’ll have to Photoshop it in. This will mean that noise will become a visual and historical artifact, like film grain. Perhaps people will even collect digital cameras vintage circa 2006 and 2007 for the ability of their sensors to add “pleasing” levels of sensor noise!

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