Monday, May 9, 2016

Dealing with film grain simulation and the Fuji X-Pro2

One of the added features of the Fuji X-Pro2 is its new film grain simulation. In the past I have sometimes used a film simulation of my own creation to give my monochrome prints even more of a film look. Naturally, I was looking forward to applying the grain simulation built into the X-Pro2. After trying it out, however, I decided that the look was a bit too false for my taste and so I went back to my old tried-and-true methods. I will be illustrating both grain simulations here and providing downloadable files to use to add your own grain.

I took the photo below with different film grain simulations of the X-Pro2 set to Acros. The first sample shows the image with no grain, the second with light grain, and the third with heavy grain.

Click here to download the high res samples of grain simulation of the indicated area
If you have even looked at negative film grain under a microscope, as I have, you will notice that it is not perfect. It is both random and slightly soft on the edges. Checking out the X-Pro2 grain in the sample above shows a grain that is much harder edged and less random in its look.

The image below of the famous church in Abiquiú, NM that I shot on film displays a grain structure that is quite different from the X-Pro2 grain. You can download a close up image of it that shows the real grain structure. This is the grain I try to emulate when I want to add it to a digital photo using Photoshop.

The print of this photo was made from a 35mm film negative. Click here to download the file that illustrates how actual film grain looks when printed. 
The way I go about adding grain is first by creating some grain layers that I can then apply as an "Overlay" layer in Photoshop.  I included both a light grain and medium grain versions in the links below. After downloading them, simply add one in the layer above the image layer and change the grain layer to "Overlay". You can control the strength of the grain even more by using the opacity slider and dialing it down a bit. That's all there is to it. 

Click here to download the light film grain overlay layer for an X-Pro2 file
Click here to download the medium film grain overlay layer for an X-Pro2 file
Here is how I created these grain patterns originally: 

First I made a layer the same size as a typical X-Pro2 file size. I filled this layer with 50% gray. Next I added noise to the layer. The amount of noise you add will determine the density and structure of the grain.  For the light grain I used 5% noise and for the medium grain 10% noise. You can fiddle with these to suit your own taste.

Next I added a Gaussian Blur of .5 pixels to the gray noise layer. Again, you can change this to suit your taste. The blurring masks the hard edge of the noise layer. 

I actually store my grain files as tifs with the 50% grain image as a smart object and the noise and blur filters under it. That way I can readjust them anytime I want. The files I am supplying here are collapsed jpgs. 

Once you have this file, you can add it as an "Overlay" layer above your image file and use the opacity slider to fine tune it. I usually dial the slider down to between 50-75%. 

To illustrate the effect of my grain overlays I created separate version of this file, one without grain, one with my light grain overlay, and one with my medium grain overlay. You can download each version using the links below.

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