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Adding film grain

From: Enhancing an Environmental Portrait with Photoshop

Video: Adding film grain

Digital capture is stunning. The precision really is phenomenal. Yet sometimes a digitally captured image can be too perfect and that's definitely the case here. I want to create a photograph which is timeless and maybe which has a little bit of a nostalgic appeal. So here I'm going to add some film grain, I'm going to add some imperfection in order to smooth out this photograph and to give it a different feel. So in order to add a film grain step we're going to go through a handful of different steps.

Adding film grain

Digital capture is stunning. The precision really is phenomenal. Yet sometimes a digitally captured image can be too perfect and that's definitely the case here. I want to create a photograph which is timeless and maybe which has a little bit of a nostalgic appeal. So here I'm going to add some film grain, I'm going to add some imperfection in order to smooth out this photograph and to give it a different feel. So in order to add a film grain step we're going to go through a handful of different steps.

So this may be one of those movies that you'll want to watch a couple of times. Well before we get to the effect let's first organize our Layers panel. Click in one of your layers for your color adjustments and then hold down the Shift key and click in another and let's group those together. To do that press Command+G on a Mac or Ctrl+G on Windows and let's name these layers color. In this way we can turn on and off all of those color effects. Next what we need to do is to merge all of the underlying layers to the topmost layer.

And to do that we need to use a rather long keyboard shortcut combination. On a Mac you'll press Shift+Option+Command+E, on Windows you'll press Shift+Alt+Ctrl+E. Now while that is kind of a long shortcut it's definitely worth learning. You want to write that one down because it's really helpful, because it combines all that we've done so far to the topmost layer so that we can now add film grain to all of these different effects which we've already applied. So let's rename this layer grain.

Next what we're going to do is we're actually going to load the Luminance value of the Red channel and turn that into a mask. Now I know that that sounds kind of strange, but just stick with me and I think you'll see in a couple of minutes why this is worthwhile. So here we're going to navigate to the Channels panel and we have the Red, Green and Blue channel. Well if you Command+Click on a Mac or Ctrl+ Click on Windows, any of these channels, you will turn them or convert them into a selection, and that's exactly what we want to do.

So Command+Click or Ctrl+Click the Red channel. Here you can see it's selecting the Red channel. Next, go back to the Layers panel. Back in the Layers panel, what we're going to do is we're going to add a layer mask to this particular layer here and we'll do that by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon. Now right now it doesn't really look like anything happened, yet if we turn off the visibility of our underlying layers, what you can see is that we don't have everything in this layer, rather we have different values at different intensities.

Why this is helpful when it comes to film grain is it will help us apply the film grain in a way that isn't uniform, but rather that is kind of distributed throughout the image based on tonality. Well let's turn on the Visibility of those other layers and then let's target the image rather than the mask, so click into that icon there, then let's zoom in on the photograph. Press Command++ or Ctrl++ to do so. Then we'll go to our Filter pulldown menu, here we're going to choose Noise and then we'll select Add Noise.

And again we want to make sure that we're adding noise to the image, not the mask. Well here I'm going to increase the Amount just by way of illustration. This isn't going to be a good adjustment, but I think it will help you understand why we're using this Channel mask and why we're going through all of these steps. So here I have a really high Amount, Gaussian and Monochromatic, that's what you always want to use when you're adding film grain, and we'll click OK. And what I want to do is illustrate why this mask is valuable.

To do that I'm going to Shift+Click my mask. That will temporarily turn it on or off. So when I turn this mask off, you can see the grain is just everywhere. It's like the grain is sitting on top of the image. Yet when we turn this mask back on all of a sudden it's like the grain is part of or it's embedded in the photograph, and that's what we want. Well let me undo this exaggerated amount of grain. To do that I'll press Command+Option+Z a few times to step backwards in my history.

Next, I'll go back to the Filter, Filter > Noise and then add some noise, and here rather than having that amount so high, I'll go ahead and decrease this to about, I don't know, something less than ten. Perhaps nine might be good. For more precision, hover over the word amount and then use those scrubby sliders to make smaller adjustments to the amount of grain that you're adding to your photograph. And again here what we're looking for is just to add a little bit of imperfection to the frame. I'll decrease this amount even further and then I think perhaps right around six is going to look good, and then click OK.

If we zoom in further to the photograph we'll be able to see this and now when I Shift+Click the mask you can see the grain is everywhere, it's uniform, now it isn't. It helps the grain to blend in, in a more realistic or interesting way. Next step is to click into the Mask and to open up the Mask panel. You can do that in CS6 by double-clicking on the mask or in previous versions just click on the Mask tab. Then we want to feather or blur out that particular mask. We don't want it to be so perfect.

We also want to decrease its Density a little bit to bring back grain into some of the other areas as well. In doing this, we're just making sure that that mask isn't too precise. Again, you want to add film grain to add feeling, not to add precision. Last but not least, we're going to just decrease the Opacity of this layer and we can experiment here. How much film grain do we actually need or do we want with our picture? What's great about having this on a separate layer is we can control this and try to find just the right spot for our photograph.

Well I think that looks pretty good. Here we have it, our before and then now our after. And while these adjustments are going to be difficult to see in this movie, I'm hoping that as you make these adjustments on your own files, or on your own images, you'll really start to see that subtle difference that adding film grain to make when you want to create that type of mood or expression.

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Enhancing an Environmental Portrait with Photoshop

19 video lessons · 9456 viewers

Chris Orwig
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