Metropolitan Museum

Noise is a no-no in photography rule books. Noise (or grain) shows up when taking hand-held photographs in extreme low light. And often the cheaper the camera the harsher the noise.

I agree that too much grain can look like over the top dotted mushiness. But noise can sometimes be an asset. Take this photo of the upstairs display hall in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The light up there has all the power of candlelight. Combine that with a digital camera that balks at low light situations and the result is a woefully underexposed shot, Since there was no way to get a correctly exposed photo in that shadowy dimness I could have elected to shoot nothing, but I liked the composition and the feel of it so, as I often do, I took a shot anyway which would at least give me the chance of perhaps saving the photo.

Because we’re dealing with silhouettes here which can forgive a lack of properly exposed details, I was able to produce a fairly decent final image showing minimal noise on my first try. (Unfortunately that original was lost somewhere in the recent migration from my old computer to my new one.) But the image was dull and not much to look at. Time for some experimentation. Basically I lightened the colors which ramped up the noise and turned it into a rough texture that played against the flat black shapes. Next I intensified the colors within an inch of their lives, which would normally have been overkill, but with all that black instead intensified the drama of the scene.

Result – another case of breaking the rules (and having fun) to save an image and ramp up its personality.

More Images Flirting with Rules: