April 19, 2015

I have never been a fan of adding grain to my imagery. I think my obsession with having optimal image quality steered me away from the idea. Recently however, my sister sent me an old photo of our family and seeing it inspired me to experiment with grain in Lightroom. The less than good image quality stemmed from the photo being taken with a disposable film camera at night using the flash which illuminated the people in the photo but not the dark space around us which ended up grainy.  

I did not want to sound like an oaf on this subject and while researching the properties of film grain I found this article (a tough but fun read) which states:
The term “film grain” is often incorrectly used to describe the “fundamental” particles in a chemical-based photographic image. Fundamental image particles are the smallest particles that form an image: (a) silver particles or (b) color dye clouds ... 
Film grain is a repeating noise pattern that is an order of magnitude larger than the fundamental image particles. Film resolution is directly related to the size and distribution of silver particles in an emulsion. The noise pattern tends to obscure detail rather than define detail. The pattern is superimposed over the image, not the source of the image.
A common mistake [made by the author many, many times], is to think that film grain is the image-forming element. Many Kodak and Fuji publications, including much of the popular photographic literature (magazines), commonly make the mistake of referring to fundamental film particles as film grain. This further propagates the imprecise usage of the term.
Although this information may seem archaic, the scientist in me found it to be very interesting because it helped me understand how I should better approach adding digital grain to an image. 

I think the most important thing is that adding grain should be the very last thing you apply to a fully processed image. It helps to think of your edited RAW (or JPEG) file as the "fundamental image particles" (in the digital world it is actually the pixels making up the image) and the grain as a noise artefact being superimposed on top of it. The end result is that you obtain a digital image that has more of a film like rendering to it.

In Lightroom you are able to add grain in the "Effects" module and the adjustment sliders consist of  "Amount", "Size", and "Rougness". When adding grain into the mix, I usually toggle between the "1:1" and "FIT" to look at the changes on a magnified and overall level. This ensures image quality does not deteriorate to the point where you lose fine detail. Size and roughness play a major role in this and amount impacts the overall effects of both. As with all my processing, I just adjust the sliders around until the end result is something I am looking for. In the week of playing around with this process I like Amount:50, Size:20, Roughness:20 for moderate grain and Amount:50, Size:20 Roughness:50 for a more distinct look. Some other things to note are that:

  • Grain is more noticeable in the darker areas of a photo, especially the mid-tones (or "clipped"/"faded" blacks).
  • Grain is also more evident in out of focus areas.
  • Increasing the grain deteriorates image quality especially in subjects with fine detail such as hair or eyelashes.
  • It helps to look at film images to help understand what looks natural.
  • When noise reduction is not set to 0, the effect of adding grain is diminished. 
  • If the image was shot at a high ISO, you probably do not need to add additional grain.

Image Samples

Again, I have only been experimenting with this for a short period of time so the information I presented here should be taken with a grain of salt. Some may think it is silly to strive for a good digital camera with a nice sharp lens only to ruin the output with the addition of grain, but I have definitely had fun playing around with it. I am sure film photographers out there would say "just shoot film". For digital photographers who haven't used the medium however, working grain into your aesthetic can a step in the right direction. Anyone else out there add grain in their post processing workflow?? I'd love to hear your thoughts/tips in the comments section =) Sam

If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at www.samgoldphotography.com

April 17, 2015

Orlando has held an annual comic/geek-culture convention called MegaCon since 1993 and it has grown to epic proportions in the last few years. I could not find any information for this year, but there was a record breaking 80,000 attendees in 2014. I had never been to one of these events but since a lot of people participate in cosplay I figured it would be a fun place to practice photography. I decided to dip my toes in (attending Saturday) and packed my bag full of (too much) photography gear. This included my EM5, three lenses (45mm f/1.8, 28mm f/2.8 + generic focal reducer, and 14mm f/2.5), two Yongnuo YN560-III speedlights, a YN560-TX flash trigger and a ringflash adapter. I wish I would have left the flash gear at home because there was plenty of available light and I felt it just got in the way sometimes. I set out to take as much cosplay portraits as I could but at the same time did not want to be that annoying photographer guy who was just there to take photos. Next year I am definitely buying a three day pass and participating in the cosplay. I think this will not only translate into more fun for me, but it will be a lot easier to approach people and ask for their photo. Nevertheless, I had a blast running around this year; not only did I meet a bunch of great cosplayers, I also found the event to be a great place for street photography. Below are some of my efforts, hope you enjoy! -Sam

If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at www.samgoldphotography.com



Ballerina Dentata from "Cabin in the Woods"

Unknown - I lost this guy's contact info :( 

Aoba from DRAMAtical Murder
Harley Quinn and The Riddler


Street/Candid Portraits


The Masses



Star Wars Heels 

Magic The Gathering

Go Go Power Rangers

Mini Boba Fett
Distracted Aoba

Skull Kid from Legend of Zelda



The Importance of Social Media

Deadpool Tweeting

Raiden updating his Facebook status

Sango Pinning

Link Instagramming

April 06, 2015

Hunter Cavanagh

It has been a goal of mine to make portraits since I started learning the basics of photography. After a long while of avoiding it, I began dabbling in self portraiture after purchasing a GX7; implementing its remote shooting mode to experiment with lighting set-ups in my spare bedroom (examples here). From there, I  moved on to photograph my partner which gave me a little experience on shooting another person. I liked the results of all these "studio" efforts but really wanted to make an attempt at environmental portraiture. I knew that the nature trail by my apartment would make the perfect setting to try this, but my partner is terrified of snakes and refuses to step foot in leaf littered terrain. So without any talent, I've just spent my time at Shingle Creek scouting sites and practicing general composition for when the opportunity did arise to shoot there. 

Handy-Dandy Notebook

Hunter, the aspiring model centered around this shoot contacted me through Instagram at the end of last year wanting to work with me based on my non-portrait work. After a several month long discussion and scheduling conflicts and then more discussion we decided to do a bohemian style fashion shoot against a natural setting. The day of the shoot I woke up quite nervous and decided I needed to plan the anxiety away. I wrote down the equipment I was wanting to use, ideas we had discussed, and drew out several shots with information on what camera body and lens to try first, lighting, and how much time to dedicate to the shot. I knew that I wanted to limit myself to two focal lengths and chose to have the 45mm f/1.8 and coco ringflash mounted to my EM5 and the OM 28mm f/2.8 + generic focal reducer mounted to my GX7. I also used two Yongnuo YN560-III speelights, the YN560-TX flash controller, and a silver umbrella. For a few of the shots I abandoned artificial lighting and relied on the wonderful natural light that was streaming in through the forest canopy.

28mm f/2.8 + generic focal reducer
Natural Light

In the end I found that trying to use two systems simultaneously was frustrating so I abandoned the GX7 and just switched lenses a few times throughout the shoot. Like I said in the GX7 review, my EM5 just feels like home and handling it is just more intuitive for me since I learned on this system. In regards to areas of improvements/changes, I wish that I would have brought something heavy to stabilize my light stand. In one instance, it fell over and ended up bending the umbrella on one side :/ Also, I should have used my OM 35mm f/2.8 instead of the 28mm f/2.8 because I could not use the ringflash with the latter without it interfering with the shot. Next time, this will be my second focal length. My last "head-desk" moment happened when I came home, put my card in the computer to download the images only to realize that I had shot the entire session in JPEG only. Despite all this, I learned a lot and wanted to share some of the gear and lighting scenarios I used to create these images. As far as post processing goes, I edited one image from scratch in Lightroom, saved the edits as a preset and then applied the preset to the other images in that set/"look". I then made made minor adjustments to ensure the images were similar in aesthetic and exported them to VSCOcam for final edits using the VSCO uploader.

All That Glitters 

  • EM5 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Ringflash + Yongnuo YN560-III mounted to hotshoe
  • Lighting Diagram:

Inspired by Misty Day

  • EM5 and 28mm f/2.8 + generic focal reducer
  • Yongnuo YN560-III bounced off silver lined umbrella
  • Yongnuo YN560-TX mounted to hotshoe
  • Lighting Diagram:

Same lighting diagram as above, except model stood and I moved to the other side of the tree, ie. position of umbrella did not change.

Umbrella camera right


  • EM5 and 28mm f/2.8 + generic focal reducer
  • Yongnuo YN560-III bounced off silver lined umbrella
  • Yongnuo YN560-TX mounted to hotshoe
  • Lighting Diagram (only applies to first image):

Natural Light



  • EM5 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Ringflash + Yongnuo YN560-III mounted to hotshoe

Natural light

We shot all these in the shade between 3:30 and 05:00 pm. Hunter did her own make-up and provided most of the wardrobe and we both contributed to the styling. In general, I shot at iso 200, with a shutter speed of 1/125 to 1/200 and was stopped down between f/4 and 8 when using the speedlights and ringflash or silver umbrella. For the natural light shots, I shot wide open and increased my shutter speed accordingly. All this was based off experimentation as I do not own a light meter and for each of the scenes I let Hunter know when to start modeling once I had figured out what parameters worked best. I would love to hear any additional questions you have in the comments section. I hope this inspires others to try and shoot portraits using off camera flash. It really is not that hard and although there are more efficient ways of figuring out exposure I hope this shows that it can all be done using a little guess work.


If you live in, or are traveling to Florida and would like to schedule a photo-shoot, I am currently offering portrait services in and around Central Fl. Check out more of my work at www.samgoldphotography.com

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