Noise Paranoia

In the previous street shooting session with Luke, he asked "why don't we shoot at night?" 

That sounded like a great idea. The reason I do not usually go out at night, is because after a long day of exhaustive work (my work can be physically demanding at times), sometimes, I just do not feel like doing anything, and just want to laze myself in front of my computer, and waiting for the time to come before I hit the bed, in anticipation of the dreadful next day's cycle to begin all over again. However, it was Friday, and I thought, why not have a quick shooting session, and a nice dinner with some friends? A little shooting won't hurt either, and the pre-shooting session was just want I needed as my appetizer for the coming weekend's shutter therapy session. 

After work, I rushed over to Bukit Bintang, met up with a bunch of photo-crazy people, and started shooting away. I had my Olympus DSLR E-5 with me, and while I was on the street, I shot solely with the Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 mk1. I rarely use the long lens on the street lately, but I do feel that the lens has been under-utilized lately, and I just wanted to make some clicks happen with it. It was well suited on the streets, in some shots where tight perspective is required, and shooting from a far distance is a necessity. 

Basking in Night Light

Purple Spark


Run Away

Different Generations
GRAINY FILM Art Filter applied

Higher Ground



Dinner at Tonkatsu, Pavilion

Top Left: Lisa & Luke Ding
Top Right: Edwin
Bottom: Scott Chung and Edwin

Shooting at night meant that I needed to bump up the ISO to achieve adequate shutter speed to mitigate hand shake blur, as well as to freeze unintended motion blur. I looked pass the high ISO noise paranoia that plagued almost the entire modern population of digital photographers, where the presence of noise equate the end of world for most of them. Yes, Olympus is not the champion in high ISO shooting, and yes, I will come home with very noisy files. So what? I am not joining any photography competition with those shots. I am not going to make any large prints. Those are not shot for a  paid assignment, or going to be published anywhere. I shot those photographs for myself only, and the value captured in the images are personal. I know people will cry until kingdom come when they see traces of chroma noise in my photographs, so be it. There are a lot more to photography than revolving around the noise tragedy. 

You know it gets very traumatizing that people actually mark your photographs down based only on your "noise level" in your photographs. What about composition? What about the subject content? What about the emotion and connection with the portraits? Are those meaningless just because the photographs have unacceptable noise presence? As destructive and as ugly as chroma noise can be, I would not prioritize that as a criterion to study a photograph presented to me. 

I know I have pushed the ISO settings unusually high for the photos in this entry. Yes, the noise presence is evident. But I still like the photographs. I am not ashamed to admit that. 

A little work-out on the street with the camera was all I needed to lift up my mood, and heal the wounds I have gathered throughout the week-long struggles at work. Oh yes, the thought that there are more shutter therapy sessions coming ahead just gets me in even better mood. 


  1. Your photos are perfectly fine, Robin - thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. I don´t mind about noise at all, no NR in PP, if noise is too heavy, i go B&W :-). grain is the salt in my photo-soup

    1. Hello Sven,
      Long time no hear from you !! How have you been?
      That is a nice way to put it, I will always remember noise when I put salt in my soup now.

  3. No problem about noise from me, suits the mood. Good shots!

  4. Donald W Leitzel5/05/2012 03:19:00 AM


    A good photograph is a good is a good photograph. Even grain (or noise) can become a style if used properly.

    Let the noise paranoia for the people that judge a lens by shooting resolution charts. I have been shooting for over 50 years and have never hung a photo of a resolution chart on my wall.

    I have a classic Olympus OM-3, with several prime lenses, as well as a newer E-500 and E-P1. I have adapters for my OM lenses and hope to purchase an EM-5 when budget permits.

    I even have a Canon 55mm f1.2 adapted to my E-P1 that lends new meaning to the term "Bokeh"

    1. Thanks Donald !!
      Glad to know that there are photographers who would set aside the resolution chart like yourself. Wow, 50 years, that is a lot of shooting time and experience. Glad to find that you use and love Olympus too.

  5. I came into photography only recently and for a while was afraid of noise and tried to remove it as much as possible (I process images from RAW in a great linux application called Darktable). But after a while I came to the following 2 things:

    1. Luma noise (dots of different brightness, or 'grain') is in fact absolutely non-obtrusive and in fact not even noticeable at a normal zoom level. Actually, to me it makes photos look more real, like old-school film photos. But when you try to fight it, the image loses a lot of detail and in fact becomes worse, even with the best filters. It becomes 'plastic', non-natural, especially when viewed at 100% magnification. Plus, to restore some detail, each software (including in-camera firmware) adds some level of sharpening, which sometimes makes things even worse. In my workflow I just don't remove this type of noise and disable all sharpening, and it works like a charm :)

    2. The only type of noise worth fighting with, is so-called chroma noise (areas of different color, like red, green, etc). It is usually more noticeable and annoying. Luckily, it can be mostly removed in Darktable separately from luma noise, so no detail is lost.

    Again, I'm a newbie in photography, so I'll be glad to hear any comments :)

    1. Hello Dmitry,
      The main point of my argument is to shy away from the usual stereotype of prioritizing noise over everything else. Sometimes, you have an otherwise perfect shot: great timing, nicely lit subject, good colors, balanced composition, strong emotional connection and great subject content, but supposingly ruined by "noise". Considering all other good points, noise should not be the deciding factor to gun down that shot.

  6. Terrific images-some with little or no noise and made better by the noise.

    1. Thanks !! Noise actually added grittiness to street photography. It actually works better, many street photographers purposely sought after the "film grain" effect.

  7. G'day Robin!

    Re noise and/or colour balance ... I sometimes think we go overboard/get too hung-up on this!

    For instance, like most of us I have two eyes. But they see things differently: one is decidedly fuzzy (noise) and no amount of pre-processing with glasses can fix it; and the colour temperatures perceived by each are noticeably different. So, what is reality?

    On the other hand, sometimes we consciously fiddle with our digital images, e.g. using the grainy art filter, so as to make them decidedly noisy. And if I have an image I like but it is blurred, I will run a "water colour" or "oil paint" filter over it to turn that blur into an obvious feature - and the image now looks fine, to me.

    So, neither our vision nor our photography are precise, and photography is as much an art as science. I use our tools to an end, and the fun I get through so doing is the ultimate goal.

    Go for it, Robin, despite the pixel-peepers!


    1. "neither our vision nor our photography are precise". That is so true on so many grounds. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Peter !!

  8. I want to join your next night photography.

  9. Great night images. Thanks for sharing, Robin.
    Noise? For me it's the image captured that matters.
    Images with stories and memories enhance by the photographer unique passion and craftiness to woo the viewer of what he saw and felt at the moment he squeezed the shutter. And you have done that to the dot.
    Great work.
    John Ari Ragai

    1. Thanks John. Indeed the content of the photograph does matter more.

  10. Very nice - moments matter much more than noise

  11. yeaa...what is noise ??
    last weekend there were OM-D launching, there's a group of young executive trying the demo camera & arguing about the noise from their test shot...come oooonn...the size it self already make me sell all my nikon & save up for OM-D...for low light or night shot noise just like a grain of salt (+1 to svenreinhold), if its to much i make it a sephia/b&w effect to make it like old photo...the "soul" of the photo that you took that's matter

    OM-D available but now I got new headache...TG-1 will launch soon and i need an upgrade for my underwater gear...can decide which one to buy first....any advice, pa' Cik ??

    1. Buy what suits your needs. If you need underwater more than anything else, then of course the TG-1 would allow you to capture the photos that you want to capture, without breaking a bank for it.
      Nonetheless, for everything else, the OM-D does just great.

    2. yeaa...couple of my friends also said the same thing
      maybe i postpone the E-M5 for christmas sale...f/2 in P&S can't be that bad...right ??

      hehehe...thx pa' Cik

  12. نحن افضل شركة تنظيف موكيت بالرياض حيث أننا نعتمد على مجموعة من الوسائل والالات الحديثة لنسخر بها خدمة مميزة لعملاءنا الكرام بجميع انحاء مدينة الرياض وجميعنا يعلم المظهر الجذاب الذي يعطيه الموكيت لمنازلنا مما الزم شركة تنظيف سجاد بالرياض ان تلقي له بالآ حيث أن الموكيت يحتاج لتنظيف بشكل اسبوعي بالمكنسة الكهربائية ونحن نستخدم القطع والاجزاء الصغيرة الخاصة لهذا الغرض وخبرائنا فى هذا المجال يلقون بالهم بكل كبيرة وصغيرة حيث انهم يهتمون بادق التفاصيل ومنها اطراف الموكيت حيث انها تحتاج لعناية وخبرة خاصة لتنظيفها بشكل جيد شركة غسيل السجاد بالرياض.

    توفر لك شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض مخازن خاصة حتى تضع بها العفش الخص بك بقسم شركة تخزين عفش بالرياض. ومخازننا تعمل ضمن نظام لوجستي حيث نضمن عدم فقدان العفش الخاص بك ضمن مجموعة من متعلقات وعفش الاشخاص الاخرين ونعمل على توفير ضمان شامل لنظافة وسلامة العفش بالاضافة لنقله عن طريق سيارات الشركة التي تعمل من الرياض والي جميع انحاء المملكة العربية السعودية ولا داعي للقلق فنحن لدينا فريق عمل جاهز ومدرب على طرق الفك والتركيب لقطع العفش المختلفة والتعامل مع انواع التغليف المختلفة والتي تختلف بحسب نوعية العفش وهل لها تأثير سلبي عليه ام لا شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض.

    شركة عزل خزانات بالرياض هي أفضل شركة تقوم بخدمات عزل الخزانات بالطريقة الصحيحة والالتزام بالشروط الصحية لعزل الخزانات حيث انه يمثل اهمية كبيرة جدآ فى حياتنا وقد يؤدي اي ضرر بها الي الاصابة بالامراض وخاصتآ انه يستخدم بشكل كبير للحفاظ على المياه التي سوف تستخدم للشرب والاستخدامات الحياتية اليومية.