DxO PhotoLab – DxO FilmPack

Using DxO OpticsPro 10 and DxO FilmPack 5 to replace noise with analog film grain

In collaboration with Gilles Théophile

Images taken at high ISO often have pronounced and unsightly grain, which usually means that they end up in the trash or forgotten in the hard drive. However, there is a very simple technique that will let you make use of these images by substituting much more esthetically-pleasing analog film grain for digital noise.

In this tutorial, we are going to work on a color image and a black & white image, using DxO OpticsPro 10 to reduce the noise, and DxO FilmPack 5 in plug-in mode to simulate analog film grains.

To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • DxO OpticsPro 10 (Essential or Elite edition)
  • DxO FilmPack 5 (Essential or Elite edition)
  • Some photos, preferably in RAW format

Original image

Smoothed image

Camera rendering and Fuji Superia 1600 film grain

Kodak TMax 3200 rendering and film grain

1- Eliminating noise with DxO OpticsPro 10

DxO OpticsPro has a particularly powerful noise reduction tool that we are going to use to eliminate the digital noise in our image.

The goal here is to completely smooth the image, but then to add film grain to it (steps 2 and 3) so as to give it some weight.

The image can also be smoothed in either High Quality mode or with DxO PRIME.

Open the image

When you open your image, DxO OpticsPro automatically applies the corrections contained in the Optics Module and the DxO Standard preset, including noise reduction.

Our example is a photo taken at night at 25600 ISO, a rather extreme value, but thanks to the efficiency of DxO’s noise reduction, can be considered as common to use when shooting.

The image before and after smoothing the noise, enlarged to 100%

The Noise reduction sub-palette

Smooth the image

Smoothing the image could not be simpler:

  • Go into the Customize tab.
  • Enlarge the image to 100% by clicking on the 1:1 button in the upper toolbar.
  • Go into the Essential tools palette > Noise reduction.
  • Move the Luminance slider to the right until the grain disappears completely.

Your image is now smoothed and ready to be worked on in DxO FilmPack.

Note

DxO OpticsPro has already completely corrected chrominance noise, which appears in the form of colored pixels.

Note

DxO PRIME can let you go even further in smoothing your image while preserving a maximum of details. However, you cannot see the results in real time for the entire image, which makes it less suitable for this exercise, unless you want to export it as a TIFF and then reopen it in DxO OpticsPro.

2- Replacing the noise in a color image with DxO FilmPack 5

After smoothing the noise, we will move into DxO FilmPack 5 in plug-in mode. In this mode, the application is presented as a palette in DxO OpticsPro’s Customize tab.

Select an analog film

At this stage, you have two possibilities:

  • Add grain while preserving the camera’s color rendering of the original image.
  • Add grain and change the color rendering of the image.

Adding grain without changing the colors

Color palette:

  • Leave the Category on Generic renderings.
  • Leave the Rendering menu on Camera default rendering.

Grain sub-palette:

  • In the Category menu, choose Color Negative Film (or Color Positive Film).
  • In the Film menu, choose the film type (in our example, Fuji Superia HG 1600).
  • Verify the effect of the grain by displaying the image at 100% (the 1:1 button in the command bar).
  • You can reinforce or reduce the effect of the grain by using the Intensity slider (in our example, the slider is set at 150, to give the image more weight and texture).
  • You can also adjust the fineness of the grain by selecting a different film format from the Format menu (the bigger the format, the finer and more discreet the grain).

The Color rendering and Grain sub-palettes

Example of the rendering at 100%, camera rendering, and Fuji Superia 1600 grain

Adding grain by modifying the colors

In the Color Rendering sub-palette:

  • Category menu: Choose Color Positive Film, Color Negative Film, or Cross Processed Film.
  • Rendering menu: Choose whatever film you want.
  • Repeat steps 3 to 5 in the preceding procedure.

The Color rendering and Grain sub-palettes

Example of the rendering at 100%, and Fuji Superia 1600 film and grain

Note

You can also choose a film type and the grain associated with it, or you can choose a film type and the grain from a different analog film.

Note

Your choice of films depends on the edition of DxO FilmPack 5 that you use. You can find a list of the films available for your edition on the dedicated webpage.

Check the results

To see the results of these steps, export your images in the format and size you want, if you want to publish them on the Web, or create some proofs if you want to print these photos.

Note

Replacing digital noise with analog film grain is an excellent way to give some heft to your prints. This technique can also be used to counter the sometimes too-smooth and cold aspect of digital images.

3- Replacing the noise in a black & white image with DxO FilmPack 5

The method is exactly the same for a black & white image, with a few variations in terms of the rendering:

  • Adding grain to an image previously converted to black & white.
  • Converting the image and adding the grain with a black & white film rendering.

Adding grain to an image previously converted to black & white

Convert your color image to black & white using one of the following tools:

  • DxO OpticsPro (DxO FilmPack not activated): Select one of the black & white presets (after having clicked on the Presetsbutton in the upper right side of the command bar).
  • DxO OpticsPro (with DxO FilmPack Elite edition actived): Create a custom black & white conversion using the Channel mixer (see the tutorial).

Conversion by preset to black & white

The image converted to black & white

In the Color palette:

  • Leave the Category on Generic renderings.
  • Leave the Rendering menu on Camera default rendering.

Grain sub-palette:

  • In the Category menu, choose Black And White Film.
  • In the Film menu, choose the film type (in our example, Kodak TMax 3200).
  • Verify the effect of the grain by displaying the image at 100% (the 1:1 button in the command bar).
  • You can reinforce or reduce the effect of the grain by using the Intensity slider (in our example, the slider is set at 150, to give the image more weight and texture).
  • You can also adjust the fineness of the grain by selecting a different film format from the Format menu (the bigger the format, the finer and more discreet the grain).

The Color rendering and Grain sub-palettes

Example of the rendering at 100%, black & white preset, and Kodak TMax 3200 grain

Converting the image and adding the grain with a black & white film rendering

In the Color Rendering sub-palette:

  • Category menu: Choose Black & white film.
  • Rendering menu: Choose the film that you want.
  • Repeat steps 3 to 5 of the preceding procedure.

The Color rendering and Grain sub-palettes

Example of the rendering at 100%, and Kodak TMax 3200 film preset and grain

Photo credit: Rodérick Vazquez