I’m not a big fan of on-camera flash. Back when I first started shooting, I had an old Pentax manual camera with a 50mm lens that opened to F/1.4. (Really high quality optics, for the non-photography savvy.)

If I combined that with some ISO 800 film, I rarely needed a flash anyway.

But now in the digital age, I’m shooting with crummy zoom lenses, and if I’m in a low-light situation, I’ve got two options. Buy a nice pan/tilt flash (starting around $200. Nope) or turn the ISO on the camera all the way up to maximum sensitivity.  (ISO1600 on my work camera and ISO1000 on mine).

I can usually get reasonably sharp pictures at these high ISOs, but the downside is terrible noise, like in the title photo.

Until now, I’ve just lived with the high noise and cruised Craigslist for new equipment. But this week I found a third option.

A program called Neat Image does a fantastic job at removing noise from digital images. I tried tons of other stuff, Photoshop filters and the like, but nothing even came close to what Neat Image can pull off.

Some examples from photos I shot while filming a Little Theatre audition tonight:



The above are 100% zoom crops of photos before and after processing them with Neat Image. Here are a couple more.





Maybe it’s just that I’ve been suffering through high-noise images for a couple years, but this program absolutely knocks my socks off. I can’t believe how good of a job it does. Stumbling across it on the Internet was as exciting for me as the last three Christmases combined.

The home edition costs $30 on their website — an ultra bargain compared to a $200-$500 flash, or $400 for a new 50mm f/1.4.

A smoking bargain.

Anyway, about the Little Theater:

Our online editor asked me to shoot video tonight at an audition for the Pensacola Little Theatre, a local non-profit organization for young aspiring actors. I’ve read about them before, but I’ve never really gotten to see what they do.

Tonight, they were holding open auditions for Disney’s High School Musical, which, apparently, is the hottest thing since sliced bread right now.

It was such a fun assignment. I’ll tell more of the story as the video project comes together, but until then, here are a couple of the photos I shot tonight. (And processed with Neat Image!)

tryout 4_filtered

tryout 3_filtered

tryout 2_filtered tryout 1_filtered

tryout 5_filtered

Auditions have got to be scary…


2 Responses to NOISE

  1. PJ says:

    Wow! I’m passing this one on. Nice catch.
    Coincidentally, I spent the better part of this morning researching 50mm lenses. Ideally, I would love to have a 1.2 but I’ll prolly have to settle for a 1.4.

  2. I shot with the Canon f/1.2 at Poynter, and it was a fantastic lens. Especially for candid portraits. It makes them sparkle. Laughably expensive though if you actually have to buy one.

    I’d buy a f/1.8 or f/1.4 if I was still shooting film, but with the 1.6X digital crop, it’s like an 80mm, and that’s too long for a walking-around lens for me. (running around, and backing into walls/chairs/traffic is more likely methinks)

    The closest thing is the 35mm f/2, which costs $400 and appears to be pretty crummy.

    I miss the old days of shooting nearly everything with that little 50mm. It cost, like, $50 and was amazing. I rarely took it off the camera.

    Ah well. T’was a simpler time.

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