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Advice on avoiding or reducing film grain


Active member
I debated putting this in new or interesting techniques to share or medium format section but there is nothing new or interesting about this question and this is specific to film.

For a long time, Film provided portrait, beauty and fashion world with amazing smooth pictures. I was shocked when i found out that those images were not in digital (because digital was not available back then). I stayed away from film because i'm not fond of grain. No complaints about it when it's natural but i'll never push film for the grain, nor will i ever shoot with high speed film (i'll simply use digital at that time). This is personal decision i made based on my aesthetics preference, and i'm very happy with it.

My question is, what can i do to avoid or reduce the grain? I'm pretty clear that i'm looking for grain free picture? Appreciate any inputs.

What i know so far,
1. I've to pick the film with more density. On the B&W side, i know i can use T Max, or Ilford Delta and i'll get better density and hence less grain. Any color side film that you'd recommend ?
2. On the high density, how i can get more range to of light or smooth transitions ?
3. I know i've to nail the exposure. My issue is, even though i nail it i still see grain. I know i nailed it because i first get the shot on digital, copy those settings and even increase exposure by 2/3.

Reason i'm simply not staying with digital is because of
1. Sensor size
2. The work i'm trying to replicate (So that i'll learn) was done on film (Albert watson, Edward Weston, Richard Avedon, Ruth Bernhard, Tyen, Surge lutens), you can't compare apples and oranges. so you can't draw conclusions.

What i suspect:
1. If i'll print, the grain will not be that much visible. All the magazine pictures that i see, they are printed and on small size (A4 or similar range). I guess, if i'll shoot on large format say 4x5 and print on A4, i'll not see grain in my images as well ? I plan to order some prints from good lab, who'll hear my requirements and provide me prints (and not make me bankrupt :) )

Anything else ?
1. As of now, i process film via Lab. It's popular and busy lab with mostly batch or automated processes. Any other options you know who'd hear about my preference and do what they can to help me with look ?
2. If i don't have any other option, I'll have to process at home, Should i keep things manual or save and go for some of the automated processors ?

P. Chong

Well-known member
I have not tried it yet, but will probably order a box soon, but the Adox CMS 20 II is claimed by the Adox to be the smallest grain film. It does need its own developer for best results though.

I have used Delta 100 and HP5 from Ilford. But my views are biased that I am not averse to a bit of grain. I find HP5, rated at EI400 to be ok as long as we don't pixel peep or use a 10X loupe to examine the negative. And even then, they usually print great. Even the cheap and cheerful Shanghai GP3 is fine for me. I can get the GP3 cheaper here in Singapore than Fomapan, and so it works as an inexpensive film. I have shot several boxes of the film. I self develop BW.

For colour, there are fewer options. I like Fujifilm Provia 100F RDP III. It is low grain, beautiful colours and has zero reciprocity adjustments needed for exposures from 1/4000s to 2 minutes. It is excellent for portraits, though Kodak Portra has perhaps nicer skin tones, but also much more expensive (at least where I am). Kodakchrome 25 was the go to those days for fine grain colour film.

Attached is a photograph I made with my Sinar X Nikkor W 180mm/f5.6 with Provia. Lab developed, scanned with GFX 50S II and Hasselblad HC 4/120 Macro. I have shown this image before.

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Subscriber and Workshop Member
If you want absolutely grainless images, try wet plate.

Advantages - your pictures will look like they were taken during the Civil War.

Disadvantages - ISO 1, so needs a LOT of light or a LONG exposure (or both). Also pretty poor dynamic range. Oh, and you need a darkroom on-site, as the plate has to be made, shot, and developed in a window of a few minutes.

Other than that.... :unsure:



Well-known member
Practical advice (and a mistake I just made when exposing a film recently) is to meter to the shadows instead of the lights if you shoot negative film. The lights are mostly recoverable, the shadows not.

P. Chong

Well-known member
Absolutely! To amplify in digital, we meter and expose for the highlights, as the nature of the digital sensor is that if blown, it is absolutely not recoverable. However, on film, especially negative, one should expose for the shadows. The highlights can be recovered. And if the shadows are not properly exposed, there is no information recorded, and thus cannot be recovered. Digital's dynamic range, especially with 16 bit sensors are much wider than film.

Practical advice (and a mistake I just made when exposing a film recently) is to meter to the shadows instead of the lights if you shoot negative film. The lights are mostly recoverable, the shadows not.


Well-known member
When you use B&W film the deveoping of the film will be a big point where you can achieve finer grain .
Adox 20 has the finest grain of all films, but the film is not easy to handle and have not the DR of the normal B&W film.
Kodak and Ilford delta are the best films to get very fine grain. I take Ilford, becouse the film costs 50% or less of kodak.
For both Films to get finest grain just use Perceptol, not pure, but 1:1 with water. Stay at 20 C, not more. When shooting a 100asa film choose 50 asa as standart or for 400asa choose 200 asa.
You will get the finest grain ever.
When you want to scan use always wet scanning, best option to get finest grain is using the gel from Kami or SD. Ask people that make Drum scan what they use.
This scanning way is also the best for color film.
sadly there are no possibilities to influence the grain at color development as it is for B&W.


Active member
One other point on Black and white film the longer the film is wet, the grain also will show up more readily. So do the correct times, but do not just leave the film in water and walk away. For scanning, the color negative is best. It has no silver left after processing, to scatter the light from the scanner. But both B&W and Transparency, have left over silver molecules that will scatter the light flattening the contrast, and color contrast, when scanned. Oh, and some loss in sharpness as well.

If you built a variable light source, you can test for your speed using your meter and your processing in B&W, to give you true speed. After finding normal, you then test for + and minus ISO and development times as well.