Gear Guy

Why are my photos so grainy?

I bought a Canon Rebel 2000 kit in July to take with me to Alaska. I fully expected the picture to be crystal sharp—you know, the azure sky with white clouds and glacier and stuff. But after I came back and got them developed, I was very disappointed. Seems like the pictures are pretty grainy (like those taken using an APS camera), especially those sky/clouds and glacier ones. I used 200 speed Kodak Gold and the weather was sunny, but not too bright. What can I do to make the pictures turn out better when I go to AK again next year? Should I change the lens, the film, or the camera? If so, could you make some affordable suggestions? I'd rather not change the camera, unless of course, it'll give me great advantage. Oh, I got them developed at Ritz Camera, if that helps. Maybe their equipment just can't handle it. Please help me out here, I'm desperate! No Name Given


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The camera shouldn’t be the problem. The Rebel 2000 ($400 with lens, in most cases) is a perfectly good amateur-level SLR camera, one that of course takes plain ol’ and always reliable 35mm film. With the right lens, it’s capable of taking photos as sharp and beautiful as any from Canon’s top-of-the-line Eos IV ($1,500 for the body alone).

So we have to look elsewhere for the problem. The photo lab could be the culprit, but because you said the graininess seemed evident only on certain types of pictures, I tend to discount that. Bad developing would render most or all of the photos grainy. You drop an important clue when you say the problem-prone photos were taken of sky and clouds, or on glaciers. My guess is that the camera was under-exposing the film. The resultant “thin” negative will tend to render a grainier looking print than one with proper exposure.

How to solve this problem? Two ways. One, the Rebel has a control that lets you skew the exposure to either the over- or under- side. You can adjust that control to over-expose by one F-stop, and that should do it. Alternatively, most cameras such as the Rebel allow you to “lock” the exposure on one subject, then hold that exposure setting when focusing on another. Figure out how to do that on the Rebel (check the manual — it may be as easy as slightly depressing the shutter release), then, when next confronting a very bright scene, set your exposure with a reading off your bare hand. Then aim the camera at the snowy/sunny scene and click away. This should actually be a bit more accurate than arbitrarily over-exposing everything.

Of course, keep in mind that during the summer you probably can get by just fine with 100-speed film. The lower the number, the more light the film needs —- but you also get finer grain and better sharpness.

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