What is noise in digital images, and when does it become a problem?

In low light you typically need to increase the camera's ISO setting to keep shooting handheld, but this increases the appearance of noise.
(Image credit: James Paterson)

In visual terms, digital noise looks like a random speckling of grain (and in audio terms it sounds like hum or hiss). But the crucial thing is, this noise isn’t part of the image, or 'signal' you’re trying to shoot or record – it’s electronic interference generated by the recording kit itself.

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Jon Adams

Jon started out as a film-maker, working as a cameraman and video editor before becoming a writer/director. He made corporate & broadcast programmes in the UK and Middle East, and also composed music, writing for TV, radio and cinema. Jon worked as a photographer and journalist alongside this, and took his video skills into magazine publishing, where he edited the Digital Photo magazine for over 15 years. He is an expert in photo editing, video making and camera techniques.