Image noise is random variation of brightness or color information in images, and is usually an aspect of electronic noise. It can be produced by the sensor and circuitry of a scanner or digital camera. Image noise can also originate in film grain and in the unavoidable shot noise of an ideal photon detector. Image noise is an undesirable by-product of image capture that obscures the desired information.
The original meaning of "noise" was "unwanted signal"; unwanted electrical fluctuations in signals received by AM radios caused audible acoustic noise ("static"). By analogy, unwanted electrical fluctuations are also called "noise".
The grain of photographic film is a signal-dependent noise, with similar statistical distribution to shot noise. If film grains are uniformly distributed (equal number per area), and if each grain has an equal and independent probability of developing to a dark silver grain after absorbing photons, then the number of such dark grains in an area will be random with a binomial distribution. In areas where the probability is low, this distribution will be close to the classic Poisson distribution of shot noise. A simple Gaussian distribution is often used as an adequately accurate model.
Film grain is usually regarded as a nearly isotropic (non-oriented) noise source. Its effect is made worse by the distribution of silver halide grains in the film also being random.