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Re: Red Rose: results

Michael King
 

I am just a lurker, dont’t have time to partake in the challenges - not my day job. But this issue of how to best deal with challenging red flowers is one I am super keen to understand as I often have this problem in my personal photos. Look forward to closely following the discussion on this one and thank those who took the time to contribute and share their solutions.

King regards,
Mike King

On 3 Aug 2020, at 12:23, Dan Margulis via groups.io <dmargulis=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:

I’ve posted the results of the last in pir series of 11 studies.

Reviewing: This seems like a fairly routine shot of a rose, the sort of flower image found in every photographer’s portfolio. It is from the MIT study and there are no specific instructions on what is the desired result.

We have 21 entrants. Most people also submitted a list of their steps, thanks very much. I haven’t read these, because I’d rather get a sense of who was successful and who wasn’t before investigating why.

The files don’t have people’s names on them, and were random-generator numbered from #1201 to #1221. As with past studies, we also have a “par” version, #1222. To get it, I chose what I thought looked like the five best entrants, and averaged them, each one weighted 20%. This often creates a version that is superior to most if not all of its parents.

I’ll write about the individual submissions, but as usual I’d like to open it up to group discussion first. Unlike previous case studies, however, I have a couple of words in advance.

This one is very like the Carnival study that started our series, except that one was in CMYK and this one in RGB. In both, the central object is extremely red; we likely want it to appear as saturated as possible consistent with holding detail.

It is correct that this specific problem doesn’t come up that often, but you need to be able to handle it because the techniques that improve the reds of the carnival costume and this rose also work for less saturated reds, which happen to be the most crucial color much of the time. Consider the list of our case studies:

Carnival
Veiled Bride
Niagara Spray
Cinque Terre
Colosseum
Panama 1978
Monument Valley
Toast to Greece
Seated in Grass
Adirondacks
Red Rose

Several of these have reds, greens, and blues of approximately equal importance. That’s the case in Niagara Spray, Cinque Terre, and Panama 1978. It would be nice to get excellent shape in all these colors, but if one of them isn’t that good, yet isn’t a total disgrace, then it isn’t necessarily disqualifying.

But what about Carnival, Veiled Bride, Monument Valley, Seated in Grass, Adirondacks, and Red Rose? Well, in each of these if you have second-rate control of reds, then your version is a failure, full stop.

These images were chosen for their diversity, trying to get a decent representation of the sorts of work that crosses the screen of professional retouchers. Control of reds is critical in half of them. So I would look closely at how well you did on this rose image because it may be a predictor of results on more important ones. And then you might want to rethink some of the steps you took on the other five red-critical exercises.


The folder is in the group Photos section, named Case Study: Red Rose
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/album?id=251188

I also have zipped all 22 files and uploaded a 16 mb file to our Files section,
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/files/
Search for Red-rose_entries_080320.zip
If you are going to study these versions I strongly encourage you to download these files. Many of these entrants vary only in a minor way and it is hard to see the impact of a change without toggling back and forth between them.

I look forward to your comments.

Dan Margulis




Re: Red Rose: results

Bill Theis
 

I for one appreciated that the subject was something that I have seen, maybe not this exact rose but one that likely is similar.  What I wanted to do was to reproduce as much as possible what I thought a rose should look like... maybe becoming a bit romantic and pushing the colors just a bit but not so much as to be unbelievable.  Then getting the greens right since my perception is that rose leaves are just a bit deeper than most leaves (so somewhat darker).  That said, this was an interesting exercise comparing to the other submissions.
I would guess (probably incorrectly) that 1212 blnd-v1-v2-CB.jpg, and 1203 Rose&Bed.jpg which are darkest in the rose petal ends versus 1205 RoseV4.jpg and 1221 4475-down.jpg which are considerably lighter would result in a good blend for luminosity.  Plus a blend to tame the colors using 1207 RR9-a2074.jpg would help some of the supersaturated ones.  So with just a few of the others to blend into mine, I felt I could get a big improvement (which I tried and verified).


Red Rose: results

Dan Margulis
 

I’ve posted the results of the last in pir series of 11 studies.

Reviewing: This seems like a fairly routine shot of a rose, the sort of flower image found in every photographer’s portfolio. It is from the MIT study and there are no specific instructions on what is the desired result.

We have 21 entrants. Most people also submitted a list of their steps, thanks very much. I haven’t read these, because I’d rather get a sense of who was successful and who wasn’t before investigating why.

The files don’t have people’s names on them, and were random-generator numbered from #1201 to #1221. As with past studies, we also have a “par” version, #1222. To get it, I chose what I thought looked like the five best entrants, and averaged them, each one weighted 20%. This often creates a version that is superior to most if not all of its parents.

I’ll write about the individual submissions, but as usual I’d like to open it up to group discussion first. Unlike previous case studies, however, I have a couple of words in advance.

This one is very like the Carnival study that started our series, except that one was in CMYK and this one in RGB. In both, the central object is extremely red; we likely want it to appear as saturated as possible consistent with holding detail.

It is correct that this specific problem doesn’t come up that often, but you need to be able to handle it because the techniques that improve the reds of the carnival costume and this rose also work for less saturated reds, which happen to be the most crucial color much of the time. Consider the list of our case studies:

Carnival
Veiled Bride
Niagara Spray
Cinque Terre
Colosseum
Panama 1978
Monument Valley
Toast to Greece
Seated in Grass
Adirondacks
Red Rose

Several of these have reds, greens, and blues of approximately equal importance. That’s the case in Niagara Spray, Cinque Terre, and Panama 1978. It would be nice to get excellent shape in all these colors, but if one of them isn’t that good, yet isn’t a total disgrace, then it isn’t necessarily disqualifying.

But what about Carnival, Veiled Bride, Monument Valley, Seated in Grass, Adirondacks, and Red Rose? Well, in each of these if you have second-rate control of reds, then your version is a failure, full stop.

These images were chosen for their diversity, trying to get a decent representation of the sorts of work that crosses the screen of professional retouchers. Control of reds is critical in half of them. So I would look closely at how well you did on this rose image because it may be a predictor of results on more important ones. And then you might want to rethink some of the steps you took on the other five red-critical exercises.


The folder is in the group Photos section, named Case Study: Red Rose
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/album?id=251188

I also have zipped all 22 files and uploaded a 16 mb file to our Files section,
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/files/
Search for Red-rose_entries_080320.zip
If you are going to study these versions I strongly encourage you to download these files. Many of these entrants vary only in a minor way and it is hard to see the impact of a change without toggling back and forth between them.

I look forward to your comments.

Dan Margulis


moderated Re: Case Study: Red Rose

Dan Margulis
 

A reminder that entries are due in this, our final case study, in 24 hours, at 06:00 eastern time Monday/1100Z/12:00 ora italiana.

Please make sure you are sending tagged sRGB, and that you have not altered the file in a way that makes it impossible to blend with others.

I confirm receipt of entries from the following individuals:
SJ
DS
KW
RW

Dan


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Dan Margulis
 

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Last revised 20 May 2020
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Adirondacks: Comments on individual versions, Part 2

Dan Margulis
 

(continued from Part 1)

1112 Good color, slightly washed out due to an overly light road. Comparing it to some others seems to me to indicate that there are advantages to having more detail in the sky than this one does.

1113 Speaking of which, now here is an interesting sky. It violates a basic principle of outdoor photography, which is that although clouds do get bluer as they get darker, it’s best to suppress that added blue for as long as reasonable. Here, however, it looks like the added blueness flatters the foreground. Overall the trees are slightly lighter than in some other version and I might compensate by retouching the flags to make their reds deeper.

Making this much use of the sky as a prop was also a feature of #1110 and especially #1101, not so much versions prepared by others. When people are thinking along the same general lines we often get the best result with a blend. So, here’s my suggestion. Grab #1101, #1110, and #1113. Try blending any one 50-50 into any other. I’ve tried, and I always find the blend better than either parent. (This would not happen if you blended one into a version that doesn’t play up the sky.) Furthermore, I’ve made an average of the three, called it par strong sky, and uploaded it to the folder. I’m not saying it’s better than the existing par but it’s a reasonable alternative.

1114 Chosen for the par version. Not much to criticize here. As it turned out, this one used nearly the same procedure as I did to create #1118, so I’ll reserve further comments until then.

1115 This is in many ways the most natural-looking submission of all. Fine definition everywhere, standout flags, good variation, sky interesting without being obtrusive. Paco Márquez got there with a simple, if drastic, procedure. He assigned a profile of Apple RGB, 1.0 gamma, and then multiplied. This gave him something quite conservative and too light, leaving him a lot of room to experiment in LAB.

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that the version is less colorful than almost all others. Having grown up in the area, I would say that the actual color of the leaves lies somewhere between Paco’s and the par version. The trees can be fairly red but not the red of a fire engine, or of a national flag for that matter. If this picture were simply for tourism to the region I would say Paco’s is perhaps the best version except maybe #1101. But since we are specifically told that the photo illustrates the most spectacular display of autumn color in half a century, the chances are we need more color than this.

Strategy: if you have a version that you suspect has a certain defect, such as possibly not being colorful enough, it is very easy to make another version that doesn’t have that defect. Starting from scratch, you should be able to quickly make something that looks a lot like the festive #1103. And then there are a million blending options. If the second version happens to be useful for anything other than blending with its color at a low opacity, so much the better.

1116 Another nice version, this one by Robert Wheeler. Good separation between the two most prominent trees, resulting from prudent use of H-K and MMM. He used Equalize to try to add contrast, a questionable move but it may have worked. I would, however, darken and intensify all the flags

1117 This person ran into a problem I referred to earlier. He submitted a different version, then a day or two later looked at it again and decided it was too loud, so he submitted what we see now. I would say these new colors are believable but the real problem with this version can be seen by comparing it to #1118. The main difference is that the lightest clouds in #1118 have been made much lighter than this, giving more range to the trees and resulting in a snappier rendition.

1118 Chosen for the par version. Here’s mine. Of the “standard” (non-heavy sky) versions, it has the most snap in the trees and the most variation in the critical areas. To see how that happened, I’ll compare it to the excellent #1114, because that person used very similar procedures. Some of the points are instructive so this discussion will be lengthy. I recommend opening both versions and toggling back and forth between them with Apply Image to note how they vary. Here are the things we both did:

*Philosophy. Here’s his explanation, with which I concur.

The original image looks like an afternoon autumn day with unsettled weather from sunshine
in the foreground to cloudy in the valley to rain or fog in the distant background.

So while there seems to be no doubt that the foreground should be sunny bright, the question
is how dark to leave background.  I would think that the background wasn't as dark as
captured on film, and someone who was there to experience a once-in-a-generation autumn glory
wouldn't want a dark and gloomy area dragging down the memory. But neither should it appear
too light as if there were no rain clouds in the vicinity.

*We did limited color correction at the outset. Later, although we didn’t do things exactly in the same order, our workflows featured the following.

*We applied a false profile (he actually used an Exposure layer, which is the same thing) and masked the multiplying layer with the original blue channel, so as to retain detail in the sky.

*We both attacked the green channel, and then the red, trying to add contrast to them on Luminosity layers.

*We both used the Darken Sky action to get a heavier sky on the right side.

*We both felt that our shadows were plugging and opened them with a Hammer action and/or Shadows/Highlights.

*We both wanted to use H-K or some equivalent to cut down on excessive color.

*We both used forms of MMM to try for better variation in the reds and yellows.

*We both saw the need for heavy sharpening, although we did it in different ways.

Now, the slight tweaks that make the difference. In first looking at the picture we should all be thinking of trying to add tonal contrast to the trees. Some will necessarily get much lighter than at present. When this happens, we are in danger of severely damaging the sky and the flags.

We both realized that the sky is not an issue, it can easily be masked out because it is very light in the blue channel whereas all the trees are very dark. But the flags are not a problem either. They are just about detail-free in the original. We can restore their colors by hand later and no non-professional will be the wiser. So eventually I just painted the flags’ colors back in. Several other versions would have been improved with the same move.

Since I wasn’t worried about losing the light stuff, my first step was to plant a white point in the central clouds, you can see how this created a more interesting sky than in #1114. Then, on a new layer I applied a straight-line curve to the green channel, blowing out the highlights while maintaining the shadow point where it was. This lightened the green and the yellow trees significantly, the red ones not nearly as much. I then changed layer mode to Luminosity to avoid a grossly green look, and used Blend If to exclude all the non-tree stuff.

I now repeated this procedure with a second new layer, blending the RGB composite into the red, which had weak contrast originally, and again setting to Luminosity mode and excluding the non-trees.

In #1114 the guy did not lighten the clouds as much as I did. His moves to add contrast to the green and the red channels involved multiplying them into themselves. That works, too, but at this point his version would have been much darker than mine, which affected our next move.

We now each wanted to tone down all but the brightest reds, so that when we eventually added a color boost we would get some bright red accents in the trees but not overwhelm the viewer with redness. In principle, that called for H-K, which has one layer that adds grayness to all but the brightest colors and another that darkens them. He could not afford that second part because his version was already so dark. So, he used H-K Reversed, which lightens the strongly colored areas while desaturating the less colorful ones. This gave him the more subdued color he wanted in preparation for MMM, but it didn’t help contrast.

I could and did use that part of standard H-K, but I did not need the part that added grayness to the less saturated colors, because I had a way that’s subtly better. Go back to my first Luminosity layer, where I had lightened the green channel to add contrast. If that layer were in Normal mode, it would have been extremely green in the lighter trees, much less so in the red ones.

In moderation, that’s a good idea in this particular picture. If the idea is to emphasize reds without actually making them the same color as the flags, it’s better to force the non-reds toward green than towards gray. So I duplicated my Luminosity layer, changed it to Normal mode, and cut back opacity to 20%. Then, when I did a second Luminosity layer to darken the red channel (which added a cyan cast to the lighter trees), I did the same thing, making a Normal mode layer out of it at much lower opacity.

These two moves left me with a green-cyan cast in all trees other than the strongly red ones. Eventually, I found that the shadows were too cool, so I neutralized them with curves, but that cool cast is still present in the lighter half of the trees. So, the green trees are greener and the orange ones yellower. When trying to enhance reds, Chevreul suggests adding green elsewhere. Compare the green trees in #1118 to those of #1114 and see if you don’t agree with him.

1119 Like some others, this person tried a false profile approach, giving him flexibility to reassign contrast. He then assigned more of it to the sky and less to the trees themselves, resulting in a darker and flatter version than most, though the color in the lighter areas is fine. But the blues of the flags and the green of the Shuttle sign have gone black.

1120 This is most directly comparable to #1110, which is about the same darkness but retains color better in the shadows.

1121 Chosen for the par version. This attractive result was the result of two separate passes, each featuring MMM and one of the Hammer actions to add snap to the foliage.

1122 The par version.

1123 (posted, but not included in the download) the strong sky par version.


Adirondacks: Comments on individual versions, part 1

Dan Margulis
 

Either I had a lot to say about these submissions or I am suffering from boredom while hiding out from the virus. In view of the length, I’ll cut these comments into two parts.

Comments I made at the top of the same file in Seated in the Grass are equally applicable here:

As with a couple of others, there were so many good versions that nobody should take my quick choices for the par version too seriously, as there are around ten versions that could reasonably have been chosen.

I also suggest that if you are going over this list you download them and compare some versions by toggling back and forth, using Apply Image or similar. Some of the differences are quite subtle and hard to detect otherwise (which doesn’t make them any less useful).

Dan Margulis
*******

1101 We start off with a personal favorite, as well as a favorite of some of the people posting to the main thread.. The person explains:

I sought to create a sense of the wonderful light and overall scene one sometimes finds oneself in after a rainstorm -- dark clouds in the distance, but with a sunny, bright foreground. The car entering from the left reinforces this sense of the scene -- it's coming from a considerably darker area, and so its headlights are on.
I began by setting a neutral on the road. And once again, I made several versions and blended them, aiming for a result that would be an appropriate response to what you, as I interpreted it, wrote about the image: that it was an unusually colorful fall, so represent it as such, but don't overdo it.
In addition to blending a few different versions I adjusted the saturation and luminosity of some parts of the image, masking out others. The sky may stretch the boundaries of what looks "natural", but after trying several versions of the sky I felt I needed those tones of blue to intensify the vivacity of the colors in the trees.

He claims to be concerned about having lost detail in the trees in exchange for his brighter colors, but I don’t see this. There are several versions that have lost detail due to excessive color, #1103 being one, but this one seems OK to me.

According to precedent, since I would rate this as one of the five best versions, it should have been chosen for the par version. However, it is so radically different from the others that it would throw off the blend. So I chose 1110, which is somewhat along the same lines but not as extreme, even though I don’t like it as well as this one.

1102 This pleasant version was made in two passes. The person did the first in a standard PPW way, including MMM. The result is one of the darker treatments of the trees, which looks good but which has the drawback that the shadows at the base of the trees can plug up. He apparently saw this and did a second version in which he used Bigger Hammer to open the shadow areas up. The result is satisfactory but it lacks the punch of the par version.

1103 This version went charging into MMM + CB right after making a few color adjustments. It proved that with these tools, you can make colors as vivid as you like. Unfortunately, in doing so, you can also knock out detail in the colored areas. There’s very little definition in the leaves of the major trees. Also, the red of the most prominent tree is equivalent to the reds found in the flags, which is unrealistic. Still, it’s an attractive presentation, impressionistic, and quite useful for blending in Color mode.

1104 This person also went into MMM and did not like what he saw, feeling that it threw the reds over the top. He therefore cancelled and reran it, this time using only greens as the advisory selection. The idea is successful in that it emphasizes the greens, and also the variation in the foreground orange tree. These things flatter the redness without forcing it to compete with the flags. 

Unlike #1102, this person created some detailing in the sky. That, coupled with the MMM move described above, makes it similar to the par version, which is nevertheless better in spite of the similar coloring. Why? Because if you are going to make an interesting sky you should make its lightest point be roughly equivalent to a normal highlight, if this can be done without damaging the flags. Since the par version does that, its added contrast carries over into the foreground trees.

1105 As in #1104, this person emphasized the reds by means of calling attention to the greens with of a subtle MMM selection, though he used MMM Finetuned rather than MMM proper. The result is a slight green cast in the trees. I think that’s good, I did it intentionally in my own version, because it allows a more flexible portrayal of the reds. This person had another concern:

I think the colors came out nicely, both in the flags the foreground and the background, and even though the background became a bit lighter I think there is enough difference front to back the make the foreground be the eye catcher.

I agree with the conclusion but not the reasoning. Imagine this image without any flagpoles. Then, this guy’s concern would be valid. But the tall U.S. flag is going to focus attention on the foreground trees almost regardless of what we do with color.

1106 The result here is somewhat similar to #1103 in that the colors are attractive but there’s a significant loss of detail in the foreground trees. However, #1103 had better separation of colors, the two main foreground trees are more distinct from one another.

There was a questionable strategy involved in this one. The person immediately boosted saturation in ACR. This may have made it temporarily look better but it was premature. When LAB is available later there’s no big hurry to make the colors bright, better to make that decision later and not risk doing something now that’s hard to reverse.

1107 A number of MMM steps, including channel blending using the green, led to this version in which the reds of the trees become oppressive. This often happens when we are fooling around in LAB, our eyes become desensitized and we don’t see that the colors have become too strong. The solution is to look at the file again a few hours later and blend it with something more conservative if necessary. That way, it would probably be adjusted to something more like #1110. 

There is, however, a more important problem here. I’ve recommended several times over the course of these studies that when you think you are done with the file, run Auto Tone. We hope and expect that this does nothing and should be cancelled immediately. It’s a good two-second insurance policy against a flawed procedure.  Here, Auto Tone makes a distinct improvement.

1108 Chosen for the par version. This one combines the best features of those seen so far. The flags stand out, the two major trees are distinct, subtle detailing in the shadows reminds us of how much redness there is in the site, and the sky is interesting. The person describes his process as “all a bit trial and error rather than a grand plan.” However, the strategy sounds like a grand plan to me: he made one version for color and another for contrast.

1109 As with the previous versions this one presents an attractive scene. It is not quite competitive with either #1108 or the par version because there is not as much color variation; the two trees behind the first three flagpoles seem to merge into one. The reason is similar to that in #1106: boosting color prematurely. The person writes that after trying to get good color in Camera Raw, 

I took it into Photoshop and converted to LAB and tried curves on L, A, and B. All that did was to push large parts of the trees out of gamut and by the time I reduced opacity of each channel to get in gamut there was no point. My submission is a basic global adjustment in ACR.

My suggestion: if you choose to correct color in a raw module the object should be to eliminate obviously wrong color rather than to produce something pleasing in and of itself.  Doing otherwise can pre-empt the use of more powerful tools later.

1110 Chosen for the par version. This version is what #1107 ought to have been; both have chosen relatively dark trees, fair enough, but this one has good color variation and the reds are not oppressive. The person lived in New England for many years and states that these are the colors he recalls. He got them with several PPW steps that happen to make the image darker: blending green into red, Bigger Hammer, false profile/multiply, and H-K, followed by the usual MMM+CB. Note how H-K suppressed some of the color and made it possible for him to be more aggressive once he got to LAB.

Another nice touch: he darkened the shadows in the road, suggesting stronger sunlight and making his brightly-lit foreground more realistic in context.

1111 A first-rate version, emphasizing the foreground by putting deeper and more neutral shadows elsewhere. His procedure was similar to that of #1110, including both Bigger Hammer and H-K. He says he spent about 2.5 hours on this over three separate sessions. The results paid off, I’m not sure I don’t like it better than the par.

To be continued in Part 2.


Re: Adirondacks: Results

John Furnes
 

I agree with Robert – 1101 is quite something.

Mine is 1105, and I tried to blend 1101 with 1105, which gave a better result than each of them.

 

To get to 1105, I first started out with Lab, H-K, MMM, and eventually it became very light, but colours were so-so.

I then started over and did

  1. Colour adjustment (not much)
  2. S/H
  3. Lesser Hammer
  4. MMM Fine with a selection of the ground behind the flag poles. This also gave some light to the darker background.
  5. High Pass (7.0 at 100%)

This result, which I thought was a bit too dark, I blended with the first attempt.

 

I think the colours came out good, both in the flags, the foreground and the background, and  even though the background became a bit lighter, I think there is enough difference front to back to make the foreground be the eye catcher.

 

 

John Furnes

 

 


Re: Adirondacks: Results

Dan Margulis
 

On Jul 28, 2020, at 10:36 AM, Robert Wheeler <bwheeler350@comcast.net> wrote:


When I saw the submitted entries, 1101 made me say out loud “I wish I had done that.” Enhancing the darkness of the clouds makes the distant hills look very shadowed from the sun. That makes my visual system conclude that those autumn trees out there must be VERY colorful to show up so well despite the darkness. The dramatic dark clouds also provide a pleasing contrast with the brightness of the closer trees and give the car an excuse to have headlights turned on. The balance of reds, yellows, and oranges came out perfectly. The green trees are properly subdued. The neutrals are neutral. Sharpening is subtle. This produces a definite Wow from me and is my favorite, even more than the PAR version. Others may have different opinions.
The two bookends of our series of case studies, Carnival and Red Rose, unabashedly ask us to make red objects as vivid as possible, consistent with realism. As against that, we have Cinque Terre, Monument Valley, and this Adirondacks shot, in all of which more color is welcome even if somewhat unrealistic, but there is a limit as to what viewers will accept. Of these three, Adirondacks is the most extreme example because we are specifically told to emphasize the strong coloring.

Yet we have to avoid blowing the viewer away with brilliance. And although in the autumn certain trees can display fairly bright reds, they can’t compare in saturation to the reds found in a country’s flag, of which there are several convenient examples in this scene. So, the flags need to stand out from the background. Fortunately they have so little detail that it’s easy to paint them in by hand if need be.

Also, there are large areas of dull red in the left-side background. These are very convincing if we want to suggest that color is everywhere. They have to be red enough for the viewer to get that message but they can’t be very saturated without looking ridiculous.

Almost all of us accomplished these goals so I would have to rate this as the most successful group effort so far. Reviewing the entries in more detail after they were posted I think we have about a dozen really good ones. This has the interesting consequence that three or four individual versions are IMHO better than the par, which is not common in these case studies.

Assuming that the things mentioned above have been dealt with successfully, the very best versions can be distinguished by their variation in the trees, which supports the narrative of a dazzling rainbow-type display. Particularly, behind the nearest three flags are two prominent trees, one basically orange and the other basically red. In the original they are hard to distinguish. Best to somehow lighten the orange-yellows, as well as move them toward yellow.

This suggests that MMM or something like it is going to play a critical role. Also, it’s likely that H-K or something similar will be useful, so that the viewer will see patches of brilliance rather than a flood.

For these reasons I’d recommend being very conservative about color in this image up until the time you hit LAB. Some people tried to achieve bright color in Camera Raw first. They pre-empted themselves from getting a better result later, because they found that MMM gave them lurid color.

Most of us tried to get some credibility into the sky so it would be something more than a gray blur. Three people went farther, maybe taking something from the Seated in the Grass exercise, by trying to make the sky heavier and blue enough that it would affect our overall perception. Of these, the most spectacular is #1101. Like Robert Wheeler, I find this possibly the best overall version. I didn’t dare pick it for the par, however, because it would create a discord with whatever else was chosen.

I’ve therefore created and uploaded a second par, called #1123 strong sky par, averaging the three that took that approach. An interesting alternative.

Dan


Re: Adirondacks: Results

Robert Wheeler
 

For many years, I wanted to see fall foliage color in far-away New England forests, but September and October always had heavy work demands that prevented travel. Moving to Vermont for five years solved the travel issue, but I found foliage photography challenging. Masses of tress from a distance would look like carpets without being impressive representations of the beauty. Views with distinct branches and leaves up close and groupings of color further away worked better. Bright sunshine would cause harsh contrast. Overcast days could make the colors look more saturated. Finding vantage points with emphasis on reds, yellows, and orange colors worked better than those that mixed in substantial areas with green leaves. If not too overcast, finding a place that included leaves glowing from backlight could be effective.

 

Our Adirondacks image is not the ideal starting point to highlight impressive fall color. The closer trees are bright with a lot of contrast (leaves at risk of going crunchy if slightly over-sharpened). We find more greenery than desirable. In the distance, the trees on the darker hill seem dull in the original – needing enhancement if we want to convey the message of a very colorful foliage year. Same for the low branches in the lower right.

 

When I saw the submitted entries, 1101 made me say out loud “I wish I had done that.” Enhancing the darkness of the clouds makes the distant hills look very shadowed from the sun. That makes my visual system conclude that those autumn trees out there must be VERY colorful to show up so well despite the darkness. The dramatic dark clouds also provide a pleasing contrast with the brightness of the closer trees and give the car an excuse to have headlights turned on. The balance of reds, yellows, and oranges came out perfectly. The green trees are properly subdued. The neutrals are neutral. Sharpening is subtle. This produces a definite Wow from me and is my favorite, even more than the PAR version. Others may have different opinions.

 

Mine is 1116. After using camera raw filter to make neutrals neutral, I used Image-adjust-equalize (after trying many other things), along with darken sky and H-K actions in preparation for color adjustment. Next came MMM+CB action (with color boost layer changed to soft light at 20% opacity and endpoint adjustment used on Auto). Back in sRGB, I lightened the darkest clouds (thinking this would provide an excuse for the color-adjusted distant hill trees to look appropriate),then boosted saturation of red, yellow, cyan, and blue a little bit, and used Topaz Sharpen AI at low setting.

 

When I blend 1101 into mine at 50% followed by a mild curves adjustment to enhance brightness, I get a result that pleases my subjective taste better than my submission, perhaps better than 1101 alone, and also better than the PAR version. Looks like other image blends could be interesting, but I haven’t tried them yet.

Robert Wheeler


Re: Adirondacks: Results

Paco
 

Hi! Mine is 1115.

Locking up the "king of excessive color," I tried to keep the warm tones from being too oversaturated and too R. The tree between the Australian and USA flags has not yet completely turned R and there is a lot of Y still in there. I wanted to keep the separation in those tonalities. Also tried to keep the subtle difference in the G tonalities. 

On this image I assigned a false RGB 1.0 gamma to the background, duplicated it and in Multiply mode applied an RGB composite mask which was blurred. Worked on contrast and colors in LAB. Flattened that and in sRGB duplicated the BG twice. On one layer HIRALOAM sharpening was applied to the R channel and on the other layer the same sharpening was applied to the G channel. Opened the shadows with S/H. Color corrected using the Speed Limit and road as the grey targets. The sky was color corrected so that it would gradate from a grey on the left side to a sky blue on the right.

All the best!

Paco



Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

John Furnes
 

My take was No. 1027 – the one where the nose disappeared.

I must admit that I took the freckles too far, and actually was a bit obsessed with it, and I didn’t find the way back. So everything became very light and not much definition anywhere. I don’t think the grass is distracting – there is no problem to find the real subject (well, in my  version it became a bit diffuse, but otherwise, no.)

So, there is a lesson to learn.

In my view – after having seen the rest of the entrants, I like the way 1021 is done, and compared to the PAR version, it is very much there.

 

I do find faces problematic, and have always had problems with finding the colour balance. Therefore, I have found my old copy of ‘Photoshop LAB COLOR’, 2.nd edition and started it all over again.

 

John Furnes

 


moderated Case Study: Red Rose

Dan Margulis
 

Our eleventh and final case study returns us to the topic of the very first one: how to handle a large, bright red object. This should be easier than the Carnival study, where the instructions were to produce a CMYK file, meaning that the intensity of the red was perforce less than what one might desire.

As with the other MIT exercises, unsharp masking is not permitted.


Dan
***********

*This is one of 5,000 images taken from a large MIT study. for which permission is given for educational use. The sponsors solicited contributions of images that were supposed to represent the range that a professional retoucher might receive. They then hired five intermediate retouchers to correct each. The 25,000 resulting files were made public, as were the .dng files they started with. These efforts will be posted along with those of our group.

*In the study, no instructions were given as to what the client wanted, but the objective here seems clear enough.

*You can use whatever methods you like to improve the picture EXCEPT AN UNSHARP MASK filter or similar, because the original retouchers in the MIT study were not allowed to.

*Please keep clear records of what you did for discussion. List members find these very valuable.

*In the Photos section, Case Study: Red Rose, 
I have uploaded a version opened with Camera Raw defaults, and another where the settings were much flatter. You may use either, or fetch the .dng as below.

*groups.io does not allow .dng format in the Photos section. If you want the .dng, you must download a zipped file from the Files section. NOTE: the zipped file contains the two default images as well, you don't need to download them separately. Filename=Red-Rose_case_study_source.zip

*The designated size of this exercise is 3008 x 2005 pixels. If you use the .dng image be sure to open into the correct size. Do not crop, rotate, or alter the sizing, and don't delete any objects, because any of these things will make it impossible to use your version as part of a par assembly. Also, we have had that Lightroom was not acquiring these .dngs in exactly the same aspect as other modules due to a lens correction. Therefore, we recommend that as soon as you acquire, you apply one of the default versions to it to make sure that all pixels line up.

*Your final file is to be sRGB with a proper tag. If you work in a different RGB you must Edit: Convert to Profile>sRGB before submitting the file.

*When finished, save in JPEG form, quality level 9. E-mail it to me, dmargulis (at) aol.com, with a brief explanation of how you produced it, including what file you used for your original. DO NOT POST IMAGES TO THE LIST.

*Remember that some e-mail clients automatically downsize image attachments. Make sure you’re sending it to me at the original size.

*Entries close Monday morning, 3 August, at 06:00 Eastern/1100Z/12:00 ora italiana.

*Rather than confirm every entrant I've received, I will periodically post the initials of everyone whose file I have.

*As soon as convenient after the deadline, I'll post all the entrants in a random order. Names will not be revealed except for those entrants who have identified themselves publicly. 

*A discussion will follow within a few days after posting the final files. 



Adirondacks: Results

Dan Margulis
 

I’ve posted the results of the Adirondacks study, the penultimate in a series of 11 studies beginning with one provided by Roberto Tartaglione and continuing with ten chosen by me.

Reviewing: This particular scene was photographed in fall 2018. You are given to understand that unusual climate in the summer months of the year created conditions for an unprecedented display of autumn color, and you are to assume that this will be noted in any caption to your work. It’s hard to get a bad-looking result from this original but it isn’t easy to get an excellent one. And there is a bit of room for artistic judgment.

We have 21 entrants. Three others, including two that came in the last 12 hours, were disqualified because they had been downsized, presumably by the person’s e-mail app. Most people also submitted a list of their steps, thanks very much. I haven’t read these, because I’d rather get a sense of who was successful and who wasn’t before investigating why. 

The files don’t have people’s names on them, and were random-generator numbered from #1101 to #1121. As with past studies, we also have a “par” version, #1122. To get it, I chose what I thought looked like the five best entrants, and averaged them, each one weighted 20%. This often creates a version that is superior to most if not all of its parents.

I’ll have some things to say about this assortment, but as usual I’d like to open it up to group discussion first. What do the successful versions have in common? Meanwhile, if you’d like to know how your own version stacked up, download the par version and compare the two directly. Do you think you got the same kind of quality? If not, I hope you’ll find further discussion useful.

The folder is in the group Photos section, named Case Study: Adirondacks

I also have zipped all 22 files and uploaded a 50 mb file to our Files section,
Search for Adirondacks_entries_072720.zip
If you are going to study these versions I strongly encourage you to download these files. Many of these entrants vary only in a minor way and it is hard to see the impact of a change without toggling back and forth between them.

I look forward to your comments.

Dan Margulis

P.S. Our final case study is announced today, look for a separate post.


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

John Gillespie
 

Some interesting comments on hair/skin colour. Coming from the epicentre of freckled red-headedness (Scotland) I can only see this hair colour as dyed, it does not look natural to me, and there does not seem any point trying to make it appear so. Skin colour in such cases is a different matter, often being as much red as the sky is blue in Glasgow.

I can't agree with applying studio-portrait type techniques such as vignetting to this image - it doesn't look natural to me. But reducing the saturation of the grass is probably a good idea up to a point  - it seems a bit overdone in my version (1015) in retrospect. Mixing in some 1020 is an improvement, and also helps to lighten the eyes.

For me the goal is to be realistic and attractive. These are vague and subjective terms, trying to be a bit more objective I would say that realistic means "can I imagine the person speaking to me and moving around?" and attractive means "would I be happy to hang this picture on my wall?".

On that basis realistic entries are :  1002, 1003, 1012, 1013, 1017, 1018, 1025
Attractive : 1002,1005, 1006, 1018, 1021, 1022

I am sure that if I repeat this exercise I will get different results.

The par version fits both criteria.


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

jwlimages@...
 

Hello Lee, good to hear your thoughts. I agree with your suggestion about reducing global saturation on my version (1021) - thanks!

 

Of course this is a posed portrait, but trying to look casual & "natural" outdoors (I guess we're just supposed to overlook the on-camera fill flash). But I couldn't go so far as to use techniques from a studio portrait. Adding strong vignetting, enhancing/adding drama to the lighting, etc., could look "over-worked" and conflict with the conceit of the casual nature of the portrait.

 

I do agree with you in general about saturated colors, and in mine I started with intense, "Fuji Velvia" greens in the grass. In a landscape photo I sometimes push yellows & greens like that (my Monument Valley entry), but it looked all wrong here. Not only the hyper-saturation, but also the cyan-ish color seem unreal, so I desaturated, darkened & pushed the grass towards more yellow-green. Maybe could have gone darker, but I was trying for a look to suggest the camera flash intensity was well balanced with the ambient light.

 

The color of her fleece & blue jeans - ah, who knows? - I just settled for something pleasing.

 

Have to differ with you about the golden skin color, though. I just can't think of a redhead with pigmentation like that. Much more often (especially in photos) I see a hint of more translucency in the skin color - even in this shot, there are hints of the blue of veins/capillaries showing through the skin on her forehead - seems like it adds up to a more pinkish look in general. But you're totally right the red can get too dominant very quickly.

 

Also, it's great to hear your reasoning (& clever technique!) about making her nose look less broad, that's a nice extra detail.

 

Anyway, thanks for your comments!

 

John Lund


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

jwlimages@...
 

Ah yes, the *iris* - mea culpa. Thank you Robert.

John Lund


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

Lee Varis
 

OK... I will finally jump in here, if only to provide an alternate viewpoint. Mine is 1020, and I seem to be the outlier here, though I'm a bit surprised at the preference for "cartoon color" in a portrait. I also think that the assumption that this is a "candid" shot is erroneous! This shot is not capturing an unguarded moment, but rather is a posed portrait, lit with flash on camera to provide some front light in an otherwise totally backlit portrait—the tiny bright catchlight at the center of the pupils is the dead giveaway for a speed light attached to the hot shoe of the camera. The small flash was not powerful enough to balance with the overly bright background, and I would consider that a flaw, as well as the flat directionless light on the face. It seems to me that since this is crafted as a portrait of this young woman, that perhaps the most important thing about the image is the face!

Again, I am surprised at how much attention has been lavished on the green background. Almost all of the shots chosen for par, save 1022, have vivid chartreuse colored grass backgrounds with various excuses provided to explain the need for such outrageously saturated color! 1011 is so vivid that I need sunglasses to view it without pain! This is supposed to be the background. The background in a portrait is not supposed to compete with the face, even where you might desire to have bright happy colors overall—if everything is bright and saturated, there is no relief for the viewer who might be inclined to gaze at the beautiful woman. There really isn't enough of the environment visible to lend any special context for the portrait, other than it is taken outdoors. Really, its all about the woman!
All the bright saturated color around the face in all of the par choices, caused people to amp up the saturation of the skin! John's version, 1021 has the best balance, in terms of colorfulness, between the face and all the other saturated colors, but still... the skin tone is too saturated, and if you simply reduce saturation globally -15 or even -20 everything looks a lot better.

I expected that many people would end up with redder skin, possibly in the pursuit of normalcy in the skin tone of a red head, but many ended up with ruddy mottled skin. I never met a freckled woman who wanted to emphasize her freckles—most would prefer to minimize them, if not eliminate them. Again, most of the par versions seem to be a little on the red side, which looks worse when the color is too saturated—we might forgive Dan for his preference for redder skin, as he has been de-sensitized by years of looking in a mirror. I myself prefer a slightly more golden color, trying to stay away from the sunburned look of 1011, and 1022. The other fault I see here is how dark a lot of the skin tone has been rendered in most of the images chosen for par. This red headed woman does not have a tan! The peaches 'n cream complexion should be rendered lighter rather than darker. I generally aim for an L value around 80 for this brightly lit face. Once you print on paper, everything is going to look a bit darker and I see no reason to make the face darker than the background—the eye gravitates to the brightest thing in the picture, and with the green grass so close to the face, you don't want that to draw the eye away from the main point of the image!

Ok... some notes on my version. I did not, as some suggested, do any skin retouching! I used the red channel luminosity to reduce the contrast in the freckles and lighten the face. I blended some darkening blue channel luminosity into the sides the the face, the sides of the nose (to slim the nose down without actually pinching it) and above the eyes. I guarantee you that this woman is likely to be overly sensitive to the size of her nose, and any little bit done to mitigate the width of the nose is a good thing! I did "dodge" the dark bags under her eyes a bit. I cooled off the green background to provide more color separation from the warm skin—I wanted the skin color to look more yellow—perhaps because I have been de-sensitized to that color by my years of observing my olive complexion in the mirror! Well... what can I say? I like the more golden skin color! I was also concerned about the hair color—I wanted the red color to come out, and having the skin move towards yellow provides some contrast with the red color in the hair without over-amping the red saturation. I think most of the versions chosen for par make it look like she got her hair color from a bottle! I am also surprised that nobody applied any vignette, darkening the edges of the frame is a time-honored tradition among portrait professionals, and it seems like I was the only one to do this. If you do this with any of the par choices, they are improved in their overall effect.


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

Robert Wheeler
 
Edited

I'll bet your brightening was not actually applied just to to the "pupil." Apology in advance for being picky, but my medical background makes it hard for me to resist commenting. Quick eye anatomy review: the black circle in the center of the eye is an opening for light to enter after being partly focused by the transparent cornea and before being focused by the transparent lens (for subsequent detection by the light sensitive cells in the retina at the back of the eye). That black opening is known as the pupil. It serves as a variable aperture that gets bigger to let in more light in dark environments and smaller to let in less light in bright environments.

The colored area around the pupil is the iris, which is the part that actually expands or contracts to make the pupil change size. When we talk of blue or green or brown "eyes," we are referencing the iris.

in front of both the pupil and the iris we have a transparent cornea. Around the iris, the cornea merges with the visible part of the sclera, generally known as the white of the eye. Trivia note: a few people with rare metabolic conditions can have blue sclerae even with correct color balance.

So a healthy eye has a black pupil (aside from "red eye" reflections off the retina caused by on-axis flash). If area of the pupil is grey or white, it can indicate scaring or disease of the cornea, a dense lens (cataract, sometimes removed surgically and replaced with an artificial lens), or even a tumor inside the eye (retinoblastomas sometimes are first detected as white pupil areas in newborn photos), or maybe a specular reflection of a light. So we would not want to brighten the black pupil, as that could make the eye look abnormal. However, the iris, sclera, and sometimes lids are often targets for appropriate adjustments.

Robert Wheeler


Re: Seated in Grass: Comments on individual versions

jwlimages@...
 

Oh yes, per Dan's comment about my retouching the eyes - the only thing I did was add a CRV layer (slightly raising gamma), masked to affect only the pupils of her eyes. Just brightening the lovely blue-greens, no other changes.

John Lund

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