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Re: Choir: Dan's comments

Dan Margulis
 



On Mar 19, 2021, at 6:56 AM, Gerald Bakker <gc.bakker@...> wrote:

Dan, can you elaborate more on what caused this par to be less satisfactory than for the other exercises? Not so much what you don't like about it (you made that clear) but why it came out like this? 

That’s an interesting question. First, I’m not saying that it’s bad, it’s likely the best one of the group, although personally I dislike it.

Having thought it over, I’d say that the underlying cause is that a par version minimizes poor technique, it averages out mistakes found in the individual parents and they aren’t as noticeable. The price is that it also averages out individual acts of unusual cleverness.

I surmise that the reason some might find this one unsatisfactory is the following: every par we’ve seen doesn’t contain obvious errors, such as excessive noise or clearly incorrect color. But until now, they’ve also had in common that there’s no immediately obvious way to improve them, in the sense that I point out and demonstrate ways to improve individual submissions in this thread.

This par, however, is different. Unlike the others, there *are* immediately obvious ways to make it better. Such as, blending #703 into it. Such as, selecting the painting and making it something more harmonious. Such as, making the altarpiece more spectacular against its background. Such as, darkening the foreground floor. 

A few entrants can be found who saw the need for one or more of each of these moves. Some, though, have other issues that prevent them being a par parent. So these desirable moves fall into the category of “individual acts of unusual cleverness” that get averaged out in the par process.

Another way of looking at it: this image offers many more opportunities than usual for sharply different interpretation. In the lion image there were differences of opinion about color but I think we were all seeking the same tonal contrast. If we had converted every submission to grayscale there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of philosophical differences.

Even in something like Sunset on the Beach, which seems like it could have very different interpretations, it isn’t really so. We all knew we had to drastically lighten the woman and we all knew that pleasing color had to be added. It was only a question of degree.

To prove the point here: divide the picture into two parts: the choir, and everything else. We probably have a consensus on what the choir should look like. And indeed, few would object to the way it is presented in the par, whether in terms of the faces, the dresses, the necklaces, or the hair. It’s in the “everything else” category that we have real disagreements, disagreements that may not be resolved amicably by averaging.

In summary, in other case studies, I could generally have made marginally better pars if I could pick and choose how I was going to blend with each of the five parents, rather than the blunderbuss approach of 20% weight for each. Here, I’m pretty sure that a *much* better par could be produced by intelligent blending.

Dan


Re: Choir: Dan's comments

David Remington
 
Edited

Dan,

This is a great review with some very useful recommendations and advice. I tried layering 703 with my 709. I agree this is an improvement! I went to 30%. The Lab trick for highlight fill and shadow color recovery is a new one by me. I'll have to experiment with that.

Edit

I also found the darken and multiply blending examples with channel masking helpful.

Thanks again for hosting this.


Re: Choir: Dan's comments

Gerald Bakker
 

On Wed, Mar 17, 2021 at 03:01 PM, Dan Margulis wrote:
As always, the par has nothing obviously wrong, which is more than can be said for most of its parents. Accepting that as a given, I have to say I am not a big fan of this par, for reasons that may become clearer in my comments on individual images. We must remember that this is a “stupid” par, where each parent is given exactly equal weight. In this exercise, more nuanced blending would have gotten a better result.
Dan, can you elaborate more on what caused this par to be less satisfactory than for the other exercises? Not so much what you don't like about it (you made that clear) but why it came out like this? 
--
Gerald Bakker
https://geraldbakker.nl


Re: Choir: Dan's comments

Harvey Nagai
 

First, a few words about 703: for those who missed last summer's case studies, it is not unlike
entry 920 submitted by a certain somebody (ahem) for the "A Toast to Greece" case study.

Excerpts of Dan's comments at the time:

"It is reasonable to try to direct attention to the head table, where the wartime survivors are.
It is not reasonable to try to add such an enormous light source that anybody who actually
attended this dinner would know instantly that this version has been Photoshopped to death."

"There are, however, two consolations for the rest of us. First, that this spotlighting is wildly
exaggerated doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. Think back to our Veiled Bride case study, and recall
a "ringer" version, #319, which by itself was quite ugly and exaggerated. But I threw it out as
a teaser, saying that almost every other version would be improved with a blend of 25% #319,
and other list members verified that this was true."

"The same is true with this monstrosity. As I posted to the main thread, blending 15% of #920
into each other version resulted in improvement in all but four."

For this case study I made spotlighting verboten, but it never occurred to me to use the effects
in reverse to de-emphasize the periphery, as Dan suggests.

Food for thought.

========

704 is my entry, in addition to what Dan mentioned in his first comments, I chose to pay heed
to a couple of other aspects:
    - Christmas colors (the image's EXIF suggests otherwise, but I'd rather believe the clues)
    - the church's illumination (apse/alter area brightest, nave/pews dimmest)

The greens were so weak, it took awhile to recognize the flowers were poinsettas and the snaky
things were green garlands, but having realized that, it became important to portray the occasion.

And although it wasn't the primary intention, having distinguishable greens helps fend off the
overall yellowness a bit, something else for the viewer to grab onto in a sea of red-yellows and
yellow-reds (or at least it does for me). 

The second point was one lesson from "A Toast to Greece": if the apse is too dark or the
foreground is too light, someone who was there would know.

The color of the dresses had their own journey.  Starting from the default image, they ended
up dark (around L=23), but after sneaking a peek at the flat image, I decided that they
should be a lighter red, "crimson" (around L=32).  But I couldn't buy the idea of super-bright
"Santa's helpers" red for a church choir.

Colors were extremely difficult to judge, they seemed to look different with each viewing,
whether minutes apart or hours later or the next day.  Skin colors tended to look too yellow
more often than not, so I finally desaturated and reddened them.  The dresses tended to look
more orange, so some yellow was taken out, today it looks like they want that yellow back.

Getting back to 703, blending it in helps, but I prefer about half of Dan's suggested 20%,
maybe because the foreground is already darker than the choir and the effects above are
well into the periphery when looking at the choir.

Many thanks for Dan's exhaustive analyses!


Re: Choir: Dan's comments

Kent Sutorius
 

Dan,
I want to than you again for your generosity in time and generosity in sharing your insight, knowledge, and instruction with processing these images. I am blown away by it.

I followed your instructions for #708 and it does nicely transform the image. Now I need my mind to process the abundance of teaching and wisdom given in all the demonstrations.

Thank you,
Kent Sutorius



On 3/18/2021 3:24 PM, Dan Margulis via groups.io wrote:

In my previous post I brought up our major problem, which is that the foreground and background colors don’t match, so that even if we can bring their darknesses closer together the foreground will seem too red and/or the background too yellow. The question also is how far to go in equalizing the two halves. Should the foreground seem to be in the same intensity of lighting as the background, or should we leave it somewhat darker (although certainly not as dark as in the original).

This image has a lot of challenges but also opportunities for the use of LAB, particularly in terms of ease of isolating objects with Blend If. These comments have several demos that illustrate it.

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

701 We start off with two versions faithful to my preferred treatment, that the choir should be significantly darker than the background. This one, from my 2009 classes, is the better of the two. We know that the gap between the two halves needs to be reduced. I don’t think that this person went far enough in lightening the choir, but I don’t see that the background needs to get any darker. He has managed to get more separation between the gilded altarpiece and its surrounds than is even found in the darker par.

702 The choir is excellent. The common problems with the skin have been avoided. The person understood that the background needed more attention and added Vibrance to it, among other things. The real problem, though, is that it still appears washed out. Compare it to #701 to see how the background can remain light and still be interesting.

The easy cure here would be a multiplication, as described in the comments to #706. There is also a mention of this version at #713.

703 Not the version most would prefer, but perhaps the most important. This person did his color-balancing based on the synthesizer, the steps and the black clothing in the foreground. He then overwhelmed everything but the choir with a vignette so heavy-handed that it made this into a night scene.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Open your own version.
2) Apply #703 to it at 20% opacity.

I offer no guarantees since I did not test this on every image, but it dramatically improved every one I tried it on, including my own—and the par.

The trick works because #703 as it stands portrays a darkened church with a spotlight on the choir. Spotlights are very effective in directing our attention to something. We can’t afford to go as far as this person did, because our audience is never going to accept it, particularly since they can see sunlight coming in at upper left. If we blend it into ours at a low opacity, however, they’ll never detect the spotlight.

Considering that I spent much of Chapter 5 of On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast discussing a variant of this procedure, I am attributing my failure to use it to incipient Alzheimer’s. 

Also, I should have remembered my own motto: when everything is colorful then nothing is colorful. That’s one of the big dangers in this scene. Adding the darkening of #703 at the edges helps fight that sensation.

704 The first one to present what I’d call our consensus view. On reviewing this version along with all the others, I don’t understand why I didn’t make it part of the par suite. It is among the top in terms of the shape of the faces and of the dresses. It maintains the choir as darker than the background. The yellow cast in the background isn’t eliminated but it’s tolerable. And the person thought of a useful trick: he used the Channel mixer to spice up the greens. Apparently I felt that it wasn’t colorful enough to be one of the best, but I don’t think that now. I wouldn’t mind more color in the altarpiece and in the faces. The dresses are duller than in many other versions but the more I look at this exercise the less I like the idea of brilliant red in the dresses. The idea should be to highlight the singers, not what they’re wearing.

705 Shadows plugged, highlights blown, greenness in conductor’s hair.

706 This person paid careful attention to the foreground, which is good, but left the background washed out, which is bad. Additionally it is somewhat colorless. It happens that #707 has a similar treatment of the background but is generally more colorful. Even though it has a yellow cast in the background, which #706 does not, I consider #707 to be preferable. Fortunately there is an easy fix.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a duplicate layer to #706.
2) Set layer mode to Multiply.
3) Add a layer mask. To it, apply the green channel from the Merged layer. That is the choice because in the green channel the dresses are nearly solid and the faces fairly dark, so in the Merged (multiplied) version the dresses will definitely be fully black and the faces nearly so. Therefore when used as a layer mask the dresses will not change and the faces only a small amount. Meanwhile the background will be permitted to darken. We could not use the blue channel as a substitute because although the reds are just as dark there as in the green channel, the background is also dark.
4) Gaussian blur the layer mask at a Radius of 30 pixels or more. This move is always necessary when blending layers of drastically different weights.
5) As a trial only, move the file into LAB without flattening. This sometimes changes appearance enough to prefer flattening in one space rather than the other. Here, IMHO, the RGB trial, being less of a bright yellow in the background, is preferable. Therefore, Command-Z to cancel the move to LAB, flatten the file and save.

The result is arguably as good as the par. It is helpful that the dresses are a less obtrusive red. This case study should remind us (see also #703) that having color everywhere is often a good thing, but not always. The next version, #707, is similar to this one but much more colorful. If we compare the two as posted, I have to prefer #707—this one looks weak next to it. But if we build up the background as in the demonstration, then it becomes more austere, more powerful, and preferable to #707.

707 Another one from my 2009 classes, more in line with our consensus thinking about what is wanted. It has the yellow cast so many of us do in the background. The foreground is excellent. See comments on #706 for some thoughts on the importance of strong coloring.

708 Kent Sutorius says that he believes the photo was taken in Italy, and therefore he chooses what he considers an Italian red color for the dresses. This strikes me as a rather deep position to take, but there you have it. I personally like that the faces are darker than the par. The dresses are a mess, however, because of the sudden transitions from red to near-black. Also, there is too much noise in both the faces and dresses. That would have to be taken care of somehow but for now I’ll talk about fixing the dresses with some LAB trickery.

DEMONSTRATION, ignoring the JPEG artifacts which would have to be removed some other way: 
1) Start with the par version. Add a duplicate layer.
2) Apply #708 to the duplicate layer in Darken mode. Since the choir and foreground in #708 are darker but the background lighter than the par, we now essentially have the foreground of #508 married to the par’s church background. This is a nice improvement in my opinion.
3) Change layer mode to Luminosity. This yields brighter red at the top of the dresses and warms up the floor. These are also improvements, so I suppose we could just flatten and save now. But we still have that ugly posterization where the dresses jump from a saturated red to almost a black. So,
4) Move the file into LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING.
5) Flatten the file.
6) Bring it back into RGB.
7) There isn’t any Step 7. We’re done.

How can that possibly work? Why does it make a difference whether we flatten in RGB or LAB?

Well, normally it doesn’t, but sometimes it does, often enough that I recommend that every time you have a layered file (not adjustment layers, that doesn’t work), before flattening try moving it into LAB to see that whether there’s an advantage to flattening it there. Most of the time there isn’t much difference, but here there most certainly is. The reason is that the LAB file contains an imaginary color.

In the RGB version the Luminosity layer demands something extremely dark, almost a black, to be coupled with the bright red color of the par. That can’t be done in RGB, so things just stay black and closed up. In LAB, however, we can define such a color, even though it doesn’t exist in real life. So, the layering structure, when brought into LAB, demands the imaginary color that is as dark as black but at the same time a strong red. Once flattened, converting it back to RGB forces a computation of what that imaginary color should look like. The difference will get split.

709 Chosen for the par version. This is what #707 should have been, with slightly better shaping in the faces and a much better portrayal the background. David Remington:

I found this to be a difficult image as well and was not very satisfied with what I came up with. It looks okay in context, but some parts look pretty rough. The gold figure in the top left, and the gold in general, is blocky looking. Several people handled the gold better. Same for the singers. Not much finesse in mine. I wanted to add color and contrast so maybe I went a bit too far. Not sure about my choice of dress color either but it seems to be within the range of consensus. I could have done a better job with the window as well. Layered with par in color mode is mostly an improvement. Better dresses, better gold. Luminosity mode, par is much smoother. A bigger improvement.

In my opinion, the foreground floor is distracting and should have been darkened.  So an even bigger improvement would be to blend in #703 at 20% opacity. Also, permit me to translate “the gold in general is blocky looking”. It means that there is a whole gang of colorless specular highlights that not only detract from the golden feel, but also compete with the silver and with the white candles, which are supposed to be colorless. With a couple of hours a fine job of eliminating them is possible. With a couple of minutes, the following imaginary-color move might be a satisfactory substitute.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a new blank layer to #707, Normal mode. This will be the painting layer.
2) Set foreground color to something golden, agreeable to the background. In the lion exercise I suggested a ratio of B=4A. This particular background seems rather yellowish so I’d boost the ratio to 5:1. So, in the Color Picker, specify something like 75L10a50b.
3) Activate a fairly wide brush tool, Normal mode, 100% opacity. Paint all over the speculars. Don’t paint over the candles or the silver. It can be done quickly. For example, in the picture frame, just drag the brush everywhere. At this point a lot of detail has been wiped out, but we’ll get it back later. Now, an intermission, for educational purposes only, not part of the procedure.
3a) Change the painting layer to Color mode. Now, toggling the layer on and off reveals that things have gotten worse, not better. The speculars haven’t changed and their surroundings have lost color variation.
3b) Change mode to LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING. Now, suddenly, the speculars fill in. This is another side of the demonstration at #708, where an imaginary color (a brilliantly red black) was created in a good cause. Here, while the file is in RGB, the layering structure is a request to produce in RGB a color that does not exist in RGB. When it goes into LAB, it becomes a request for an imaginary color—one that’s as bright as white, but as golden as the background. On reconversion to RGB some of the yellowness will hold. End of preview as to why this method works.
4) Back to our regularly-scheduled program. We are in RGB, with the painting layer filled with streaks of yellow and set to Normal mode. Now, convert the file to LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING.
5) Invert the painting layer. Now what has been painted is a dark blue rather than a gold.
6) Activate Blend If, Lightness, Underlying Layer. Drag the left slider almost all the way to the right, and the dark blue painting will start to disappear. Continue adjusting until the blue barely covers the speculars, then option-click the slider to split it into two halves. Move them slightly apart to prevent a rough transition.
7) The purpose of turning the brush strokes dark blue was obviously to help visualize how to finalize the Blend If in Step 6. That done, re-invert the painting layer to return it to gold strokes.
8) Change layer mode to Color.
9) The file must be flattened now while still in LAB. Returning it unflattened to RGB will cancel these changes.

710 Two separate problems that have each afflicted several others: 1) faces almost completely lacking detail; 2) yellow/green cast in the background. The gilded altarpiece should be quite a warm yellow, maybe something like B=4A. Instead, it’s almost a pure yellow, the A reading is almost 0.

711 Chosen for the par version. Hector Davila posts that he understood that the faces needed careful retouching. He also did work on the choir in isolation, as well as on the painting. The background came out a good golden color, not the yellowish cast that hurt so many others. The price was that the faces became too pink. Actually the entire foreground is. As often happens, the cast can be detected in otherwise irrelevant objects, such as the Yamaha synthesizer. It measures 66L19a21b, a nice red, which is impossible.

712 Bill Theis says he went for shape in the faces. A couple of these girls look like they have beards. Originally I had this selected for the par, but even at only 20% weight, these beards were so offensive that I had to substitute another version. See further comment on this issue at #731.

713 Similar to #702 in that the shape in the faces is good and the background is rather light, but the faces here are grayer. There’s also a contrast issue.  Checking with Auto Tone would reveal that the person should not have stopped with this version. 

714 This person did a lot of right things on the assumption that this is a single unified picture with standard lighting throughout. Using the ACR filter, he neutralized the conductor’s score, and found an appropriate black point presumably in her dress. After some local moves to the choir he was left with the typical problem of the faces being marginally too pink but the background much too yellow. The altarpiece is in fact slightly green. As we saw in the lion image, often blending the B into the A can get a better golden look. This file would also benefit from the multiplication procedure demonstrated in #706.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a duplicate layer to #714.
2) Set the layer to Multiply mode.
3) Add a layer mask.
4) Apply to the layer mask the green channel, Merged layer. This is chosen because in the Merged version, the green channel is going to be absolutely solid where the dresses are, so they won’t close up or otherwise change at all.
5) Gaussian Blur the mask, 30 pixel Radius or thereabouts. This is always necessary when blending to versions that vary greatly in weight.
6) Convert to LAB, without flattening. As discussed in #708, we should compare the look of the layered file in RGB vs. LAB. Usually there’s not much difference, but occasionally we prefer one to the other and want to flatten in that colorspace. That’s the case here. When the file goes to LAB the background gets more colorful, which exaggerates the yellow cast. So,
7) Command-Z to cancel the transfer to LAB, and flatten the image while in RGB.
8) Now return to LAB, and proceed to get rid of the greenness in the altarpiece as follows:
9) Add a duplicate layer.
10) On the duplicate layer, invert the A channel. This changes the dresses and faces from red to green, among other issues.
11) Fortunately it’s easy to exclude the damage with Blend If sliders. Exclude everything that is not A-negative on the Underlying layer. Since part of the altarpiece is, incorrectly, A-negative, it will become A-positive, warmer.
12) Add to the Blend If an exclusion of anything that is sharply B-negative (either slider will do). This restores the blue in the top columns. You may also with to extend the Blend If to prevent certain color changes in the painting.
13) Make a composite layer.
14) Set it to Color mode
15) Apply to it, the B channel, Normal mode. This adds both yellow and magenta to most of the image, benefitting both the faces and the background. Reduce opacity to taste; I thought 20% would be about right.

715 Chosen for the par version. This person found good facial detail in the blue channel and blended with it. He didn’t say where, but I think probably into the green. That got him the good faces he wanted but had the added benefit of adding shape to the altarpiece and adding warmth to the background. He might have added to the effect something like the following:

DEMONSTRATION for advisory purposes only:
The large painting in the background offers many opportunities to break up the tediousness of the scene. So, for the sake of argument:
1) Make a quick rectangular selection of the interior of the painting (not the frame)
2) Image: Auto Color. This gives the painting more snap, and makes it much cooler.
Even though attention is not going to be drawn to the painting, doing something like this further emphasizes the altarpiece. Of course you would choose a more sophisticated method, but this one will do in a pinch.

See additional comments about this version at #716 and #727.

716 This one, done by executing two versions and blending them 50-50 is perfectly serviceable, quite comparable to #715. Toggling between the two, however, reveals that #715 is superior: better shape in the faces, more definition in the background, less sense of a yellow cast.

717 Yellow-green everywhere. The steps need to be close to neutral, but they measure (8)a22b. Windows ditto. Interestingly, the person noted this and was willing to accept it. Also, even forgetting the overall cast, the altarpiece is full of specular highlights which this version makes very dark.

718 Background neutral, steps blue, faces blue. Apparently the idea is to emphasize the altarpiece. But this can be done by multiplication or several other procedures with Blend If, wherefore

EXERCISE:
Test your LAB/Blend If skills in this way.
1) Duplicate your RGB file and move the duplicate into LAB.
2) Add a duplicate layer to this file
3) Invert it, so that the background is blue, the dresses green, etc. The purpose of this is to make it easy to see what the next step, a Blend If, is excluding.
4) Adjust the Blend If sliders, Underlying Layer, to try to eliminate almost everything except the altarpiece. For example, you could start by knocking out anything that is more than mildly A-positive, which will take care of the faces and dresses.
5) Remember that if you can’t get a perfect selection and there are some purplish pieces elsewhere afterward, it is easy to add a layer mask, select those remnants, and fill the layer mask with black.
6) Return to your original. Do Color Boost, Bigger Hammer, or whatever you like to emphasize the altarpiece, disregarding what it may do to the rest of the image.
7) When done, convert it to LAB and replace the top (inverted) layer of the file with it. If successful, that should limit the move to the altarpiece. And you may find that now you have differences between the top and bottom layers, you may be able to refine it by using the This Layer sliders as well.

719 Detail in the faces wiped out. Too much noise in the dresses. Background seems blurry. The person says he used a Reduce Noise filter, which comes with a price.

720 Another one in the category of “except for one little thing.” Nice color, similar to the par with the pleasant addition of a better painting and the debatable addition of more saturated dresses. General contrast and appearance also excellent. But oh, my, we can’t accept this much noise in the faces.

721 This is my version from 2009, which offers a lesson on falling in love with one’s own method. I was one of those assigned to work on the flat version. I had recently developed the MMM technique, which the classes weren’t really familiar with. Once I thought I had the overall color under control, I wheeled it out, using the red dresses as my pivot point.  I was quite taken with the variation I had put into the dresses and was thinking that nobody would get as good a version as this one. When showdown time came I got quite a rude awakening when it was clear that my brilliant moves had made the fleshtones and background green.

722 Way too yellow, easily measured in the skin, the steps, and the synthesizer.

723 Faces are too soft and too pale. The background walls are darker and less saturated than anyone else. They do highlight the brilliance of the altarpiece but I think most would judge it as going too far. The picture has been transformed from one where the background is much lighter than the foreground, to the opposite. The impression, I think, is that the choir has been cut out of a different photo and pasted into this one.

724 The faces are pinkish and too pale in context. The background color seems washed out. A simple darkening of the midtone with curves could improve this version enough to make it competitive with the par. See comment at #730

725 Chosen for the par version. I’ve explained why I think the singers should be this dark, so it will perhaps not be surprising that this is my own version. 

726 For those who are trying to keep the background lighter than the choir, this version could be a good choice. The person states that the correction took him 10 minutes. A believable difference of darkness between foreground and background has been retained. The problem, as usual, is that the two don’t match for color. The background lacks magenta, and the foreground has too much of it. 

727 Gerald Bakker :
Compared to par color-wise, I think my background is slightly greenish. 

Agreed, and the reason is similar to #726 and some versions of the lion last time. A good B/A ratio for a golden color is about 4/1. In this version, I have selected and averaged the lower center of the altarpiece, between the flowers. The average reading there is 8a59b, or better than 7/1. Also, while we can’t rely on the colors of the painting to be predictable, it certainly seems from its fleshtones that there is an imbalance toward yellow there too. And the long hair of the woman in the front row measures 50L18a55b, which is appropriate for a blond, which she is not. The same point in

On the other hand, the gold ornaments stand out better in my version than in par. 

They do, because their color, though too yellow, is much more saturated than the brownish wall. The par doesn’t have that, but it does have better detailing.

The par has lighter floor tiles and stairs, but I'm not sure which to prefer in that respect. 

I definitely prefer the darker floor, directing more attention to the rest of the image.

I found this a hard image to process. Make the background too light and the golds get washed out. Make it too dark and it becomes too heavy. Make the foreground too light and it looks unnatural. Too dark and the background predominates over the choir. 

A very good summary.

Also, there is a lot of brilliant color, and it's important to emphasize it. But the pitfall of course is to make everything overly colorful. 

All the more reason to incorporate a blend with #703.

But all this discussion hasn’t touched the real weakness of this version: there is very limited shape in the face. Some of these girls don’t even have noses. That’s as unacceptable to me as the noisy faces of #720. It could have been fixed by better blending into the red, which was done, for example, by the guy responsible for #715. As that one also has a darker background, it’s a good choice for blending. But since we’re coming to the end, we may as well go whole hog to prove this #727 can be used to produce something better than the par. So, one final

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Gather together #703, #715, and the par as well as #727.
2) Add a duplicate layer to #727.
3) To it, apply #715 in Lighten mode. This prevents the background from changing, but replaces the foreground.
4) Add a layer mask.
5) To it, apply the red channel, Merged layer. The red channel is the lightest of the three as regards the faces, and the Merged is lighter than the Background layer. That makes this the best choice to allow the faces of #715 to take over, with little impact on the rest of #727.
6) Nevertheless, the dresses have gotten somewhat choppier. To restore them, activate Blend If, and exclude anything that’s dark in the green channel, Underlying Layer. It should be easy to find a slider location that excludes the dresses but not the faces.
7) Change layer mode to Luminosity.
8) Add a new layer. To it, apply the par.
9) Change mode to Hue. So much for the green feeling in the background.
10) Add another new layer. To it, apply #703.
11) Reduce opacity to 15%.

There are obviously many ways to modify this procedure, but even as stated above it yields something I’d say is definitely superior to the par. I’ve posted it as #736.

728 Chosen for the par version, to which it is somewhat akin and not just because it avoids the minor mistakes that have plagued others while keeping a good balance between foreground and background. I’d like to see more color in the faces and in the altarpiece, but this is fine just as it stands. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come from one of us, or even from one of my classes. It’s from students of Edward Bateman, who explains:

We approached this as an experiment. They made one version from the flat and one version from the regular version using Photoshop tools. There was a bit of back and forth on this as they worked together… but they did discover that Bigger Hammer (and channel blending) is their friend. No major conclusions came from the choices by the class… but they did notice that each attempt led to their making different choice… in part based on who was doing the photoshop work under the group advice. The differences are quite noticeable.  In between these two, we did another version only using the Raw tools.  I was pleased to see that while an improvement, it was the least effective of their three trials. Finally, to make some comparisons of their work, all three versions were put on their own layers… with a blend made of all three at various opacities (with the Raw tools one adding by far the least.)

IOW, this is sort of a par version of its own. The accounts for the relative smoothness of the dresses and faces, without loss of detail. Individual mistakes are swallowed by the whole.

729 This agreeable version combines some of the best features of #726 and #728. Like #726, I think it would benefit from a darker midtone.

730 The final representative of the 2009 class, and the only one where the person was required to work with the open rather than the flat version. It reminds me of #724, to which I actually prefer it.

731 Admittedly we haven’t been given the exact color of the dresses but they look rather tomatoey here, and definitely less saturated than most others. Assuming for the sake of argument that the dresses in the par are too assertive, I’d prefer the deeper and less saturated reds of #706.  From the standpoint of contrast, this version is probably most directly comparable to #712 due to heavy sharpening, but #712 had better shape in the faces as well as better dress color.

732 Good color, poor noise reduction.

733 Too dark, too yellow.

734 We end with another nice version, probably most comparable to my #725. Faces too pink, though, as John Furnes noted in his subsequent posting. He adds:

Having seen the results, I tried to go all PPW using the recipe for faces 2015 (page 406 second edition  LAB), but used Lesser Hammer instead of Velvet Hammer. The result was much better than my 734, but it would need some more adjustments.  Time spent was less than 5 minutes as opposed to several night hours for the first entry.

735 The par version. 



Re: Choir: Dan's comments

Dan Margulis
 


In my previous post I brought up our major problem, which is that the foreground and background colors don’t match, so that even if we can bring their darknesses closer together the foreground will seem too red and/or the background too yellow. The question also is how far to go in equalizing the two halves. Should the foreground seem to be in the same intensity of lighting as the background, or should we leave it somewhat darker (although certainly not as dark as in the original).

This image has a lot of challenges but also opportunities for the use of LAB, particularly in terms of ease of isolating objects with Blend If. These comments have several demos that illustrate it.

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

701 We start off with two versions faithful to my preferred treatment, that the choir should be significantly darker than the background. This one, from my 2009 classes, is the better of the two. We know that the gap between the two halves needs to be reduced. I don’t think that this person went far enough in lightening the choir, but I don’t see that the background needs to get any darker. He has managed to get more separation between the gilded altarpiece and its surrounds than is even found in the darker par.

702 The choir is excellent. The common problems with the skin have been avoided. The person understood that the background needed more attention and added Vibrance to it, among other things. The real problem, though, is that it still appears washed out. Compare it to #701 to see how the background can remain light and still be interesting.

The easy cure here would be a multiplication, as described in the comments to #706. There is also a mention of this version at #713.

703 Not the version most would prefer, but perhaps the most important. This person did his color-balancing based on the synthesizer, the steps and the black clothing in the foreground. He then overwhelmed everything but the choir with a vignette so heavy-handed that it made this into a night scene.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Open your own version.
2) Apply #703 to it at 20% opacity.

I offer no guarantees since I did not test this on every image, but it dramatically improved every one I tried it on, including my own—and the par.

The trick works because #703 as it stands portrays a darkened church with a spotlight on the choir. Spotlights are very effective in directing our attention to something. We can’t afford to go as far as this person did, because our audience is never going to accept it, particularly since they can see sunlight coming in at upper left. If we blend it into ours at a low opacity, however, they’ll never detect the spotlight.

Considering that I spent much of Chapter 5 of On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast discussing a variant of this procedure, I am attributing my failure to use it to incipient Alzheimer’s. 

Also, I should have remembered my own motto: when everything is colorful then nothing is colorful. That’s one of the big dangers in this scene. Adding the darkening of #703 at the edges helps fight that sensation.

704 The first one to present what I’d call our consensus view. On reviewing this version along with all the others, I don’t understand why I didn’t make it part of the par suite. It is among the top in terms of the shape of the faces and of the dresses. It maintains the choir as darker than the background. The yellow cast in the background isn’t eliminated but it’s tolerable. And the person thought of a useful trick: he used the Channel mixer to spice up the greens. Apparently I felt that it wasn’t colorful enough to be one of the best, but I don’t think that now. I wouldn’t mind more color in the altarpiece and in the faces. The dresses are duller than in many other versions but the more I look at this exercise the less I like the idea of brilliant red in the dresses. The idea should be to highlight the singers, not what they’re wearing.

705 Shadows plugged, highlights blown, greenness in conductor’s hair.

706 This person paid careful attention to the foreground, which is good, but left the background washed out, which is bad. Additionally it is somewhat colorless. It happens that #707 has a similar treatment of the background but is generally more colorful. Even though it has a yellow cast in the background, which #706 does not, I consider #707 to be preferable. Fortunately there is an easy fix.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a duplicate layer to #706.
2) Set layer mode to Multiply.
3) Add a layer mask. To it, apply the green channel from the Merged layer. That is the choice because in the green channel the dresses are nearly solid and the faces fairly dark, so in the Merged (multiplied) version the dresses will definitely be fully black and the faces nearly so. Therefore when used as a layer mask the dresses will not change and the faces only a small amount. Meanwhile the background will be permitted to darken. We could not use the blue channel as a substitute because although the reds are just as dark there as in the green channel, the background is also dark.
4) Gaussian blur the layer mask at a Radius of 30 pixels or more. This move is always necessary when blending layers of drastically different weights.
5) As a trial only, move the file into LAB without flattening. This sometimes changes appearance enough to prefer flattening in one space rather than the other. Here, IMHO, the RGB trial, being less of a bright yellow in the background, is preferable. Therefore, Command-Z to cancel the move to LAB, flatten the file and save.

The result is arguably as good as the par. It is helpful that the dresses are a less obtrusive red. This case study should remind us (see also #703) that having color everywhere is often a good thing, but not always. The next version, #707, is similar to this one but much more colorful. If we compare the two as posted, I have to prefer #707—this one looks weak next to it. But if we build up the background as in the demonstration, then it becomes more austere, more powerful, and preferable to #707.

707 Another one from my 2009 classes, more in line with our consensus thinking about what is wanted. It has the yellow cast so many of us do in the background. The foreground is excellent. See comments on #706 for some thoughts on the importance of strong coloring.

708 Kent Sutorius says that he believes the photo was taken in Italy, and therefore he chooses what he considers an Italian red color for the dresses. This strikes me as a rather deep position to take, but there you have it. I personally like that the faces are darker than the par. The dresses are a mess, however, because of the sudden transitions from red to near-black. Also, there is too much noise in both the faces and dresses. That would have to be taken care of somehow but for now I’ll talk about fixing the dresses with some LAB trickery.

DEMONSTRATION, ignoring the JPEG artifacts which would have to be removed some other way: 
1) Start with the par version. Add a duplicate layer.
2) Apply #708 to the duplicate layer in Darken mode. Since the choir and foreground in #708 are darker but the background lighter than the par, we now essentially have the foreground of #508 married to the par’s church background. This is a nice improvement in my opinion.
3) Change layer mode to Luminosity. This yields brighter red at the top of the dresses and warms up the floor. These are also improvements, so I suppose we could just flatten and save now. But we still have that ugly posterization where the dresses jump from a saturated red to almost a black. So,
4) Move the file into LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING.
5) Flatten the file.
6) Bring it back into RGB.
7) There isn’t any Step 7. We’re done.

How can that possibly work? Why does it make a difference whether we flatten in RGB or LAB?

Well, normally it doesn’t, but sometimes it does, often enough that I recommend that every time you have a layered file (not adjustment layers, that doesn’t work), before flattening try moving it into LAB to see that whether there’s an advantage to flattening it there. Most of the time there isn’t much difference, but here there most certainly is. The reason is that the LAB file contains an imaginary color.

In the RGB version the Luminosity layer demands something extremely dark, almost a black, to be coupled with the bright red color of the par. That can’t be done in RGB, so things just stay black and closed up. In LAB, however, we can define such a color, even though it doesn’t exist in real life. So, the layering structure, when brought into LAB, demands the imaginary color that is as dark as black but at the same time a strong red. Once flattened, converting it back to RGB forces a computation of what that imaginary color should look like. The difference will get split.

709 Chosen for the par version. This is what #707 should have been, with slightly better shaping in the faces and a much better portrayal the background. David Remington:

I found this to be a difficult image as well and was not very satisfied with what I came up with. It looks okay in context, but some parts look pretty rough. The gold figure in the top left, and the gold in general, is blocky looking. Several people handled the gold better. Same for the singers. Not much finesse in mine. I wanted to add color and contrast so maybe I went a bit too far. Not sure about my choice of dress color either but it seems to be within the range of consensus. I could have done a better job with the window as well. Layered with par in color mode is mostly an improvement. Better dresses, better gold. Luminosity mode, par is much smoother. A bigger improvement.

In my opinion, the foreground floor is distracting and should have been darkened.  So an even bigger improvement would be to blend in #703 at 20% opacity. Also, permit me to translate “the gold in general is blocky looking”. It means that there is a whole gang of colorless specular highlights that not only detract from the golden feel, but also compete with the silver and with the white candles, which are supposed to be colorless. With a couple of hours a fine job of eliminating them is possible. With a couple of minutes, the following imaginary-color move might be a satisfactory substitute.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a new blank layer to #707, Normal mode. This will be the painting layer.
2) Set foreground color to something golden, agreeable to the background. In the lion exercise I suggested a ratio of B=4A. This particular background seems rather yellowish so I’d boost the ratio to 5:1. So, in the Color Picker, specify something like 75L10a50b.
3) Activate a fairly wide brush tool, Normal mode, 100% opacity. Paint all over the speculars. Don’t paint over the candles or the silver. It can be done quickly. For example, in the picture frame, just drag the brush everywhere. At this point a lot of detail has been wiped out, but we’ll get it back later. Now, an intermission, for educational purposes only, not part of the procedure.
3a) Change the painting layer to Color mode. Now, toggling the layer on and off reveals that things have gotten worse, not better. The speculars haven’t changed and their surroundings have lost color variation.
3b) Change mode to LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING. Now, suddenly, the speculars fill in. This is another side of the demonstration at #708, where an imaginary color (a brilliantly red black) was created in a good cause. Here, while the file is in RGB, the layering structure is a request to produce in RGB a color that does not exist in RGB. When it goes into LAB, it becomes a request for an imaginary color—one that’s as bright as white, but as golden as the background. On reconversion to RGB some of the yellowness will hold. End of preview as to why this method works.
4) Back to our regularly-scheduled program. We are in RGB, with the painting layer filled with streaks of yellow and set to Normal mode. Now, convert the file to LAB, WITHOUT FLATTENING.
5) Invert the painting layer. Now what has been painted is a dark blue rather than a gold.
6) Activate Blend If, Lightness, Underlying Layer. Drag the left slider almost all the way to the right, and the dark blue painting will start to disappear. Continue adjusting until the blue barely covers the speculars, then option-click the slider to split it into two halves. Move them slightly apart to prevent a rough transition.
7) The purpose of turning the brush strokes dark blue was obviously to help visualize how to finalize the Blend If in Step 6. That done, re-invert the painting layer to return it to gold strokes.
8) Change layer mode to Color.
9) The file must be flattened now while still in LAB. Returning it unflattened to RGB will cancel these changes.

710 Two separate problems that have each afflicted several others: 1) faces almost completely lacking detail; 2) yellow/green cast in the background. The gilded altarpiece should be quite a warm yellow, maybe something like B=4A. Instead, it’s almost a pure yellow, the A reading is almost 0.

711 Chosen for the par version. Hector Davila posts that he understood that the faces needed careful retouching. He also did work on the choir in isolation, as well as on the painting. The background came out a good golden color, not the yellowish cast that hurt so many others. The price was that the faces became too pink. Actually the entire foreground is. As often happens, the cast can be detected in otherwise irrelevant objects, such as the Yamaha synthesizer. It measures 66L19a21b, a nice red, which is impossible.

712 Bill Theis says he went for shape in the faces. A couple of these girls look like they have beards. Originally I had this selected for the par, but even at only 20% weight, these beards were so offensive that I had to substitute another version. See further comment on this issue at #731.

713 Similar to #702 in that the shape in the faces is good and the background is rather light, but the faces here are grayer. There’s also a contrast issue.  Checking with Auto Tone would reveal that the person should not have stopped with this version. 

714 This person did a lot of right things on the assumption that this is a single unified picture with standard lighting throughout. Using the ACR filter, he neutralized the conductor’s score, and found an appropriate black point presumably in her dress. After some local moves to the choir he was left with the typical problem of the faces being marginally too pink but the background much too yellow. The altarpiece is in fact slightly green. As we saw in the lion image, often blending the B into the A can get a better golden look. This file would also benefit from the multiplication procedure demonstrated in #706.

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Add a duplicate layer to #714.
2) Set the layer to Multiply mode.
3) Add a layer mask.
4) Apply to the layer mask the green channel, Merged layer. This is chosen because in the Merged version, the green channel is going to be absolutely solid where the dresses are, so they won’t close up or otherwise change at all.
5) Gaussian Blur the mask, 30 pixel Radius or thereabouts. This is always necessary when blending to versions that vary greatly in weight.
6) Convert to LAB, without flattening. As discussed in #708, we should compare the look of the layered file in RGB vs. LAB. Usually there’s not much difference, but occasionally we prefer one to the other and want to flatten in that colorspace. That’s the case here. When the file goes to LAB the background gets more colorful, which exaggerates the yellow cast. So,
7) Command-Z to cancel the transfer to LAB, and flatten the image while in RGB.
8) Now return to LAB, and proceed to get rid of the greenness in the altarpiece as follows:
9) Add a duplicate layer.
10) On the duplicate layer, invert the A channel. This changes the dresses and faces from red to green, among other issues.
11) Fortunately it’s easy to exclude the damage with Blend If sliders. Exclude everything that is not A-negative on the Underlying layer. Since part of the altarpiece is, incorrectly, A-negative, it will become A-positive, warmer.
12) Add to the Blend If an exclusion of anything that is sharply B-negative (either slider will do). This restores the blue in the top columns. You may also with to extend the Blend If to prevent certain color changes in the painting.
13) Make a composite layer.
14) Set it to Color mode
15) Apply to it, the B channel, Normal mode. This adds both yellow and magenta to most of the image, benefitting both the faces and the background. Reduce opacity to taste; I thought 20% would be about right.

715 Chosen for the par version. This person found good facial detail in the blue channel and blended with it. He didn’t say where, but I think probably into the green. That got him the good faces he wanted but had the added benefit of adding shape to the altarpiece and adding warmth to the background. He might have added to the effect something like the following:

DEMONSTRATION for advisory purposes only:
The large painting in the background offers many opportunities to break up the tediousness of the scene. So, for the sake of argument:
1) Make a quick rectangular selection of the interior of the painting (not the frame)
2) Image: Auto Color. This gives the painting more snap, and makes it much cooler.
Even though attention is not going to be drawn to the painting, doing something like this further emphasizes the altarpiece. Of course you would choose a more sophisticated method, but this one will do in a pinch.

See additional comments about this version at #716 and #727.

716 This one, done by executing two versions and blending them 50-50 is perfectly serviceable, quite comparable to #715. Toggling between the two, however, reveals that #715 is superior: better shape in the faces, more definition in the background, less sense of a yellow cast.

717 Yellow-green everywhere. The steps need to be close to neutral, but they measure (8)a22b. Windows ditto. Interestingly, the person noted this and was willing to accept it. Also, even forgetting the overall cast, the altarpiece is full of specular highlights which this version makes very dark.

718 Background neutral, steps blue, faces blue. Apparently the idea is to emphasize the altarpiece. But this can be done by multiplication or several other procedures with Blend If, wherefore

EXERCISE:
Test your LAB/Blend If skills in this way.
1) Duplicate your RGB file and move the duplicate into LAB.
2) Add a duplicate layer to this file
3) Invert it, so that the background is blue, the dresses green, etc. The purpose of this is to make it easy to see what the next step, a Blend If, is excluding.
4) Adjust the Blend If sliders, Underlying Layer, to try to eliminate almost everything except the altarpiece. For example, you could start by knocking out anything that is more than mildly A-positive, which will take care of the faces and dresses.
5) Remember that if you can’t get a perfect selection and there are some purplish pieces elsewhere afterward, it is easy to add a layer mask, select those remnants, and fill the layer mask with black.
6) Return to your original. Do Color Boost, Bigger Hammer, or whatever you like to emphasize the altarpiece, disregarding what it may do to the rest of the image.
7) When done, convert it to LAB and replace the top (inverted) layer of the file with it. If successful, that should limit the move to the altarpiece. And you may find that now you have differences between the top and bottom layers, you may be able to refine it by using the This Layer sliders as well.

719 Detail in the faces wiped out. Too much noise in the dresses. Background seems blurry. The person says he used a Reduce Noise filter, which comes with a price.

720 Another one in the category of “except for one little thing.” Nice color, similar to the par with the pleasant addition of a better painting and the debatable addition of more saturated dresses. General contrast and appearance also excellent. But oh, my, we can’t accept this much noise in the faces.

721 This is my version from 2009, which offers a lesson on falling in love with one’s own method. I was one of those assigned to work on the flat version. I had recently developed the MMM technique, which the classes weren’t really familiar with. Once I thought I had the overall color under control, I wheeled it out, using the red dresses as my pivot point.  I was quite taken with the variation I had put into the dresses and was thinking that nobody would get as good a version as this one. When showdown time came I got quite a rude awakening when it was clear that my brilliant moves had made the fleshtones and background green.

722 Way too yellow, easily measured in the skin, the steps, and the synthesizer.

723 Faces are too soft and too pale. The background walls are darker and less saturated than anyone else. They do highlight the brilliance of the altarpiece but I think most would judge it as going too far. The picture has been transformed from one where the background is much lighter than the foreground, to the opposite. The impression, I think, is that the choir has been cut out of a different photo and pasted into this one.

724 The faces are pinkish and too pale in context. The background color seems washed out. A simple darkening of the midtone with curves could improve this version enough to make it competitive with the par. See comment at #730

725 Chosen for the par version. I’ve explained why I think the singers should be this dark, so it will perhaps not be surprising that this is my own version. 

726 For those who are trying to keep the background lighter than the choir, this version could be a good choice. The person states that the correction took him 10 minutes. A believable difference of darkness between foreground and background has been retained. The problem, as usual, is that the two don’t match for color. The background lacks magenta, and the foreground has too much of it. 

727 Gerald Bakker :
Compared to par color-wise, I think my background is slightly greenish. 

Agreed, and the reason is similar to #726 and some versions of the lion last time. A good B/A ratio for a golden color is about 4/1. In this version, I have selected and averaged the lower center of the altarpiece, between the flowers. The average reading there is 8a59b, or better than 7/1. Also, while we can’t rely on the colors of the painting to be predictable, it certainly seems from its fleshtones that there is an imbalance toward yellow there too. And the long hair of the woman in the front row measures 50L18a55b, which is appropriate for a blond, which she is not. The same point in

On the other hand, the gold ornaments stand out better in my version than in par. 

They do, because their color, though too yellow, is much more saturated than the brownish wall. The par doesn’t have that, but it does have better detailing.

The par has lighter floor tiles and stairs, but I'm not sure which to prefer in that respect. 

I definitely prefer the darker floor, directing more attention to the rest of the image.

I found this a hard image to process. Make the background too light and the golds get washed out. Make it too dark and it becomes too heavy. Make the foreground too light and it looks unnatural. Too dark and the background predominates over the choir. 

A very good summary.

Also, there is a lot of brilliant color, and it's important to emphasize it. But the pitfall of course is to make everything overly colorful. 

All the more reason to incorporate a blend with #703.

But all this discussion hasn’t touched the real weakness of this version: there is very limited shape in the face. Some of these girls don’t even have noses. That’s as unacceptable to me as the noisy faces of #720. It could have been fixed by better blending into the red, which was done, for example, by the guy responsible for #715. As that one also has a darker background, it’s a good choice for blending. But since we’re coming to the end, we may as well go whole hog to prove this #727 can be used to produce something better than the par. So, one final

DEMONSTRATION:
1) Gather together #703, #715, and the par as well as #727.
2) Add a duplicate layer to #727.
3) To it, apply #715 in Lighten mode. This prevents the background from changing, but replaces the foreground.
4) Add a layer mask.
5) To it, apply the red channel, Merged layer. The red channel is the lightest of the three as regards the faces, and the Merged is lighter than the Background layer. That makes this the best choice to allow the faces of #715 to take over, with little impact on the rest of #727.
6) Nevertheless, the dresses have gotten somewhat choppier. To restore them, activate Blend If, and exclude anything that’s dark in the green channel, Underlying Layer. It should be easy to find a slider location that excludes the dresses but not the faces.
7) Change layer mode to Luminosity.
8) Add a new layer. To it, apply the par.
9) Change mode to Hue. So much for the green feeling in the background.
10) Add another new layer. To it, apply #703.
11) Reduce opacity to 15%.

There are obviously many ways to modify this procedure, but even as stated above it yields something I’d say is definitely superior to the par. I’ve posted it as #736.

728 Chosen for the par version, to which it is somewhat akin and not just because it avoids the minor mistakes that have plagued others while keeping a good balance between foreground and background. I’d like to see more color in the faces and in the altarpiece, but this is fine just as it stands. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come from one of us, or even from one of my classes. It’s from students of Edward Bateman, who explains:

We approached this as an experiment. They made one version from the flat and one version from the regular version using Photoshop tools. There was a bit of back and forth on this as they worked together… but they did discover that Bigger Hammer (and channel blending) is their friend. No major conclusions came from the choices by the class… but they did notice that each attempt led to their making different choice… in part based on who was doing the photoshop work under the group advice. The differences are quite noticeable.  In between these two, we did another version only using the Raw tools.  I was pleased to see that while an improvement, it was the least effective of their three trials. Finally, to make some comparisons of their work, all three versions were put on their own layers… with a blend made of all three at various opacities (with the Raw tools one adding by far the least.)

IOW, this is sort of a par version of its own. The accounts for the relative smoothness of the dresses and faces, without loss of detail. Individual mistakes are swallowed by the whole.

729 This agreeable version combines some of the best features of #726 and #728. Like #726, I think it would benefit from a darker midtone.

730 The final representative of the 2009 class, and the only one where the person was required to work with the open rather than the flat version. It reminds me of #724, to which I actually prefer it.

731 Admittedly we haven’t been given the exact color of the dresses but they look rather tomatoey here, and definitely less saturated than most others. Assuming for the sake of argument that the dresses in the par are too assertive, I’d prefer the deeper and less saturated reds of #706.  From the standpoint of contrast, this version is probably most directly comparable to #712 due to heavy sharpening, but #712 had better shape in the faces as well as better dress color.

732 Good color, poor noise reduction.

733 Too dark, too yellow.

734 We end with another nice version, probably most comparable to my #725. Faces too pink, though, as John Furnes noted in his subsequent posting. He adds:

Having seen the results, I tried to go all PPW using the recipe for faces 2015 (page 406 second edition  LAB), but used Lesser Hammer instead of Velvet Hammer. The result was much better than my 734, but it would need some more adjustments.  Time spent was less than 5 minutes as opposed to several night hours for the first entry.

735 The par version. 


Choir: Results

John Furnes
 

 

Mine is 734

I found this to be the most difficult so far, with skin tones, saturated red, all the gilded things and different light sources and colour casts, and of course noise.

And again I have gotten the magenta into everything.  Adjusting for magenta and luminosity, I think my version is not too bad – still a bit dark though.

I did much in ACR before PS, and most of the treatment happened in LAB and PPW

I think no. 727 is very good with a more interesting focus and all over balance than any other.

 

Having seen the results, I tried to go all PPW using the recipe for faces 2015 (page 406 second edition  LAB), but used Lesser Hammer instead of Velvet Hammer. The result was much better than my 734, but it would need some more adjustments.  Time spent was less than 5 minutes as opposed to several night hours for the first entry.

By reading L*a*b numbers, this is not far off the par version, but as said, still a bit dark/ murky

 

So, the learning has to be kept going.

 

John Furnes

 

 


Re: Affinity Photo Macros

John Bongiovanni
 

Thanks, Robin, for sharing the macro.

My blood pressure elevated a bit just figuring out how to import it.  You have to have an image open to do it (!). Your macro  works nicely, but 103 steps in the macro  for something conceptually simple is daunting.
I'll go through your steps and see whether it makes sense to develop some others that mimic the PPW flow.  You were correct that I did not created a Merged/Stamped layer as the first step
(who would have thought it necessary for an image with one layer?). I had already grappled with how to do Apply Image. Different model, but not so difficult. And lots of limitations, including some
really frustrating ones about getting the layer order  you want (apparently, you can't move the layers around in a macro, so you  have to be careful about the order you create them.

There are some interesting ways of approaching things in Affinity and I do see a lot of nice features in it. I especially like the way LAB adjustments are integrated (you don't go to LAB to do them). But I found some typical moves in color correction (outside of the PPW panel itself) difficult to do. Maybe it's just too new to me at this point.

If I go further with this and actually get some decent macros developed, I'll certainly post them here.

John Bongiovanni


Re: Choir: Results

Said Nuseibeh
 

This was certainly not a PPW 3-minute exercise! However, I barely noticed the time ebbing away because it was such an exciting challenge. As a student of Late Antiquity, I am partial to marble, gilding, and carved, painted ornament. So working with the altar was most exciting for me and eliminating (or at least minimizing) the dreadful yellow cast.

However, the choir was the subject. As flesh-tones are rare in my work, I had to go running for the Canyon Conundrum to get my bearings with caucasian skin. I tried to do much in LAB but just could not fiddle those curves with Dan's finesse, getting the fleshtones into the zone and keeping the changes out of the background and gold. So I went back to my RGB efforts and tried a second time, experimenting so much with channel blends that I had to pull out a spreadsheet to keep track of the many options tried and untried. Sometimes I see the path ahead clearly with these blends & modes, where one channel is weak and can be helped by another. But this time I had to resort to dumb trial and error. Hopefully, proficiency will come with more practice... with channel blending AND with curving in LAB

The fun thing about experimenting is that even when a move does not do what you want it to, you never know when it can come in handy later. As I was laboring with the skin-tones, I remembered that one of my blends had a marked effect mostly in the faces. Since I was keeping notes, I could actually go back and find that move. That (and a Channel Operation) finally enabled me to isolate the flesh in LAB and bring it into true, by the numbers.


Some people remarked that they were trying to get more detail in the conductor’s black dress. I don’t understand why anyone would think this is important. This image is already very busy with things we *do* want people to look at.
I for one did not want a big black featureless creature from the black lagoon looming in the foreground.


Looking forward to having my efforts raked across the coals and learning something tasty in the process.

-Saïd


Re: Choir: Results

Robert S Baldassano
 

Edward, I think your students are very lucky to have you for a teacher. You are clearly exposing them to powerful knowledge. I am a dinosaur of the film days. I never had a formal photography class in darkroom arts, but I read books verouciously. I am not a pro but a hobbiest. 
I had a darkroom room, and experimented a lot. When I moved to digital processing, my past experience was helpful.  Again I taught myself Photoshop, through books and videos. I also learned to use Nikon SW as well. But my exposure to Dan's work was my best experience. These sessions are also excellent as I get to see the work of true professionals.

Robert
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Re: Choir: Results

John Gillespie
 

The par looks the best entry to me.

Mine is 731. It is less red and less saturated overall than the par. I think it is a bit too much in the par, a 50/50 blend in colour mode looks nice to me.
My version is a bit light, stealing some luminosity from say 727 (which is a very good entry) helps a lot.

A very illuminating challenge, I look forward to Dan's detailed comments.


Choir: Dan's comments

Dan Margulis
 

After a relative breather with the lion, many of you rated this one as the hardest of the set so far. I agree. A nasty lighting problem is compounded by the need to attend to many important details.

In common with Sunset on the Beach, and certainly with the Land of Pagodas that we’re now working on, this features a sun-and-shade-type situation where half the picture falls into shadows. We don’t need any further information to know that we will try to bring the two halves closer together, because the human visual system does a better job of that than a camera does.

Normally, though, we don’t try to absolutely equalize the two, as if both were shot under the same conditions. That’s what many of us, possibly the majority, tried to do. Some even tried to make the background darker than the foreground. I don’t condemn any of this but I personally prefer the choir to be somewhat darker than it is in the par version.

The alternative is to lighten the background while lightening the foreground, but again the character of the image works against us. This isn’t a typical portrait where the subject is the important part and we don’t need to concern ourselves overly with the quality of the background. We can’t afford to have the church seem washed out.

By and large, though, we got through these obstacles, in the sense that well over half the entries seem OK at first glance. That’s a high percentage compared to previous difficult images. But that was just the first hurdle.

When confronted with an image of this type (sun and shade, or similar) we’ve developed some good tools to bring the two halves closer together, at least as far as relative darkness is concerned. We usually don’t go as far as we did here, so we can often ignore another feature of this kind of image: since the two halves don’t share the same lighting they may not share the same color cast. Typically the light half is warmer and the dark half cooler.

We have special aggravating factors here. The reflections tell us that strong sunlight is hitting the background but, this being a church, the sunlight could be entering through stained glass, with unknown consequences for color. Plus, we rarely are confronted with critical color in both halves of the scene. As we saw in the lion exercise, the concept of “gold” occupies a fairly small range. That is very restrictive in the background, and the presence of fleshtones in the foregrounds is even more restrictive, especially since we have different ethnicities to work with.

Under these circumstances, we can’t simply correct color globally. Many people tried to correct for normal skintones, and introduced a nasty yellow or yellow-green cast into the background. Others knocked out much of the yellow in the background and wound up with overly pink faces.

That’s only the start of the face issues:
*They can’t be too pink, but they also can’t be seen as washed out.
*The shaping is critical; several people presented singers with no noses.
*Soft transitions are needed in the lighter hair as plugged shadows would be fatal.
*Because of shadows, adding too much contrast is likely to make some singers appear to have beards.
*The skin is full of unacceptable noise and artifacting.

Then there’s the other major issue. When we have factors that obviously can’t be reproduced accurately, like the sunset itself in one of our exercises, or the appeals to non-visual senses in the Bellagio (or Niagara Falls) exercises, we need to exaggerate them. We have such a case here. The gilded altarpiece is designed to provoke awe. We are not able to accurately represent its brilliance, so we have to find some other way to make it stand out from its surroundings.

With all these demands, it’s almost impossible to get everything right that needs to be. Choosing our best becomes a matter of which imperfections are the most acceptable. That guarantees a big vote for the par, which minimizes individual errors.

As always, the par has nothing obviously wrong, which is more than can be said for most of its parents. Accepting that as a given, I have to say I am not a big fan of this par, for reasons that may become clearer in my comments on individual images. We must remember that this is a “stupid” par, where each parent is given exactly equal weight. In this exercise, more nuanced blending would have gotten a better result.

Some other fine points:
*We generally did a good job holding detail in the red dresses, which is sometimes difficult when the color is so saturated.
*Several people realized that the necklaces needed to be emphasized by making them brighter and less pink.
*Some others realized that the large background painting could be selected easily and offered nice opportunities to cut the background cast and to emphasize the brightness of the gilding.
*The catchlights (specular highlights) in the background gilding were distracting and needed to be addressed.
*Some people remarked that they were trying to get more detail in the conductor’s black dress. I don’t understand why anyone would think this is important. This image is already very busy with things we *do* want people to look at.
*For the same reason, the audience and the foreground floor are better off darker than they are in the par.

One person found an elegant solution to the problem of too much activity in the picture (and simultaneously to the issue that it’s easy to make it overly colorful). As far as I can see everyone else should have done it, too. It will be discussed in my next post.

That discussion will have a lot of LAB technique, which happens to be important in this particular exercise.

The entries include four from my 2009 classes. By the standards of that time the group did well, but we’ve gotten better since then. So, as expected, they all fell into the top half of entries (after all, they were experts) but not quite to our top level. Incidentally, the group that was forced to work with the flat version did slightly better than those forced to start with the open one. Both groups had lots of trouble with the skintone, as we did. The flat team had slightly better contrast. This also was the general conclusion of all the images the classes worked on: for color it didn’t matter which version was the start point; for contrast the flat teams did somewhat better. Access to the raw image was irrelevant, although I could have made it relevant by including some where highlight detail needed to be recovered.

Anyhow, I’d say this is the group’s best performance so far, considering the difficulty.

Dan


Re: Choir: Results

Edward Bateman
 

Mine was 723

I usually have a bit of a personal agenda with these challenges. I mentally allowed myself to go back to when I was a full-time retoucher (before becoming a photo professor) who had to do anything that came through the door.

I figured that the choir was the most important element in the picture… why else would we have it? The photographer would have waited for the choir to arrive… not for them to leave so he could photograph the church. So making the choir the visual focus was my goal.

So in many respects, I felt like I achieved that goal - in part by darkening the (overwhelming and lighter) background and foreground. I wrestled with the red dresses - and darkened them both for “gravitas” and to set the focus on the faces… which I suspected proud parents would be most interested in. And I feel pretty good about my results and have a pretty good balance of things. I think that compared to the Par, mine does have more visual focus on the choir.

And then I sometimes think I went Dr. Frankenstein on this image and made it into something very different… especially when I look at the range of submissions. Mine felt rather different. My gold was definitely more brassy than the best. And a sense of light and lightness was lost.

I tried blending the Par on mine as both luminosity and color... and not sure that I preferred either. But would concede that some aspects of the color felt like an improvement to me.

So I’m still pondering this and studying the comments and images of others. This is really cool!

And thank you again for including the submission of my class.

Number 728.

My students did this as a group as a bit of an experiment by making 3 versions. (We did this over zoom with a student doing the work with others suggesting moves.) Two in Photoshop using the regular and flat versions - and one doing everything with Raw tools. The students were pleased with what they did in Raw… but when we compared as layers, that one was judged the least effective. So they did simple opacity blends from their 3 images to make their final image.

My students now agree that the power of channel blending and Bigger Hammer has become important in their tool set. I’m especially proud that they are really seeing and noticing aspects of images more precisely… and they are too. One student has been going back to his earlier work with a new eye.

SO THANK YOU!!!

Edward Bateman


Re: Choir: Results

David Remington
 
Edited

My version is 709.
 
I found this to be a difficult image as well and was not very satisfied with what I came up with. It looks okay in context, but some parts look pretty rough. The gold figure in the top left, and the gold in general, is blocky looking. Several people handled the gold better. Same for the singers. Not much finesse in mine. I wanted to open it up and add color and contrast so maybe I went a bit too far. Not sure about my choice of dress color either but it seems to be within the range of consensus. I could have done a better job with the window as well. Layered with par in color mode is mostly an improvement. Better dresses, better gold. Luminosity mode, par is much smoother. A bigger improvement.
I like parts of several images. Particularly those that achieved some delicacy in the gold and that showed attention to the painting as well as the singers.
 
David


Re: Choir: Results

Hector Davila
 

Mines is #711.

It appears most of the light is coming from behind the choir.

(most of these church type photos have dark, not too light interiors. Dim like.)


So, I hesitated to make the choir brighter.

Since my focus was the choir girls
(because the photographer seem to have centered the choir)

I noticed the choir faces were kind of...soft focused.

(actually nothing appears to me to be in focus in the photo)

So, I restored the faces.

(closer examination of the choir faces you will notice
#711 is much clearer than the default photo given to us.)

Hector Davila


Re: Choir: Results

James Gray
 

I was quite pleased to see these results.  Mine, #732, was a lot closer to the par than I was expecting.  In my judgement there are 16 I would say are inferior to mine, some only slightly so.

Jim Gray



Re: Choir: Results

Robert S Baldassano
 

Mine was 705 and comparing it to the PAR version, I found mine was a bit more blue and darker. So after trying color and luminosity blends with PAR I found that I liked a version where PAR luminosity  blended at 38% gave me a image that was more balanced top to bottom.  In general I did not try to deemphasize the background as I saw many entries did. I actually liked the fact that the painting and the rest of the background showed detail. I don’t know if that was the right call or not but I was happy with it. From the PAR blend it was clear that I need to lighten up the choir more but in general other than luminosity me colors were close to the PAR values in the area of the Choir. I found many of the entries too dark compared to mine. I probably could have done a better job of bringing detail out in the dresses. I did add a color boost to the red dresses in the MMM+CB step. I am looking forward to Dan’s comments, and hope I at least got one step out of the doghouse, to get more comments than don’t do it this way. 😊

 

Robert S Baldassano

 

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

 


Re: Choir: Results

Gerald Bakker
 

Mine is 727. Compared to par color-wise, I think my background is slightly greenish. On the other hand, the gold ornaments stand out better in my version than in par.
Luminosity-wise, I am not so sure. The par has lighter floor tiles and stairs, but I'm not sure which to prefer in that respect.

I found this a hard image to process. Make the background too light and the golds get washed out. Make it too dark and it becomes too heavy. Make the foreground too light and it looks unnatural. Too dark and the background predominates over the choir. Also, there is a lot of brilliant color, and it's important to emphasize it. But the pitfall of course is to make everything overly colorful. The question is, how to dose.

Here are a few of my favorites: 709, 716, 729 and 735 (par).
--
Gerald Bakker
https://geraldbakker.nl


Re: Choir: Results

Bill Theis
 


mine=#712: I went for shape in the faces as my goal and was happy with the result.  My color was a bit tepid since I was attempting to avoid oversaturating the faces (no swarthy faces!).  However with a saturation adjustment layer (+100 saturation at say 30% opacity) and I pretty much recover par color.  So maybe a good idea is that when I do the Auto Tone check I might also do a quick test with such a layer? 

Another matter is printing that red:  isn't it out of gamut?


With regard at par, I am not fond of the greens of the leaves of the poinsettias and the wreaths--dull and too yellow.  Do this and you get saturated blue columns on the altar, which I find attractive.  Same for the painting--so is this important?  or are the faces the emphasis?

Good shape on the faces for 704 and 711.  Good alter greenery on 704, mine, 731, 720, and 712. 


moderated Case Study: Land of Pagodas

Dan Margulis
 

Two of our last three case studies, plus the eleventh, optional one, have to do with civilizations that antedate Western European influence. Our first stop is the shot I promised you when we started work on Sunset on the Beach.
 
Myanmar, f/k/a Burma, is home of some of the kindest and friendliest people in the world, also the most devoted practitioners of Buddhism. We find ourselves at dawn in the Bagan district, home to several thousand religious structures, some of which are a thousand years old. 
 
As with Sunset on the Beach, a large swath of this original is much too dark, and we have an infinite number of possibilities for interpretation. Unlike Sunset on the Beach, complaints about the incompetence of the photographer won't cut it, as this one was shot by Vincent Versace.
 
In spite of its rich history, and its wealth of natural resources, the country has suffered perhaps more than any other in the world over the last two centuries, having to react to occupations by greedy foreign powers, disastrous cyclones, civil wars that have been going on for more than 70 years, and a brutal, corrupt military government. So, there is room to make this a sad picture as well as a happy one.
 
You may wish to review an article in the Atlantic magazine, which has two dozen large photos of the area and should give some ideas on how to proceed.
 
Dan
***********
 
*In the Photos section, 2021 Case Study: Land of Pagodas, 
https://groups.io/g/colortheory/album?id=261860
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 .nef as below. DO NOT WORK ON THE THUMBNAIL ATTACHED TO THIS MESSAGE.
 
*groups.io does not allow .nef format in the Photos section. If you want the .nef raw version, 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=2021_Land-of-Pagodas_case-study_source.zip
 
*The designated size of this exercise is 3011 x 2000 pixels. If you use the .nef image be sure to open into the correct size. Do not crop, rotate, alter the sizing, apply any lens correction, or delete any tangible objects, because doing any of these things will make it impossible to use your version as part of a par assembly. 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.
 
Except as indicated in the above paragraph, you can use whatever methods you like to improve the picture.
 
*Please keep clear records of what you did for discussion. List members find these very valuable.
 
*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 your brief explanation of how you produced it. 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, 22 March, at 06:00 Eastern/1000Z/11:00 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. Once discussion begins, those who wish to identify themselves publicly may do so.
 
*If the filename of your version contains your name or initials, they will be deleted before posting. If you want to be able to identify your version by name once posted, throw in a few extra letters at the end of the filename; I won't delete them.
 
*I will leave discussion of the results to the group for the first two days after posting, and will then weigh in with my own opinion.


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