A Toast to Greece: comments on individual versions
901 Chosen for the par version. This person created the most exciting version with a relatively simple procedure. He balanced the colors normally and added a lot of Vibrance. He added shape with two applications of H-K (luminosity only) which he states was the first time he had used it on an image. This accounts for the very realistic shaping of the faces.
902 This one came in at the last minute and I did not check before posting. It is one of four versions where the entrant disregarded the requirement that the file be in sRGB. This one is tagged Adobe RGB which makes it necessary to convert it before comparing it to anything else. Please, everyone, in future double-check that you are entering in the correct colorspace.
903 Since I’m complaining about the rules I point out that this person erased the two lights as well as some leaves in the upper right corner. That may be what a client would want but it isn’t appropriate in a group study, because if I had wanted to include this in a par version it wouldn’t work, any more than if the person had slightly rotated the image.
904 This person’s notes confess that he became fixated on the lighting and on preserving the feeling that this shot was taken at night. That the background tree loses a lot of detail is no big deal IMHO. However, if we were present at the scene, we probably wouldn’t see the faces as bright as they are in #901. OTOH even by candlelight we would see the faces at the head table clearly enough to recognize them. In this version they couldn’t be, so I say that the presentation is considerably too dark (which does not mean he should be shooting for #901 or anything like it.)
905 “My initial approach,” writes this person, “was to start off very badly wrong and to spin my wheels for days/hours, then realize my mistake, and start over." He tried to juggle a lot of prioirities in his final workflow and came up with a reasonable result with faces slightly washed out. As #904 is too obviously a night scene it looks to me like this one is too much taken-in-sunshine. I do, however, endorse the nice touch of vignetting out the top of the center tree, which further directs us to the people. Compare that effect to #915, where the fleshtones are roughly similar.
906 Chosen for the par version. Here’s my entry. Like many others, I was bothered by the crossing light sources. Unlike others, I decided to concentrate on not letting the whites get out of control and let the faces fall where they may. I tried doing this first with curves; not being satisfied, I had the inspiration of starting over using H-K reversed, which lightens the image overall instead of darkening it, while neutralizing the whites even further. Unfortunately, I did not grasp what #901 demonstrated, that normal H-K is very helpful with the shape of the faces. So, my H-K reversed version, when complete, wound up being pretty good in the whites and bad everyplace else.
907 Similar in feel to #905 but more agreeable faces. It’s a good rendition if a bit lifeless. It seems that this person was dead set and determined to obliterate the crossing cast entirely so that the orangeness of the head table vanishes altogether and it seems that the scene is uniformly lit. The difficulty with such a doctrinaire position is that it seems to have a bleaching effect on the people at the head table and it becomes difficult to introduce more color.
908 Another agreeable effort with good color and dubious luminosity. Rex Butcher concentrated on getting the fleshtones “right”, which he did, on the assumption that this is a normally lit picture. In context, however, they’re too light, because the background indicates that this is a dark picture. So, for example, in the woman third from left, the hair is too dark for the fleshtone. So, all the whites are in a compressed range, resulting in a flat appearance.
909 To some extent this one has believable features, at the cost of quite a bit of noise in the faces of the older people. Using this much sharpening, including ALCE, is dangerous in this type of picture. The man sixth from left seems to have a huge light source reflecting from his cheek, making him look like something out of a monster movie.
910 A contestant from one of my classes who did not worry about the orange cast on the right. Fair enough; neither did #901, but this one would need to get lighter before it could be considered in the same league.
911 A careful workflow produced this excellent version. The person did three sets of corrections and blended them. One was aimed at enhancing color generally, the second was done in Camera Raw for a different result, and the third used a false profile, but unlike #909, care was taken not to allow the background trees to pick up too much detail. He decided not to attack the crossing casts directly. Instead, he painted neutrality into the tablecloths on each side of the picture, and he painted coolness into the faces of the older people at the head table to kill the orangeness. This appears to have been quite effective.
912 Arthur Margolin decided that this picture is not so much a family shot as a tribute to the older generation. He responded creatively by shining a spotlight on the head table, leaving the younger folk on the left in relative darkness. When I first opened the image I thought it was overall too dark but the more I study it the better I like it. Arthur writes,
913 Recently, having some time to kill, I purchased a copy of Affinity Photo. Since this Greek image isn’t particularly in need of the PPW panel, I decided to leap into the deep end and do an Affinity version. I can say that Affinity Photo is a very serious application with a lot of useful tools that don’t necessarily have Photoshop equivalents, but there may be some PPW-crucial things that it doesn’t have, I don’t know for sure. Anyway, I felt like I was working wearing handcuffs. What came out was something more similar to #901 than to my own #906.
914 A nice conservative treatment done as a combination of three methods. First, a pretty standard PPW starting by blending the green into the RGB, and including Velvet Hammer and MMM+CB; second an auto-color like routine from a different app; third a PPW version that included H-K, mostly intended for the flooring.
915 Attempts to control the crossing casts with curves were successful in doing that, but unsuccessful in that it left the faces rather flat and without color variation. All the people at left have distinctly orange skin whereas at the head table the skin is pink. Also, it’s useful to compare this to #905, where the skintone isn’t all that different, but the person had vignetted out the top of the center tree, which was an effective move in directing attention back to the people.
916 My “official” entry into this case study is #906. As a test of my proficiency or lack thereof with Affinity Photo, I also produced #913 with that app rather than Photoshop. After doing so, it occurred to me that there was a third alternative. I did this one quickly in CMYK, which has no disadvantage because no colors are outside of the CMYK gamut and which does have the considerable advantage of a black channel that can be sharpened. Also, I did a second CMYK version using Heavy GCR, which I used to hold neutrality in the whites, thus fighting off the crossing cast. After merging the two CMYK versions I traveled to LAB to add color.
917 Here are two examples of identifying a problem and then overcompensating for it. First, like so many of us, this person objected to the strong orangeness of the right side of the image. Second, we all admit that this photo, like many night shots, is grainy and is likely to have unacceptable noise unless we’re quite careful in sharpening. But it’s one thing to say we should minimize the problems and another to say that absolutely any trace of them must vanish. Here, the cast has been reversed: the head table is actually cooler than the table at left. And a noise reduction filter was applied too drastically, resulting in a blurry look. For example, the woman at the center of the table, with the wine held high, wears glasses—but you can’t detect that from this image.
918 A simple procedure led to a basically pleasing result. The person was concerned that the faces were getting too dark (as, perhaps, in #916) so he blended the red channel into the others, Lighten mode, on a luminosity layer. My view is that this washed out some of the faces at the head table, but moreover the U.S. flag should have been excluded from the blend, because its stripes came out bizarrely light. See #919 for a different strategy.
919 Chosen for the par version. For anyone feeling that some versions are making the fleshtones too bright, this version should do the trick. This person decided that the color issues were complex enough that he would prepare one version to deal with the various casts and then take it from there. He felt that his faces were too dark, but worried that lightening them would cost too much detail. This is, of course, the same problem faced by the person who did #918. Both concluded that they needed some channel blending to lighten the faces since curves would not do what they wanted. In #918 the person did this by blending the red into the RGB, Lighten mode, Luminosity layer. Here, instead, the person in LAB, blended in A into the L in Overlay mode. This lightened the flesh, darkened the trees, and did nothing to the whites, just what was wanted. I like this version better than the par.
920 It is dangerous to fall in love with technique because it so rarely loves you back. 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. The idea of spotlighting the head table was carried out subtly and successfully in #912 and to a lesser extent in #926. Not here.
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.
The second useful hint: People has trouble finding an adequate start point for their correction because the original was so dark yet had light areas. This person tried several things and in pure frustration used the ancient Equalize command, presumably on a layer at about 50% opacity. I, of course, turn up my nose at this but must admit that it only takes a second or two to find out whether it works, and if it does, why not use it?
921 Here’s an intelligent way to produce a nighttime look without making the people look foreboding. This person created a reasonably colorful and correct group and flags, but then the image was overall too light. So he artificially darkened both the tablecloth and the trees.
922 Here careful attention was paid to maintaining neutrality. This causes the appearance of a neutral scene without a variation in lighting from one side to the oehter, yet the faces of the two men at left are somewhat green while the fleshtones of the older men at the head table are beet-red. Also, I say that this is too much of a daytime scene, too light in context.
923 Too contrasty. Hair has become black. So have areas of the flags that are known to be blue. Faces at the front table appear to be posterized.
924 Too light overall. Whites lack detail, faces too. You can tell how tonal range is emphasizing the wrong things by looking at the wine bottles and the camera on the table. These things have excellent detail in this rendition, but unfortunately nobody is interested in it.
925 Chosen for the par version. A delightful combination of relatively dark people with warmth in the fleshtone by Robert Wheeler, who has described what he did in the main thread.
926 The basic problem with this near miss is that if the faces are this dark (certainly possible) then they can’t be this red. One nice touch: the faces at the head table have been lightened separately, creating somewhat of the same spotlight effect found in #912.
927 This is more like what #926 should have been, with a full range in the whites yet the candles have been preserved. This was done in Photoline rather than Photoshop and, according to the individual, took 30-45 minutes to produce.
928 I find this a little gloomy for such a joyful occasion because the faces are so gray. There is also objectionable noise in the faces at the head table.
929 This version came from an ACT class and I find it somewhat successful. The person spotlighted the head table, as was done in #912 and #926. I don’t think he cared that the left side is rather blue because that further emphasizes the older people at the head table. If this were a tad lighter overall it’d be pretty competitive IMHO.
930 Chosen for the par version. The overall effect is quite pleasing. My only quibble: John Lund, like many of us, thought the trees were distracting, so he darkened and vignetted them. Quite sensible, as we’ve seen elsewhere, but I think the move implies that the midtone of the image overall should get a tad darker, otherwise the people are a bit too light in context. The move would help fleshtone detail as well. John did most of the overall adjustment in Lightroom and then used a modified PPW, including H-K, with a lot of individual tweaks. He writes:
931 The par.
Yes, I used H-K twice on that photo because I remembered it did
something about black enhancement (i think, I wasn't sure)
(I'm like other people, i don't read the manual, i just click and see what happens).
It was the first time I actually used it on a photo because the
faces outlines were grayish.
But there are a lot of buttons on the PPW panel I have never used
because I have no idea how they work or how it is applied or
for what reason one uses it. Like for example:
False Profile: (I have no idea what False Profile actually means)
So, all those gamma buttons and False CMYK i have never touched.
SKY: never had a use for those buttons
Skin Desaturation: ( that's a dangerous button to me. I prefer to manually do that)
The Layers buttons, : (i don't do layers that much )
COLOR: The CB+MMM is the only button I use mostly when none of
my other color boost works any more. (I can always uncheck MMM or CB if needed,
but you need both always to start with.) (But it seems to boost Red more, I need to figure out how it can be used to boost the other colors like Yellow, blue and green.)
Of course, there are millions of tools I haven't used in Photoshop, like I never used The Pen Tool.
On 7/16/2020 5:21 AM, Dan Margulis via groups.io wrote:
In my attempt (919) I tried very hard to kill the blue cast in the white tablecloth and clothing. No one at the scene would see this as it is caused by the flash, so it is quite unnatural.
However looking at other versions I can see that my zealousness has destroyed the attractive orange in the candles. Adding this back to my own is a big improvement in terms of enhancing the warm evening appeal of the scene.
As for the blend of the A into the L in overlay, I can't take credit for that, it is explained in chapter 17 of Photoshop LAB Color to solve a similar problem of dark faces at a social gathering. It generally works better than blending with the red as it does not kill as much detail. Darkening the green of the trees was a happy unintended by-product.