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Author Topic: Digital "muddier" than film?  (Read 3890 times)
howard smith
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« on: August 27, 2004, 02:45:52 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I have a scanned image from the Grand Canyon.  I messed around with dodging and burning areas and details to adjust the local contrast.  It worked pretty well.  When I am bored, I tweek some more.  The image sems to be getting better.[/font]
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pfigen
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2004, 04:05:23 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Lisa,

Color correction for film or digital is exactly the same. Your Yosemite shot was flat and had an overall yellow cast. Place a probe in the highlight area of the brightest clouds and you'll quickly see that there is a strong yellow bias. Place another in a gray part of one of the clouds and another in one of the dark crags in the bottom right area. Making the white and black points neutral will in this case will make a huge difference already. Leaving the gray of the cloud a bit on the blue side feels more natural than neutral there, and setting the black point to something a lot more neutral and much darker than it it will add snap. Whatever correction you did wasn't enough. I'll be glad to email you the correction curve I made so you can see the difference. I'm not saying that the shot doesn't need any local correction, but you start out with an overall correction first and then see where that lands you.

Peter Figen[/font]
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2004, 10:34:11 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Both my RAW file converted to TIFF (with tweaking of parameters in ACR) and the JPG with default camera settings look muddy, so it's not just my RAW conversion.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Have you calibrated ACR to your camera with a Gretag-Macbeth Color Checker? That made a huge difference in my ACR RAW conversion color quality. I can consistently shoot RAWs that only require minor exposure and white balance adjustments and no further color adjustments in Photoshop.[/font]
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Lin Evans
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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2004, 01:39:09 PM »
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Thanks, Lin! That is indeed the sort of thing I was hoping to see. It's oversharpened for my taste (I like them softer, especially for misty ones like this), but you've brought out the greens very well in a way I didn't. Was it the "shadows" command together with increased saturation that did it? Did you increase overall saturation with the hue/saturation command, or do something specific to the greens?

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Can you explain this? (The photo was taken from a moving funicular, so the focus was not all it could be.) Could be a very useful technique at times, but not something I've heard of (at least in those terms).

The shadow/highlight actually performs a contrast mask and applies levels differentially to the highs and lows so it tends to not only reveal shadow detail (as you can see in the porch area of the building) this actually adds some "pop" to the image. I didn't change the greens specifically, just the levels boost and contrast tweak but levels does change saturation a bit.

Deconvolution software (Focus Magic in this case) looks for slight mis-focus and actually shifts the pixels so that edge roll-off (the number of pixels at the trailing edge of detail where it intersects background or adjacent detail) are diminished. As either motion blur (not camera shake) or slight mis-focus adds a few pixels to the already slightly smeared image (from the antialiasing filter) the deconvolution process detects these additional pixels which cause a bit of "haze" at the junction of detail and applies corrective algorithms.

There is a process you can also do with PhotoShop - I'll try to look it up from a several year old post - which removes "haze". This may also help. I'll get back later today or tomorrow if I can find the reference.

Best regards,

Lin[/font]
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Lin
Alberio
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2004, 02:16:54 PM »
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You eat Pringles? ... Just hold the lid in front of the lens and use that single image as the base for your custom WB. It's suprisingly accurate.
Can you explain the process for this, step by step? (Assume I'm clueless, which I am...)

Thanks
I think the idea is that the white and translucent Pringles cap -- which is just about the right size for normal lenses -- blends the various lighting in the scene to an "average" value that is representative of the ambient color balance. I imagine it works for the same reasons why incident light meters, with their diffusers, work. So, just hold the cap in front of your lens, completely covering it, and set a custom white balance on your camera. Then remove the cap and take your picture.

You can pay good money to buy a commercial version. Go Pringles![/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2004, 05:03:30 PM »
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Something just clicked and I went back to your site to check. It looks like all your pictures -- though well-shot -- are under-saturated because they were encoded in the Adobe RGB color space. Of course, some of them look way too saturated when opened in Photoshop, but many look much better for it.

That's the case.  My primary usage of my images is for printing, for which I prefer Adobe RGB, and I've just been too lazy to resave them as sRBG for the web; the web site is of secondary importance to me, just a whim really, so I haven't bothered much with the image quality there.  Perhaps I'll convert to sRGB for future ones.

Thanks, too, for your list of edits, Alberio - that will start me in the right direction in getting practice at taking care of my "mud" problems!

Lisa[/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2004, 02:01:53 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']A few months back I began using my first digital camera, a Nikon D70.  I've  noticed that the images look "muddy" (for want of a better term) compared to my old film images, which were taken with a normal-saturation negative film (typically Kodak Supra or Royal Gold).  The colors in the digital images just don't look very attractive.  Both my RAW file converted to TIFF (with tweaking of parameters in ACR) and the JPG with default camera settings look muddy, so it's not just my RAW conversion.  I've tried playing with overall saturation, contrast, local contrast enhancement, etc., and they still look "muddy".  I suspect the problem may lie in the greens, but I'm not sure.  So you can (hopefully) see what I'm talking about, here are an old film image and a new D70 image after my best attempt at processing them in PS (not the greatest images, but I think they best illustrate what I'm talking about with vaguely similar images):

film image

d70 image

I'd welcome any discussion of this, including:
Am I imagining it? (I don't think so - a family member sees it too.)
Is this "normal" for digital images, or just the D70?
Or just *my* D70?
Can anyone define what's going on better than "muddy"?
How can one fix the muddy appearance in software?

Thanks,
Lisa[/font]
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pfigen
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2004, 02:38:04 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Lisa,

It appears that you haven't yet done the basics of overall color correction - set the highlight and shadow points and a good tonal curve for the image. Do that and you'll see that image snap to attention. The image as it stands now is flat and has an overall yellow cast to it, making it appear dull and lifeless. Set the endpoints in conjunction with an effective tonal curve and it's quite a nice shot.[/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2004, 03:36:31 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Thanks for your comments so far.

Hank -  I've already applied LCE "to taste".  Much more and the brighter small spots start looking weird, in my opinion.  LCE is a very useful tool in the arsenal, I agree, but I've already tried it.

pfigen - I've already adjusted the black point, white point and RGB curve, and that image is what came out.  However, your suggestion has made me start wondering whether the color-correction habits I've fallen into using film might not be quite appropriate for digital (which may have different contrast behavior somehow), and I need to experiment with very different settings than I'm accustomed to.  I'll play with it tonight and see if I can do better.  BTW, while the landscape appears to have a yellowish cast, I believe I set the white balance to get the clouds neutral gray - so I *have* done that step, though perhaps differently than you would.

Can anyone else who's used both film and digital comment on whether setting the black point, white point and RGB curve need to be approached differently for the two?

Howard - I can see that dodging and burning might improve particular images, but I see the "muddiness" in most, if not all, of my D70 images, and I'd hate to have to do that to every one of them...

Are there any D70 users out there???  It would be nice to know whether the issue is me or the camera...

Thanks again for your comments,
Lisa[/font]
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Hank
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2004, 04:03:13 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi Lisa,

I failed to add that I usually do the LCE on a duplicate layer, then erase portions I don't want affected in the background layer as a further "to taste" options.  Don't know if this will carry you further down the path, but it is a definite help with problem images.[/font]
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2004, 05:39:27 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I'm with Peter here. Your D70 image is poorly white-balanced. Look at the clouds in the scanned film image; they're neutral-to-blue, and the color saturation of the film image is much higher overall than the D70 shot. The D70 sky is definitely way too green; it's practically gray compared to the film shot.[/font]
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boku
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2004, 08:06:34 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Or, you just take the easy way out. This is a product that handle exactly what you're talking about....

Click on Color Washer[/font]
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Bob Kulon

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Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
wagee
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« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2004, 12:48:47 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi Lisa,

I usually lurk and say very little on this forum but I can't keep quiet this time. I used to see this kind of problem all the time with my D100 back when I was a newbie.

I feel it is definitely a white balance problem. What do you use for a WB setting? When your WB is wrong (ie. set to cloudy or shade when the scene is in direct sun), your greens and blues will look just like this: dead. The WB is too warm. Look at the sky... it's barely blue. Once I remembered to set the WB correctly, my images were more accurate. I never ever use Auto WB - not reliable at all.

Hope this helps...
Warren[/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2004, 10:56:34 AM »
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I feel it is definitely a white balance problem. What do you use for a WB setting? When your WB is wrong (ie. set to cloudy or shade when the scene is in direct sun), your greens and blues will look just like this: dead. The WB is too warm. Look at the sky... it's barely blue. Once I remembered to set the WB correctly, my images were more accurate. I never ever use Auto WB - not reliable at all.

Hope this helps...

Thanks, Warren! That certainly sounds like a promising theory; white balance issues are something that is handled differently between film & digital, which would explain why I'm having problems with it. I shoot RAW and then adjust the white balance in ACR; I probably need more practice at it, since I've only been doing this for few months. I have a difficult time sometimes figuring out what the "right" color balance is, and often resort to trying to get clouds or overcast sky to neutral gray. Perhaps it's time to find a different approach.

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Have you calibrated ACR to your camera with a Gretag-Macbeth Color Checker? That made a huge difference in my ACR RAW conversion color quality. I can consistently shoot RAWs that only require minor exposure and white balance adjustments and no further color adjustments in Photoshop.

I'm slightly ahead of you on that one, Jonathan - I ordered a GM Color Checker last night. I plan to do what you suggest. I'm glad to hear that it actually works "as advertised".

Thanks
Lisa[/font]
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2004, 01:18:48 PM »
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One thing to keep in mind is that the digital "negative" is totally unprocessed and will generally come from the camera with a rather low contrast and "flat" appearance which has some beneficial properties. By not oversaturating and driving contrast levels up, optimal dynamic range is preserved and the photographer has the option then of making the image look like he or she wishes.

Understood.  I'm actually accustomed to working with even lower-contrast negative film scans and am comfortable with increasing the contrast in PS.  The contrast coming out of the D70 is *greater* than I'm used to.

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After looking at your two samples, I think that the defaults in your camera are quite probably set for low sharpness, and either low or medium contrast and saturation. Though it's probably "possible" to change these settings and get more "pop" from the native capture, it's probably better for you as the photographer to develop skills in post processing to get the images to look like you want.

I actually use RAW, run the good ones through ACR, and adjust things like saturation and contrast there (to be tweaked further in PS later).  While I have a good feel for getting contrast where I want it for film scans (with PS curves), I am still struggling to figure out how to get it where I want it for digital RAW with ACR.  Perhaps it just needs practice.

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Here's a link to what I would have done with your second photo

Thanks, Lin!  That is indeed the sort of thing I was hoping to see.  It's oversharpened for my taste (I like them softer, especially for misty ones like this), but you've brought out the greens very well in a way I didn't.  Was it the "shadows" command together with increased saturation that did it?  Did you increase overall saturation with the hue/saturation command, or do something specific to the greens?

Also, if you don't mind another question:
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I applied a slight deconvolution correction to optimize focus
Can you explain this?  (The photo was taken from a moving funicular, so the focus was not all it could be.)  Could be a very useful technique at times, but not something I've heard of (at least in those terms).

Thanks, Lin  Smiley
Lisa[/font]
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Alberio
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2004, 03:41:08 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Interesting thread. With the limited goal of "un-muddying" the pictures without overt sharpening or levels work, here's what I could do.

Maybe it's just me, but I found it difficult to judge the color using a browser because you saved the original JPEGs with Adobe RGB 1998 instead of sRGB. This may be the root of the white balance criticisms. The most affected was the sky in the "Half Dome" and "Rocks" images.

Was the hill picture taken in the Stanford foothills?

P.S. Nice pictures at the site in your sig![/font]
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RockyMountainMommy
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« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2004, 01:10:41 PM »
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You eat Pringles? Even though you are shooting RAW sometimes it can be handy to set WB before shooting the frame anyway (not all images have neutral grey in them). Use a Pringles can lid to set a custom WB. Just hold the lid in front of the lens and use that single image as the base for your custom WB. It's suprisingly accurate.
[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Can you explain the process for this, step by step? (Assume I'm clueless, which I am...)

Thanks[/font]
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Alberio
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« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2004, 02:38:15 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi Lisa,

Glad to hear that you found some of the edits informative. I would be interested to hear your results with the color checker, although I'm fairly convinced that there's nothing wrong with your D70. It probably just takes ultra-smooth and low contrast pictures that mandate post-processing to look like developed film.

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An interesting exercise!  I really liked your improvements to the first two.  What did you do to get the greens to look so much better for the cliff-and-waterfall photo?
For example, I didn't do anything to the greens other than LCE and sharpening. Here was exactly what I did:

     - USM 10%, 100, 0 (haze removal)
     - USM 120%, .3, 1 (sharpening)
     - Curves, very light increase to shadows to match original:
          (Input 43, Output 49)
          (Input 100, Output 107)
          (Input 211, Output 208)

That last was needed to partly undo the effects of the LCE, and is not needed if you are more careful than I was (it was quickie!). Probably more important was the conversion to sRGB from Adobe RGB 1998 before saving as a JPEG; the examples on my page are somewhat unfair because I left the originals as Adobe RGB, which are then misread by my browser as sRGB files. Of course, you can see what happens when you print with the above alterations.

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For the first one (Half Dome), I would guess that it was a combination of increased saturation (a bit too unnatural compared with the original scene, but that's OK) and local contrast enhancement; is that right?
Amazingly enough, again I did nothing to the colors but LCE and sharpening, combined with the sRGB conversion. Well, I did make it even bluer, but that doesn't fix the greens! The steps were:

     - USM 10%, 100, 0 (haze removal)
     - USM 110%, .3, 1 (sharpening)
     - Color Balance, +4 to blue highlights
     - Curves, very light increase to shadows to match original:
          (Input 128, Output 128)
          (Input 54, Output 61)

Again, the last curves thing is rather arbitrary and ultimately unecessary if you're diligent with the LCE.

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Nope!  I wish.  No rocks that interesting around here.
Darn! I almost leaped out of my seat in surprise that there was such a formation behind Stanford. Oh well  . BTW, in my own immodesty, I will offer my method for that picture:

     - USM 130%, .3, 1 (sharpening)

That's it! Well, plus that pesky sRGB conversion, which suddenly makes the colors leap off my (assiduously calibrated) screen. I wonder maybe your digital workflow has a kink in the printer color management step?

Cheers, and please let me know if any of these steps help with your prints. Sometimes I wonder whether all my accumulated experience is applicable only to my particular workflow: that would be a major bummer![/font]
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61Dynamic
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2004, 04:26:14 PM »
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Can you explain the process for this, step by step? (Assume I'm clueless, which I am...)

Sure. Alberio has the concept as to how it works down. The ExpoDisc may work better, but I'm not sure. It's a bit pricey compared to a Pringles lid so I have't bought one to test... The company is just a few miles from a relatives house. I'll have to stop by next time I'm there.

Using the Pringles lid is the same as the ExposeDisc. Here are it's instructions.[/font]
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2004, 10:58:40 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Here's my fix for your second D70 image:

The first thing I did was to run my Web Prep sRGB Action on the image to convert it to sRGB, sharpen, add local contrast enhancement, and balance out the tonality a bit better. Then I did a Color Balance with the following settings:
Shadows: -16, +3, 0
Highlights: 0, -2, 0

The amount of sharpening may not be to your taste, but I think overall it's a significant improvement. If you're converting RAWs with ACR, you really need to calibrate ACR with a Color Checker so that such drastic color corrections aren't necessary.[/font]
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