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Author Topic: Getting Color right: A not so easy to answer question ....  (Read 3414 times)
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« on: November 11, 2013, 01:49:48 PM »
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There is one question which has been bothering me quite some time now
and I hope to get some good answers here.
It is not exactly scientific.

For a long time I always felt a difference concerning color in the various images I have seen so far.
Some images just give me an instant feeling of natural color.
Its, as if the image just pops out of the frame or screen and I feel like being there.
And its not about overall definition, sharpness and such.
Its the way how the colors are rendered.

What I could recognize so far is, that saturation and tones are somehow exactly "on the spot" - neither boosted nor subdued.
And there usually are no extreme tints or shifts in color temperature.
Its just a subjective feeling of: "That looks right" - in a naturalistic way.

Maybe the question is too subjective and can not be answered,
but I wonder if others have a similar experience and what would you
say makes an image looking natural concerning color.
There are many images looking good or even excellent - but not natural in the way I mean.

I am working totally color managed from screen to print, but my impression is that this does not define it.

Maybe its just the result of some messed up subjectivism - I have no clue.
What do you think?

Cheers
~Chris
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 03:44:26 PM »
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I like my landscapes to bring back memories of, and the feeling of, the place I took them. That means that grass has to look like every-day grass, skies have to look like what I remember skies looking like, etc. The only time I play with saturation or vibrance is in abstracts which don't make any reference to "reality."

So I think I am just as subjective as you about this, and I always try to season my colors until they taste "right." And there is no recipe or preset that can do that; it depends on the individual image.

So I am just out of touch with the current fashion of dazzling, blockbuster colors.

Does that make just two of us?
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

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AFairley
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 05:02:03 PM »
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Does that make just two of us?

At least three of us  Grin
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 09:40:45 PM »
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It is all about the concept I've been subscribing to and preaching about for quite some time: believability. It does not have to be neither "true" nor "correct," but it shall be believable. You can leave it as it is, or you could aggressively "massage" it for days, but in the end it has to be believable. It is not the process, it is the end result.
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Jim Kasson
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2013, 11:02:37 PM »
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There is one question which has been bothering me quite some time now...

Chris, if you want someone to take a crack at it from a color science perspective, I'll be happy to do so. But, before I do, can you ask the question in a single sentence? All the areas you touched on in your OP amount to more than I can do justice to.

Jim
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2013, 11:43:01 PM »
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It is all about the concept I've been subscribing to and preaching about for quite some time: believability. It does not have to be neither "true" nor "correct," but it shall be believable. You can leave it as it is, or you could aggressively "massage" it for days, but in the end it has to be believable. It is not the process, it is the end result.
As usual, Slobodan gets it exactly right.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2013, 12:21:11 AM »
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+1

But I am not religious about colour.

Best regards
Erik

As usual, Slobodan gets it exactly right.

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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2013, 01:16:34 AM »
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I like my landscapes to bring back memories of, and the feeling of, the place I took them. That means that grass has to look like every-day grass, skies have to look like what I remember skies looking like, etc. The only time I play with saturation or vibrance is in abstracts which don't make any reference to "reality."
So I think I am just as subjective as you about this, and I always try to season my colors until they taste "right." And there is no recipe or preset that can do that; it depends on the individual image.
So I am just out of touch with the current fashion of dazzling, blockbuster colors.
Does that make just two of us?

Possibly its just a subjectivism I need to understand better to know how to bring it across. I am not searching for a magic bullet, but I believe there is some magic. And I want to understand it better.


It is all about the concept I've been subscribing to and preaching about for quite some time: believability. It does not have to be neither "true" nor "correct," but it shall be believable. You can leave it as it is, or you could aggressively "massage" it for days, but in the end it has to be believable. It is not the process, it is the end result.

Of course, you hit the nail on the head here, but the question remains: How is that achieved?
Are there various ways?
Is it something so subjective you can't bring it across?
Is there a scientific part in it, a method you could apply?


Chris, if you want someone to take a crack at it from a color science perspective, I'll be happy to do so. But, before I do, can you ask the question in a single sentence? All the areas you touched on in your OP amount to more than I can do justice to.
Jim

I have read a lot of color science stuff to get an idea what is happening in color photography. I read "Color Appearance Models" by Mark Fairchild to understand better. It became clear very fast, that the color system we use based on the cieXYZ stuff is already one step behind a major color conversion, the conversion from spectral intensity distributions into xyz stimuli. All color management and attempts to get "correct color" come after that fact.

I then learned, that color is a learned, subjective experience to a great extent, e.g. a friend of J.W.v.Goethe who was not only a poet, but also a color theoreticist (beside other endeavors), once learned from Goethe about the theory of color contrast, especially opposing colors, red-green, blue-yellow, etc.. After learning this he wrote a letter to Goethe that he now started seeing opposing color contrast situations everywhere - his perception was permanently altered by learning a concept. And this is only a very small example of whats happening in the development of our perception.

My impression is, that correct color management and understanding the scientific/technical base of colors better can help in achieving natural, believable color, but it is not enough. And I am not sure and would like to understand better what are the factors determining an impression of natural color.

I often alter color in my images using vibrance and saturation in an opposing way: I Increase vibrance and decrease saturation. The result is an image with partially subdued color where only the strongest colors appear in normal saturation. Or I do the opposite: I increase saturation and decrease vibrance to subdue only exaggerated colors a bit and boost weak colors a little. Another thing is to use a B/W conversion layer in luminance mode to change luminance off the different colors - e.g. making yellows lighter. Or I selectively boost yellows in lit areas and so on ...But all this is in the realm of artistic interpretation and has nothing to do with that kinda unusual feeling of natural color I described in my OP.

I really want to understand this better, and maybe I have to end up with accepting that it is so highly subjective that it is impossible to evoke this feeling of natural color in others watching my images. But I'd like to be able to bring this impression of "natural color" across.

Thats why I posted here - to understand it better.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 02:55:22 AM by Christoph C. Feldhaim » Logged

ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2013, 02:43:20 AM »
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Hi,

Posting on the wrong thread! Sorry!

Best regards
Erik
Quote
Sorry, I am not exactly sure I understood what you wanted to bring across Erik. Showing the different rendering by different sensors? Showing the effects of postprocessing?
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Isaac
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2013, 11:38:56 AM »
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... and maybe I have to end up with accepting that it is so highly subjective that it is impossible to evoke this feeling of natural color in others watching my images.

I think so -- "Photographs succeed not when a photographer has an original vision, but when viewers can re-create that vision or another equally powerful one in their own minds upon seeing the photograph."
« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 11:56:51 AM by Isaac » Logged
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2013, 12:11:01 PM »
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... Of course, you hit the nail on the head here, but the question remains: How is that achieved?
Are there various ways?
Is it something so subjective you can't bring it across?
Is there a scientific part in it, a method you could apply?...

Yes, it is subjective, and no, I do not think it is "so subjective you can't bring it across."

There is also a scientific part of it. The science behind human perception in general, and Gestalt phycology in particular. My "bible" in that area is a book by Richard Zakia: "Perception and Imaging: Photography--A Way of Seeing."

I do not think there is a method or formula that you can consistently apply in all cases... too many (subjective) variables. But certain guidelines, yes.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2013, 12:29:08 PM »
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Once the viewer asks if you Photoshopped it, you lost the argument.  Your hard work is diminished.  Go to the edge but not over it.  If your intent is not to do photo art, then keep it believeable, as Slobodan said.
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Isaac
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2013, 01:05:36 PM »
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keep it believable

I'm pleased that Galen Rowell didn't follow that guideline, but instead searched out the extraordinary.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2013, 01:28:58 PM »
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There is also a scientific part of it. The science behind human perception in general, and Gestalt phycology in particular. My "bible" in that area is a book by Richard Zakia: "Perception and Imaging: Photography--A Way of Seeing."

Ordered. Smiley

I'm pleased that Galen Rowell didn't follow that guideline, but instead searched out the extraordinary.

I also try extremes at times (Proof) since i am open to many directions - its just another cup of tea than what i was searching here.

« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 01:36:56 PM by Christoph C. Feldhaim » Logged

Alan Klein
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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2013, 03:28:41 PM »
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Quote from: Alan Klein on Today at 01:29:08 PM

keep it believable

 
I'm pleased that Galen Rowell didn't follow that guideline, but instead searched out the extraordinary.

Why can't extraordinary pictures be believeable?    Rowell shot with chromes.  His work was very believable.  Of course, his shooting in the mountains often saturated the colors a lot because of the way the light is up there.  He also was obsessive about getting up at 4am, hiking out to catch the sunlight during magic hour which added to the extraordinary.

 
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Isaac
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« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2013, 03:58:01 PM »
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His work was very believable. ... in the mountains often saturated the colors a lot because of the way the light is up there.

Why would that seem believable to people who haven't experienced the way the light is up there?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2013, 04:25:54 PM »
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Why would that seem believable to people who haven't experienced the way the light is up there?

Yes, you are right. That's why nobody actually believes man landed on the Moon, because none of us was ever there to witness the landing.
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Isaac
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« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2013, 05:47:29 PM »
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I seem to remember reading Galen Rowell's account of a book reviewer who wrote that they didn't believe the photos in one of Rowell's books could have been made without color filters.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2013, 06:15:38 PM »
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Why would that seem believable to people who haven't experienced the way the light is up there?

Notwithstanding Slobadan's point about the moon, you make a really good observation.  I guess I believed Rowell's pictures because I trusted him having read his book Mountain Light and his essays in Outdoor Photography.  Maybe I believed it because it was before Photoshop.  You didn't question photos like today.  Times were simpler then. 

So was I.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2013, 12:34:14 AM »
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The last posts again proof how much perceiving color is a matter of learning and experience.
A similar example are the colorful images of Tim Wolcott, often posted here on the site.
I sometimes find them unbelieveable, but afaik he is a strong "light chaser" as well and
probably gets into light and color situations many people usually don't experience.

This implies, that bringing a feeling of "natural color" across to the viewer requires to anticipate their frame of color experience.
And this is different for city people, people living in the mountains or on the countryside or miners.
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