Anyone care to take a swing at this one....

Do you have a systematic way to process your images?
derekfountain
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Postby derekfountain » Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:05 pm


It raises an interesting point (to me anyway) - the use of the Shadow/Highlight tool in CS3.  Although I have CS3, I very rarely use it, preferring the PS7 (quicker and I'm use to it) version.  I can simulate the new tool using Gamma and BlendIFs, but I'm not sure it is really the same.

So I think we have to be quite careful to differentiate between the tools and settings we use and the effect of the adjustment step we are trying to make.


I don't think there's anything in Photoshop that can compare to the Shadows/Highlight filter. The algorithm does an outstanding job of lightening shadows, and uses the values of surrounding pixels to average out the correction into a smooth transition that a curve can't match. With the image in LAB mode, it can do its magic on just the lightness, leaving the colours alone. I'd recommend you fire up CS3 (the filter appeared in CS2) and give it a try - it quickly improves even slightly too-light and too-dark images, not just the horrors that Greg tends to put in front of us. I use it as part of my workflow, in much the same way as I use CM. CM allows you to correct colour casts that are so subtle you can't really see them until you've fixed them. Shadows/Highlight allows you to lift shadows that you didn't even realise were too dark until you've fixed them.

OK, plug over. :)

As far as differentiating between tools is concerned, yes, I agree. But let's not lose track of the idea that this is a Curvemeister forum, not a Photoshop one. The question is, where can we use CM in a workflow to fix issues that are harder fix with other tools? Chris's workflow seems like a ideal candidate for analysis. He uses exotic blends and inverted this-that-and-the-other all over the place. I would ask, what are you trying to achieve with, for example, that inverted-blue-channel-in-overlay layer, and how can that effect be achieved in CM with a fraction of the effort?

mikemeister_admin
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Postby mikemeister_admin » Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:42 pm


I don't think there's anything in Photoshop that can compare to the Shadows/Highlight filter. The algorithm does an outstanding job of lightening shadows, and uses the values of surrounding pixels to average out the correction into a smooth transition that a curve can't match.
...
He uses exotic blends and inverted this-that-and-the-other all over the place. I would ask, what are you trying to achieve with, for example, that inverted-blue-channel-in-overlay layer, and how can that effect be achieved in CM with a fraction of the effort?

I agree Derek, from my small inspection of the Shadow/Highlight filter, that it does amazing things, but I am not convinced that it is necessary for most images and I try and shy away from halos - yes I know one can play with the radius to reduce them.  The other thing that this filter appears to do is sharpen (by contrast enhancing) the edges.  I like to keep sharpening until the end of the work flow - compared to focusing which I use at the start.

"Exotic  blends" - come now,  Overlay mode is hardly exotic and using a channel to pick up tone or detail is just using the data present within the image.  Dan Margulis keeps on about inspecting and using Channel data and he can do marvelous things with it - I'm just a beginner.  But for me the real eye opener, much more than his books, was the simple technique I used in the image.  When I read about it, suddenly a whole heap of pp-ing began to gel.  Have a read of this page and see if you agree http://www.broadhurst-family.co.uk/lefteye/MainPages/skydarkening.htm

There is tremendous power in blend modes, just think of Jacobs Ladder and being able to set multiple neutrals in lab!  Unfortunately because of the restrictions that CM runs under, in PS, it is not possible to visually use CM with a blend mode - one has to sort of run blind and then change the blend on exit from CM - now Greg will tell me differently and then I'll really begin to motor with CM.

I think we are all going to learn quite a bit from this exercise and it will hopefully stretch/blow my mind by the end of it!



derekfountain
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Postby derekfountain » Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:48 pm


I agree Derek, from my small inspection of the Shadow/Highlight filter, that it does amazing things, but I am not convinced that it is necessary for most images and I try and shy away from halos - yes I know one can play with the radius to reduce them.  The other thing that this filter appears to do is sharpen (by contrast enhancing) the edges.  I like to keep sharpening until the end of the work flow - compared to focusing which I use at the start.

"Exotic  blends" - come now,  Overlay mode is hardly exotic and using a channel to pick up tone or detail is just using the data present within the image.


Halos? Sharpening? Hmmm, I'm not sure what you're doing, but I've never seen the Shadows/Highlight filter produce those effects. Under extreme settings I suppose it might. Not that it matters, just use what works for you. I happen to think it's excellent. :)

As for blend modes, I don't doubt the power for a moment. Dan Margulis seems to have forged an entire career out of them. But for me, overlay is bordering on the exotic. I just don't use blend modes and I couldn't tell you what blend-if does. The problem is I can't picture what will happen with these techniques, and I can't remember them to the point where I can say, 6 months down the line, "oh yes, I need to invert my blue channel and apply it in hard light mode... blah blah."

Perhaps I need to try harder....  ;D

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Postby mikemeister_admin » Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:02 pm


Halos? Sharpening? Hmmm, I'm not sure what you're doing, but I've never seen the Shadows/Highlight filter produce those effects.

I think the Russell Brown video where he explains how to use the filter is an excellent demonstration of it and he shows that both are a characteristic of using the filter.  The trick seems to be to be able to minimize their effects.

http://www.russellbrown.com/tips_tech.html and look/search for "Hidden in the Shadows" towards the bottom of the page

ggroess
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Postby ggroess » Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:10 pm

Guys,
I'm still absorbing the information on the pages here...wow..there are some interesting approaches...

I'm posting 3 shots back to you.  Pick the best...Zog you might be able to pick out yours...but look at them all with a critical Eye and let's see which one would win. 

My goal with this is going to be cost benefit with time as the currency.  Derek how long did you take to make your final??  Same to you zog.  Total image correcting time not writing about it....


Greg I forgot yours...I'll add it later if I can or else it will be an additional post...


Greg

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Postby mikemeister_admin » Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:28 am

How to judge - that is the question?

I decided to ignore the most important aspect ! - composition - as this makes or breaks an image but is not really a CM aspect.

What about colour? - well we can all boost it or not with curves and MfM - so I'll ignore that was well!

What is left is how we managed to add tonal/contrast interest to the scene and the important area are the rocks.

So I took them, plus Greg's image, aligned them and then desaturated.

Below is the result, renumbered (I'll tell you who was who later) and then compared to the original - by putting them on a Difference layer and then boosting the level taking 255 down to 64.  Black signifies no change from the original.

Each image consists of the desaturated crop on the left and the difference on the right.

Quite interesting, do I prefer A for the change in all the rocks or B for general change all over or C for more contrast between the rocks and the sea?

I think on balance I like the extra detail in the rocks of A.

Timings - no idea, so I redid it in less than 4 mins, so it probably took around 6 the first time.

When you say benefit v time, are your refering to the course?  If so then surely predefined actions or simple, to use and master, tools will be the order of the day - except what about that last few percent that Derek reminds us is the hardest to achieve.  How do we measure that (quality) compared to time?


derekfountain
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Postby derekfountain » Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:04 pm


I'm posting 3 shots back to you.  Pick the best...Zog you might be able to pick out yours...but look at them all with a critical Eye and let's see which one would win. 
My goal with this is going to be cost benefit with time as the currency.  Derek how long did you take to make your final??  Same to you zog.  Total image correcting time not writing about it....


Mine took about 20 minutes, but I was doing it quite slowly making notes of what I did, what worked and what didn't. So maybe 15 minutes. I haven't used Photoshop or CM for about 3 months, so I'm a bit rusty. I also very rarely tackle bad images - my DSLR puts out decent images most of the time, so I spend my efforts working to make good images great, rather than poor images good.

I still prefer my image, just about. Chris's is his usual garish saturated style which really doesn't work for me. For arty stuff I suppose it's fine, but for landscapes, erm, no. I can't get past the fact that the sea and sky aren't really those colours. This shouldn't be taken as a criticism - it's just the style doesn't work for me.

Greg's image looks over saturated, but that works in some areas. The reddish yellow colour of the largest rock looks good - much better than mine - although the right most rocks have a magenta cast which surely isn't right. The red flowery stuff also stands the saturation a lot better than I thought it did. But the plants are too green and too dark, the sky is too rich and the earth on the outcrop to the left looks too red. I don't like images where the colours compete for the eye, I tend to go for subtle with highlights of colour. If I were doing it again I'd look to apply Greg's rocks and red flowers to my baseline.

Lesson learned for workflow thoughts: review. Come back to it the next day and be critical all over again.

ggroess
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Postby ggroess » Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:21 pm

My goal with the time question was to see what it took to get the image into the conditions you presented...

If you could not get it done in a "reasonable time frame"...Say under 10 minutes...how are we going to teach / train anyone to get there without losing them in the minute details required to produce your images? 

Chris, I like the comparison and would like to ask, does the sharpening applied to the image have anything to do with the difference you are showing or just color / lightness changes?  I know you have mine pegged as a MfM correction and you are right...sort of...I take MfM a bit further and tone down the specific colors I see as over exaggerated within the MfM correction in CM. All one step really.  I limited myself to 5 minutes to see what I could do quickly and to see if I could come close to what you all had produced I did compare at a surface level.  My intent was to see if there is any greater advantage to your approach when it comes to quality.

More on the image..I see one of the biggest problems to be color contrast, even beyond the composition which by the way is one of the reasons I have never done anything with this image until now..I used CM to do a MFM correction and reduced the Magenta and Green a bit.  I also took down the blue in the clouds.  I used a K channel mask to create the "slider" to adjust the saturation on the image rather than a separate layer in PS.  After the CM correction I applied a pretty standard USM sharpen to the image using 230%, 0.7 radius and 0 threshold, the image you have is the same one I used, so I did not have any noise advantage over you with the original.  I find the image noisy as well and at this point I did not try to limit that beyond what I have stated.

Another question for everyone...

I am often asked, "How did you even think of that?"  To me the answer is finally forming itself as a part of this discussion and others I have had about experience and learning.  So far I would say that the answer would be...

It came to me based on my past experience with images.  Everyday I see images and I look for things within them.  I look at them and consider what would I have done?  If I cannot find anything, then I look at the image and try to divine what was done to make it look as good as it does.  I then think about, remember, and for lack of a better term synthesize my experience together to create a plan, Then i worked the plan until I was satisfied with the result. 

It is that "synthesis" that I am trying to quantify with this thread and this discussion.  To me it is the "apply and extend" part of the process that is hanging people up.  It might be imagination or creation I'm not sure... To me it is a bit of experimentation that leads to new techniques that I use on my images.

All of your thoughts are most welcome...

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Postby mikemeister_admin » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:27 pm

Sharpening will have an influence Greg (but I think Derek was the only one to add that step) around the edges.  I just thought it would be interesting to remove colour from the equation as it is so subjective, whereas tonal adjustment is not so.

BTW the images were
A- shot3
B -shot2
C - Greg(2)
D - shot1

I'm affraid you lost me on your new question.  I don't really see what you are saying.  For me, with a truely awful memory, I run off a crib sheet which organises my work flow into distinct steps which I try to religiously follow for any serious work.

1. Inspect - this is the most important phases where I try and analyses the image and work out what I want to do with it.  I also crop etc at this stage.  Inspection may involve flicking through 6 channels to see what is there that could possibly give me an edge in what I want to achieve

2. Levels+colour correction - basically setting s/h/neutrals and maybe a bit of basic curving

3. Contrast - putting the tonal emphasis where I think it is important

4. Colour - this is where I usually blow it !!!

5. Sharpening - frequently omitted or reversed (ie selective blurring)

6. Look - inspect the image, see what I've missed and if it is an important one, leave it overnight

7. Titivate, which usually means going back to steps 3 and/or 4 (throwing away the sharpening, which I'll reapply later) and re-working at a finer level

Eventually I'll get to step 6 and be happy and stop, otherwise I will recurse once again!

What I do in steps 3,4,5 & 7 tends to be based on a bit of experience or quick experiments - I have actions and notes to help me solve particular problems, in each step, as my memory tends to lets me down, but I believe I'm correct (if only I could remember!) that I do not keep on using the same action/tool/technique on my images.  I only repeatly use 3 tools - NeatImage, FocusMagic and CM, the remainder is what comes to mind at the time.

By far the most important step is 1 - it then only gets frustrating if one can not find a solution.

I should mention that there is a step 0 ! For all my photographs, rather than snapshots, I think about what I want to portray and the problems I will have in pp-ing before I press the shutter.  This will influence how the shot is taken.  As I continue to play and enjoy this hobby, I am tending to get away from image recording and moving towards expressing what I saw/felt - hence a slight(!?) over exaggeration in some areas.

Does any of that help?

ggroess
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Postby ggroess » Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:14 pm

All of it actually...

I am comparing my process to yours, Derek's, Ricky, GregM and anyone else that is willing to post. My intent is to search for patterns, process flows, and goals that can somehow be distilled down to a work flow "process" that would form a solid starting point for image processing based on the usage of tools and decisions...(Phew that was a mouth full)  I fear that it is very personal and that is part of the problem.  "I know what works for me"  I do not want to be nor could I ever be the definitive word on this.  I want to go the other way and start people down the right path without setting that path in stone.

BTW my image Shot1 was also sharpened...your removal of color was a brilliant twist on the problem because as you state the color is subjective.  I personally am a fan of saturated color but not to the point of false color.  I use my personal experience and memory of the scene to limit my saturation decisions.

Greg


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