Friday, August 26, 2016

Testing, testing. Experimenting with colour control.

I've been learning more about the controls on my camera. (There are so many, and the manual is so confusing!) An article on Digital Photography School alerted me to the Picture Control settings, and I've been experimenting with them. The author recommends using a Flat setting for landscapes; it reduces blowouts or too dark areas, but needs careful processing later.

I took a few photos on Flat. They turned out flat. There was too much guesswork involved on tiny things where I didn't already know what colours they should be.

I switched back to Standard, and then, on a whim, to Vivid. This setting emphasizes colours and contrast, not really my style in landscapes, especially the grey-green landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. But it never hurts to experiment.

I turned to the aquarium; here, a vivid setting might help. Colours fade underwater, especially when the photo is taken through algae-covered glass. And here are the first sample shots, some good, some not so good.

A mud snail, Batillaria attramentaria, eating algae off the glass. Lightened, background noise despeckled out, and sharpened.

A grainy hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus. The vivid setting shows up the blue bumps on his legs and chelipeds.

A carnivorous snail eating an inoffensive algae eater. I saw it first on the glass, prying the tiny snail off. Once the little guy was captured, the predator let go and dropped to the sand.

A nude hermit, recently molted, resting before he goes looking for a new shell. This was well back in the tank, where usually everything is greyed out. Post processing was only needed to reduce noise and sharpen.

Turned around and heading down to look for a shell. Despeckled and sharpened only.

And one photo that didn't quite work:

Orange-striped green anemone, Halliplanela lineata, on the glass.

The anemone was surrounded by extreme pollution; bubbles and swimming thingies, luckily behind the critter, but still confusing. The vivid setting highlighted them all, so the background had to be cropped out and re-worked; a long, slow job. But I'm impressed by the pattern in the base, so I've included the photo.

I went to Brown's Bay in the sunshine, with the camera set to Vivid. Bad idea; I've deleted all of the landscape photos. But I got a few critters under the docks, where the setting seems to have been helpful. I'll process those tomorrow.


  1. Can your camera shoot in RAW? That might be a better workflow for you. That way, the camera won't have the opportunity to mess up a moment with the wrong colour settings. For instance, vivid applied successfully to one shot might oversaturate the next photo. I always forget to reset the settings if I change the scene, so I might ruin a bunch of subsequent photos.

    Also, I distinguish between "normal" photos and ones I'll publish... I only amp up the saturation and contrast on those that will be published, for fear of raising my normal perceived baseline of colour.

    1. The vivid setting for underwater helps me to see the possibilities, where normally I would be too cautious about increasing contrast or saturation, not wanting to end up exaggerating too much. I'm more likely to tone the photos down in post-processing.

  2. These settings are made for shooting in RAW. The "Flat" setting, especially, needs processing to bring out the colours and contrast, according to taste. It captures data even in those bits that would normally have been blown out or too black, so it can be recovered.

    I shoot everything in RAW and jpeg, but use the jpegs only as the first step in weeding out the worst shots. Then I delete them all and process the rest in RAW. So it's usually easy to correct white balance and tone down photos that don't ring true.

    About raising the baseline; I see that in a lot of landscape photos. It looks as if the photographer barely looked at the landscape in the wild; everything is too bright, too clean, too intense. I try as far as I can to keep to what I actually saw.

  3. Ah, so the Vivid setting actually affects the Raw? I would not have expected that. I'll have to test that on my Canon.

    1. As I understand it, the camera always manipulates the RAW data somewhat. These settings just adjust the criteria for the adjustment. But it can always be tweaked back in post-processing.
      This might help to explain:

  4. Canon calls them Picture Styles.

  5. Thanks for the link, though that seems to merely confirm what I suspected : "Picture Styles can be set on the camera and applied to JPEG images processed in the camera, or you can choose the style when you process RAW images". It is part of the post processing. The Nikon blurb is a little more vague, but my interpretation of the language is that Picture Control is applied after RAW capture. Since you are seeing something contrary to that, my interpretation must be wrong. I'll do some tests to validate the Canon behaviour.

  6. I think you're right. The camera captures the data in RAW. Then it presents it to me with the preset I've chosen. From there, I can reverse the effect in post processing, or tweak it a bit, or run with it as presented. From what I read, I could choose Vivid, then in post, cancel that and re-apply flat or standard, for example. Sort of what I do anyhow, but always have been working from Standard, which is already a modification of the raw data, and dialing it up or down to suit.

  7. Sounds like both of us are right then!


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