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09-20-2014, 07:07 AM   #1
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Help please with color/exposure

I have been continuously disappointed with the color in my pictures (I have a Pentax K100D). I have had some training in basic photography (college, years ago) and while I'm taken a lot of pics over the years, I'm strictly amateur. I've been reading a lot lately about exposure since my photos continue to disappoint me colorwise. The color just doesn't seem to be quite right. I can't seem to get the exposure correct in a lot of my photos (I think), although I wondered this last time out if it was a white balance problem and reset to auto. I still had the same problem. In these examples, I expected the red barn to be much brighter. I would love some advice! Here are the stats: I used the kit lens (smc Pentax DA 18-55 zoom), with it out to 55mm; set the white balance to auto and the ISO to 200; and used the suggested shutter speeds with bracketing. I did no post-processing. I took these last week between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

Pic 1: f/13 and 1/30
Pic 2: f/13 and 1/60
Pic 3: f/13 and 1/45

I'd appreciate any advice or direction.

Thanks,
Kriss

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09-20-2014, 08:33 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Looks like you might be shooting towards the sun there. I'd try taking another set of pictures of the same barn later in the day (just before sunset) facing away from the sun. Colours will always be faded when the light is harsh, depending on where you live you may well need to shoot much later in the day (here in the UK it's from about 18:30 onwards at the moment, but this changes all the time) Colours are also richer the darker the exposure (as a general rule) so if vivid colours are what you're after, try and underexpose a little,

I've also experienced rather desaturated colours with my new K-3. Careful editing will bring them back, but if you're shooting jpeg have you tried changing the colour profile? (from natural to vivid for example); I've found Pentax colours are always a little faded and on my K-m I kept the colour profile set to vivid to offset this.

I'm no expert myself, but hopefully this should point you in the right direction.
09-20-2014, 09:13 AM - 1 Like   #3
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The most often ignored color issue is your monitor. You should do some sort of calibration on it to make sure it's showing accurate colors. The process can be elaborate and expensive, especially if you need professional results, or quick and dirty. I got mine close enough so prints look the same as on the monitor without much fuss. I suggest calibration because you mention a problem with all your shots. Also if your monitor is off, any changes you make in software will be off too.

White balance clearly affects color. Once your monitor is sorted out, you can address WB in a few ways. The popular suggestion is to shoot RAW, that is, to set the camera to produce a PEF or DNG file instead of a JPG. The advantage is that those formats don't have any white balance applied yet, while the JPG uses white balance from the camera to create a file, discarding some color data. The JPG can be adjusted later but not as easily as the RAW formats. In difficult lighting, the JPG file might not have enough data to adjust later. Using a RAW format, you can mostly ignore the white balance while shooting, fixing it later in processing. You can choose any settings that look right to you. Computers and cameras auto-adjust white balance by trying to get equal color information in each RGB channel. That's not always going to work.

The exposure settings largely affect brightness, not color directly. The brightness affects how you see the image later. The camera often interprets a scene too literally, when you see it in a less scientific way. The whole scene is probably "correctly" exposed in the second or third shot, which only means nothing in the scene is too bright or too dark. But you see it differently. Some parts are unimportant, like the very dark reflections in the windows or some leaves in the foreground. If you shoot JPG, you can choose camera settings to emphasize important elements - again, this is a one-time step that is tough to reverse later. Or on the computer, process the photo to get similar results. Some printing companies will also auto-adjust your images when they print them.
09-20-2014, 10:52 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Sorry, I should have mentioned that these shots were originally RAW, just converted to JPEG to post here. I used to shoot JPEG then changed to RAW solely maybe six months ago after learning a bit more about post-processing. I haven't checked into the color profile on my Pentax--is that a concern with RAW or just JPEG? I forgot about white balance not being an issue with RAW. At one point I wondered if my monitor was at fault but didn't look into that at all; it was easier, I think, to blame my lack of skills. Just1MoreDave, I'll certainly look into that.

I may have been shooting into the sun; I didn't think a lot about that at the time since the area had a lot of trees. I have been reading more about natural light and how it affects photos, so I'll continue to learn about that. (Lighting never was my strong suit.)

I kind of wish I never learned about photography with 35mm and just started with digital--I keep trying to transfer my old, "analog" knowledge to digital. Post processing? That was something I only did with B&W--a dark room, chemicals, and print trays! I have Lightroom 4 and have not done much with it--I really think I need to take a class.

Thanks for your help so far!


Last edited by Kriss; 09-20-2014 at 11:00 AM. Reason: grammatical; added info
09-20-2014, 12:03 PM   #5
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You could open the RAW file in the Pentax Digital Camera Utility program. Although the software is kind of frustrating, it does have all the in-camera JPG settings and scene modes. You can try them all to see if any of them looks better to you, maybe a hint about how to process your shots. Unfortunately, the Pentax settings aren't directly available in Lightroom. You can possibly create your own preset with a similar effect.

Either the Pentax software or Lightroom should allow you to change white balance settings. I might try using the WB sample tool on different white-painted areas. Try both visible sides of the barn; they'll give different WB results.
09-20-2014, 12:12 PM   #6
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Colour-profiles are only relevant with jpeg, so no need to worry with RAW (I think).
Colour calibration is important, but I suspect that's not the issue; my monitor is waaay off calibrated and those images still look desaturated to me (I can tell with my own to a rough degree on any screen). While you can correct most things at the RAW stage, it's best to get them right in-camera.

I'd just try a couple of shots in your garden (presuming you have one of course) at a few different times during the day and see how they come out. I know how much of a pain lighting can be; I'm only just starting to get my head round it. I can also sympathise on the 35mm front. I actually learned with Digital initially, but have been experimenting with film recently and it's amazing how wide the dynamic range on B&W film is compared to digital!

While exposure does only affect brightness. How bright a colour is affects how saturated your eye perceives it. Counter-intuitively, colours like green and red actually appear richer when the brightness is lower. I think it's something to do with what your brain expects to see, but I could be well off on that one.

Hopefully this is useful and not too patronising.

EDIT: Ninja'd

Last edited by Unsane; 09-20-2014 at 12:34 PM.
09-20-2014, 01:09 PM   #7
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I have many questions about how people shoot raw. I've had my K110D for a few years and only yesterday decided to try shooting raw. The program the camera comes with is quite daunting and to make the picture look better is a crap shoot for someone who hasn't done it before. I wonder how you all learn to use it. I can see the potential power of using raw vs jpg.
09-20-2014, 02:15 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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My process generally follows the controls in Lightroom. Adobe software (Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom) all uses the same stuff behind the scenes and slightly different appearances.

I don't usually do any cropping, spot removal or graduated filters at this point, but I sometimes adjust for a level horizon. The reason to crop here is when you are done, the histograms and graphs apply to the data you are using, not parts you might throw away later.

I adjust white balance first, because it will change the red, blue and green channels. Sometimes if the exposure is close to the edge, changing the white balance tips one or more channels too far, so setting WB first shows me that and I can fix it later. That is the temperature and tint sliders.

I adjust exposure next, then adjust the secondary controls for shadows, white and black points, etc. Adobe software has several ways to show which points are over- or under-exposed, totally or just in one channel.

Adobe throws in three more controls, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation, to screw up your photos more. Clarity adjusts the contrast but just in the midtones. Vibrance boosts the colors but the boost rolls off when any channel starts to overexpose. Saturation is very similar except without the safety net. A light touch is good here until you are sure you want more.

Adobe has a number of other ways to make nearly identical adjustments, with curves, sliders for individual colors, contrast, or whatever. It's not necessary to use them all.

Adobe has noise reduction here (in Lightroom and Photoshop) and I adjust that next. Color noise annoys me most so I do that first. They have sharpening first but I am a rebel and sharpen after noise reduction.

Then I do lens corrections if necessary.

I have Photoshop CS5 so I send the image there if I want to do anything else, but maybe 95% of the time I don't. Sometimes I just go back and crop.

I have a book on Lightroom that describes a more elaborate process. Lightroom also allows you to apply settings to every file automatically when they are copied to the computer. I like seeing every step by hand, unless the photos were all taken under the same conditions (like a single event).

I know the Pentax DCU version 4 software has lens corrections, noise reduction, and the ability to apply any in-camera JPG setting to a RAW file. I think even if your files come from a K110D, the later JPG processing effects are available. It has exposure settings too. You can download the upgrade and trick it into thinking you're allowed to install it by copying it to an SD card and renaming the card. Instructions are on this forum somewhere.

09-20-2014, 02:46 PM   #9
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1. I would take some full sun pictures, and/or tungsten light pictures, using Raw of some standard color samples. I use the Macbeth Color Checker--but I think he price of this may now be unrealistic--and actually anything which include pure white or gray is fine to set the WB (I use Photoshop's Bridge). And see if the colors are reasonably true.
2. Then go to other situations and put a pure white or gray card (I use gray card) in the scene and again set the WB as above. And see if this improves things.
3. Finally how you see/want the colors to appear may not be the way a properly filtered/WB set color temperature sees it. And/or the past experience/film used, etc. may have biased your preferences. The obvious being a sunset photo, WB adjusted to correct for the redder light, would be wrong as it would no longer look like a sunset.
4. This does not address the problems of calibrating your monitor, how other viewers' monitors are calibrated, and/or the printer. That I leave for others (e.g., above posts). Clearly if the calibration is way off it must be addressed, but using step 1 above, you may find in practice the calibration (of screen or printer) is not off--in my case it wasn't--and so I cannot provide more first hand help here.

Last edited by dms; 09-20-2014 at 02:55 PM.
09-20-2014, 03:21 PM   #10
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I think most of your concerns can be addressed in quick post-processing tweaks , here is my take - very gently treated , took no more than 5 ( with saving and uploading ) :

AFTER


BEFORE
09-21-2014, 10:15 AM   #11
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Wow, where to start....I so appreciate all of the input! After posting yesterday, I increased the vibrancy setting, as well as changing the "color space." I'll try some pics with those changes to see what happens, as well as shooting some pics at different times of the day to see how the light changes (good suggestion, Unsane). I'll also play around with the Pentax Digital Camera Utility program to take a look at the scene modes, etc. If I'm still unhappy, I'll shoot some color samples--or maybe I'll do that before messing with the utility program.... Manntax, yes, your tweaks helped. Perhaps I need to get over my total aversion to post-processing. I'm also a writer and teach writing--and one of the first things I tell students is REVISE, REVISE, REVISE some more, EDIT, then proofread. Maybe I should take my own advice. Thanks, everyone! Of course, I'm willing to hear more!

Kriss
09-22-2014, 11:14 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kriss Quote
Wow, where to start....I so appreciate all of the input! After posting yesterday, I increased the vibrancy setting, as well as changing the "color space." I'll try some pics with those changes to see what happens, as well as shooting some pics at different times of the day to see how the light changes (good suggestion, Unsane). I'll also play around with the Pentax Digital Camera Utility program to take a look at the scene modes, etc. If I'm still unhappy, I'll shoot some color samples--or maybe I'll do that before messing with the utility program.... Manntax, yes, your tweaks helped. Perhaps I need to get over my total aversion to post-processing. I'm also a writer and teach writing--and one of the first things I tell students is REVISE, REVISE, REVISE some more, EDIT, then proofread. Maybe I should take my own advice. Thanks, everyone! Of course, I'm willing to hear more!

Kriss
Kriss, I think that the majority of images shot in RAW will need some adjustment to get the most out of them, or in some cases to get them close to what you remember. I shoot exclusively in RAW and am only happy with about 5-10% of the out of the camera images. If you have large enough SD cards, you might want to shoot JPEG+RAW for a while so that you can see the possibilities of a given image. Obviously the RAW image has lots more adjustability than the JPEG, but it will almost always require adjustment.

I have spent a lot of time learning Lightroom, and still have a lot to learn. However, I would suggest that as (only) a starting point, try using the "Auto" tone adjustment in the Develop module or "Auto Tone" in the Library module to see what is possible with your image. Most of the time I abandon the result from Auto, but seeing what direction Adobe takes the various sliders is often helpful. Most of the time I feel Auto results in overexposure, and the programmers seem more concerned with having a full range histogram than, for example, pulling details out of dark areas.

Just1MoreDave gave you a great workflow to try. If you would like to learn more about LR, I suggest The Fundamentals & Beyond training DVD from Laura Shoe. It is excellent, and organized so that you can get started without going through every lesson.
09-23-2014, 01:05 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kriss Quote
changing the "color space."
This made me wonder. What colour space were you using until now? It could very well be one reason for your dull colours. I suppose you can set your camera to use either Adobe RGB or sRGB?
Adobe RGB, in theory, offers a wider colour range and gives you more options in post processing. But it also forces you to do post processing, and do it correctly throughout the whole workflow. It's an sRGB world out there, it's what monitors use (albeit some will display xx,x% of Adobe), it's what is used on the internet and usually by photo labs, too.

If you do not convert your Adobe RGB into sRGB colour space on the way you will get washed out, dull colours. Except when printing directly from Photoshop they'll just be interpreted incorrectly and cut off. That's what made me switch. I liked the sound of Adobe offering "more", but it's just one more thing that can go wrong and I didn't want to keep bothering about it.

This fella here explains it nicely and in more detail.


Btw. I have to deal with colourspaces on a daily basis (film/video, so far from being an expert for photo) and it. is. hell. There's whole books and scientific papers about it, some of which I read, and I still don't quite get it in my head. Why can we never settle on one thing, that's working "well enough".
09-23-2014, 05:46 AM   #14
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Generally in Lightroom it's crop, exposure, contrast and occasionally some other stuff - like Dave mentioned above. Knock highlights down if there are some overexposed areas, lift shadows for underexposed. Boost blacks to give a bit more dynamic range and maybe do a little noise reduction, but that's pretty rare for me, and I'm novice at it. It's not frequently I need to mess with color - sometimes the camera oversaturates the reds, particularly with red/purple flowers.

I like Lightroom 4, it seems to be well laid-out. I've set up a couple profiles for lenses I use a lot so I don't have to scroll down to lens compensation. Generally, if I forget that it's not a big problem.
09-27-2014, 01:09 PM   #15
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Undot, I initially had my color space on sRGB. I read something last week that made me change it to Adobe RGB, but I'm thinking I may change it back based on what you said. I don't want to deal with post-processing for that if I don't have to. Thanks for that input, as well as the link to Ken Rockwell's article. I was reading a bunch of stuff from him last week; he's the guy that says he shoots on auto or program and alters aperature/shutter speed when necessary, right? That was an interesting take on auto vs. manual.

lsimpkins, I'll certainly try your suggestions for auto tone in Lightroom. I need to spend a lot more time learning Lightroom--I found a manual at a great price, but it would be a better reference book. There are a lot of video tutorials out there, and I'll look into the Laura Shoe DVD...and look again at the workflow that Just1MoreDave mentioned. I didn't know I could shoot JPEG+RAW....hmmm. I do feel better knowing that I'm not the only person not entirely happy with pics straight from the camera. Thanks for that!

Anyway, it's a lovely fall day with temps in the high 70's here. But I'm being lazy (and not feeling great with fall allergies), so I hope others are taking advantage of the nice weather.

Kriss
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