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Making colours stand out

Discussion in 'Digital Image Editing & Printing' started by Legojon, Aug 12, 2019.

  1. Legojon

    Legojon Active Member

    From reading I've done, I'm led to believe that Raw files are usually a bit lifeless. But a lot of the colours in my photos appear to be duller than I remember when I took it. Eg, the grass and flowers in the attached pic. I remember them being bright and vibrant.

    So my question is, what sort of settings should I be looking at / staying away from in photoshop? The smart tooltip recommends increasing the vibrant slider to 40 and reducing saturation to -15. I want the colours to stand out more without looking artificial.

    Attached Files:

  2. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Not helping, but I wish greens did look like that for me. I found my Nikon Was it a dull day? Your shot sems to have little brightness or contrast. Perhaps that's the problem? The colours on your shot looks very flat. Have tyou tried RAW and also a jpeg shot for comparison?
  3. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I hope you don't mind but I downloaded it to play a little (now deleted) and I found that sharpening a bit helped a lot plus a little extra contrast and saturation. Afraid I don't know your editor but I am sure it will have a sharpening button.
    Legojon likes this.
  4. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Looks rather strange to me, as the flower baskets on the house wall and the dappled light under the tree show that there was at least some weakish sunlight. but every thing looks excessively dull.
    I took the image into photoshop and opened up the raw filter. It certainly helped to massively increase the clarity to increase the contrast in the middle tones. though altering them with curves was not much help. however it still had a somewhat unreal look.

    Perhaps we should not be starting from where we are, but would be able to do better starting on a pre-Processed image.

    It could be that the light was just not ideal that day, or was what was needed to liven up the image. PP can never make up for poor light.
  5. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

  6. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Strictly speaking raw files aren't images. To view them you impose some processing. If you look at how the camera makes jpegs it offers profiles (standard, portrait, landscape etc.) each of which gives a different "look". Depending on what software you use the default raw processor profile is similar to a camera standard profile, perhaps with a little less sharpening. That said, cameras do vary in their standard profiles - compact cameras may give an altogether more "punchy" result than a top DSLR which may go for a more natural look.

    As a first raw processing step I often go to the profiles section in LR - either the adobe ones or the camera ones (ignoring all the new profile options which are spreading like some kind of virus) and see how they affect the picture.

    Vibrance beefs up the less saturated colours, saturation enriches all colours. If you want a really punchy landscape choose a landscape profile for richer greens and blues then add a touch more saturation. Small clarity adjustments can also have a strong effect. There is no simple rule.

    Another consideration is your monitor. Assuming it is calibrated, the gamut will influence what you see. An adjustment that appears to do not much on a standard screen can look gross on a wide gamut monitor.
  7. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    On my monitor it looks absolutely fine, a photo taken under average conditions, sure it could be "improved" into something it's not with some more processing. What jpegs does you camera offer?
    Catriona likes this.
  8. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Would I be right in thinking you remember it as looking something more like this?:


    It looks like it was shot on one of those bright but hazy/overcast days. According to the Levels histogram quite a lot of the image is on the dark side of the centre point with just a bit of brightness to the right side

    This suggests that the bright sky has strongly influenced the meter and the image is a bit under exposed. To compensate I moved the centre slider left which improves the brightness and then added an 'S' type curve in 'Curves' to further enhance the mid tones and add some contrast.
    The white balance is a bit on the cool side which is not untypical of Nikon so i used the colour balance option to add a bit warmth by increasing the red a bit. I also added a a touch of vibrance and increased saturation by about 10 units each. I used Pixlr (online editor) for this but your editor should have similar controls. According to your JPG file you used Paint. NET, Looking at their web page it looks similar to Pixlr feature wise so you should be able to do something similar.

    Did this start as as raw (NEF) file or a JPG? If a JPG what picture style option is set? Some are more intense than others. Standard is normally good enough for most subjects but you may like to try the Landscape option for scenery as this tends to favour blues and greens and also has a higher colour saturation than standard. If you want to really boost the shot there's the Vivid option but that can be a bit OTT, especially on brighter days/subjects. Faithful/Neutral are best left for those shots where you intend to do significant custom post processing.

    I also note from the file details that the Contrast and Saturation settings for the picture style used are at the default normal level - to get a little boost straight out of camera you may like to consider increasing both settings by one unit and see what you get. Note these settings can be adjusted individually for each picture style and the setting in one style has no effect on the others.

    If you are using NEF files then the picture settings are only relevant if you do the file conversion in Nikons View or Capture software - third party raw converters normally have their own default settings.
    Legojon, EightBitTony and Learning like this.
  9. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Raw files that are merely demosaiced by a raw processor are very dull indeed and and most raw engines by default apply a curve and modify black and white points. Most raw users prefer to start their editing from a very lightly 'lifted' image or an image which is not 'lifted' at all. Some prefer to start from an image that looks more like the jpeg output of the camera. If you are a member of the latter group then I suggest that you use Nikon Capture NX-D to batch process your raw images to 16 bit Tiff files (assuming that paint.net can open 16 bit tiff files). Do not use Nikon Capture to create jpegs or 8 bit tiffs if you plan to do further editing in paint.net.
    You will notice that the histogram in Nigel's Curves Panel has lots of gaps through the mid tones That is typical of increasing contrast through the mid tones if you start from an 8 bit per channel image such as jpeg.
  10. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    In order to avoid having to ask this with different images, the best approach is to understand how an image histogram reflects what you can see, and then learn how the different tools affect the histogram and the image.

    For this image though, post #8 is the one :)

    (all post processing is judgement and personal opinion, only you know what you saw and only you know what you want to portray, but understanding the histogram is key).
  11. Legojon

    Legojon Active Member

    Once again, thanks everyone for all the help and replies. I think from reading the above, the thing that makes it look most "off" as pointed out is it's lacking sharpness. I think maybe I set focus on the house (making the flowers look out of focus). I guess I should have set focus on the nearest red flowers then reframed it.

    I bought my monitor a while back, I can't remember the exact figure, but it's an IPS calibrated to the higher side of the 90s in accuracy.

    Yes, that's much more like it! It was a very bright day, white fluffy clouds. But the sun often disappeared behind them and as there was loads of really tall trees. I often found myself in the shadow of one. Ah right. It started out as a NEF file. I use Adobe Camera Raw for quickly changing some of the basic settings then if it needs more open it in Photoshop CC for editing. Its saved in paint.net because I posted it from my laptop and had to resize it because of the 1mb file upload limit.
  12. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    It looks fine on my monitor too. Obviously I am looking at a JPG image extracted from the RAW file, but the image appears to have decent contrast and saturation. These can of course be further adjusted as you wish.

    Perhaps you need to consider how your monitor is set up and positioned. From 12 years experience of looking at my images on my current monitor, I suggest that you:

    1) Arrange the room lighting so that no light source falls on the screen. A dim 'daylight' balanced light source can be positioned behind the screen if needed (I use a 5 watt LED light with a built in dimmer).

    2) Look at the monitor's brightness and contrast settings: these are often set too high when new because many people use the screen in a room where bright light falls on the screen. You may find that after these settings are adjusted for viewing in a room lit as I describe, your images appear sharper and the colours more intense too (so you may need to turn down the colour intensity too).

    This advise also works well for large flat screen TV sets.

    If you are using Windows PC, look for the screen calibration facility and try using it after you have dealt with the room lighting. But don't turn on the text 'enhancement' option because I've found this works by increasing the contrast in light and dark parts of the screen which won't help when working with images. My wife does lots of text work with Word and has never complained that the screen is hard to use, or read text on, after I have set it up for editing images.
    RogerMac and Gezza like this.
  13. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I have been putting off getting a new monitor until properly settled in York, Your instructions will be a help when I get it
  14. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Ah! I was wondering how you might have opened and processed a NEF in paint.net,.That can only be done with somewhat difficult plugins.
    The exif information doesn't tell the whole story. Just out of interest it tells us that your depth of field for a 0.020mm circle of confusion was 2.75 to 28.10m and the hyperfocal distance was 6.06 m and your shutter count was 662. I also do not limit the exif info on posted images. You might want to consider how much that you disclose.
    Exif tool -k is useful.
  15. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    What colour space is your camera set to sRGB or AdobeRGB? If the latter do you convert it to sRGB when saving to JPG? Most editing programs and monitors will quite happily display an AdobeRGB colour file correctly but there can be issues displaying Adobe RGB files correctly on the internet where they can look a touch flat and lifeless. This is probably not the case here where slight underexposure seems to be the problem but if you notice a slight dullness in images posted on the web compared to viewed directly on your PC it may be worth checking your colour space settings.
    Catriona likes this.
  16. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Unless things have changed the out-of-camera jpg file didn't have an embedded profile so unless told otherwise software will always treat it as sRGB with unwelcome results. Canon prefixed the name with underscore to show that the coding was adobe RGB not sRGB. You need a wide gamut monitor to show the adobe RGB colour space.
  17. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I could also have added that I use a photograph of my wife (head and shoulders) taken outside on a bright overcast day with the camera's colour balance set to 'daylight' (not auto) to adjust the colour balance of my monitor (I use the JPG without any processing, otherwise the exercise would be pointless). I have found this quite reliable, and check my monitor every weeks, and always just before preparing any images that I intend to get printed (when experience shows that for this they need to be slightly lighter than when viewed on screen, since I prefer to turn off any automated image enhancement that is often the default when uploading images for printing). I suppose my approach to monitor adjustment is what has now been automated with the various devices available to do it for you.

    My monitor is now 13 years old - are you sure you need to buy a new one? Yours might only need some adjustment.

    If you have a large flat screen TV, try adjusting that the same was as your PC monitor and avoid light sources shining on the screen.
    Some of the modern stuff recorded on digital video can look very good indeed. The more recent series of Shaun The Sheep on Freeview HD are brilliant - I believe the stop-motion animation is done with DSLRs.
  18. Legojon

    Legojon Active Member

    I've got the colour profile set to AdobeRGB. I've seen this pop up in the corner of the RAW plugin as well. So I'm guessing it recognises it. As for what paint.net does with it... I didn't even think of that.

    Ah right, my Nikon has prefixed all my images with an underscore. So when I save the Raw as JPG, I removed the underscore so I'd keep the original. No idea if my monitor is wide gamut or not... will have to find the specs for it and have a look.
  19. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Raw files are not images as such. When they are converted to images then they are converted to a working colour space. All the colour space means is that when a pixel is converted to a triplet (R,G,B) the colour the three numbers refers to is defined by the colour space.

    If you process a raw file with then export the file to an image format the program should ask what colour space you want and should add the correct profile.

    Normally a JPEG (or whatever image format) holds a "profile" which tells the program that reads the file what colours the numbers mean. The default (if this information is missing) is the sRGB definition because this is the most common for use with computers - it was created for that purpose. In early days anyway digital cameras let you record jpegs in Adobe RGB format but could not add the profile - the leading underscore on a jpg indicates this - for Canon and it sounds, from what you wrote, for Nikon too. But raw files themselves have no colourspace so there is no need for this.
    Legojon likes this.

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