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Archive 2012 · color/lighting issues
  
 
sbeme
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p.1 #1 · color/lighting issues


A young woman nice enough to pose for me under mixed sun and shade during my Savannah workshop.
While I appreciate any comments, my specific questions have to do with color balance and lighting. I think the blue sky, reflected greens and mixed sun/shade have produced irregular effects on her skin tones.
Do you agree?
Post-processing fixes?

Thanks.
Scott



GoetzPhotoz 2012

  Canon EOS 5D Mark II    EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens    50mm    f/11.0    1/45s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  




Jan 12, 2012 at 07:21 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #2 · color/lighting issues


Uh-Oh ... you're ASKING me to give my .02 @ ambient mixed lighting

1st order of business for me is to identify which light source/color is my key lighting for my subject.

Next is to assess the fill/shadows for the subject to see if they are being filled in by the different color of light, or is it just a reduced value of the same color of light.

Looking at the lighting on her face, it seems to be the direct sunlight that is key (specular catchlight/hard shadow). It also appears to be late afternoon based on the angle of the shadows. From that, we have warm colored light coming in as key, and cool overhead sky light coming in from above. The areas of around her sunglasses are receiving some of the overhead blue, yet the shadow side of her face doesn't seem to be lit too much by the overhead sky.

I'm curious if there was any kind of reflector (natural or contrived) or fill flash that was used because her shadow doesn't seem to have the contrast that would naturally occur from a specular sunlit only scenario. If there is fill being used, then what color is the fill, i.e. reflected sunlight @ warm, fill flash @ neutral, reflected skylight @ cool.

When I check the color in her pupils, I see that both pupils have "0" green in them, suggesting that there may be a magenta cast (red sun + blue sky??) involved. Realizing that the 'golden hour' lighting may have a warming tone to it is notable, but no green at all is a "red flag" for me.

Checking her teeth (sounds like I'm buying a horse) I see strong absence of blue (i.e. yellow). Of course, that could be from the warm tones of the golden hour lighting, or from her natural colorartion, but it serves as a "possible" clue that it might be too warm. Of course, when dealing with "golden hour" lighting, it is very subjective as to the rendering one might be trying to achieve, i.e. neutral vs. warm., so S&P to taste is very much in play, but it still gives us a clue to consider.

Similarly, if you check the lower right corner where her arm is in direct vs. indirect lighting, you'll notice the green and blue difference between what should be the same color material (just different luminance) ... another clue that you are having mixed color influences.

The key here for me is to hunt out what areas of the image are being influenced by the different color light sources. Then, to decide if they are problematic or mood enhancing. The main thing to recognize is that with mixed lighting as such, global adjustments will not correct the color variance for both, so selective methods are required. This is why I find the study/hunt for the variances to be important, so you can decide where/how much you want to correct for ... then, it's off to the tools of choice. to do so.

Edited on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:58 PM · View previous versions



Jan 12, 2012 at 07:30 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #3 · color/lighting issues


RustyBug wrote:
Uh-Oh ... you're ASKING me to give my .02 @ ambient mixed lighting


No, of course not You! I was hoping just about anyone else would respond.
Scott



Jan 12, 2012 at 07:39 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · color/lighting issues


sbeme wrote:
No, of course not You! I was hoping just about anyone else would respond.


WHEW !!! That was close.

Oh, good then. I thought we were about to open "Pandora's Box".



Jan 12, 2012 at 07:56 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #5 · color/lighting issues


My approach to a mixed lighting situation includes lasso selections with feathered edges used to localize Hue/Sat color and/or Color Balance changes in addition to overall changes. (In this example, the "Background" layer includes Shadows/Highlights adjustments and the adjustment layer labeled "USM" was used to bump mid-tone contrast and was then reduced by 50%. The "Exposure 2" layer was a gamma bump to vignette.)





Hue/Sat region changes plus retouching and other adjustments







I collect layers by regions adjusted as well as overall changes




Jan 12, 2012 at 08:25 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · color/lighting issues


For starters the I found that the image being underexposed on the face exacerbated the mixed lighting perceptually so the first thing I did was a middle slider level correction to brighten it up a bit (image on the right). Then I duplicated the background layer twice and applied a warm filter to one and a cool filter to other. I then opened the masks selectively in face highlights and shadows and fiddled with the opacities until got the blend on left, aiming for a more neutral skintone.

You might not like the blend I picked but with that technique you can blend to your preference...








Jan 12, 2012 at 09:18 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · color/lighting issues


+1 @ Chuck @ underexposed. The histo clearly shows full range, but if you run a threshold on the image, you can see that the subject has virtually all its values under 165, expect for the teeth and specular highlights.

Skin, makeup, a touch of rosacea, golden hour ... highly subjective @ how to render (skin is NOT my forte).

As always S&P to taste.

















Edited on Jan 13, 2012 at 06:29 PM · View previous versions



Jan 12, 2012 at 10:51 PM
newhaven
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p.1 #8 · color/lighting issues


This is a technique I saw recently-

Start with a copy of the red channel and create a mask of the face.
Load the selection and convert the image to a smart object.
Run filter> blur> average.
Change the blend mode of the smart filter to hue and adjust the opacity (I used 20%).

In addition, I created an inverted high pass layer with a mask to reduce some of the highlights.

Another way is to use a gradient map adjustment layer, selecting a good skin diffuse highlight color and a good shadow color. Change the blend mode to color and starting with a black mask painting with white to even out the skin tones.







Jan 13, 2012 at 01:06 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #9 · color/lighting issues


The best solution is recognize and avoid mixed lighting situations and use strategies to avoid them. It's like when your momma told you not to touch that hot stove. You did it anyway, got burned, and learned not to touch hot stuff.

Locations with overhanging trees will usually add a green cast to the lighting. The best strategy for avoiding color casts is don't shoot portraits under trees or use the sun as key light which even without the complication of the green bias of the trees will create a warm / cool color mix in sunny highlights and skylit shadows.

I try to find open location where the subject is in the the open skylight, in the shade of an object behind them like building or tall bank of pine trees. With a location like that you can put the subject's back to the sun and use the soft light of the sky to uniformly light the face on a contrasting dark background avoiding any mixed lighting and the need to battle the contrast of direct sunlight. Knowing the sun tracks from E-SE-S-SW-W during the day in the US I look for locations on the north side of trees and buildings because I know where I will find the open shade free of mixed lighting problems.

In a photo the background context affects perception of skintone. For example this shot masked into a neutral background would look abnormally warm as captured. What make the warmer than neutral skin seem normal here is the context of the bright sun washed building in the background. In a situation where background ambience is warm I would still set WB of the gray card at capture based on understanding that what my brain tells me I am seeing isn't how the camera will record it if set to Daylight WB.

In person your brain will adapt your color perception of her face based on memory "normalizing" your color perception overall to the baseline of what your brain thinks her face "normally" looks like. That will not be the same as the face seen at noon and it won't be as yellow and warm a camera set for daylight WB will record it. It will be somewhere in between. That's why when editing the shot to try to "normalize" the skin tone I blended together a cooler copy for the highlights and a warmer one for shadows.

When I shoot a portrait using a gray card I do the same thing but in a different way. I set Custom WB off a gray card simply so I have a known neutral baseline for evaluation when opening and first seeing the image. I have the subject hold a target with a gray card and color charts I've accumulated...







That's the first shot I open. My brain knowing I set custom WB trusts the gray card is neutral. I can verify that is so with the eye dropper. Looking at the card and skin tone together allows me to judge the skintone and background context far more objectively that if I was looking at the same image without the targets.

The somewhat counter-inutitive part of color correcting skin tones and other content for an other than technically neutral bias is that the brain is constantly recalibrating color perception in person and on the monitor based in large part on the tone of objects assumed to be neutral. For example in Scott's photo we have know way of knowing for sure exactly what color her dress or skin tone actually was, but we know what color the whites of her eyes and teeth should look like.

If you set Custom WB off a gray card held in front of a face in any light what you will get in the photo is "normal" (i.e. as expected) color balance in those neutrals such as the teeth and white of the eyes and the skintone as it would be rendered on a clear day at noon. The trick with respect to restoring the "warm" ambience to the shot is to use adjustments in ACR or other applications that will skew the skin and clothing warmer but at the same time keep the perceptual "anchor" tones in the neutral objects like the teeth and eyes from deviating too far off technically neutral in the same way your brain constantly adapts color perception based on them.

The sceenshot above shows the Camera Profile tab in ACR. Camera profiles are added to ACR by Abobe when they add a camera. As I understand it they shoot a MacBeth target with the different style choices in camera then duplicate the results. What different styles do is shift around the color balance in non-neutral objects without changing the neutral ones.





So in the case of a portrait shot with Custom WB and R=G=B neutrals I can open it on that screen in ACR and try different styles to shift the skin tone without affecting the rendering of the neutrals. In addition to the "canned" styles I can move the sliders on the right side to custom tweek the profile. So from my neutral gray card baseline at capture I can make the skin warmer or cooler as desired. Then once I get the test shot adjusted to taste I copy/paste the color adjustments to the other RAW files.




Jan 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · color/lighting issues


cgardner wrote:
The best solution is recognize and avoid mixed lighting situations and use strategies to avoid them.


+1 ... Fill flash (or key) can be as/more important at contending with a "mixed lighting" scenario than for the issue of luminance that it is typically associated with.

I consider a (mental) compass and a watch as important as a tripod or a lens for ambient (sans flash) work. The most challenging situations are when using golden hour sidelighting. The fact that you are using sidelighting necessitates stronger shadows (nice for modeling), but those shadows are ripe for overhead sky (i.e. blue/cyan) illumination.

The magnitude of its impact is predicated on both the relative orientation of your key golden hour lighting, and the reduction of golden hour luminance. While the shadows seem rather obvious as being candidates for the blue overhead lighting to influence them, the reduced luminance of the warmer direct sun (EV15 down to EV13/EV12) no longer dominantly overpowers the blue overhead light (think color cast from room walls when your flash is underpowered).

The real pain to it is that fact that you'll have areas largerly influenced by one color, the other color and a mixture of both colors in overlapping areas. Chuck is a strong advocate of using flash to help fit the Dynamic Range of a scene to the limits of the sensor. Similarly, this also can serve to address/minimize color balance issues either in part or in whole depending on fill/key/luminance levels.

While I don't have my technicals fully worked out yet (future project), I'm of the opinion that the changing WB throughout the day is more about the additive combination of direct sunlight & reflected/refracted, i.e. % warm + % cool = 100%, thus owing to the notion of understanding which areas of your subject are receiving ONE, the OTHER or BOTH (equal/unequal proportions).

Sometimes you can control things for the capture, sometimes not so much. But even without capture control, being aware of the intersection/absence of the two colors involved can serve you well in decipering your PP efforts.

HTH




Jan 13, 2012 at 06:19 PM
 

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sbeme
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p.1 #11 · color/lighting issues


Wow!
Thanks to all of you for a detailed and incredibly informative series of posts. This is an area I know far too little about. But more now.
And helpful to learn several different approaches to rectifying the color issues in this image.
Also, a reminder to me to check the balance of values in the histogram and not stop at the white and black points when figuring out exposure issues/optimal processing.
And, as confirmation, yes, shot in the golden hour, about an hour before sunset back in October.

Scott



Jan 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #12 · color/lighting issues


sbeme wrote:
And, as confirmation, yes, shot in the golden hour, about an hour before sunset back in October.
Scott

I'm looking at the catchlights. I can't tell if I'm seeing daylight filtered through trees or daylight plus a catchlight from flash. Did you use fill flash? I'm trying to determine if I'm seeing a lot of skylight acting as fill or a combo of skylight/flash.

While I'm asking, I have a few other questions. Why did you shoot a head and shoulders portrait with a FF camera and a 50mm lens? Why did you choose f11 as your aperture? Why did you place the camera below eye level?



Jan 17, 2012 at 03:42 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #13 · color/lighting issues


No flash.
Trying to push myself to practice with a normal lens more. I did have my 24-105 and a 100 macro with me.
F11 was an error. Not sure I thought that out. If I were to reshoot, I'd probably choose f2.8 with the 50 1.4, or f4 with the 24-105 (and shoot closer to 80 mm).

Have to say, there was clearly more thinking and planning that should have gone into this shot. I have almost never approached strangers to shoot pics and felt a bit awkward and (internally) rushed to take some shots.

Scott



Jan 17, 2012 at 05:18 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #14 · color/lighting issues


sbeme wrote:
Have to say, there was clearly more thinking and planning that should have gone into this shot. I have almost never approached strangers to shoot pics and felt a bit awkward and (internally) rushed to take some shots.

Scott

It's something that comes with time and practice and even then I often go "Duh, why did I do that?". The other hard thing to do is to look past the subject and see the background. It takes conscious effort.

Asking strangers to pose is definately stress inducing.

Orangely "golden hour" direct sun and skylight can create a wicked WB combination. I think we naturally compensate so we don't see the problems presented to the sensor until we pull up the photo on our computer.



Jan 17, 2012 at 07:42 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #15 · color/lighting issues


dmacmillan wrote:
Orangely "golden hour" direct sun and skylight can create a wicked WB combination. I think we naturally compensate so we don't see the problems presented to the sensor until we pull up the photo on our computer.



Bingo !!!
+ 1 Gazillion

My eye has started to be able to pick up the blue tones more than ever before (the last year or so). But even still, the eye/brain does a lot of compensating beyond what is trustworthy, so you gotta "know" it's happening (based on observing conditions) even when you can't always "see" it happening.

I just know that once direct light illumination levels drop more than 1 EV from "sunny 16" as the sun gets lower in the sky, the blues (assuming clear blue sky) start to come out. By the time I've gone from sunny 16 to sunny 11 (-1 EV) and then sunny 8 (-2EV), those blues in the shadows are gonna be creeping in ever more strongly (which is why I really like reading my light meter in EV's) while the direct light will be even warmer ... i.e. "wicked".



Jan 17, 2012 at 08:14 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #16 · color/lighting issues


There's a world of difference between posed shots that are planned and Q & D candids. The latter place a premium on PP tweaking. It's great to know how to setup shots to be perfect in camera, but for most of us, polishing images in PP can be a boon for candid unplanned images.


Jan 17, 2012 at 08:48 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #17 · color/lighting issues


AuntiPode wrote:
There's a world of difference between posed shots that are planned and Q & D candids. The latter place a premium on PP tweaking. It's great to know how to setup shots to be perfect in camera, but for most of us, polishing images in PP can be a boon for candid unplanned images.

Take a look at these.

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1047660/0

I believe he said he only spends a minute or so with each subject. There's been some PP, but these photos are great because the photographer was aware of his surroundings, spent a second to place his subjects in decent light and paid attention to the BG. The photographer also selected the correct tools and settings, eg the right lens and f stop.



Jan 17, 2012 at 09:47 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #18 · color/lighting issues


Shooting under trees canopies are problematical. The light is green but your eyes will adapt and not notice it. If you set custom WB off a gray card then shoot the card again you can compensate for the green at capture...







Card and skintone will be neutral in all files. In PP you can tweek per taste as previously described in ACR > camera profiles.

While I advocate flash in most situations that's one were it is not advisable. Setting Custom WB will add a + magenta shift overall to the camera's Daylight WB baseline. So if flash is added it will look magenta relative to the adjusted WB.







In the photo the shadows will be neutral but the flash lit highlights will wind up with a magenta cast. When the file is opened for editing if the tint is adjusted to remove the magenta the shadow will go green. If you don't understand the cause and effect you will be totally baffled. I've seen this in many outdoor shots under trees with flash.

The solution for using flash is to gel it green to match the ambient. That's what I do indoors with tungsten and flash to balance the two. But outdoors since your eyes can't judge the green to begin with they would be able to judge accurately how much + green to add to the flash. The better solution under tress is use reflectors which will bounce the green light the camera is compensated to. A reflector positioned above the face will act like a key light to enhance modeling like the flash would and one added chin level near the camera would be ideal for fill.

All things considered it's just better to stay out of the woods when shooting portraits.



Jan 17, 2012 at 09:54 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #19 · color/lighting issues


I guess my point is that I'd rather spend some time in PP than miss an image I want because the lighting is mixed. Of course it's possible to mix the lighting in a way to make it too difficult to fix, but with selections and some care it's possible to correct many to a degree that's acceptable. In the old chemical photography days such corrections were too time consuming and expensive. Now we have more PP options to improve mixed light images. And, Scott did ask for PP fixes.


Jan 17, 2012 at 10:29 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #20 · color/lighting issues


dmacmillan wrote:

Orangely "golden hour" direct sun and skylight can create a wicked WB combination. I think we naturally compensate so we don't see the problems presented to the sensor until we pull up the photo on our computer.

Triple Bingo!!!!(?)
Lots of good advice here from you folks. Quite an education for poor newbie-shoot-in-the-woods-and-struggle-with-the-skin-tones me.
Scott



Jan 17, 2012 at 10:32 PM
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