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Steve F

Photographing flowers in sunlight and posterised colours

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Morning or evening all!

I was out photographing yellow African Marigold flowers yesterday in full sunshine with an A7iii. I'm editing them this morning and the yellows are very blocky and posterised and it's hard to distinguish between the petals. I've tried reducing the luminance and increasing the clarity, but I'm not totally happy with the results. Has anyone got any experience of this, and how do you edit to get around it?

 

Sorry, I haven't uploaded the pictures yet so you can see them, but here's one of another yellow flower on an overcast day that I'm also not totally happy with, same reasons as above. It was a lot easier to distinguish the different parts of the flower in reality than looking at the image I captured (yes I'm aware that's partly because it's translated from 3D to 2D).

 

Any help appreciated.

Stephen

 

hemerocallis-lilioasphodelus-syn-hemeroc

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Not sure I can help... but I've noticed how poorly my Nikon cameras (first D200, now 610) handle bright yellow subjects, such as a daffodil. Since I don't really photograph flowers, this has been a point of interest rather than a problem...

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I did some evening primrose, also very yellow but more of a lemon yellow, but I was using a flashgun with a softbox in the garden. Perhaps the control of the light helped. I was also transilluminating some of them.

Maybe you can change the modelling with a reflector or black paper to subtract some top light. Or try when the sun is lower. Sony A58 so in your part of town sensor-wise. I didn't have to with these, but with some garden flowers I was actially decreasing saturation. I also play with vibrance a bit.

You can click on these.

DSC04753.jpg DSC04853.jpg DSC04854.jpg

Edited by spacecadet
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Try  a polariser which will help to cut reflections and work in more diffuse light, as direct sunlight is challenging. 

 

I used to notice what John mentions back in the day with a D700 but I think things have improved a lot in terms of handling bright yellow highlights with Nikon cameras. This was also greatly improved as ACR/Lightroom raw converters improved over the years. 

Edited by MDM
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Also use a mellow Lightroom development profile such as Adobe Neutral or Portrait for starters and build up the image. Take it easy on Clarity if you are aiming for a natural look.

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Is one of the colour channels heavily clipped in the raw image? If so you will never recover the detail or smooth colour transitions. When shooting bright flowers expose to avoid clipping in all 3 channels regardless of how dark this makes the overall image. Dark tones can be recovered better from modern sensors whereas clipped channels are forever clipped. Its a bad idea to photograph flowers in full sunlight as an exposure correct for the saturated colours can mean too much recovery is needed for the image to be decent even after processing carefully. I supply a specialist plant library who will not accept sunny plant portraits, better to aim for subtle light transitions from passing cloud or choose a bright overcast day when textures and subtlety are emphasised.

Cheers, Keith

 

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At the risk of being absolutely crucified for saying this, this is one of those instances where if the conditions are right I'd use the in-camera JPEG. As I shoot raw & JPEG I can see the differences and with all of the Sonys I've had so far shooting flowers in sunlight produces the same issues you were seeing.  I found that no matter what I did to the raw I couldn't get it to have the same clarity and "pop" as the JPEG produced by the camera itself.

 

As Keith has mentioned above though, I try to avoid shooting plants in direct sun for this reason. The below image looked ok in raw, but compared to the JPEG the detail and clarity of the petals just wasn't there. I spent about 15 minutes faffing with it and in the end just went with the JPEG. I can't say I like doing that, but it seems with Sonys they have trouble in certain rare situations with the colour rendition.

 

Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) also known as fox-and-cubs, an orange wild flower native to central and southern Europe. Similar to dandelion. Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

Do you shoot JPEG and raw? 

Edited by Cal

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29 minutes ago, Cal said:

At the risk of being absolutely crucified for saying this, this is one of those instances where if the conditions are right I'd use the in-camera JPEG. As I shoot raw & JPEG I can see the differences and with all of the Sonys I've had so far shooting flowers in sunlight produces the same issues you were seeing.  I found that no matter what I did to the raw I couldn't get it to have the same clarity and "pop" as the JPEG produced by the camera itself.

 

 

 

Crucify is a bit strong. What about 20 lashes and a good stoning? 

 

 

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2 hours ago, MDM said:

Lightroom development profile such as Adobe Neutral or Portrait

I've never heard of those- are you referring to camera calibration? I only have Adobe Standard in that.

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54 minutes ago, Cal said:

I found that no matter what I did to the raw I couldn't get it to have the same clarity and "pop" as the JPEG produced by the camera itself.

As a convert for some years now I have to say I can rarely get a jpeg to look quite as good as a RAW, even in normal daylight, not that I often try. But it must be worth a try if Steve is going to reshoot anyway. it costs nothing. I would have thought he'd want all the detail he could get, though, and my RAWS always have a bit more detail.

I have to say I have what many might find a quite aggressive import preset, though, with pluses on clarity, vibrance and saturation.

Edited by spacecadet

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26 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

I've never heard of those- are you referring to camera calibration? I only have Adobe Standard in that.

 

Yes for users of older versions but again Adobe changed the profile of profiles so to speak a while back and brought them to the top of the Dev module. There is a choice from a whole range of profiles that can now be applied very easily to any image. 

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9 hours ago, John Morrison said:

Not sure I can help... but I've noticed how poorly my Nikon cameras (first D200, now 610) handle bright yellow subjects, such as a daffodil. Since I don't really photograph flowers, this has been a point of interest rather than a problem...

Hey John, yeah, I think the Sonys don't seem to cope too well with bright yellows either, I've seen this in other subjects I've shot...

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8 hours ago, spacecadet said:

I did some evening primrose, also very yellow but more of a lemon yellow, but I was using a flashgun with a softbox in the garden. Perhaps the control of the light helped. I was also transilluminating some of them.

Maybe you can change the modelling with a reflector or black paper to subtract some top light. Or try when the sun is lower. Sony A58 so in your part of town sensor-wise. I didn't have to with these, but with some garden flowers I was actially decreasing saturation. I also play with vibrance a bit.

You can click on these.

DSC04753.jpg DSC04853.jpg DSC04854.jpg

 

Hi Mark, thanks a lot for posting these images - quite a different look. I haven't tried using a flash in the past for flowers, but will give it a go at some point (I bought a Godox V860 II, but I haven't learned how to use it yet!! Taking it back to England to play with). Will also try desaturating.

Edited by Steve F

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7 hours ago, MDM said:

Also use a mellow Lightroom development profile such as Adobe Neutral or Portrait for starters and build up the image. Take it easy on Clarity if you are aiming for a natural look.

Trying to move away from using filters, but I'll see if I've got a polariser in the right diameter.

 

Thanks, I've never tried applying different Adobe profiles except for montone - will give that a go too. Yes, agreed, I don't like to use clarify for flowers.

Edited by Steve F

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7 hours ago, Keith Burdett said:

Is one of the colour channels heavily clipped in the raw image? If so you will never recover the detail or smooth colour transitions. When shooting bright flowers expose to avoid clipping in all 3 channels regardless of how dark this makes the overall image. Dark tones can be recovered better from modern sensors whereas clipped channels are forever clipped. Its a bad idea to photograph flowers in full sunlight as an exposure correct for the saturated colours can mean too much recovery is needed for the image to be decent even after processing carefully. I supply a specialist plant library who will not accept sunny plant portraits, better to aim for subtle light transitions from passing cloud or choose a bright overcast day when textures and subtlety are emphasised.

Cheers, Keith

 

Hi Keith, thanks. No, no clipping, but I will try do some different exposures when shooting from now on, with negative compensation.

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6 hours ago, Cal said:

At the risk of being absolutely crucified for saying this, this is one of those instances where if the conditions are right I'd use the in-camera JPEG. As I shoot raw & JPEG I can see the differences and with all of the Sonys I've had so far shooting flowers in sunlight produces the same issues you were seeing.  I found that no matter what I did to the raw I couldn't get it to have the same clarity and "pop" as the JPEG produced by the camera itself.

 

As Keith has mentioned above though, I try to avoid shooting plants in direct sun for this reason. The below image looked ok in raw, but compared to the JPEG the detail and clarity of the petals just wasn't there. I spent about 15 minutes faffing with it and in the end just went with the JPEG. I can't say I like doing that, but it seems with Sonys they have trouble in certain rare situations with the colour rendition.

 

Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) also known as fox-and-cubs, an orange wild flower native to central and southern Europe. Similar to dandelion. Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

Do you shoot JPEG and raw? 

Hi Cal, really like the image. I do shoot both, the fact the A7iii has 2 memory slots was quite a selling point when it came out. Yeah, I still think I need to learn some editing, agree that it's sometimes hard to get raw files to have the same 'pop' as the JEPGs. Annoyingly, the phone even seems to do a better job sometimes lol.

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9 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

Hi Mark, thanks a lot for posting these images - quite a different look. I haven't tried using a flash in the past for flowers, but will give it a go at some point (I boughtt a Godox V860 II, but I haven't learned how to use it yet!! Taking it back to England to play with). Will also try desaturating.

I've been using a quite old Vivitar 550 set to manual on a long lead with an inflatable softbox. Hand held or on a tripod if I have room. The latitude of digital is very forgiving, it's usually f11 or 16 and boff. Finding a flashgun that the A58 would deign to trigger isn't that easy, something to do with hotshoe resistance, and one has to slip the lead out after every shot because there's some odd sort of capacitance effect in the lead that stops the flash firing more than once. A wireless trigger would take care of it but that's a matter of money and garden flowers are not a paying gig.

I've been doing quite a lot in the garden- mostly wild because we let it do what it likes for the most part- but it's quite rewarding and turning it into a bit of a still-life studio with reflectors and whatnot is good fun. There were quite a few of mine in the "nature picture" thread a couple of months back- all over now except for the herbs and the evening primrose, which is still kicking out its last few blooms.

Edited by spacecadet
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Thanks a lot for the advice everyone, a great mix of experience and tips from the contributors again. I think I will generally try to avoid photographing flowers in direct sunlight from now on (although I still like the effect for certain flowers). Will also use a range of exposures. I was interested to note that a specialist plant library doesn't accept sunny flower portraits.

 

So I have lots of things to try adjusting in LR. Just got back in from re-shooting. Will post the results in a few days. Thanks again.

Steve

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2 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Thanks a lot for the advice everyone, a great mix of experience and tips from the contributors again. I think I will generally try to avoid photographing flowers in direct sunlight from now on (although I still like the effect for certain flowers). Will also use a range of exposures. I was interested to note that a specialist plant library doesn't accept sunny flower portraits.

 

So I have lots of things to try adjusting in LR. Just got back in from re-shooting. Will post the results in a few days. Thanks again.

Steve

I reckon subtracting a bit of top light from that first pic would be worth a try. Just hold a sheet of black paper over the top.

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5 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

I reckon subtracting a bit of top light from that first pic would be worth a try. Just hold a sheet of black paper over the top.

I've got a reflector with a black cover, will take it with me next time I'm flower hunting, thanks. That flower was actually in a large private garden unfortunately and I might not get to go back before I leave here again....

Edited by Steve F

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5 hours ago, spacecadet said:

As a convert for some years now I have to say I can rarely get a jpeg to look quite as good as a RAW, even in normal daylight, not that I often try. But it must be worth a try if Steve is going to reshoot anyway. it costs nothing. I would have thought he'd want all the detail he could get, though, and my RAWS always have a bit more detail.

I have to say I have what many might find a quite aggressive import preset, though, with pluses on clarity, vibrance and saturation.

 

I would be inclined to agree. Most of the time I don't even bother loading the JPEG into Lightroom. It's only done if I have a raw that is being a pain and is a last resort as the JPEG has already dumped a good bit of data before it even gets to the computer. Outputting a processed JPEG as a TIFF for instance would be pointless - and I like to keep TIFFs as part of my process. Regarding processing, I tend to actually avoid import presets as what is needed can be quite different depending on how the set of photos was shot and the look I was going for. Instead what I'll usually do is process the first one in a set of similars, make that a preset and then apply it to the rest.

 

19 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Hi Cal, really like the image. I do shoot both, the fact the A7iii has 2 memory slots was quite a selling point when it came out. Yeah, I still think I need to learn some editing, agree that it's sometimes hard to get raw files to have the same 'pop' as the JEPGs. Annoyingly, the phone even seems to do a better job sometimes lol.

 

Thanks Steve. What did you think when you compared the straight-from-camera JPEG and the raw? It's academic if you have been able to reshoot but I suspect that like me you'll have found a difference. Even with much fiddling I couldn't get the raw to look quite as good as the above so I gritted my teeth and just used the JPEG. I love my Sonys (the A99 also has two card slots) but all three of the ones I've used have had this strange thing with certain bright colours, usually flowers. I can't say I never noticed it with previous systems, because most of the time I shot only raw not raw+jpeg.

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Doesn't converting from RGB to sRGB sometimes cause some loss of detail and definition? That might be adding to the problem.

 

 

Edited by John Mitchell

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56 minutes ago, Steve F said:

I think I will generally try to avoid photographing flowers in direct sunlight from now on

During lock-down, or should it be the first lock-down, like many other photographers with nowhere to go I started photographing the garden flowers etc. It was a particularly sunny period so I made a frame about 1.5m x 1m and stretched a piece of garden fleece across it. Propped up between the sun and the plants it gave a very nice light, slightly uneven but in a natural kind of a way. Wouldn't recommend travelling between Austria and the UK with it but I think Lastolite makes something similar that folds down.

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57 minutes ago, Cal said:

Thanks Steve. What did you think when you compared the straight-from-camera JPEG and the raw? It's academic if you have been able to reshoot but I suspect that like me you'll have found a difference. Even with much fiddling I couldn't get the raw to look quite as good as the above so I gritted my teeth and just used the JPEG. I love my Sonys (the A99 also has two card slots) but all three of the ones I've used have had this strange thing with certain bright colours, usually flowers. I can't say I never noticed it with previous systems, because most of the time I shot only raw not raw+jpeg.

 

Hi Cal and everyone. Thought I'd post the picture for interest. I've not finished working on the raw file, just posting as it currently is (will see how my new not-in-direct sunlight shot compares). The 'as shot' white balance straight from the camera has made orange flowers look very yellow. Interestingly, if I bring the white balance towards the blue side, the flower colours seem to be more realistic, but the greens go a horrible garish colour...

 

Raw file part edited:

Flower1.jpg

 

JPEG straight from camera (I don't think this handled the orange/yellow very well either):

Flower2.jpg

 

Unedited raw file:

Flower3.jpg

 

Steve

Edited by Steve F

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26 minutes ago, Steve F said:

 

Hi Cal and everyone. Thought I'd post the picture for interest. I've not finished working on the raw file, just posting as it currently is (will see how my new not-in-direct sunlight shot compares). The 'as shot' white balance straight from the camera has made orange flowers look very yellow. Interestingly, if I bring the white balance towards the blue side, the flower colours seem to be more realistic, but the greens go a horrible garish colour...

 

Raw file part edited:

Flower1.jpg

 

JPEG straight from camera:

Flower2.jpg

 

Hard to compare the JPEG and raw directly as the shot was underexposed. I don't think the JPEG coped well with the orange either.

Steve

 

That is an excellent demonstration why it is a very bad idea to shoot JPEGs: white balance is locked in (and the relationship between the colours. Also highlight detail, sharpness and noise reduction settings are locked in. 

 

Looking at your LR settings for the raw, I would suggest you take the highlight slider well down as that should recover some highlight detail (although the histo is showing max white at about 90% which is low so you are definitely losing highlight detail ). My guess is the problem is with the lighting. Full frontal sunlight is not ideal for showing texture and detail. 

Edited by MDM

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