Friday, February 27, 2009

The Thing about Picture Control

Welcome to the mystery of picture control!!

Here's a photograph of Mimi, with Vivid Picture Mode.   It appeared striking in the monitor (very intense reds and yellows), so I was happy, despite the wild contrast between her fur and the seat of this very chair I'm on right now.  

Now, the same cat, under the same light and on the same spot... but with Neutral Picture Control.  The fur looked terribly flat, the colors were muted, the entire palette from the Vivid setting was gone.  

So, I switched to Standard.  Here I saw a type of compromise between Vivid and Neutral; an amicable middle ground in terms of color saturation and contrast.  

Now... that was before downloading the files into my computer and then resizing them (hopefully better this time) for internet viewing.  

Vivid... it doesn't look too vivid, does it?

Neutral doesn't sound half as bad as my description of the jpeg in the D700 monitor.  I'm feeling like with egg on my face...

Standard, however, still looks like an acceptable compromise here.

Lesson learned?

Besides never to trust your monitor... the fact that these shots look pretty much the same in my monitor leads me to wonder what the effect of this setting may be on prints.  

In the meanwhile, this is what I did with the files: they were all RAW (NEFs) downloaded to the computer via card reader and Nikon Transfer.  Then, opened with PSE 6 for Mac, and turned into JPEGs.  The consequent, intermediate JPEGs were resized in size and resolution (say, from whatever they were to 1550 on the larger side, and the resolution down to 150 dpi).  After this, I did a "Save for Web" function, and set the JPEG parameters in High.  Oh, and I also reopened the "cleansed" files and reduced the print size from 13 inches to 8 (on the large side).  In short, all files now should be clearly viewable in almost any screen size, not just in my 20-inch monster.   At no time whatsoever did I do any alteration in color or exposure here.  In short, except for the file conversion and re-compression, these are the photographs that came out of the camera. 

I'm interested in your reactions, and will appreciate comments.  Of course, soon enough I should have something to say about the prints of these images...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Couple of Issues for Shutterbugs

Here we go again... 

Here is a photograph of the cats, with the SB-600 flash aiming at them.  It was the best way to solve a problem I was having, as it can be seen below...

The cat in the foreground appears fairly well lit, but what about the one in the background?  Ben, when photographed with the SB-600 bouncing light off the ceiling, appears nicely exposed.  MimĂ­, behind the TV stand, was not.  I had to do something I usually don't, which is to aim the flash directly at them.  That was the best way to get the results I wanted.  Now...  a common exposure problem: exposure for highlights.  Which of the landscapes below looks better?  The one right below... 

Or this one?

The difference between them (in case it's not obvious) is a couple of notches of underexposure.  In fact, the landscape below was shot as per camera meter settings on A-mode.  It did give me a good color for the snow, as it appears right before sunset in my corner of the world.  So, I dialed two thirds of underexposure (thanks to the Quick Exposure Compensation feature; check b4 in the Custom Setting Menu) and shot again (with a slight change of position, so as to avoid the distortion effect of the post on the left), and...
voilĂ !  Got the colors I wanted. 

Why this move?  Why tinker with the exposure?

The camera is a tool, and users tend to let it dictate their end result.  In this particular situation even though I wanted (and metered on) the sunset colors, the camera matrix meter dialed up the highlights.  It is a tendency of all digital sensors, and from what I understand, it's in their algorithm.  However, a photographer has something better: brains.  That's why, after noticing the slightly singed effect on colors, I took a second shot of the first photograph but with a slight underexposure.  This one allowed me to register the colors I wanted.

As for the snow?  One still can tell it's snow, right?  

Later on, some flash effects with this camera and the SB-600. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Still, the need to get WB figured out

Still, grappling with the
WB setting in the camera.

Oodles of shots later, I think I have an idea about what to do: set the thing manually.

Examples?  Here's the same boring view from my kitchen window... in 2500°K.  Pretty cool...

Now, the Auto WB version (which is probably down below, in the previous entry).  Colors are fairly realistic, if we consider that the light is reflected by the snow, and the sun is pretty dull.

However, here's the practical use of this experiment.  Since the WB at 2500°K is so cool... this is the way it works when used indoors, under incandescent lighting.  To me, both in the camera monitor and later in the computer, the color rendition is highly satisfactory.  Gone are the whims of Auto WB!

BTW, here's the same room... using Auto WB.  A bit compensated, but the yellow cast is still there. 

I think I just stumbled into the secret of incandescent light shooting happiness...  

The next challenge: flash use. 

Before closing, I must thank those who take the time to post comments here.  In one case, I learned the solution to working with NEF (RAW) files without Nikon Capture, and it is simple: I can open the RAW file via the .dng plugin in Photoshop Elements, then save it as an 8-bit file, not a 16-bit.  Once an 8-bit, it's easier to work in PSE to save it as jpeg, and then compress it enough for web posting uses.  

And, when it comes to compressing... I must thank Oscar Reyna for his suggestion (see comments below).  I will see how to implement them and improve the quality of these jpegs.  It's the least I can do now that I have a camera, a good computer and the software to match them.  

If I only had the brains...  But that's just beyond warranty.  

Next time: accessory flash!