Digital Color

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jamesjewell, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. I shoot both film and digital, 35mm up to 4x5. I grew up in a Minolta family, so when I switched to Digital, I went with Sony. I've just never been happy with the digital colors I get. They seem garish and "plasticky", whereas Kodak Ektar and Portra look natural and subtle to my eyes. However I see plenty of pro digital photography that doesn't seem to have the plastic look. Is Sony known for garish colors? Do all RAW images look that way before being processed? Any thoughts on workflow? Anyone else share the same feelings? I've just started experimenting with some commercial film emulation profiles in Lightroom, but not yet sure if that will scratch my itch.
  2. Good questions. I'm not an expert on colour but I'm pretty satisfied with the colour I get from my outdated NEX cameras. Then again I prefer b&w so take this with a grain of salt.

    You can get better colour from any camera in varying ways. For example, you can select a camera body profile in your RAW converter (see attachment; also note the slider below it). Or, you can use a white balance card (a grey card will do). Or, you can use a colour chart.

    The white balance card is the easiest, as you can do this in the field.
  3. RAW images are very flat and colorless without processing. The previews you see are always subject to processing, in a manner determined by menu options. You are the first person in PNET I've heard describe Sony color as "garish and plasticky." Most people describe it as flat, yellow, green, or red - anything but accurate (which is the best term in my experience.

    Rather than start off with a complaint, ask where to learn about color management.
  4. I just realised that I forgot the attachment. FWIW.

    jamesjewell likes this.
  5. No. Absolutely not.
    This is what a RAW image looks like before being processed.
    And this is it after camera processing to a JPEG.
    However, it's relatively easy to turn down the saturation, shift individual colour hues, etc, etc by using any half-decent image processor. Or you might want to explore the menu of your Sony to see what can be done in camera.

    Selecting a different 'Creative Style' in the menu can make a substantial difference; the Portrait or Neutral settings, for example, will tone down the saturation. While setting the colour space to Adobe RGB might allow more natural looking greens to be captured. As long as your monitor and workflow allow it.

    Here's the same image processed from RAW with a slightly different tone curve and the saturation played with to give maybe a more film-like appearance.

    You'll notice that the magenta sky has changed to a more realistic colour, so just turning off Auto White Balance often helps a lot.

    BTW, the camera was a Nikon DSLR, but the same applies to Sony. I have both brands.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
  6. There was never a better illustration of accommodation to an existing condition.

    I haven't seen the words natural and subtle much in conjunction with these particular films.:rolleyes: but to each their own, I guess.
  7. Are you even calibrating your monitor? That would be the first step if you think a RAW file on your monitor looks too colorful even before editing or printing.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  8. Well, maybe, but that's a heavily underexposed shot in my opinion. Not too good an example of what "normal" RAWs look like. Just saying.
  9. No. As you can see from the out-of-camera JPEG, that's a well exposed RAW file, with just two or three tiny spots of 'blown out' specular reflection.

    I used a small app called 'MakeTIFF' that creates a 48 bit Tiff file from any RAW file you feed it, and that's exactly what a properly exposed RAW file looks like before any processing has been done to it. Excessively green from the Bayer RGGB filtering and looking dark due to linear (gamma=1) representation of tonal values.

    If you haven't tried it for yourself, then please refrain from uninformed comments.
    jamesjewell likes this.
  10. The OP clearly asked: "Do all RAW images look that way before being processed?" He didn't say before being converted in a RAW converter and the difference between the two is huge. I doubt the OP went through the trouble that you went through to look at an un-converted RAW file. Ergo, your example of an un-converted RAW file is, IMHO, misleading or do you prefer uninformed?
  11. Perhaps I didn't choose my words carefully enough nor provide enough background. I am well versed in color management, and have a fully color-managed workflow. I profile and calibrate my monitors regularly. My printers are also profiled. What I should have been more clear about is my use of the phrase "unprocessed RAW". I didn't mean before initial RAW conversion (of which Rodeo_Joe gives a most excellent demonstration) but rather the next step of image editing. Apologies for the bad choice of words. I've attached an image converted to JPEG and sRGB. The colors just seem hyper-real to me. It was shot on a Sony a99. Charriot.jpg
    sigmaalex920 likes this.
  12. Nothing wrong with those colors as far as I can see. Are you sure your monitor is calibrated correctly? Did you by any chance get cataract surgery lately? I know this sounds far-fetched, but that procedure will amp up your color perception like nothing else.
  13. It must be nice to have enough time in your day to go out of your way to be patronizing and still contribute nothing. Well, I guess I have a little free time too.
    Karim Ghantous likes this.
  14. I'm as sure as I can be. I'm not new to color management. I'm quite happy with my scanned analog color images, so I think I am doing it right, or they would be off. I'm starting to thing that this is a subtle psychological preference, though I cannot explain it.
  15. OK, so Ektar is not subtle by any stretch of the imagination, but I still do find the colors to be more pleasing than my digital results (except for skin tones).
  16. These colours here are quite strong, but not in a bad way. IMHO. Maybe if you used the 'protect saturated colors' slider you might find the results more in line with what you expect. Give it a try, anyway, if you have a similar function in your application of choice.
    jamesjewell likes this.
  17. While we now know that the OP wasn't doing this, let's talk about what you call looking at RAW images before they have been converted/processed. Digital cameras capture data linearly. If you don't convert the RAW data in a RAW converter and feed this linear data into your non-linear monitor, then the result is a heavily distorted, non-linear image on your monitor screen. This image is not at all a faithful representation of the real world; it's way too dark because of the non-linear monitor response. No gamma=1 representation of the data. In order to get a faithful representation of the scene you photographed, the RAW data needs to be corrected for the monitor's non-linear response by means of gamma encoding conversion. Looking on your monitor at images that have not been converted/gamma encoded serves no purpose and makes absolutely no sense. End of story.

    So much for uninformed comments!
  18. Try ON1 Effects, they simulate film looks for digital photos quite nicely.
  19. Are you comparing prints ? Because that is the only way you can compare Color Digital against Color Film unless you are scanning your color negatives. Coming from film myself, which included Color film development, when I switched to digital I just could not get that deep saturated color look that I did using the RA4 process, or having my color film developed at the lab.

    The digital prints were cleaner, but the color negative prints were punchier and more saturated. The digital prints often had this "Pastel" look or Garish colors like you said. I figured I was either doing something wrong, or my ink-jet printer was not set correctly.

    When it comes to printing color digital, there are more variables involved such as Printer Color Management, Software Color Management as well as the types of paper used. If one of these is off, then your colors are not going to be quite right. It could be the settings on your camera also you didn't mention what type of Sony camera you are using.

    I have a Nikon DSLR, a Pentax DSLR and a Canon DSLR , I dont want to start any wars, but as far as the colors are concerned, my Canon camera(s) produce the best colors straight out of the box IMHO. However I was able to tweak the Nikon and Pentax cameras so that the colors pretty much match the Canon colors and are pleasing to my eyes. Nikon and Pentax cameras, both use a Sony made sensor but are tweaked according to the camera manufacturers specs. Canon makes their own sensors in house.

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