Flat images feom 7D

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by marvin, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. My new 7D seems to produce rather "flat" images without vibrant colors (JPG). I suppose that I could make some adjustments via the menu to increase color & contrast but my question refers to the untweaked images. They seem fine when I bring them to life with Photoshop. Is that your experience too?
  2. I shoot RAW for stills, but picture style is still a challenge for video. Download and use Canon's Picture Style Editor to create a few styles that match your vision for various lighting and subjects. You could also use the built in styles, and adjust them to your pleasure.
  3. Since we all have different tastes and preferences, so most DSLR makers set image defaults leaning towards a more neutral rendition. Thus there is room for tweaks to suit a wide range of taste. Unlike the OP, I find the 7D default on the over saturated side. However, if you prefer a more vivid look, shoot RAW and monkey with the Picture Styles and adjustment parameters in DDP, carefully noting your settings. Once you hit the mark, you can either save as a custom DPP profile for RAW processing or, if a JPEG shooter, closely duplicate the DPP settings in-camera, resulting in similar output. Canon even has a Picture Style editor so you can create a custom style.
    The main gotcha for in-camera Picture Styles and parameter tweaks is they are only seen by DPP. Other RAW converters can't read them (of course a moot point for JPEGs). Personally I mostly use Aperture 3 for RAW conversion but still use DPP for the occasional troublesome conversion and am amazed how well it nails the default profile. Too bad DPP tools are so funky.
  4. If you are thinking of comparing your images straight from the camera to images you see in publications and in gallery photographs, virtually no one ever presents such images straight from the camera. There is a strange myth that little or no post-processing will lead to great photographs if you just do every thing perfectly at the time of exposure.
    This is, in virtually all cases, unfortunate nonsense. And it is responsible for plenty of misunderstanding about how photography is done and for frustrating many photographers who feel that their work is inferior (or that something is wrong with their 7D!) on this account.
    If you shoot raw so that you'll obtain the maximum amount of scene data in your file, to get all of the potential out of the image you will have to post-process. At a minimum you must do some sharpening, since raw files are otherwise very soft. In all likelihood you will also need to make at least some of the following adjustments as well:
    • curves - probably a slight s-curve to brighten lighter tones, darken darker tones, and increase mid tone contrast
    • adjustments to white point and black point, often also done using the curves adjustment
    • saturation (or vibrance with newer Adobe software) to increase the intensity of colors a bit
    • color adjustment of various sorts depending upon the subject and your interpretation of it
    Most photographers preparing an image for a high quality print will consider doing much more than this, and will often apply a number of localized and sometimes quite subtle adjustments to the image to get it exactly where they want it.
  5. Consider the "landscape" setting.
  6. Are you maximizing the impact of lighting, composition, and subject selection?

    Keep in mind that the histogram is based off of the Preview JPEG. It's not an exact representation of the information
    in the Raw file, but it diverges even further if you pump up the saturation and contrast controls. Also, even though
    extreme settings look good for some subjects, they tend to make humans look orange. For these reasons, the default
    camera settings produce a modest image, not some ultra-saturated monstrosity. If you want more color and contrast,
    add it during post processing.
  7. +1 G Dan. Another way to put this is that ALL digital images need postprocessing. Think of it as developing the image. When you apply a 'picture style' and shoot jpeg, you are not getting an unaltered 'picture as the camera took it.' There is no such animal. Instead, you are getting the image processed using a fixed algorithm for sharpening, contrast, color balance, etc. This algorithm is applied regardless of the characteristics of the image.
    That is why most serious folks I know rarely shoot JPEG, instead shooting RAW and keeping control over the postprocessing to get the results they want.
    The 7D is a very good camera. Far cheaper and older Canon DSLRs are capable of producing vibrant images, if the images are processed well. If you are getting flat images, you need to blame the processing, not the camera.
  8. Another consideration is the lens. Certain prime lenses or L class lenses may give better contrast and color.
  9. The lens is almost certain to make very minimal if any difference in this case.
  10. Colour space issue?
  11. In the digital era, there is a tendency to point the camera at the thing one sees without considering the lighting of that thing. In the past, if you wanted pictures that were not flat, you had to make sure the lighting was not flat to begin with. Experienced photographers always looked for contrast, or added it somehow before taking the picture. Now, everyone just points and shoots their $3000 camera and assumes contrast can be created after the fact.
    It's a misconception to say that there was always post-processing for this. I think it comes from the increasing numbers of people now who have never used anything other than digital cameras, and this thing gets repeated over and over again on the internet. It's just not true. It's black and white photography that involved significant post-processing, not colour. If you shot colour, you most likely did it with slide film, and there was no post processing whatsoever. If you shot colour negative film, very little post-processing was possible with that, even though it had to be enlarged and printed like black and white was. So, you had to pay attention to the lighting BEFORE you clicked the button.
    Even if a monkey with money can move the little post-processing sliders nowadays, it can still greatly improve your photography if you work on shooting every picture as if it's a final print -- at least until you get a feel for lighting. That means looking for the contrast you want. It's out there, but you have to actively be aware of it, look for it, move people around in the scene so you get it, move yourself around so you get it, stay home on your sofa to post-process bad pictures until the sun comes out, etc.
    And then, because it *is* a digital camera, you have to determine what picture style controls work best for you. If you set those to "neutral", it will in fact be "neutral", and unless the original scene was very contrasty to begin with, it will look flat straight out of the camera. Neutral is neutral because a raw image is by its very nature extremely dark and flat until something is done to it in software. Getting the original contrast of the scene back into it is like we once chose the grade of paper to use when making a black and white print. That's where the picture styles come in. If you don't want to post-process, don't use a "Neutral" picture style with any digital camera.
    If you do all this right, it doesn't matter if you used a 7D or an entry-level DSLR.
  12. +1 Keith R. Make sure that in-camera color space is set to Adobe RGB; otherwise you will clip a lot of color data even before importing the images to the computer. The other option(sRGB) is a limited-conservative color space, mostly fit for web display. You can always change the color space in post processing if needed. Others offered very good advises too.
  13. "It's a misconception to say that there was always post-processing for this."
    Not quite. You might be thinking of transparency photography, in those cases where the slides were the final product. But don't forget that
    • the choice of film (which is now essentially a neutral factor) was often made largely because of the way that each film altered the color balance and saturation - as we might now choose to do in post.
    • colored filters were frequently employed at the time of exposure in order to alter color balance, frequently to warm the colors - as we might now choose to do in post
    • graduated neutral density filters were often used to equalize brightness in very bright scenes.
    • polarizers were used to control reflections and enhance contrast in subjects such as cloud-filled skies.
    • photographs submitted to publishers as transparencies were often subject to many types of adjustment during the publishing/printing process.
    Leaving aside the more limited world of transparency/slide photography, the situation with film photography (and prints from transparencies) was quite different and became more so as time went on.
    • again, choices of film were made with an eye to creating specific manipulations of color reality. One word: "Velvia."
    • All of the same filtering, etc techniques were applied - things we do now in post were simply done at the time of exposure. (With the exception, to some extent, of the use of polarizing filters.)
    • choices were made about developing methods and timing with specific alteration of the image on the film in mind.
    • Once in the darkroom a whole boatload of post processing was essentially always used by photographers working to create the most powerful and appealing images - dodging and burning, choices of paper, control of contrast, choices of chemicals, control of light color in the enlarger, and much more.
    There are darned few examples of what some imagine to be photography without "manipulation" at the time of exposure or in post. With that in mind, it seems odd an inexplicable to me that people persist in holding up that unreal goal - when the ways that photographers work in the real world are almost diametrically opposed to this.
    None of this, of course, is meant to remotely suggest a point of view that "you don't worry about the quality of the capture - just fix it in post." "Post" is not for fixing mistakes or making up for poor judgment at the time of exposure, not have great photographers generally thought of it that way. Instead, many of the best believed (and acted on the belief that) great photographer comes from optimizing all phases of the production of the photograph, all the way from "seeing" the image to the work in the darkroom done to realize their vision.
    The famous Adams statement comparing the negative to the musical score and the print to the performance is a neat summary of this idea. A photographer who imagines that nothing important happens after the "capture" is made is equivalent to an orchestral composer who believes that it doesn't really matter who plays the score or how they play it.
  14. Of course RAW gives more options. But quick and dirty:

    Choose "faithful" style and "+2 saturation" and most JPG's
    will look fine.

    (though "monochrome" with "+2 contrast" is fun too)

    Good luck, Matthijs.
  15. G Dan Mitchell - excellent posts on the topic. I would only add that photography is a creative medium. It's silly to limit one's creativity by discounting or failing to use all tools available. In the case of photography that is often failing to use post processing tools, either digitally or in the darkroom.
  16. Lighting makes an image flat not cameras. This is exactly why I took my Alien Bees ring flash back. Equal lighting all around an
    image will cause a flat image. This has nothing to do with the camera itself does it? In any case lighting ratios aand shadows creates
    contrast and more interesting images. Have you tried using reflectors and flags to add or take away light to create contrast? For me I
    almost always use my Canon 580 ex flash or AB 800 strobe to create contrast.
  17. What is interesting is I was in Bar Harbor last month and ran into a Nikon user who hated computers so he didn't have one. He wanted and tested a 5D Mark II (though he had wanted one) but didn't like the color from the Jpegs (since he didn't like computers he wanted jpegs. He said that he used to shoot Fuji Velvia and the Nikon gave him closer to that look. I said I thought the colors were a bit over saturated. He says that he wanted to like the Canon, but couldn't because of the Jpeg output. He said he wished Nikon had more primes like Canon. Now I do find it interesting that someout would spend thousands on a camera like the Canon 5D Mark II and primes to do only in camera Jpeg processing.
  18. Gents,

    It seems we're going a little off topic. The OP asked if we had the same experience. He did not ask to be belittled by
    lengthy history lessons and grandfatherly remarks about what is good for him.

    Let's keep it light and answer the questions posed in stead of what we deem best for others.

    So, to take my own advice:

    Yes, if I don't adjust the settings my cameras will produce quite a lot of flat pictures. (400d, 50d, 5d-ii)

    All the best,

  19. I wasn't addressing my comments (which, since they are lengthy, I presume you include in your "grandfatherly" category) to the OP. I was addressing them to a follow-up comment that I disagreed with and which I am almost certain would not have helped the OP at all.
    Short answers are not always the best answers. Not all long answers are unworthy. Or "grandfatherly."
  20. Dear Dan,

    Pierre's remarks rubbed the wrong way... and then I might have gotten carried away.

    Of course it's true that the quality of an answer is not measured by it's length, be it short or be it long.

    Let's just hope we didn't scare the OP away.

    Kind regards,

  21. I believe that I've had an epiphany. After reading the story that Dennis recounted above I found myself thinking that it's foolish to shoot
    JPEGs with an expensive camera. But is that really true, or am I just being narrow-minded?

    What percentage of film shooters actually worked in the darkroom? 25? 12? Less? I bet there were plenty of folks with expensive
    cameras (Leica?) who rarely if ever set foot inside a darkroom. I would be willing to bet that some considerable percentage of those
    folks made wonderful images.

    Fast forward to today. If you know your preferences for contrast, sharpening, and other settings, if you can expose properly without
    having to apply a digital fudge factor after the fat, and if (extremely important) you can set white balance properly (using an Exoodisc
    or a combination of presets and filters), then why can't you expect to get great photos out of a DSLR without the aid of a computer?

    Will a computer enable you to do more, to optimize and customize images further? Without a doubt. But that doesn't mean that
    images shot without the aid of post processing will be junk. I recall people on these forums mentioning that gear is secondary to skill.
    If you have the skill to nail that shot in camera, if JPEG quality fulfills your needs, and if you don't want to fuss with a computer, then by all means work that way. Spend a little less time navigating layers and a little more time enjoying life. And thank Canon and the other manufacturers for providing that opportunity.
  22. Dan, your comment is written as if a digital sensor responds the same to light as color positive slide film. It does NOT. When you shoot a jpeg and expose with the brightness level that you want in the final product, you leave at least two-stops of dynamic range on the table. If you shoot in RAW and "expose right" (to the right of the historgram), you'll achieve a digital dynamic range much closer to that possible with film.
    The process of RAW conversion to jpeg can be automated in Lightroom, DxO and other programs to such an extent that hardly any time is required to optimize your throughput and the quality of the final images. Establish a preset for the conditions of your shoot and apply it to all the images in RAW conversion and you're done. Even a little custom level setting on each image only takes seconds.
    When I shot film, I searched high and low for a processor that gave me consistant results that I liked. I'm certain that they were doing the things in the background that made my shots look the best that they could. Now we can do it ourselves and change our mind on every image with very little effort.
    If you're not shooting in RAW with your expensive dslr, it's unlikely that you're reaching the potential of your camera.
  23. David, first of all, please note this part of my post.

    "Will a computer enable you to do more, to optimize and customize images further? Without a doubt."

    I shoot RAW exclusively for all of the reasons that you mentioned. I want to optimize the quality of my images. I want
    all of the future editing capability that RAW permits. I think shooting JPEGs, even RAW+JPEG is a total waste of
    time. However, the case that I made earlier in this discussion is that if someone wants to create images without a computer, they most certain can. They can be be very successful if they expose properly, calculate white balance properly, and set contest, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. to taste.

    Technical optimization does not create great photographs. I recently bought National Geographic's 50 Best Photos at
    a newsstand. Few of these photos were technically optimized. In some the focus was a little off the mark, or there
    was some softness due to camera shake. The colors could have been better. The light wasn't perfect. If your
    objective is technical optimization, by all means you can DXO and PS all you like. No one is stopping you. Other
    folks might have other objectives, such as making instant prints or capturing forensic photos that cannot be altered
    after the fact for legal reasons. The modern DSLR makes all of these options possible as long as one uses the camera skillfully.

    Finally, I have to take exception to the idea that ETTR optimizes photos. In my experience with cameras from Canon
    and Nikon, ETTR only increases the probability of washed out colors and lost, unrecoverable highlights. Recovered
    highlights came back with the wrong shade and color in many cases and have to be cloned to make an acceptable final image. Noise isn't as much of an issue today as it once was. As a result, a gray card reading typically provides me with a better file than a right-justified histogram will, or at least one that is far less problematic in the development stage.
  24. Dan, I made it look like I was responding to you when I was really trying to respond to your post for the benefit of the OP.
    BTW, you can expose right and still use a grey card.

    Anyone can leave all the dynamic range, clarity and color flexibility that they want to on the table. It just struck me that the
    OP might not know how to extract the most from his camera. I think that everyone should first learn the tools and then feel
    free to disgard them if they don't suit their needs.

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