How to get better muted color tones?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by b_l|7, Aug 19, 2013.

  1. My question might be a bit complicated, but I will try to find the right words:
    Most of scanned negatives / digital raw files from outdoor shootings usually have a (to my mind) unnatural, harsh and garish color palette.
    Here are some examples: http://imageshack.us/a/img163/1112/pwpi.png (scanned negative) and http://imageshack.us/a/img577/9898/k8m4.jpg
    For me it's uncomfortable to look at such a picture and I have the need for more muted, more voluminous and better balanced colors.
    That is what I try to achieve: http://imageshack.us/a/img443/8639/n7ss.jpg or this: http://imageshack.us/a/img547/17/nu8t.jpg or this: http://imageshack.us/a/img546/4572/3e5b.jpg
    These colors are comfortable, muted and bright at the same time!
    I have tried selective color corrections, curves, … played with saturation and white balance for days. But I have the feeling, that there is a profound intervention in the picture which creates a so-called "look".
    Who has an idea?
    In addition, I have increasingly felt, that images often are reduced to 2-4 shades. So how do I get of such a color impression?
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Well, the film stock could be part of the issue, and the calibration of the scanner. However, assuming that the image shown is actually what was taken, here is my analysis.
    The red is a little hot, and perhaps the magenta value. Saturation for both of these should be reduced a little but be careful to not kill the pastel color of the bike frame.
    The cyan and blue values may also be hot. If only the cyan is altered, try a slight hue shift (right) towards blue, then reduce the saturation a little.
    It takes a little patience and the oversaturation can be successfully reduced. Based on the brightness the photo appears to have been taken around noon to 3pm when the lighting can be at is harshest.
    CHEERS...Mathew
     
  3. Depending on how you are scanning, you might want to investigate the scanner settings and options further. I mostly use VueScan for my older scanners and find its neutral settings are a fairly good start for post-processing in Photoshop. That first image looks like some kind of "hdr" effect has been pushed on it.
    You also need to look at what kind of color space you are using (doing sRGB might explain some of your complaints). Bit-depth is another dimension to look at.
     
  4. Post inline in this thread at 700 pixels on the longest end jpegs of your images that show where you try to get this desired look. Even better is to include before and after.
    There are plenty of ACR/LR plugins and presets you can download online for getting the look of the camel to brownish skin color with red brown shadows of those models.
    This is way too subjective according to taste to offer any specifics on how to get that look because your description uses "muted, balanced and voluminous" which tells me you are seeing something else or you don't know how to describe exactly what you like so others can understand.
    The look of an image is driven by each individual colored element to form an overall impression. This is why I described the look the way I did. Notice the blurred green trees behind the models are quite cooked which suggests WB and/or filter like technique was applied.
     
  5. Either I'm weird, my monitor is off, or yours is. I actually like the bad examples more, with the exception that sharpening might be a touch too aggressive.
     
  6. See if you like this approach:
    Put a color adjustment layer above the image layer. Set it to a light-medium brown. Start by setting it's blending mode to "color" and opacity to 50%. Split both the left and right lower BlendIF sliders and pull the inner halves of the two sliders to about 25% and 75%.
    Tweak to taste by iteratively adjusting everything including the brightness, hue and saturation of the color adjustment layer.
    When I get back to my PS computer late tonight I'll demo the technique on the images you don't like.
    Tom M
     
  7. Based on the four samples you posted, in the ones you like, lighting in the original capture is a major factor.
     
  8. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Its hard to respond helpfully when you know that most photographers boost the contrast and/or saturation of raw images because raws tend to be muted. Equally like Pierre I felt that the examples of "overcooked" didn't look particularly harsh or unnatural to me. I do wonder whether your display is correctly calibrated. Equally if I wanted subdued colour then I might not be photographing in under a high sun towatds the middle of the day.
    I've attached a photograph simply to demonstrate that its perfectly possible to achieve muted, understated, colour in a digital photograph, and without being an advanced photoshop user (which I'm not). And if this one looks saturated on your screen you really do need to review your calibration!
    00bvSr-542015384.jpg
     
  9. This close enough for you? If not, it's trivial to up the brown, or otherwise tweak it to your heart's content.
    I used the recipe I stated in my earlier post. The only change was that I dropped a very small amount of saturation and threw a bit of fake grain into the image before I applied the brown layer.
    HTH,
    Tom
    PS - Guys: I don't especially like this look, either, but this is pretty close to what he asked for. There doesn't have to be anything wrong with his monitor -- he may just prefer it.
    00bvTG-542015884.jpg
     
  10. Hey, Tom. Where you been? Hadn't seen ya' around for a while. Can see some of the regulars have been coming back, lately. Good to see ya back, Tom.
    Gave it a go in ACR 4.6. Surprised how easy it was to get her skin brown using Split Tone. Here's the Before/After & I'll post the ACR settings afterward.
    00bvTo-542016484.jpg
     
  11. Here's the ACR settings which must be applied in 16bit/ProPhotoRGB...
    00bvTq-542016684.jpg
     
  12. Thanks for the nice greeting, Tim. How ya doing? :)
    Yup, I'm still alive and kicking. It turns out that the traffic at one of the really old graphic design websites was dropping off, and they were looking to bring some new blood in, so I took a break from photo.net and have been moderating their photography forum for about the past 6 months. I'm not sure how much I can do, but, what the heck, I figured I'll give it a try.
    I hope all is well with you as well. Great to hear from you.
    Warmest regards,
    Tom
     
  13. it

    it

    Another method is to create another layer in PS, convert it to B&W, then dial the opacity right down. Does a nice job of muting colors as well.
     
  14. Second Ian's method for some photos.
     
  15. @Ian, Barry - You know the old saying: "A picture is worth 1000 words". Why don't you show us (say, using the original of the above photo) how the method you suggest gets close to one of the "goal" images he cited.
    Tom
     
  16. Ian is a very experienced portrait photographer and already has a very impressive portfolio online. If he suggests a technique I'm inclined to give it a try. It's safe to assume he knows what works.
    Also, the sample photo is a copyrighted photo of model Vivienne Rojinski. The OP did the appropriate thing by linking to the photo. Posting the edited versions here technically violates photo.net's terms of use since the photo wasn't posted here by the original photographer.
     
  17. Whoops! Sorry, Lex. I didn't pay attention, and just assumed the pix that the OP liked were taken by someone else, but the ones that were too harsh for the OP were taken by him and he wanted to know how to improve them. Please pull my tweaked versions.
    WRT to the method suggested by Ian, certainly no disrespect was intended. In fact, I use that method myself all the time, but like all short descriptions of a technique, the devil is in the details, and there are a lot of variations possible within a short description, e.g., how the conversion to B&W is done, what blendIF adjustments (if any) are made, etc. My strong conviction is that if possible (ie, without violating the TOS of PN), it is *always* better to show that a suggested technique does what was requested, at least in the hand of the person who proposed the technique, so that when someone else tries it, they know it's at least possible.
    Cheers,
    Tom M
     
  18. Since the PN administrators/moderators are on top of enforcing their TOU, they are welcome to take down my demo posted here.
    I'll show with my own image the differences in approaches discussed here and why just desaturating a color image does not produce the results the OP wants to achieve as seen in his linked images.
    Three versions are seen below with the last one applying the split tone settings with some tweaks to get what I think the look that's in those images. This will most likely also demonstrate why this is such a subjective topic influenced by both the image it's applied to as well as to the tastes of the viewer.
    00bvbz-542032084.jpg
     
  19. What a great tip Ian. Thank you. Just tried it on a pic of my own and can see where this will come in handy.
     
  20. Show us by applying to one of your images, Phil, so others can see how this is going to come in handy. I see no use for it at this point. I've tried it on a number of images and it doesn't deliver desirable results.
    Please show us. I want to learn something new.
     
  21. About getting natural colors, I'd suggest to give a glance at what those guys are working and at their PS plugins. I use their workflow for
    my scanned images and get the best balanced and "natural" colors, without the extra saturation and strange wizardries all other software
    do to the processed files.
    Now they also have a workflow for digital RAW file processing.

    http://www.c-f-systems.com/Phototips.html#completeintegrity

    Even a bare reading of their documentation is worth considering.

    And no, I' not in any business relation with them.
     
  22. Tom, just take a garishly colored image (if you have one handy) and try it yourself. It takes about 15 seconds. (Edit) Sorry Tom saw your other posts on the topic. I'll see if I can pop something when I get home from work. I didn't realize you already know this method.
     
  23. Here's two, brought straight in with no white balance or any color correction, just the b/w layer at opacity 50%.
    00bveG-542037584.jpg
     
  24. Second one with the b/w layer
    00bveH-542037684.jpg
     
  25. and screwing around a little more. Not very good, trying some color balancing and hue/saturation.
    00bvew-542038184.jpg
     
  26. It's been so long since I used an editor with layers I'd forgotten how handy it can be for some things. I've been using Lightroom 4.4 almost exclusively for the past year. The monochrome layer with the screen option set to around 35-60% translucency creates a look reminiscent of bleach bypass. It would look better if I'd done this on the original hi-rez versions rather than the lo-rez JPEGs I had handy, but it's close enough.
    Thanks for the reminder, Ian, this will come in handy for a few portraits I've been mulling over from this maternity session.
    [​IMG]
     
  27. I think there is a major difference between each of us in this thread w.r.t. how we interpret the OP's request.
    I am trying to match the look of the skin and the backgrounds in the example images cited by the OP, particularly, the 1st example he cited. As far as I can tell on my calibrated monitor, my 2nd tweaked version comes very close to doing this, with Tim's WB + Split Toning version in 2nd place. IMHO, the other examples posted are not even close to the examples cited by the OP.
    In contrast, I suspect that the goal of Barry, Lex, and probably Ian was to try to satisfy the OP's written description of what he wants: "...colors (that) are comfortable, muted and bright at the same time...", and I think they certainly did this. If this had been my intent, then I would also strongly consider using the "Blend-with-a-B&W-version" technique instead of the "Blend-with-a-brown-layer" technique that I actually suggested.
    Put differently, IMHO, the OP's written description is at odds with the example images he cited. For example, to me, "muted" means low saturation. However, the skin in the first example the OP cited is hardly low saturation. For example the middle of the forehead of his 1st cited example the saturation is running around 50-55% (using PS's image info palette with the 2nd readout set to HSB, eyedropper set to 11x11px). The center of the forehead on my 2nd tweaked version is exactly in the same range. The sat of the same or similar areas on Barry's and Lex's most recent tweaked versions are 20-25%, and 12-25%, respectively.
    The same sort of discrepancy occurs with the brightness or luminosity readouts: He said he wanted "bright", but the skin in his 1st example is mid-tone. I'm dead on, and Barry and Lex have much brighter skin.
    In other words, you guys gave him what he said he wanted, I gave him a close approximation to the (1st) image that he said he liked.
    Group hug! LOL!
    Tom
    PS - As a kinda interesting side note, I consider both of our techniques to be related to the semi-standard / famous, "porcelain skin" technique of blending an image with a white layer (sat = 0), and making heavy use of the BlendIF sliders. I blended with a solid brown layer, Barry & Lex with a sat=0 version of the base image.
    PPS - Sorry, Tim ... didn't mean to exclude you from the above, but since you were working in ACR and I don't know exactly how the split toning in ACR works, I couldn't say much about your method except that it was definitely on the right track, at least by my interpretation of what we were supposed to be doing. LOL.
     
  28. You know, there are so many ways to approach this problem, from my point of view, none of these examples really have what I would consider accurate realistic looking skin tones, closest being Tim's left side diptych. The B/W is one way to get to a certain place, not necessarily the best. It depends on what you want. There's also white balance, color balance, hue/saturation, vibrance etc., etc. I actually am trying to learn more about getting natural looking skin tones for some of the stuff I do, and its really hit or miss. Of course the one thing I do feel strongly about is, the better you have the lighting, the less you have to mess with it if you are just trying to get a "natural" look.
     
  29. "...none of these examples really have what I would consider accurate realistic looking skin tones..."
    Ain't that the truth. ;-) . Nor do I think that's what the OP really wants, given the images he cited as good examples.
    "...I do feel strongly about is, the better you have the lighting, the less you have to mess with it if you are just trying to get a "natural" look..."
    I fully second that sentiment.
    Cheers,
    Tom M
     
  30. Show us by applying to one of your images, Phil,​
    Forget it, Tim, but give me a few days and I'll let you know what the client says.
     
  31. I'd stay away from Levels and Selective color. Learn how to use your Curves. All plugins do is do the same things that can be done in PS, they just offer different ways of visualizing it. Even in ACR there is this attempt at obfuscating what is going on so that you are dependent on their tools.
    Start with the scan and make sure you keep it flat there. Then you can add as much contrast as you want after in PS. A flat image is one where the curve is raised at the bottom end (lessening the black) and lowered on the top end, darkening the highlights. This is a simplification, of course, but that's where you start... Then you can make sure to separate tones so they can be adjusted in PS. In the scan step one is not trying to make it look like you want the print you want, you are trying to "make the print possible".
    Don't worry so much about perfect color. A curve can adjust colors all over the place with very little work. You can also use Hue/Saturation for getting those skin tones just right.
    Nothing like learning the basics. Keep it up, defining what you want is the first step...
     
  32. Phil, IMHO, a request / suggestion to give an example of a technique is both prudent and reasonable. You shouldn't be offended.
    As you know, there are lots of people on the internet who give absolutely horrible advice on technical matters. They waste other people's time and energy at absolutely no cost to themselves. Some of the more perverse ones even enjoy doing this. People reading this thread, both now and in the future, aren't going to do a background check of our previous postings, our portfolios, etc. to find out how technically credible each of us is.
    However, by supplying a simple example (with enough details so the results can be reproduced), your suggestion immediately gains tremendous credibility. Right now, it looks like your were scared off by the request for an example, whereas other folks in this thread didn't hesitate to go out on a limb, posting the best results they have to support their technique. If the reason you didn't want to post an example was because of privacy issues, just pixellate part of the face or grab a shot of your dog and process that in the way you suggest.
    Just my $0.02,
    Tom M
    PS - Think about this: In almost all professional journals, if the paper you want published doesn't contain results and a detailed explanation of your methodology, your article won't make it past the secretary who opens the mail. These are mandatory sections in almost all professional journals. The reason for this is exactly the same as what I outlined above.
     
  33. PPS - If the problem is that your time is limited, just say so. Everyone understands that. What most people can't stand is someone who seems to feel that their advice should not be questioned.
     
  34. . . . posting the best results they have to support their technique.​
    Well, you may be stretching your point a little :)
     
  35. I'm trying to look at statements like these from the perspective of a newcomer to photo.net, or perhaps an experienced professional photographer who has only a little time to offer an occasional suggestion:
    "Show us by applying to one of your images, Phil, so others can see how this is going to come in handy. I see no use for it at this point. I've tried it on a number of images and it doesn't deliver desirable results.
    Please show us. I want to learn something new."​
    and...
    "Phil, IMHO, a request / suggestion to give an example of a technique is both prudent and reasonable. You shouldn't be offended."​
    and...
    "What most people can't stand is someone who seems to feel that their advice should not be questioned."​
    Tim, and Tom, the problem here is that the "invitation" to support opinions with examples sound less like an friendly invitation and more like a prickly "put up or shut up" dare.
    And that is precisely the problem with photo.net.

    I took a few months off after April to reevaluate my position and to gain some distance and, hopefully, objectivity. I spent less time discussing the nuts and bolts of photography and more time on photography itself, particularly documentary.
    When I revisited photo.net last week I'd hope it was with a refreshed and more positive outlook. But what I read in this thread only serves to reinforce my earlier impression. Photo.net feels unwelcoming to newcomers, discouraging to experienced photographers who occasionally venture an opinion or suggestion, and just generally toxic.
    This entire site is in need of an intervention, a makeover and a serious attitude adjustment.
     
  36. Tom- I must admit my rather snarky response to Tim was predicated on a misreading of the posts and sometimes confusing the two of you in the middle of those posts. My regrets and apologies to both of you.
    As for posting an example, learning is accomplished not only through observation, but through experience as well. My example will be meaningless to anyone who has already dismissed the technique through either or both of those processes. On the other hand, my poor example may discourage someone who might otherwise have attempted the technique on their own and added to their repertoire.
    My only purpose in posting was to thank Ian for a technique that I might find useful in some of my own work. Anyone with an appropriate image editor can take the ninety seconds necessary to try it on their own images and see if it might be helpful for them.

    From left to right: original image with camera portrait profile and +12 applied in Lightroom 5, exported with standard screen sharpening. Duplicate layer in PS CC and converted to black and white, opacity 25-30-ish. Hue/Saturation layer with hue @ +12, opacity again 20-30-ish. Applied Smart Sharpen to fabric somewhere in there.
    I don't know why I posted them this way. If anyone wants, I'll try to find time over the next few days to post larger samples of each. (OT: Looking ahead through the weekend. Limited time? I quit my job a month ago to pursue this, uh, thing, and I haven't stopped working since I walked out the door. Well, it beats working for the Man.)
    00bvoX-542053584.jpg
     
  37. Tim, and Tom, the problem here is that the "invitation" to support opinions with examples sound less like an friendly invitation and more like a prickly "put up or shut up" dare.​
    Lex, I think you've been away too long. I don't share your opinion that there's a problem with learning through visual examples how one post processing tip works better on one type of image over another.
    However, I don't think it was wise of Tom to rate each other's input. That's up to the OP and so far that dude's a no show. That's the real problem.
    Toxic? Are you sure it's not just thin skin egos of photographers, pro or amateur who don't want to teach?
     
  38. This entire site is in need of an intervention, a makeover and a serious attitude adjustment.​
    If you don't like the atmosphere/attitude you seem to be gleaming out of thin air from this thread, Lex, why did you participate?
    You really are taking this way too serious.
    I welcome anyone's judgement and critique on what I posted. Tear it up, spit on it, trash it, but for god's sake don't keep silent. It doesn't hurt me to be criticized. I don't understand why others can't feel the same way.
     
  39. My only purpose in posting was to thank Ian for a technique that I might find useful in some of my own work. Anyone with an appropriate image editor can take the ninety seconds necessary to try it on their own images and see if it might be helpful for them.

    From left to right: original image with camera portrait profile and +12 applied in Lightroom 5, exported with standard screen sharpening. Duplicate layer in PS CC and converted to black and white, opacity 25-30-ish. Hue/Saturation layer with hue @ +12, opacity again 20-30-ish. Applied Smart Sharpen to fabric somewhere in there.​
    But that's not Ian's technique which was a simple B&W Layer w/opacity adjust.
    Your's is a bit more involved which is quite useful on its own and adds more to the discussion. Never thought to use the Hue/Sat layer. I tried to apply the Screen blend mode Lex suggested on one of my images and had to apply a duplicate background layer set to Multiply adjusting opacity to darken while still reducing saturation. The Screen blend worked for Lex's image because his started out with less overall contrast and on the pastel side so he could be aggressive reducing opacity.
    And that's the whole point about examples in discussions like this which is to show when one technique works for one image rendering style but doesn't on another. It requires postings of when it doesn't work.
    My initial ACR SplitTone technique on my first post didn't do so well applying to other images, but all I had to do is hit ACR's Auto and it rearranged the tone distribution where I got unexpected and desirable surprises that the OP wouldn't have wanted so I didn't see the point of posting.
    I'm assuming others here don't post examples because of this difficulty finding an image where their particular technique will work. It would be helpful if that was indicated instead of taking things too personal.
    Where's B L?
     
  40. it

    it

    you can always lower saturation and boost contrast, that's an easy one too
     
  41. Perhaps we should table all this meta-discussion and return to the OP's initial question and hope he returns to clarify the issue that IMHO has triggered some of the more recent discussion. Specifically, I still am not sure if I / we should:
    (a) focus on the example images he cited (eg, light skinned subjects made darker and given a brown color cast);
    (b) try to interpret his written description for what he wants (which seems to be at variance with his examples); or,
    (c) just open the floodgates (as has been done) to the practically infinite number of ways one can adjust the saturation and tonal values of an image with little or no reference to the OP's question.
    Obviously, I'm not a big fan of choice (c), especially for a thread started by someone with only 3 postings on P-N. However, I would be happy to participate in a separate, more wide-ranging thread titled something like, "Different ways to adjust the look of skin" where all these other possibilities could be discussed and demonstrated.
    Just my $0.02,
    Tom
     
  42. Obviously, I'm not a big fan of choice (c), especially for a thread started by someone with only 3 postings on P-N. However, I would be happy to participate in a separate, more wide-ranging thread titled something like, "Different ways to adjust the look of skin" where all these other possibilities could be discussed and demonstrated.​
    DOH! I forgot to look at the OP's number of posts in his/her PN profile. I always miss that.
    Tom, what do you think this implies about the OP? A troll? Guess it doesn't matter at this point. As far as I'm concerned the OP's no longer relevant since it's clear the entire subject is of no interest to him/her enough to at least thank the contributors here for their time and effort.
    Tom, "Different Ways To Adjust The Look Of Skin" seems too limiting since what you do to skin affects the other elements in any given scene unless you get into a complicated selective editing routine.
    How's this?..."Different Approaches to Digital Color Grading" which is what we're doing here. At least that's what the movie industry calls it.
     
  43. Tom, what do you think this implies about the OP? A troll? Guess it doesn't matter at this point. As far as I'm concerned the OP's no longer relevant since it's clear the entire subject is of no interest to him/her enough to at least thank the contributors here for their time and effort.​
    Hi Tim - It could be that he forgot where he posted his question, got an answer he liked in another forum, got scared off by the technical jargon used by the people who responded, or almost anything. As with a lot of request-for-help threads by P-N newbies, the discussion they spur among the more experienced members is often more enlightening than the original question.
    Tom, "Different Ways To Adjust The Look Of Skin" seems too limiting since what you do to skin affects the other elements in any given scene unless you get into a complicated selective editing routine.
    How's this?..."Different Approaches to Digital Color Grading" which is what we're doing here. At least that's what the movie industry calls it.​
    That's a very good comment, especially the part about unintended side effects. Probably thinking along the same lines as you, I also went through a few different possible titles before I posted my suggestion. Even knowing that there would always be (good and bad) side efx of any processing, I intentionally didn't go broader in scope than "skin" because I felt that such side effects would inevitably be discussed even if the goal was just the skin, and I didn't want to open the discussion up to everything under the sun. Heck, almost anything global thing you do in PS changes colors and tones.
    But, I'm easy to please. I'll go along with almost any more general discussion title as long as we're not trying to respond to a specific request for help. That being said, my wife and I are heading out of town for a weekend in a B&B in the middle of "Nowhere, PA" that doesn't even have cell phone coverage, so, if you start such a thread, I may be a bit late joining in the fun.
    Cheers,
    T
    PS - I liked your phrase, "Digital Color Grading". I've heard it, but it hasn't really entered my vocabulary.
     
  44. I liked your phrase, "Digital Color Grading". I've heard it, but it hasn't really entered my vocabulary.​
    At the 5:00 mark in this video...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pla_pd1uatg
    ...shows a good before and after of your color grade technique applied to a color rich film negative. Other frames of the video keep some of the color but reduce saturation. Unfortunately they're using quite expensive digital color grading equipment and software.
    It was the first film to use totally digital color grading. Cinematographer Roger Deacon liked it so it can't be all bad. I didn't care much for the look of that film because it looked too "filtery" like I was watching it through tan tinted sunglasses.
     

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