Real world example - lifting shadows

Started May 10, 2012 | Discussions
Lucas Jarvis
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Real world example - lifting shadows
May 10, 2012

There has been a lot of talk lately about pulling shadows since Fred Miranda posted a side by side comparisons of the 5DMKIII vs. D800. Many are arguing that there is no practical use for lifting shadows +5 stops and I have to agree, that's a bit extreme, but I think people are just using these extreme measurements to really show the difference these cameras have from one another.

I've demonstrated in another post that my own 5DMKII files shows vertical banding when lifting as little as 1 stop. It will be fine for most applications but when printing large it might be a concern. When you starting lifting 2+ stops it becomes more apparent and less and less usable.

I thought I would post a before and after photo to show when lifting shadows might be useful for those who can't seem to think of a situation where it might come in handy. I'm not talking about the shadows slider here, just plain old 'dodging' which in essence is lifting the shadows.

I've had these photos saved from a few years ago taken on the original 5D. What surprised me when I looked back at these, NO BANDING. The original 5D produces very smooth files that are clean and ready for doding and burning. That's beside the point though, as I'm posting to demonstrate that dodging is a common workflow procedure and comes up in real world situations that I personally encounter. I'm sure there are select fields of photography that also encounter the need for dodging. It is one of the oldest techniques used in the darkroom. Other select fields of photography will have techniques to overcome any need for dodging ie light modifiers, grad filters.

Before I post, I'd like to mention that I am a wedding photographer who rarely uses flash or light modifiers. That's just my style and I have no issues with others who choose to use these. I prefer a more unobtrusive approach on peoples wedding days and capturing moments as they happen, rather than tedious set ups.

The following shot was taken with a semi diffused backlit sky. This example is not even an extreme example by any means as the lighting conditions were not harsh with limits in dynamic range. On the contrary there is only a few stops difference between the highlights and the shadows, the couple just happen to be in the shadows as it was the most ideal spot to place them to showcase the other features around them (boat, ocean, sky). The actual light hitting them was diffused and perfect, despite it being a few stops under exposed compared to the rest of the scene in the frame.

I've exposed to the right to make sure that the sky detail doesn't get blown out. I'll point it out before everyone else does that I could have upped my exposure by half a stop for a true exposure to the right. Regardless, here is a situation where I would like to preserve the magnificent detail in the sky, while at the same time eventually dodge the area where the couple sit to create a more balanced photo. The 'before' doesn't represent what my eye saw, far from it, while the after is more close to what that moment looked like to me, especially when left to my imagination in remembering it.

In the end, it was very important for me to be able to dodge with ultra clean results to get the final result I wanted. Clean shadow noise really is important to some people and I believe there is legitimate use in comparing one camera to the next if it means one camera might get better results for a person.

So without further wait, here is the before and after:

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Lucas

mischivo
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I prefer the first shot
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

The first image is much better than the second, which has that overcooked look, because it is. If you wanted their faces to be brighter, you could've seated the couple more or less a vertically mirrored position. Such a position would open their faces to the source of light to the left.
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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: I prefer the first shot
In reply to mischivo, May 10, 2012

mischivo wrote:

The first image is much better than the second

I knew I'd get a few of these. Your opinion is fine, but it's a comment on personal taste and has nothing to do with the technical aspect of the thread.

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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: I prefer the first shot
In reply to mischivo, May 10, 2012

Mischivo wrote:
Such a position would open their faces to the source of light to the left.
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You will see the brightest point is the left side of the grooms face which is being hit direct, the light source is actually behind and left. It's backlit as described in the original post.

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Lucas

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GaryJP
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

Lucas Jarvis wrote:

I've had these photos saved from a few years ago taken on the original 5D. What surprised me when I looked back at these, NO BANDING. The original 5D produces very smooth files that are clean and ready for doding and burning.

I have to say that my original 5D does have banding and my 5D MkIII does not. At least not any I've discerned so far, and I have pushed shadows.

I still think that if your shot was in RAW you could have got a lighter exposure without losing sky detail. I don't see a huge dynamic range in this cloudy day.

I have no objection to the processed look of the second picture. Wedding photos of this kind are usually desired to look romantic, which already requires modification. And it does that.

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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to GaryJP, May 10, 2012

GaryJP wrote:

I have to say that my original 5D does have banding and my 5D MkIII does not. At least not any I've discerned so far, and I have pushed shadows.

I haven't done many comparisons so you may have better info than me. I just noticed there was no banding in this particular shot. I went back to the RAW to have a look. I never remembered my 5D having much vertical banding, although a bit more noise.

I still think that if your shot was in RAW you could have got a lighter exposure without losing sky detail. I don't see a huge dynamic range in this cloudy day.

Agreed. I pointed out that I could have upped my exposure 1/2 a stop for a true exposure to the right. Another reason for clean shadows I suppose as 1/2 a stop is well within the limits of error. Keeping the highlights a bit away from the absolute limit helps with colour rendition when burning them later.

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Lucas

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Danny Williams
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

I have to agree that the second image is over cooked. I get what you were trying to accomplish, but you pushed it too far. It's a very fine line between a natural look and something just over the top.

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Blake Cook
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What is it none of you understand?
In reply to mischivo, May 10, 2012

The photo is no more than a demonstration of capabilities. The photo and photo aesthetics has nothing to do with the OP's point.
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rwbaron
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

I understand your point in posting this but I don't think some are going to see this as a good example. Yes, the image can benefit from some dodging of the couple but it's a small amount and they're not in deep shadow to begin with.

Also, do I understand you're working with the JPEG file? If so, and I never work with JPEG's myself, I don't believe you'll see banding in a JPEG as that information is clipped by the limited 8 bit range of the JPEG format. The banding that would be present in the lowest bits of information is clipped off to black.

That said, IMO your example is representative of the more typical correction one needs when they have something close to the proper exposure to begin with and also captured the image in good (pleasing or interesting or flattering) light.

Some of these arguments over shadow lifting are really a difference in photographic style. Yes, some cameras are better than others at doing so but some photographers don't see (want) an image with detail in all areas of the shadows. Different strokes and I personally like the rendering from both images but would prefer something in-between with maybe a bit of dodging just on the couple's face and upper body. I'd like to see that horizon straightened too but I know that would mess with the couple's position.

Bob

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ultimitsu
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Re: I prefer the first shot
In reply to mischivo, May 10, 2012

mischivo wrote:

The first image is much better than the second, which has that overcooked look, because it is. If you wanted their faces to be brighter, you could've seated the couple more or less a vertically mirrored position. Such a position would open their faces to the source of light to the left.

you are right it is a bit overcooked, but that has nothing to do with the nature of the exercise, rather to do with OP's taste for PP.

I do not think this whole "if you wanted that result, you should have got them to ..." approach is useful. the pose in OP's images are great and a good tool should be able to capture this pose as it is and produce a good image.

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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: What is it none of you understand?
In reply to Blake Cook, May 10, 2012

Blake Cook wrote:

The photo is no more than a demonstration of capabilities. The photo and photo aesthetics has nothing to do with the OP's point.
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Thanks Blake, you're correct. I find it's a bad habit around DPR forums to get off topic and not discuss the original point.

Wether someone likes the effect or not is irrelevant. The technique is widely used in the professional world. Just have a look at the top ten wedding photographers in the world:

http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2011/05/top-10-wedding-photographers

And also the finalists for World Press Photo

http://www.worldpressphoto.org/gallery/2012-world-press-photo

A lot of them use this technique of heavy dodging and burning. If we can at least get past that it is a viable method for post production we can get past wether or not is suites your taste, as it become irrelevant to my original point.

If I could make an analogy. If there is a thread posted on how a camera handles fill flash, I wouldn't go and say "I don't like fill flash" as a contribution to the thread. I would recognise that fill flash has very legitimate use for certain people and just leave it.
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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to rwbaron, May 10, 2012

rwbaron wrote:

Yes, the image can benefit from some dodging of the couple but it's a small amount and they're not in deep shadow to begin with.

I've mentioned that even 1 stop of dodging causes this banding (I referred to another post where I gave a demonstration) and stated that 2 stops of dodging would really compromise a larger print.

Also, do I understand you're working with the JPEG file?

No, RAW.

That said, IMO your example is representative of the more typical correction one needs when they have something close to the proper exposure to begin with and also captured the image in good (pleasing or interesting or flattering) light.

Exactly my point, it doesn't have to be +5 stops of shadow lifting to see it's effect, it's just what people have chosen to use as a demonstration in the past. Two stops of shadow lifting will cause banding on my 5D MKII.

Some of these arguments over shadow lifting are really a difference in photographic style. Yes, some cameras are better than others at doing so but some photographers don't see (want) an image with detail in all areas of the shadows.

You are correct. But for those that do, they should be able to argue it's usefulness without someone who sees no use in it arguing that it's a useless feature. It's useless to them, they need to see past their own photographic needs.

I don't argue about features that are useless to me if I recognise that someone else may have a use for it. If the feature in some ways compromises my way of shooting, I may have a problem with it.

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Lucas

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kevindar
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exposed to the left you may mean
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

lucas, a couple of things.

first off, you mean expose to the left right? b/c that what you have done here. expose to the right means that you have some blown highlights before you pull back the highlights, and honestly, you have far more than 1/2 stop, in fact more than one stop room here for additional exposure. this will certainly not qualify as expose to the right.

Second, the degree of dodging on the guys face is easily worth about 3 stops. easily. In fact, I had to increase the exposure value by about 4 stops to get the brightness in the shadow part of the face of the guy to match your post image.

all that said, I am not arguing that having cleaner shadows is not useful. you just started talking about how you get banding with even one stop and definitely by 2 stops. this is not 1 or 2 stops.
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johnclark747
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Re: Real world example - lifting shadows
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

I like the second photo more. It captures my attention and makes me look a second time.

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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: exposed to the left you may mean
In reply to kevindar, May 10, 2012

kevindar wrote:

first off, you mean expose to the left right? b/c that what you have done here. expose to the right means that you have some blown highlights before you pull back the highlights, and honestly, you have far more than 1/2 stop, in fact more than one stop room here for additional exposure. this will certainly not qualify as expose to the right.

No, I meant expose to the right and I'm not confused. Hehe. I've gone back to the RAW to find an exact figure as my 1/2 a stop was just an estimate, my apologies. When turning on my clipping, I can add at additional +.65 before the red channel starts to clip on the boat.

Therefore this image is .65 of a stop from exposing to the right. Still within acceptable fault range I would say.

Second, the degree of dodging on the guys face is easily worth about 3 stops. easily. In fact, I had to increase the exposure value by about 4 stops to get the brightness in the shadow part of the face of the guy to match your post image.

Regarding his face. I have to add 2 1/2 stops to the RAW file using ACR to get him to the same exposure in the final jpg. Maybe adjusting a jpg is giving unusual numbers for you. This illustrates my point even more anyway that I would need to doge 2 1/2 stops in a scene with very even lighting. Seems high doesn't it? Factor in my .65 margin of error on exposing to the right and this very flat scene required a dodge of 1 2/3 stops.

all that said, I am not arguing that having cleaner shadows is not useful. you just started talking about how you get banding with even one stop and definitely by 2 stops. this is not 1 or 2 stops.

My reference to banding in 1 stop, and then definitely by 2 stops was in reference to an example posted in another thread. It was in reference to the 5D MKII, where as this post has an example of a post from the Original 5D. If it were taken with the MKII, I would expect to see banding.

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Brad Durack
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this proves one thing
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

that you want a 5d3, or are trying to justify not getting one

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kevindar
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Re: exposed to the left you may mean
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

Lucas, are you using LR? the point of clipping depends on your picture style. are you using neutral? are you using a linear curve? the red channel has very little value in the sky it seems in this image. I am very interested in seeing your raw file.
Interestingly in your processed image, there are some hot spots in the sky.

The dodging of the face is not uniform, there is a lumi gradient on the face of the groom which exist to a much lesser extent in the processed one. so the deep shadows are being lifted much more. that much said, I do agree the changes in the jpeg in terms of exposure and raw are two different things, so I will go with your 2.65 stops, or whatever it was.

I also think if you are going through this much trouble to get the subject right, you are better off overexposing the sky a little bit, and repairing it (simply paining or cloning in the blown out area), than having to do 2.5 stops of dodging on the face, with inevitable color shifts, esp in skin tones that follows, as well as noise, in the most important part of the image.

That much said, as I said before, as a landscape photographer, I am all for more dynamic range.

Lucas Jarvis wrote:

kevindar wrote:

first off, you mean expose to the left right? b/c that what you have done here. expose to the right means that you have some blown highlights before you pull back the highlights, and honestly, you have far more than 1/2 stop, in fact more than one stop room here for additional exposure. this will certainly not qualify as expose to the right.

No, I meant expose to the right and I'm not confused. Hehe. I've gone back to the RAW to find an exact figure as my 1/2 a stop was just an estimate, my apologies. When turning on my clipping, I can add at additional +.65 before the red channel starts to clip on the boat.

Therefore this image is .65 of a stop from exposing to the right. Still within acceptable fault range I would say.

Second, the degree of dodging on the guys face is easily worth about 3 stops. easily. In fact, I had to increase the exposure value by about 4 stops to get the brightness in the shadow part of the face of the guy to match your post image.

Regarding his face. I have to add 2 1/2 stops to the RAW file using ACR to get him to the same exposure in the final jpg. Maybe adjusting a jpg is giving unusual numbers for you. This illustrates my point even more anyway that I would need to doge 2 1/2 stops in a scene with very even lighting. Seems high doesn't it? Factor in my .65 margin of error on exposing to the right and this very flat scene required a dodge of 1 2/3 stops.

all that said, I am not arguing that having cleaner shadows is not useful. you just started talking about how you get banding with even one stop and definitely by 2 stops. this is not 1 or 2 stops.

My reference to banding in 1 stop, and then definitely by 2 stops was in reference to an example posted in another thread. It was in reference to the 5D MKII, where as this post has an example of a post from the Original 5D. If it were taken with the MKII, I would expect to see banding.

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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: this proves one thing
In reply to Brad Durack, May 10, 2012

I'm not coming up with a 'justification not to get something' and then desperately trying to find faults to back me up. That's bad science and reverse methodology.

This is completely a response to evidence first. First I look at evidence, and then I make a conclusion, followed by a decision. Good science.

Brad Durack wrote:

that you want a 5d3, or are trying to justify not getting one

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Brad Durack
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Re: this proves one thing
In reply to Lucas Jarvis, May 10, 2012

of topic, how much time did you invest into post to get this result?
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Lucas Jarvis
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Re: exposed to the left you may mean
In reply to kevindar, May 10, 2012

kevindar wrote:

Lucas, are you using LR? the point of clipping depends on your picture style. are you using neutral? are you using a linear curve? the red channel has very little value in the sky it seems in this image. I am very interested in seeing your raw file.

I've tried what you suggested. I've brought it into Lightroom instead of ACR in Photoshop and picked Camera Neutral as the profile. Turning on clipping and increasing the exposure I get it up to +.95. Thanks this clarifies things.

Interestingly in your processed image, there are some hot spots in the sky.

Haha, I can't explain that. A little dodge and burn without checking my clippings perhaps? This was done over two years ago remember.

The dodging of the face is not uniform, there is a lumi gradient on the face of the groom which exist to a much lesser extent in the processed one. so the deep shadows are being lifted much more. that much said, I do agree the changes in the jpeg in terms of exposure and raw are two different things, so I will go with your 2.65 stops, or whatever it was.

No, I think you're right, the very darkest area of his face looks like it might be more around +3 after comparing just that side of the face. I've used various size brushes for the dodge and removed the lumi gradient as you put it.

I also think if you are going through this much trouble to get the subject right, you are better off overexposing the sky a little bit, and repairing it (simply paining or cloning in the blown out area), than having to do 2.5 stops of dodging on the face, with inevitable color shifts, esp in skin tones that follows, as well as noise, in the most important part of the image.

Agreed. This is not the exposure I normally go for. I actually tend to try to expose for nailing the exposure on the face in most situations so that as little dodge and burn in those areas are necessary in post. I'll sacrifice this for a little clipping here and there. If I'm shooting out in the sun however where I know I'll be using ISO 100 (great lifting ability) I'll tend to leave my exposure comp at 0 which usually underexposes just a bit. This way I have great colour detail preserved in a sky I might want to burn in later.

That much said, as I said before, as a landscape photographer, I am all for more dynamic range.

Word.

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