A dialogue about colors.....

Started 9 months ago | Discussions
Ben Herrmann
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A dialogue about colors.....
9 months ago

As most of us do, we tend to evaluate cameras based on the "colors" that they can produce and it is here where a healthy debate can take place - and it all centers around preferences.

But before I delve into the quest for the ultimate in colors, let me draw a quick analogy with those of us who are (or were) audiophiles as we pursued the ultimate accuracy in sound.

You think photographers are a demanding bunch?  They don't even compare to the likes of hard core audiophiles and their ongoing quest to find the holy grail of sound (to quote Harry Pearson - HP - from the Absolute Sound magazine years ago).  When you converse or sit with other Audiophiles and listen to music through the likes of Conrad Johnson Tube Amplifiers, or Krell electronics - with sound running through speaker cables as thick as some sausages - all leading to $10,000 - $15,000 (USD) speaker systems such as KEF, B&W, Martin Logan, IMF, etc, you wind up hearing a whole new language being spoken.

References to "air around the instruments," "dimensionality," "imaging," "ying vs yang," "lack of coloration,"....and the best one yet, "the veil has been lifted from the music!!!!"  All of this in the endless quest to find music that is pure, realistic (read "accurate"), and projecting a true-to-life sound stage with front-to-rear and side-to-side imaging (you can pick out the location of the instruments with your eyes closed).  If all of this sounds familiar in a way, it's because we as photographers - in particular, those who prefer Olympus gear because of the "colors" use similar terms (with different meanings of course).

Although I prefer my music reproduction as being accurate and dynamic, I can't say that's the case when it comes to photography.  I find myself being drawn to dynamic colors, that may not necessarily represent reality.  Heck, if all we're looking for is reality when it comes to capturing images, then many a photo would come off as lackluster or uninspiring. That's why when I see arguments on various forums about which colors are the best, I try to steer clear because I realize that color preferences are just that - preferences!

I can remember several years ago we took a trip to the mountains in the Fall.  All I could think about before hand were the autumn colors - the reds, the golds....all with a rich blue sky above.  But what we experienced were semi-hazy days which robbed many a scene of its colors (and skies were whitish).  Dang it, I thought, this can't be.  After all, I want to show the Olympus colors!  This can't be happening - I don't want reality in this case, I wanted an imagined setting, and I went about getting it in post processing.  And since I typically only shoot in RAW mode, I spent some time in post processing, achieving the look I wanted (imagined?).  I got the colors right, managed to erase the haze, and wound up with images that looked out of a National Geographic magazine.  But was I right in doing so - was it reality?  Obviously not and I guess that's not a bad thing.

So how many of you look for pure reality, and how many would rather have images that placate our imagination with scenes that impress (even though in reality they didn't look that way to begin with)?  I'll be honest here, one of the reason I like Olympus colors (followed by Fuji colors) is that it fills my desire to have images that cause folks to stop and look.  We all have perceived realities, whether in all reality that is true to form or not.

So what say you?

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Have a great one....
Bernd (Ben) W. Herrmann
North Carolina, USA
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JiminDenver
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In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Try telling a collector or even worse, a artist that color isn't important.

I like Oly colors and prefer to do as little post processing as possible.

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mariomirabile
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

There are so may variables in the color reproduction chain - different monitors (some calibrated, others not), different applications used to display the image, different printing technologies, different printers and profiles - that I just try for "pleasing" color in my images. Pleasing to me in any case.

Given that I only have control over that within the limited ecosystem comprising my PC and printer, that's all I can really aim for. I find the whole issue "Oly" colours somewhat confusing. When I shhot JPEG - which isn't all that often - I get different color responses from each of my E-1, E-30 and E-5, and when I had an E-500, that was different again. So which set of "Oly" colors are people so fond of?

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PaulM2
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Hi Ben,

Interesting post.

I PP all my pictures as I enjoy all the things that can be accomplished now days.

I come from a film background and the many hours spent in a darkroom, both with B&W and Color.

I shoot now days with digital and mainly in RAW. I use three different pieces of RAW developer software which provide three different results due to the way they are setup.

So when it comes to color and the brand of camera/sensor. I can make the image look somewhat what I like.

I normally PP to try and get the image to look as I remember the scene, not always correctly. I then save that image as a new file name. Now that original Raw file may be re-done again and again, based on the subject mater. Some times a crop or all the changes that can be pushed resulting in a very different image. Again saved with a new file name. If nothing else this system is great for filling up a hard drive, but I always have the original RAW file and I had a good time playing..

Generally when I do a backup, I do a review of the images. At times I notice that work done on a given day is just to much in PP. I then decide to keep or delete. The point here is that I think a person changes on what appeals to them, from day to day, or week to week?

I take pictures to please me. What I like, you and others may think as over processed. I like my image to be sharp, some what with a bit of contrast and when it comes to color, I found out in my very early days (back in the late 40's as a beta tester for Kodak) (still in school) that we all do not see colors the same and also what the surrounding area had effected its shade. Now with digital programs in our computers we can assign a number to that color.

Going to stop here before I do some damage to the old head, but I enjoyed reading your post.

Paul

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Brad Ross
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In reply to PaulM2, 9 months ago

.I believe we do all see things the same, it would not make sense in evolution that every perceives something different, , , I do not believe we actually see  things differently, but as to colors, I think some of us enjoy some colors more than others, and some like more subtle contrast, and others enhance the parts we enjoy most,

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John King
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Gidday Ben & All

I must confess to be something of a purist about colour. I often photograph objects such as cars, and am forcibly reminded every day what the colour actually is/was. So I try to end up with a print that does not do violence to my sensibilities when viewed alongside the original object, be it a car, a flower, whatever. Photographing my wife's ceramics (etc) for magazines and web sites more or less forces this on me in any event.

A lot of time, effort and money has gone into my being able to routinely achieve this.

Understanding colour and colour management is a start.

Having an adequate monitor and video card is essential, as is routinely calibrating the video card.

Having a decent printer, using OEM inks and good papers with the correct colour profile at every step of the way is also essential.

Getting the exposure as "correct" as possible in camera helps enormously, or is essential if you are as picky as I am, or even more so, my wife ... .

Equally, I have not the slightest problem with those who want to play with their images in PP to get a "look" that suits them. Each to their own ... . After all, it's their image!

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Wu Jiaqiu
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Ben Herrmann wrote:

As most of us do, we tend to evaluate cameras based on the "colors" that they can produce and it is here where a healthy debate can take place - and it all centers around preferences.

But before I delve into the quest for the ultimate in colors, let me draw a quick analogy with those of us who are (or were) audiophiles as we pursued the ultimate accuracy in sound.

You think photographers are a demanding bunch? They don't even compare to the likes of hard core audiophiles and their ongoing quest to find the holy grail of sound (to quote Harry Pearson - HP - from the Absolute Sound magazine years ago). When you converse or sit with other Audiophiles and listen to music through the likes of Conrad Johnson Tube Amplifiers, or Krell electronics - with sound running through speaker cables as thick as some sausages - all leading to $10,000 - $15,000 (USD) speaker systems such as KEF, B&W, Martin Logan, IMF, etc, you wind up hearing a whole new language being spoken.

References to "air around the instruments," "dimensionality," "imaging," "ying vs yang," "lack of coloration,"....and the best one yet, "the veil has been lifted from the music!!!!" All of this in the endless quest to find music that is pure, realistic (read "accurate"), and projecting a true-to-life sound stage with front-to-rear and side-to-side imaging (you can pick out the location of the instruments with your eyes closed). If all of this sounds familiar in a way, it's because we as photographers - in particular, those who prefer Olympus gear because of the "colors" use similar terms (with different meanings of course).

Although I prefer my music reproduction as being accurate and dynamic, I can't say that's the case when it comes to photography. I find myself being drawn to dynamic colors, that may not necessarily represent reality. Heck, if all we're looking for is reality when it comes to capturing images, then many a photo would come off as lackluster or uninspiring. That's why when I see arguments on various forums about which colors are the best, I try to steer clear because I realize that color preferences are just that - preferences!

I can remember several years ago we took a trip to the mountains in the Fall. All I could think about before hand were the autumn colors - the reds, the golds....all with a rich blue sky above. But what we experienced were semi-hazy days which robbed many a scene of its colors (and skies were whitish). Dang it, I thought, this can't be. After all, I want to show the Olympus colors! This can't be happening - I don't want reality in this case, I wanted an imagined setting, and I went about getting it in post processing. And since I typically only shoot in RAW mode, I spent some time in post processing, achieving the look I wanted (imagined?). I got the colors right, managed to erase the haze, and wound up with images that looked out of a National Geographic magazine. But was I right in doing so - was it reality? Obviously not and I guess that's not a bad thing.

So how many of you look for pure reality, and how many would rather have images that placate our imagination with scenes that impress (even though in reality they didn't look that way to begin with)? I'll be honest here, one of the reason I like Olympus colors (followed by Fuji colors) is that it fills my desire to have images that cause folks to stop and look. We all have perceived realities, whether in all reality that is true to form or not.

So what say you?

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Have a great one....
Bernd (Ben) W. Herrmann
North Carolina, USA
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no matter what kind of sound system you have no recording will be even close to the same as hearing in it person. It has to go through a multitude of systems to finally get to the stage it can be listened to by the consumer, the type of desk used and mics, where the mics are placed can all influence the sound, what you will hear is more of what the producer wanted the final product to sound like, camera colours are exactly the same.

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RoelHendrickx
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Interesting post.
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Ben Herrmann wrote:

As most of us do, we tend to evaluate cameras based on the "colors" that they can produce and it is here where a healthy debate can take place - and it all centers around preferences.

But before I delve into the quest for the ultimate in colors, let me draw a quick analogy with those of us who are (or were) audiophiles as we pursued the ultimate accuracy in sound.

You think photographers are a demanding bunch? They don't even compare to the likes of hard core audiophiles and their ongoing quest to find the holy grail of sound (to quote Harry Pearson - HP - from the Absolute Sound magazine years ago). When you converse or sit with other Audiophiles and listen to music through the likes of Conrad Johnson Tube Amplifiers, or Krell electronics - with sound running through speaker cables as thick as some sausages - all leading to $10,000 - $15,000 (USD) speaker systems such as KEF, B&W, Martin Logan, IMF, etc, you wind up hearing a whole new language being spoken.

References to "air around the instruments," "dimensionality," "imaging," "ying vs yang," "lack of coloration,"....and the best one yet, "the veil has been lifted from the music!!!!" All of this in the endless quest to find music that is pure, realistic (read "accurate"), and projecting a true-to-life sound stage with front-to-rear and side-to-side imaging (you can pick out the location of the instruments with your eyes closed). If all of this sounds familiar in a way, it's because we as photographers - in particular, those who prefer Olympus gear because of the "colors" use similar terms (with different meanings of course).

Although I prefer my music reproduction as being accurate and dynamic, I can't say that's the case when it comes to photography. I find myself being drawn to dynamic colors, that may not necessarily represent reality. Heck, if all we're looking for is reality when it comes to capturing images, then many a photo would come off as lackluster or uninspiring. That's why when I see arguments on various forums about which colors are the best, I try to steer clear because I realize that color preferences are just that - preferences!

I can remember several years ago we took a trip to the mountains in the Fall. All I could think about before hand were the autumn colors - the reds, the golds....all with a rich blue sky above. But what we experienced were semi-hazy days which robbed many a scene of its colors (and skies were whitish). Dang it, I thought, this can't be. After all, I want to show the Olympus colors! This can't be happening - I don't want reality in this case, I wanted an imagined setting, and I went about getting it in post processing. And since I typically only shoot in RAW mode, I spent some time in post processing, achieving the look I wanted (imagined?). I got the colors right, managed to erase the haze, and wound up with images that looked out of a National Geographic magazine. But was I right in doing so - was it reality? Obviously not and I guess that's not a bad thing.

So how many of you look for pure reality, and how many would rather have images that placate our imagination with scenes that impress (even though in reality they didn't look that way to begin with)? I'll be honest here, one of the reason I like Olympus colors (followed by Fuji colors) is that it fills my desire to have images that cause folks to stop and look. We all have perceived realities, whether in all reality that is true to form or not.

I seldom look for pure reality because I like my senses heightened.

So even when I post-process for a "natural look", it will still have more vibrancy and contrast (and deeper blacks) than what was there in real life.  But that is how I see the world so that is how I express it.

And when I find that "heightened reality" still boring or not interesting enough, I will gladly embrace any colour treatment or age-old trick to make reality more interesting.

And yes, that applies EVEN to documentary photography.  As long as the content is not changed (I mean : as long as no number of tanks are added to the battlefield photo), all is well for me.

There was this controversy recently about a Time Magazine photojournalist at work in Syria who had made his shadows deeper, his colours less saturated and his skies more dramatic.  No issue for me!

So what say you?

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Have a great one....
Bernd (Ben) W. Herrmann
North Carolina, USA
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Moti
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

I happened to be both and I think that the fundamental difference between being an audiophile and being a photographer is very simple. As an audiophile I am passive, listening to the creation of others, and even if I am using Martin Logans driven by Bird tube amplifier, (yes I'm crazy) because as a listener, especially of classical music, I am looking for pure reality. Bot, I just sit down and not contributing anything to it, I am just a listener. In photography terms, it is like visiting a photo gallery or a museum, and just looking.

As a photographer, I am active. I am the creator and I am the one who decide how deep I am going to be involved. I'm not always looking for pure reality, I'm rather trying to create my own reality, the way I want, the way no camera can guess for me.

Therefore I need full control on every aspect of my workflow, from the shoot to the print all along the way. Therefore, I do not let the camera to make any decision for the images look. I shoot raw and PP was always an integral part of my workflow, where I create the colors I want to see and work on other aspects, technical or artistic to get what I want.

Does it justify the effort? for me yes because PP is a great fun for me and as I do part of this for commercial purposes, it gives me an advantage of quality compare to those who are happy with the results OOC.

Cheers

Moti

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herebefore
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

In the days that I pursued  "Perfect Sound" it was mostly (for me) a hunt for good dynamic range.

I wanted the quiet part of the music to be just as quiet as in live performance and the loud parts to be just as jarring or intruding as the same live performance.

That required a power amplifier (Phaze-Linear) of about 400 watts per channel and weighing in at near 90 lbs.

And a pre-amp/parametric equalizer

And massive speakers

And a good source

And a very gentle hand on the volume control... or you would break things.

Im glad it doesnt take that much equipment for photography...

Ive always been pleased with the way Olympus treated the color (since E-1), and I once I have the lightroom settings for a given camera Im usually happy with the color. (Oly seems to handle purple better than most).

Fuji also pleased me, but they haven't built much lately that floats my boat.

I dont look to get a "perfect match" when doing color adjustment, rather I look to get a match thats good, but not dull, and is probably more "punchy" than perfect.

Now that Im old and my hearing is fading, I listen to music either through good earphones or on my 5.1 surround thats hooked to the Blu-ray player.

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Simon Cowell
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Re: A dialogue about colors.....
In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

I think there are different categories of people posting images on these forums and, most of the times, to like or not like a certain image is just a matter of personal taste. That's why I almost never comment on posted images (even those asking for critique) unless I'm really impressed with a certain picture.

I would probably classify most of the people here in three main categories:

(i) Those that seek to reproduce reality and natural colours using their cameras purely as photographic tools, maybe shooting in raw and with just basic processing in PP.

(ii) Those that seek a beautification of reality by shooting images in jpeg or raw and then tweaking the colours in PP to make the image look better, more appealing etc. Perhaps most of the people in this category try to not go "too far" in PP as this might alter the character of their images - instead they want images that look better than in reality but also keeping the connection with the real subject.

(ii)The last category is about those who tend to produce images that are abstractions of reality. Sometimes their images look so far away from reality they have a surreal look but this is just the intention of their creator.

I feel I belong to the 2nd category although I recognize there may be other slightly different categories that I haven't envisaged so far (or even smaller subclasses between them) or even people who are in the mix of all these.

I have experimented with tweaking the colours of raw Olympus images in colour schemes from other manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax) using DxO but I always felt there was something wrong. Of course the colours were slightly different from Olympus but I would not call the Olympus ones as better or worse than say, Nikon or Pentax. I just believe that my brain is used so much to seeing Olympus colours that it would take a bit time for me to get used to the colours by some other manufacturer (that's why I have abandoned using Canon for good).

I also find the Olympus colours introduced after the E-30 up and including today's models slightly different to the different generation of cameras. I don't know if this is due to the Olympus tone curve or it's a different direction taken by Olympus. However, anyone who has experimented with PP must know that lifting shadows in underexposed shots does not have the same effect (colour-wise) as getting the exposure "correct" (within limits) in the first place.

But, I've got to give it to you Ben,  when most people were talking about sharpness, you talked about colours. When they were talking about noise, you kept talking about colours. When they talked about dynamic range you insisted on colours. We now have excellent software tools that can deal with all these problems effectively (HDR, NR etc) but the colour signature of certain camera models of the past (especially the Kodak sensored ones but, also, the E-3 and E-520 too) cannot be surpassed by just tweaking them in software. And when you have a community of people believing the same thing then it's probably beyond the boundaries of personal taste.

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Simon Cowell
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Re: Interesting post.
In reply to RoelHendrickx, 9 months ago

RoelHendrickx wrote:

There was this controversy recently about a Time Magazine photojournalist at work in Syria who had made his shadows deeper, his colours less saturated and his skies more dramatic. No issue for me!

That's interesting, I was reading the biofos review of E-M5 and the author says that he finds its colours a bit more flat than in older Olympus models. He speculates that this is probably so because of the extra dynamic range of E-M5.

Perhaps older models (from E-1 to E-520) tend to produce deeper shadows than the E-M5 as a result of slight underexposure in order to prevent the highlights. This is in agreement with the concept of deeper blacks in today's televisions but is in contrast of high dynamic range which all new models strive for.

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John Mason
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In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

I am a stickler for color, never really buying into the magic of Olympus colors.  This is not to say the OOC jpegs from Olympus weren't/aren't great, as they are pretty good.

Just, I've never shot anything but Raw and keep direct control of color in post processing.
I often use the colorchecker passport for people shots.

Often, though, correct color is meaningless as especially when a setting sun shifts the colors and you want to capture that ambiance in your picture.  Same for city night photography.  There really aren't any rules I subscribe to, just try to tweak to get what I'm happy with.

I just got 2 hearing aids this year after probably needing them for a few years at least.  I do remember the heyday, when I could hear, of preferring some speakers to other based on their phase aligned drivers
Ah, those were the days.  Now I couldn't pick out much of any speaker over another, though I still like my accurate calibrated bass from my sub-woofer  (I can hear low stuff fine)

Hopefully the eye-sight will carry on better than my hearing did.

We had similar audiophile type discussions back in the film vs digital days.  The FF religion also reminds me of these endless audiophile type of arguments. 
Enjoyable post - Thanks!

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Pikme
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In reply to Ben Herrmann, 9 months ago

Ben Herrmann wrote:

I don't want reality in this case, I wanted an imagined setting, and I went about getting it in post processing. .....I got the colors right, managed to erase the haze, and wound up with images that looked out of a National Geographic magazine.

Heh, heh.....

I have two thoughts on the whole 'colors' matter.  Actually four thoughts.

1.  Some people are naturally more or less sensitive to color variation, including gender related differences. I happen to care a lot about color variations but I can hardly even see noise or artifacts in an image and am quite aware that others see much more than I do.

2.  Color attributes that are ascribed to cameras or brands of cameras are frequently more related to the users' software, color management schemes and computer displays.

3.  Subject matter is related to sensitivity of color variation.  For example, portrait photographers are sensitive to skin tones (I can hardly notice that), while perhaps photographers who shoot street scenes or concentrate on car details, etc. may have other dominating interests.  I shoot landscapes and I care a lot about natural greens and natural sky color --- be gone, cyan skies and crayon greens!  (I won't say which brands....)

4. For me, it is the combination of white balance and color.  What I like most about Olympus is that they don't neutralize white balance when shooting with 'auto white balance' (except the newish 'warm color off' setting).  With other cameras, such as Panasonic, auto white balance gives me a neutral look that is entirely NOT what I am seeing when I shoot early morning or late afternoon.  Other people may not notice, but I am obsessed with the different colors of the light where I live - which can be so extreme as to look entirely fake and unreal.  I happen to love the 'real' colors of Mother Nature, even when she is feeling blah.  I can much more easily neutralize or warm up a color if I want to later on than I can attempt to be Mother Nature and provide the actual colors myself, especially as scenes are so often mixed white balance.

Olympus is not perfect, especially since they have (sadly) done away with the external white balance sensor.  And they are sometimes much too warm, especially on cloudy days (where I tend to get more 'real' colors with Panasonic).  But at least I have a chance that I don't have when shooting with cameras that automatically neutralize white balance in 'auto WB' settings.  I'm told to use presets, but daylight is similar to noon colors, so that doesn't work for me.  I want 'auto wb' to be as 'real' as possible, even if it means orange under artificial lights.

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