Post-Processing Difficult Wildlife (@ High ISOs) w/ Z6, etc.

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RazorSharpWO Regular Member • Posts: 253
Post-Processing Difficult Wildlife (@ High ISOs) w/ Z6, etc.

As a compendium to my thread on the Vermilion Flycatcher, the issue of handling noise was raised by SaltyPeanut, which I feel warrants its own thread topic.

Any time you start shooting in low light, your ISO goes up. Any time your ISO goes up, your detail (micro-contrast, colors, etc.) go down. SaltyPeanut suggested I look into noise-reduction software, which is a reasonable suggestion.

However, the issue I feel warrants its own topic is the fact handling noise is more difficult when dealing with extremely vivid colorsfeather detail ... than with (say) human beings or other objects where "absolute detail of the subject's surface" is not a priority.

When the desire to retain absolute detail of the subject's surface (in this case, feathers) is a vital consideration of the photographer, the unfortunate reality is smoothing-out "background noise" often renders the intricate detail "smoothened" as well. And we usually we don't want this. I had promised to make a video to illustrate this point, so here it is:

Admittedly, this is a quickly-made video, but I hope it illustrates the point. What makes this particular bird so thrilling to photograph is (obviously) it's incredible coloration + absolutely striking contrast points.

Unfortunately, what makes this a "thrilling" subject is also what makes it so difficult to process, accurately and in detail, especially with the image degradation that occurs through high-ISO shooting.

One of the primary difficulties is accurate color. Sometimes, with subjects is vivid as this one, literally "touching" the Vibrance/Saturation sliders can make it look unreal, almost Marvel comic-like.

Where I normally use NIK Software color enhancements (with dull/drab species) "to liven them up," I only do so because it still looks natural. However, the coloration of this bird is so over-the-top, that trying to "enhance" it in any way just looks unnatural, at least to my eye.

Anyway, I hope those who are interested in bird photography, or wildlife photography of any kind, can appreciate the challenges of (1) vivid, difficult colors, (2) striking contrasts in darks and lights in the subject also, while (3) trying to process these images taken in high-ISOs, balancing desired noise control with retaining full texture detail, at the same time.

There is no real "right or wrong"; it's a matter of one's eye and taste.

The video also shows the difference between the internal Z6 processing and my own. The Z6 actually smooths the noise out better, but (IMO) removes too much feather detail in the process. Others may feel the Z6 processed the image better than I did

Feel free to comment, add constructed suggestion, or even create a Desktop Video of your own, describing your workflow and how you might handle this difficult subject to represent accurately.


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