I was told by a couple of pro photographers on a web site I frequent that my photos are generally over-saturated. I have PSE 10 and almost always make the following edits:
- using the Quick selection, do an Autofix, then increase the Shadows, Highlights, and Midtones to bring out more definition
- using Full, do an Auto Levels, sometimes do an Auto Color Correction (depending on how it looks), and finally do a bit of sharpening using the Unsharp Mask
Rarely do I specifically adjust (increase) the saturation. So my questions are:
1) I think I have a general idea of when photos are over-saturated, but what specifically do you look for to indicate that they are?
2) do any of the PSE edits I am doing above implicitly change the saturation? If so, how can I modify my edits so as not to over-saturate?
3) can you take a look at some of my photos and give me your opinion as to whether they are over-saturated? The first photo of the butterfly in the photostream was specifically adjusted for saturation, but most of the other ones were not.
I agree with their assessment. The saturation is high and the contrast is relatively low. The saturation looks unnaturally high compared to the unnaturally low overall contrast—is how you tell. You are overbrightening the shadows and midtones, I think, so the lighting is very flat, without much difference between the sunlight and the shadows. Flowers and insects can be oversaturated, but animals are different. The shots of the fox and deer are very unnatural-looking, with the oranges in the fur looking as though they are glowing with some internal light. The mouths of the baby birds seem to be glowing as does the red of the branch the sapsucker is pecking on.
You might view things on a different computer setup or a newish Samsung smartphone, one with an AMOLED display and see how bright things are.
Perhaps your monitor is old and dull or adjusted improperly, so your adjustments look ok to you but too much to most others.
It is also possible that your monitor’s calibration is way off, or that you are using a monitor profile that isn’t right. Do you know what your display profile is set to? Have you used a hardware calibrator such as a Spyder, I1Disiplay or ColorMunki?
If you’re on Windows, at least use the built-in color management, to set the midtone gamma correctly.
If you want to post one of your originals corresponding to one of those on Flicker, a fawn or fox or the sapsucker, perhaps to www.dropbox.com, I could try your steps to see what happens on my computer. I'm suspicious it is the autofix after you brighten the midones and shadows is causing the oversaturation. If PSE does not behave this way on my computer, then perhaps it is something else in your workflow that is less obvious.
Is Flickr applying any corrections after you upload?
Auto levels etc are quick adjustments but some photos need individual tweaks. Have a look at the autumn photos for example, and decide if they look really natural using your own eye.
Some photographers don’t like the natural look and will use all kinds of filters and HDR techniques. It’s really about what image/style you wish to project.
ssprengel, I agree that some of the photos are too saturated, but not all of them, one example being the fox. Here is the link to the original on dropbox:
and here is the link to the photo after I modified it:
Never used dropbox before so hopefully that works.
Here are the exact edits I made from the original to get the modified version. There were done in PSE 10:
- resized to 300 dpi without resample (won't affect result)
- on the Quick tab, click arrow to right of "Fix" and select the 5th box (of the 9 total, where 1 is the default)
- similarly for Shadows, select the 2nd box (1 is default)
- for Highlights, select the 2nd box (1 is default)
- for Midtones, select the 6th box (5 is default)
- go to Full, then do Enhance - Auto Levels, Enhance - Auto Color Correction, Enhance - Auto Contrast
- under Enhance, select Unsharp Mask and set Amount=70, Radius=3, Threshold=0.
- then saved under a different filename at level 12.
These are the edits I apply to most of the photos, often using different values for the Fix, Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, and Unsharp Mask. Sometimes I also skip either the Auto Levels or the Auto Color Correction, depending on how it looks with the before and after.
I did a test on one of my photos that was definitely over-saturated. In that test, I just skipped the edits above that were done on the Quick tab, so basically just did the last 3 steps above, and it looked much better. Haven't played with that on other photos yet.
I do lean towards liking vibrant photos, but don't want to over-do it. If you try some edits yourself that you would recommend in place of what I am doing, I would appreciate that. Guess I'm looking for a better workflow that I could apply to my photos. Thanks.
I see the same thing if I edit the example fox image in the same ways as you've specified, although this particular image doesn't need much done to it, in my opinion, and so the oversaturation is less than some others.
I think you are on the right track saying out of the Quick Fix things, because these reduce the overall dynamic range more than a little and boost the saturation slightly so the net effect is an unnatural mismatch between the overall contrast and the saturation. Normally if you reduce contrast in a scene the colors are also muted but with your multiple iterations of fixes the opposite occurs.
The other comment is that the sharpness is being applied to things that don't deserve it, mainly noise, and the way you reduce this is to up the threshold a bit to avoid sharpening areas that don't have edges. I found that on the fox picture, a threshold around 15 seemed good, which sharpens the glint in the eyes and some of the fur that is in focus, but leaves the out-of-focus noisy areas alone.
You asked what you might do different, and I have two approaches to give, none of which use Quick or Auto fixes and actually take less steps. First is to use Levels and Shadows/Highlights which are both under Enhance / Adjust Lighting. The third option in this menu is Brightness/Contrast but the fox picture was almost ok so didn't really need any of that. Here are screen shots of the menu items and the adjustments I made to your photo using them:
First I used Levels to adjust the black point to 12 which was where the histogram ran out of values at the low end, and then boosted the overall brightness using the gamma slider to where it looked ok but not overly bright. In this example I used 1.20. With a different sort of picture, you might need to move the white-point down to where the histogram ran out of values on the bright end but this picture had pure white already in it, so that wasn't necessary. The Auto Levels command actually does the black and white point adjustments but it overdoes them a little so I like using the Levels black and white point sliders to be more precise:
Next I did like how you brought out a little more detail in the highlights, so used Shadows/Highlights to compress the light values slightly, and also used the Midtone Contrast to give the textures of the image a little more pop:
None of this increased the saturation appreciably nor compressed the dynamic range so much to make things seem unnatural.
I left your sharpening except using a threshold of 15 as I stated, above. This image was quite blurry so it probably needed more sharpening attention using different radii and perhaps the other sharpening tool, but I didn't want to spend time with that since the most obvious issue at hand was oversaturation.
The second technique, which is a bit more radical but more useful in my opinion, is to open the JPG in the Camera Raw plug-in despite not being a raw format file. This has the advantage of having all the toning sliders available at once without having to go though various menus and buttons to find each small set of adjustments and also just one Auto button to click, though usually I back off most of what the Auto decided for me but it's still something quick to try at the beginning. There is also better sharpening and noise reduction.
Ok, to open a non-raw file in the Camera Raw plug-in, you can use File / Open As... and after choosing the image, set the File Type to Camera Raw, then click Open:
Here is your original image opened in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) with all the toning adjustments at zero:
Below is how I adjusted the toning sliders. I had first clicked Auto and didn't like how it was too dark, so I only left the Blacks at +1 from that, and reset or readjusted everything else. The overall image seemed a little dark to me so I increased the Exposure by half-a-stop, but that washed out the highlights so I dialed them back by setting Highlights to -87, just so there was some detail in the chin fur and foreground rock. Finally I increased the Clarity, which inreases the contrast of the textures, and finally I added a tiny bit of Vibrance. If I had adjusted the blackopint down quite a bit, then that might have oversaturated everything, and I could have addressed that by merely setting the Vibrance or Saturation to a slightly negative value. I also like a little bit extra color in my processing, so a slight bit of added Vibrance seemed good to me. The Vibrance slider is different than Saturation in that it doesn't boost skin tones (reds/oranges/yellows) as much as the greens and blues, so it works to increase color in people pictures without overdoing their skin. I've put the original to the right on the same line so it's easier to compare:
Besides toning you can do detail adjustment, which involves sharpening and noise-reduction. Here is the face portion of the originally processed image at 100% if you click on it. The first thing you'll notice is that all the grainy noise is sharpened even in areas that are out of focus or blurred due to the left-right camera motion, and the other thing to notice is the green and mostly reddish-purple splotches of color noise that weren't quite all removed in camera:
Here are the Sharpness and Noise-Reduction settings I settled on after a few minutes:
The main thing to notice is that the only sharpened parts are the ones that have relatively sharp details, the glint in the eyes and the fur on their side of the eyes and a bit of the whiskers. The rest is mostly out of focus. For a better shot, without the camera motion, the sharpening settings might have been entirely different. The way I accomplished only sharpening the edges that where relatively sharp already and ignoring the noise and other out-of-focus areas was with the Sharpen Masking setting, which is 77 in this case. This is somewhat similar to the threshold setting of the sharpening in the regular Unsharp Mask in PSE, but it has a way to set it visually, by holding down the Alt key while sliding the Masking slider back and forth until only the bolder edges are shown:
I see in this screenshot that I had the Detail slider set to 5, which was probably better than the 25 I used in the screenshot, above. The other thing to notice is the Luminance and Color sliders in the Noise Reduction area are set to reduce the tiny specs of noise and the green/purple splotches.
One thing I need to mention about using Camera Raw is that I think in PSE10 the highest version you can update to may be ACR 6.7 which won't have the same set of toning sliders as in my example--I hacked a version of the 7.1 beta plug-in to use with it to get the new sliders, but normally you would have those available in PSE10 I don't think. You would need to use PSE11 or better yet, wait for PSE12 which comes out in another week or two.
This new method of toning and detail adjustment works ok with images one-by-one via File / Open, but it isn't that efficient ot use for many images. The best thing for that that isn't expensive Photoshop, would be to get Lightroom, which has these same adjustments but also optimized to work with dozens, hundreds, or more images from one photoshoot. The other benefit to Lightroom is that you can use a wide array of filters and brushes that are limited in the Elements-hosted version of the Camera Raw plug-in.
Remember when I said I thought the overall fox picture was too dark, well what is really wrong is the fox is too dark and I could care less about the rocks and other non-important background items. Here is a version of the same fox picture using Lightroom's radial filter to darken the surroundings so the fox is more prominent. The one without the radial filter darkening is at the right:
Lightroom is currently on sale for $129.99 and upgrades are $79.99 with a 30-day trial version available for download if you want to try it:
Wow, first of all I'm amazed at the amount of time you must have spent on this. Thanks very much! Excellent material here. I haven't read all the detail in your response yet, but have saved this page as a bookmark so I can quickly get to it. A couple of comments:
- thanks for the info on Threshold in the sharpening. I saw several tutorials on sharpening, some done by Adobe, and they all seemed to avoid any detail about this parameter. Most didn't give a definition of exactly what it did, and most said to just ignore it or set it to 0. So I'll use it from now on, initially set at 15.
- I'll try out the Shadows/Highlights and Levels as you describe above. Thanks for all the detail and screen shots.
- I'm using a Canon SX50 HS and that wasn't supported in PSE 10, so I'll try out the Raw stuff after I upgrade. I may even wait a year unti PSE 13 because I'm getting a Canon EOS 70D in a couple of weeks, and doubt if that will be supported in PSE 12.
- I actually have LR 5 (got it a couple weeks ago) but find it less intuitive than PSE. I have tried the radial filter and it works great, but want to learn LR a little better before I start using it. Just got the book "Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 - The Missing FAQ" which is very good.
I have time while waiting for my computer to complete tests to work on posts, little by little....
You'll want to set the Threshold value per picture or at least not assume 15 is the best to start with. This picture had motion blur that removed most of the sharpenable edges, so while 15 worked for this example, maybe it wouldn't be the normal setting for other shots. It just depends on things like subject detail/texture, camera ISO, overall depth-of-field, etc. Since this was a JPG you were sharpening things that the camera had already sharpened, as well.
The Canon 70D is supported by the pre-release versions of ACR 8.2 RC and LR 5.2 RC available at Adobe Labs, so yes will be supported either by PSE11 or PSE12, depending on if Adobe decides to update PSE11 or not, within a few days or weeks.
If you get your 70D before the LR 5.2 is available, you can download LR 5.2 RC from: https://labs.adobe.com/ If you take alot of pictures, LR is definitely easier to use once you get a little used to how it works.
From my point-of-view, having to go through all the menu items and quick-buttons in PSE is annoying, and you lose track of what does what so you're basically fiddling until you give up and its' hard to reverse the operations of one of the previous steps and try something else. I personally like to experiment with Auto and Quick-Fix operations to see how well they work, but there's no substitute for actually learning what to do, yourself.
With LR and ACR, each of the toning sliders predictably does one thing and you can easily tell what you're affecting by moving each one, so learning is more straightforward.
You can edit your JPGs in LR the same as raw files, though with raw, you have the added benefits of being able to recover more highlight detail and synchronize white-balance among shots, among other things, but the toning is very similar.
Have a look, here, for some very detailed descriptions by Rob Cole, who writes many Lightroom plug-ins, about how to adjust pictures in LR4 (and now LR5) using the PV2012 sliders: