22 Replies Latest reply on Apr 3, 2013 9:20 AM by Yammer

    Bringing out detail in clouds and snow

    Yammer Level 4

      This is a bit of a how-to-use-camera-raw sort of question.

       

      When we were on PV2003/2010, I used to develop snow scenes by reducing Brightness from fifty to near zero, and boosting Exposure to bring it back to normal. This had the effect of stretching the highlights, and enhancing detail in snow and clouds. I guess it was a contrived Gamma adjustment.

       

      Now we've got PV2012, I have been using large negative Highlights values, and been bringing it back by increasing Whites. I'm not sure it's as effective. The histogram doesn't seem to change much. I'm relying more on Photoshop plug-ins to enhance the highlight detail.

       

      Can anyone suggest a way to achieve a similar gamma shift in PV2012?

        • 2. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
          Yammer Level 4

          Funnily enough, I started playing with Parametric curves after I posted. I used point curves back in ACR4, but got out of the habit of using them. I just don't think I can get my head around them. But yes, I'd completely forgotten about them, and a gamma adjustment is quite straightforward with a single point.

           

          I've just tried a few images, and one thing I noticed is that changing basic settings—especially Blacks and Whites—has a habit of messing up curves' behaviours. Moving goalposts. I suppose Curves works on the output of the Basic settings.

           

          What I could do with is Clarity sliders for shadows and highlights too :-)

          • 3. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
            areohbee Level 5

            Yammer, be aware: although PV2012 highlight handling is, in many ways, superior to previous process versions, in other ways: it's not.

             

            See this thread - White Mud:

            http://forums.adobe.com/message/4676164#4676164

             

             

            Yammer P wrote:

             

            I suppose Curves works on the output of the Basic settings.

             

            That's true, and therefore, usually (read: not always) it's best to use whites slider to stretch histogram into clipping, or near clipping. *but* ---

             

            One thing to note: in addition to (or instead of) using a curve with upward inflection/slope in the target region, consider simply moving white point in on the point curve. Why? -  because for some reason that I completely don't understand (and nobody who understands has ventured to offer a reasonable explanation) despite multiple posts about it, PV2012 will sometimes gang up tones well left of the right-hand wall. When it does that, the *only* recourse I've been able to find (in order to preserve intra-whites contrast/separation) is moving the white point on the point curve.

             

            Cheers,

            Rob

            • 4. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
              Yammer Level 4

              Thanks for that, Rob. I was vaguely aware of that discussion at the time, but was away a lot, so never really read it properly. It's very relevant to my situation, and it's good to see that I am not alone. I think my short-term solution will be to go back to PV2010 for these photos, as, has been noted, the Whites slider just doesn't compensate as one would expect. I've scanned through the discussion, and some of it went over my head (thanks, Vit!), but the main thing is that it's a known problem.

               

              Also, I always use my own camera profile, made with a ColorChecker and DNG PE based on Adobe Standard, and all this talk of adapting v4 profiles leaves me a bit clueless, as I don't really understand how it interacts with highlight recovery and other basic settings. I probably don't really want to know, as it sounds quite complicated, but it makes me wonder if DNG PE is inadequate, and I should be looking for better profiles.

              • 5. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                areohbee Level 5

                Yammer P wrote:

                 

                Thanks for that, Rob.

                You bet .

                 

                 

                Yammer P wrote:

                 

                all this talk of adapting v4 profiles

                *only* applies to a few Nikon camera models (like D3 & D300).

                 

                 

                Feel free to send to me or post an example for others to evaluate, if you want: lossy DNG with reference snapshots is a good bet.

                 

                Cheers,

                Rob

                • 6. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                  Yammer Level 4

                  Well, I just bought a D800 to replace my D300, so the downloads might be a bit on the big side! I'll see if I can dig out some D300 shots tomorrow.

                   

                  I think this has all come about because I got some great snow shots in 2011, and my 2012 snow shots seemed harder to get right. Now it seems that it was partly the PV giving me trouble.

                  • 7. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                    areohbee Level 5

                    If you already understand why you're not getting as much definition in the snow as you want, no need for a sample, but if you want another pair of eyes to look at it...

                    • 8. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                      MadManChan2000 Adobe Employee

                      It depends a bit on what you're trying to do.  For a predominantly light scene (e.g., snow), if you're trying to tease out highlight detail, my suggestion is to reduce Highlights, possibly reduce Exposure, and increase Whites.  If that's not enough, then I suggest using the point curve in combination with (minus) Highlights.

                      • 9. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                        areohbee Level 5

                        MadManChan2000 wrote:

                         

                        It depends a bit on what you're trying to do.  For a predominantly light scene (e.g., snow), if you're trying to tease out highlight detail, my suggestion is to reduce Highlights, possibly reduce Exposure, and increase Whites.  If that's not enough, then I suggest using the point curve in combination with (minus) Highlights.

                        Thanks Eric - all  good stuff. And, as Yammer stated in initial post, he's tried the -highlights +whites thing already. So, maybe he needs more -exposure (which makes room for more +whites). Also, -contrast can ease up on the highlight compression too.

                         

                        But, the question still arises:

                        * How, exactly, to shape that point curve?

                         

                        The obvious response is: upward slope through tones you want to separate, and downward slope through tones you want to compress (or can get away with compressing).

                         

                        However, that may not be enough! Why?? because PV2012 sometimes (overly) compresses the whites in the interest of doing what it does (ref: White Mud). Such whites compression is near-to impossible to decompress with just an upward slope through the highlights/whites. When that happens, it may be better to ease off of *both* exposure *and* whites, to keep said whites compression in check, then move the right-hand endpoint of the point curve in-wards.

                         

                        And of course, if global settings are leaving some areas non-optimally adjusted, there are the locals too...

                         

                        Rob

                        • 10. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                          Yammer Level 4

                          I've found an image which I think demonstrates my problem. You can download it here.

                           

                          In PV2010, by reducing Brightness to 0 and fixing the white point in Point Curves, I can get this:

                          http://yphotography.co.uk/temp/_D300Snow_PV2010.jpg

                           

                          The histogram's lighter tones are visibly stretched:

                          http://yphotography.co.uk/temp/_D300Snow_PV2010H.jpg

                           

                          If I try the same thing in PV2012, everything I do in Basic settings seems to move the highlights peak left or right, but not have much effect on its width.

                           

                          However, if I maximise Whites, then switch to Parametric Curves and then apply about -50 in the Highlights and Lights, I get closer to what I'm after. So that's what I'll be doing from now on.

                          http://yphotography.co.uk/temp/_D300Snow_PV2012.jpg

                          • 11. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                            areohbee Level 5

                            PV2012 rocks for this photo. - there is absolutely *none* of the "white mud" syndrome in this one!

                             

                            The secret? you gotta crank the exposure way down, and the whites up as far as need be.

                             

                            PS - Point of inflection for contrast slider is set way high due to the massive clump of tones at the top end, so you can actually get better intra-"highlight" spread by increasing contrast than by decreasing it - somewhat counter intuitively (and the exact opposite is true in many photos).

                             

                            Try these settings:

                            Adobe Standard Profile

                            Exposure -3.2

                            Contrast +25

                            Highlights -50

                            Shadows +50

                            Whites +83

                            Blacks -30

                            (no point curve or tone curve whatsoever)

                            No Clarity needed AFAIC.

                             

                            Awesome! (and at these settings, very possibly more spread/contrast than you want, so consider toning it down until good to go).

                             

                            _show_histo.gif

                            UPDATE: There were no snapshots in there, so I started at ground zero, which meant no lens corrections. If you enable lens corrections, you'll have to tone down the whites a couple notches, or better still: lay a couple -highlights gradients down: one big diagonal one starting in the lower right corner, and another smaller horizontal one in the sky - oo-yeah.........

                             

                            ,

                            Rob

                            • 12. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                              Yammer Level 4

                              Wow! Good catch, Rob. I'd never have thought to drop Exposure that much. It really does pop once you've made BIG adjustments to -Exposure and +Whites. Saves me having to mess about with Curves too. The only (minor) problem is how sensitive the Whites slider becomes, and you have to switch to cursor key adjustment, but it's worth it for the effect.

                              http://yphotography.co.uk/temp/_D300Snow-PV2012-RC.jpg

                              • 13. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                hsbn Level 3

                                Cool, learned something new. I never thought to bring down exposure and bring up white this extreme. Thank you.

                                • 14. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                  MadManChan2000 Adobe Employee

                                  In general, dropping Exposure and Highlights and using the Point Curve should always be able to tease out the highlight detail.  PV 2012 will only compress the highlights the more you increase Exposure.  So going the other way with Exposure tends to have the opposite effect.  This is handy for snowy scenes like this one.

                                  • 15. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                    hsbn Level 3

                                    Thank you MadmanChan. I am wondering that do you know any good reading regarding using curve in Lightroom? I use curve in Photoshop but never touch it in Lightroom. But after reading this I want to learn more about it. Thank you in advance.

                                    • 16. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                      areohbee Level 5

                                      hsbn wrote:

                                       

                                      do you know any good reading regarding using curve in Lightroom?

                                      Here's some good reading:

                                       

                                      In general:

                                      1. curviness: upward slope to separate tones, downward slope to compress them.

                                      2. "U" shape to debrighten (a favorite in PV2012), upside-down "U" to brighten (less used by me in PV2012).

                                      But also:

                                      * one may need to move white point (or black point) in. (there may also be occasions when you want to move it/them out too, but those are far less frequent in my experience).

                                       

                                      So, when to move white-point in? When PV2012 algorithm is jamming the whites and overly compressing them or ganging them up prematurely against a virtual wall (before sufficient exposure/nearness-to-clipping has been reached), when uping exposure and/or whites. Note: the example in this thread is NOT such a photo, but consider reviewing the "White Mud" thread (referenced above) for examples of photos that are subject to the white mud syndrome.

                                       

                                      And when to move black-point in? When (minus)blacks is causing funny saturation/color issues in the blacks/deep-shadows, in which case +blacks (slider) and inward shifting black-point using point curve may be preferred. Another case is when you want to minimize (or reduce) intra-shadow contrast/detail, in which case +blacks combined with an inward shifted black-point (on point curve), and/or U shape (and/or -shadows and/or -exposure...).

                                       

                                      Definition of "in": black-point dragged to the right on the point curve, which causes a left-shift of the darker data in the histogram. and white-point dragged to the left on the point curve (which causes a right-shift of the brighter data in the histogram).

                                       

                                      PS - Definition of "out": moving black-point up and/or white point down in the point curve, resulting in right-shifting darks and left-shifting lights, in the histogram, respectively.

                                       

                                      Final thoughts: when toning using the curves, there is a conservation of slope, i.e. all curve shapes start and end at the same point - i.e. what goes up must come down...(kinda a like hiking in the mountains - you can choose different routes but the net elevation gain/loss is always zero - unless you get helicoptered out...). the same is NOT true of the basic sliders (highlights & shadows), since they utilize masking and recombining to get more upward sloping with less downward sloping (kinda like if you had a helicopter skip you over various legs of the journey while hiking - considered cheating in the more purist circles: toning images and hiking trips I mean ;-}).

                                       

                                      Rob

                                      • 17. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                        areohbee Level 5

                                        Yammer P wrote:

                                         

                                        The only (minor) problem is how sensitive the Whites slider becomes

                                        Yeah, I noticed that. Seems like it oughta be less sensitive at higher crankages, to me. - oh well...

                                         

                                        R

                                        • 18. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                          MadManChan2000 Adobe Employee

                                          Hi hsbn,

                                           

                                          Using curve in Lr is actually very similar to using curve in Ps.  So your familiarity with the curve in Ps should help you.  Note that in Lr the default view of the curve is the so-called Parametric Curve, where there are four parts.  If you click on the little icon in the bottom-right part of that panel, you will get to the Point Curve (sometimes also called the freehand or freeform curve) which is similar to what you have in Ps.  For dealing with tricky highlights I recommend using the Point Curve.

                                          • 19. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                            hsbn Level 3

                                            Thank you both for your input. I always thought LR curve behave differently that that of Photoshop due to adjustments in the basic panel. That's why I rarely try to use it unless doing some color correction. Thank you again.

                                            • 20. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                              areohbee Level 5

                                              hsbn wrote:

                                               

                                              Thank you both for your input.

                                              You're welcome, for my part .

                                               

                                               

                                              hsbn wrote:

                                               

                                              I always thought LR curve behave differently that that of Photoshop due to adjustments in the basic panel.

                                              The curve behaves like any other curve. *however* because the basic sliders behave differently than the curve (see post above), and because they have first crack at the image data in the pipeline, it's usually best to do rough toning with them (the sliders), before fine-tuning using the curve (if need be).

                                               

                                               

                                              Cheers,

                                              Rob

                                              • 21. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                                areohbee Level 5

                                                Yammer,

                                                 

                                                I think this photo looks awesome as you've edited it: plenty of pop and intensity from one end of the spectrum to the other.

                                                 

                                                But the shadows are a little too intense for my taste (too much intra-shadow contrast). I mean, it looks great at first, but then it gets strangely "tiring" to look at after a while. I couldn't resist trying another approach that *does* involve the point curve.

                                                 

                                                In this case, I did this:

                                                * auto-tone

                                                * simple "U-shaped" point curve.

                                                * -highlights + shadow +whites (more subtly this time) - no other changes to auto-toned values.

                                                 

                                                And came up with a version which looks almost identical at the top end, but with more natural shadows (IMO). You may or may not like it better.

                                                 

                                                exposure -.55

                                                contrast -25

                                                highlights -30

                                                shadows +30

                                                whites +64

                                                blacks -32

                                                and simple curve:

                                                _simple_curve_for_too-bright_show.gif

                                                Resulting histogram:

                                                _histo_for_reduced-brightness_show.gif

                                                And with +10 clarity to add a little of that pop back in, we have:

                                                 

                                                http://www.robcole.com/Rob/Personal/Pictures/LrForumSupport.cfm?embedSWF&openDir=pv12_snow &openFile=D300Snow.jpg

                                                (hint: you may need to context-click to open link)

                                                 

                                                Rob

                                                • 22. Re: Bringing out detail in clouds and snow
                                                  Yammer Level 4

                                                  Thanks, Rob. I'll have a play with those settings when I get more time.

                                                   

                                                  Meanwhile, I agree about the shadows. I tried the same technique on a few other snowy photos, and the darker areas looked awful—over-saturated, rough and unnatural. I think a compromise is probably best in most circumstances, and, like you, I've been using the Curves panel to improve highlights.