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Thread: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

  1. #1
    Mitch Alland
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    Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    I've been trying out Aperture for a few days and have tried it with a difficult GRD2/GT-1 ISO 800 photograph shot at 10:00am with the subjects sitting inside in rather dark light with very bright light outside. Here are four versions of this picture:

    1. Colour version processed in Aperture 2. As I didn't want to blow out the leaves on the trees outside I used the excellent Aperture Recovery tool to recover the hightlights.

    2. B&W version processed in Aperture 2. It seems to me that the lack of a selection tool to allow dodging and burning makes this picture difficult to use.

    3. B&W version processed with Lightzone using the colour version output of Aperture (i.e., using picture 1.) I probably have to do some more work on the face of the woman on the left.

    4. B&W version processed with Lightzone alone. As the Lightzone Relight tool produced only a dull gray highlights, unlike the much better results from the Aperture 2 Recover tool, I decided to blow out the highlights and go for a higher contrast to express the brightness of the light outside, as well as the heat.

    Please let me have your reaction which of these you like better: the colour vs B&W, and of the B&W which do you prefer. (It's certainly very clear that the Aperture 2 Recover facility is much better than the Lightzone Relight tool for recovering highlights.


    1. Aperture 2




    2. Aperture 2



    3. Aperture 2 + Lightzone



    4. Lightzone


    —Mitch/Huahin
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  2. #2
    Senior Member helenhill's Avatar
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    MY VOTE is for #3 ...... /Aperture& Lightzone
    The overall quality seems more Real & Refined / with still an Edge
    but knowing your Beautiful work there will probably be more Fine Tuning
    All the Best- Helen

  3. #3
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    I agree with Helen that #3 is the best.
    But, for the woman on the right I prefer the color shot alot. Don't know if the woman on the left could be improved in the color shot.

    2 and 4 are not nearly as good for me.

    Good work as usual. I find myself wishing I was there and finding more about these interesting women.

    Best,

    Mitchell

  4. #4
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Mitchell, these two women are classmates from primary school attending a Buddhist merit-making ceremony (tam-boon) in connection with the funeral of the mother of a third classmate. At this type of ceremony some ten monks are fed and chant. As monks can onlly eat once a day, before noon, the ceremony is always in the morning.

    —Mitch/Huahin
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  5. #5
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    I think the color one is best, but still too dark. It is a very difficult image/lighting... I pulled your jpeg into CS and this is what I got with a few minutes of quick adjustments, and think it is perhaps a bit better overall:
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Mitch,
    I vote for #3 B/W for overall "look". I think the added contrast and not blowing out the back foliage helps the shot a bit more, but that is a personal taste. The color shot is very good, but the chroma noise is distracting. (This is where I really wish Apple would spend a bit more time working....they got the luminance noise good enough to look like a nice film grain, but the color noise is still too blotchy and strong.) Perhaps a very light pass with something like Noise Ninja or Neat Image just to pull the color noise out a bit on the image. That might then require a bit more edge sharpening (in Aperture) to bring things back, plus a tiny bit of contrast boost.

    I think you are on track to a very nice B/W image here, and the color one is also nice, but a bit less dramatic. Jack's lightening is good, but it also brings up the color noise too much, IMHO.

    LJ

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    The women are fascinating and quite beautiful. This is a wonderful shot with some tough challenges. I hope you don't mind that I took a stab at a B&W conversion from the top color shot. I did a color version as well but after it was saved for the web, it looked a lot like Jack's. Re-saving a jpeg as a jpeg is never a good idea. The offering below is done exclusively in PS CS3.

    Best,
    Tim (TR-as in "what is a")

  8. #8
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Alex, what is a "Tim wins?"

    Mitch, of the ones you put up, I like the A2+LZ one. I would have thrown a midtone sharpen on it, though.

  9. #9
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Thanks, everyone: a lot to think about here — I'll go back and have another go both at the colour and A2+LZ version and will post the results if I get anything that I like.

    Jack, yes a bit of lightening of the image helps but the trouble is the noise becomes unattractive and I would make the blacks a bot darker.

    Tim, your B&W version is going in the right direction in the tones, but the smoothing is too much for my taste.

    One thing that comes out of all this is that the Aperture 2 Recovery tool is much better than the LightZone Relight tool but also better than the Lightroom Recovery tool as well.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  10. #10
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Here are the color and B&W versions: I took the Aperture 2 colour file and lightened the faces in LightZone to produce the revised colour picture and then, continuing in LightZone, converted it to B&W and did some very mild increase in contrast and dodging on the faces. The colour one is basically like Jack's but I kept the dresses and backgrounds darker and the B&W one is similar to Tim's except that there is more contrast in the background.









    The obvious conclusion is that for a difficult picture such as this one you need dodging and burning and Aperture 2 or Lightroom cannot handle this. On the other hand, as stated above, the Aperture Recovery tool is better than the ones on Lightroom/Photoshop (Adobe Camera Raw) or in LightZone. I rather like the look of the bright leaves in the background and ACR and Lightroom would have given me a duller look.

    Any reactions to the revised pictures?

    —Mitch/Huahin
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

  11. #11
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Mitch, I agree on both the noise and the smoothing, but I find either preferable to a too dark shadow -- and obviously I prefer more noise over aggressive smoothing. In the end, I think the obvious answer here would have been to let the background blow to get adequate exposure on the faces
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  12. #12
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    I agree with Jack on this also.....get the primary subject the primary focus. The background, though very interesting and helpful for the "setting" is less important than getting the proper exposure for the two women. This is where some of the third party tools used in PS can help a lot. Aperture, Lightroom and LightZone are all good starting points for a conversion. They all lack the control and capability of more careful local noise reduction, sharpening and masking to achieve a much better result from the starting image.

    Mitch, this is not a criticism of your shot, as I know that sometimes you just have to grab the shot and pray that you can "fix" things in post. In this case, I think there is enough information to do so, but it may not be a slick/swift one tool process to bring out the best. I like your second attempts, but think you have given up a bit too much sharpness on the women. If the balance cannot be achieved, my thoughts are to blow out the background, accept a bit more of a grainy B/W look for the subjects, and leave it at that. I do like that you have brought their dresses back to black, as the noise there was terribly distracting.

    Still a tough shot, and you have some good results using minimal adjustment tools. Aperture does seem to pull things up more nicely for the faces, but it does not manage the noise. LightZone permits more dodging/burning, but misses the mid-tones a bit, I think. This just seems to be an image that will take more time, effort and tools to bring things all the way out. Some of the Nik software plug-ins for PS could really help here.

    LJ

  13. #13
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Quote Originally Posted by LJL View Post
    ...Mitch, this is not a criticism of your shot, as I know that sometimes you just have to grab the shot and pray that you can "fix" things in post. In this case, I think there is enough information to do so, but it may not be a slick/swift one tool process to bring out the best. I like your second attempts, but think you have given up a bit too much sharpness on the women.
    I agree, Tim, and am not happy with the results. When I have some time I'll start all over and see what I get. As this type of light is common here — the tropics tend to have very harsh light except early morning or evening — I tend to let the highlights blow, but I was captivated by how good the Aperture 2 Recovery tool was.

    If the balance cannot be achieved, my thoughts are to blow out the background, accept a bit more of a grainy B/W look for the subjects, and leave it at that. I do like that you have brought their dresses back to black, as the noise there was terribly distracting.
    Yes, the noise in the blacks was oogly.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
    Last edited by Mitch Alland; 22nd February 2008 at 20:20.

  14. #14
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Here's the final B&W version, as I couldn't stand the last one:





    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1026877...89168260/show/

  15. #15
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    Re: Difficult lighting with Aperture 2 and Lightzone

    Mitch,
    I like this version. You controlled the noise more, boosted the contrast a bit, which pulls up the facial features more, and let the background blow out just enough to allow your control on the subject more. This one does look nicer than the one you could not stand. Great continued effort.

    LJ

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