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TOPIC: To saturate or not to saturate, that is the question

To saturate or not to saturate, that is the question 1 month 2 days ago #1952

  • David Seymour
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Thanks to Rob's reminder about images in Forum posts, I've included here my two images of an Eastern Rosella, both almost straight RAW from the camera (both with a small adjustment of brightness only), exported from DPP with Picture Style set to Neutral and Standard respectively. This is a bit coincidental to the main discussion, just to illustrate that some of Australia's most colourful birds may well look a bit OTT even to an eye used to the oversaturation trend. In regard to my image(s), I do note that the weedy grass surrounding the bird to me looks undersaturated and in need of processing - however if I attempted to apply any such processing to the whole image no doubt the bird would end up looking very unrealistic...
(incidentally, this image has other issues which will likely prevent it being a keeper, so I'm not sweating on it!)

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To saturate or not to saturate, that is the question 1 month 2 days ago #1953

  • Ian Wilson
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Thanks for taking the trouble to show us how you are seeing things David. I don't find the saturation over the top with either of these two images, in fact I needed to snip the image and take it into Photoshop to be sure there was a difference between the two. I think this might be because the colour dynamic range in this small JPEG does not have the full 8-bits per colour channel due to the JPEG compression. I have never looked at the difference between neutral and standard Picture Style in quite this way - I always see a noticeable difference when I convert my out of camera RAW standard to neutral in DPP4. I don't find the grass/flowers in need of saturation as I think it better to let the bird stand out from the background which it does in 'spades' in this image.

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To saturate or not to saturate, that is the question 1 month 2 days ago #1954

  • Glenn Pure
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Coming in late. I'm not at all surprised by the popularity among a general audience of highly saturated shots, especially landscapes. It seems more colour = better for many people. There will be more 'ooohs and aaahs' for a colourful sunset than a dull one. Therefore no surprise that there may be a bias in magazines and stock photo sites for a lot of saturation. Certainly for bird photography, saturation can provide some appeal as evidenced in results of some competitions. While nature competitions typically seek a close representation of the natural environment, there is some artistic licence involved to a greater or lesser degree - but wouldn't want to rely on such photos for ID purposes. In the case of BLP, we have multiple goals including promoting fine photography and creating an image database that can assist with ID. Certainly for the latter, correct colour is important and use of saturation needs to be carefully controlled. For more 'arty' shots, there is less to worry about - but if the colour looks too unnatural and without logical explanation (for example a photo from early morning or sunset), there's a chance it will be questioned or even rejected by one of our moderators. We do provide a place for those who don't want such limits: our 'Creative' gallery. The boundary between a little 'arty' and creative will always be blurred so this discussion is great.
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To saturate or not to saturate, that is the question 1 month 1 day ago #1955

  • Simon Pelling
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Coming back to the original topic, I suspect that to be successful commercially in photography, you would need to be fairly ruthlessly focused on what the client wants. I don't see an issue with this; its no different, for example, from the people who make a living from mass producing commercial artworks for hotels, business lobbies etc. If you do a shoot directly for a client, then clearly you have the opportunity to discuss and negotiate, and to put forward your vision and style in your proposals. I don't know anything about the world of stock photography, but as I understand it you produce a range of product images for people to buy, but you don't necessarily have any direct contact with the clients, which makes it hard to measure the market. Equally, I suspect the stock image business holds its sales data very close so you will never know specifically what sells and what doesn't. Perhaps then, the best option is to produce a variety of different products in different styles, and see how you go. This could include more 'landscapey' pictures with more saturated colours, and more landscape features, together with more colour accurate close up pictures in more 'portraity' styles. Some clients may be looking for low key moods, others may be looking for impact, drama colour, contrast and movement. I expect that impact generally wins out, because the vast majority of photos probably have a very short shelf life. Lets face it, how many of us linger over the photos in brochures, training pamphlets, commercial websites etc where these types of things are used. Equally, those looking for photos from the millions in the stock archive probably give each image no more than a few seconds scrutiny before making a decision. However, unless you know someone who knows the business and can give specific advice, your best bet might be to just try different things. As I say, I'm not basing this on any direct experience, though!

The debate about accurate colour is also an interesting one. For me it is a very elusive subject because regardless of technical definitions and measurements, colour is ultimately all about perception. I don't mean perception in terms of I like this and someone else likes that, I mean perception literally. I think people process colours differently. Certainly machines process colour quite differently from each other, of course, and colour on screens is different from colour in prints as we know. In addition perception of colour can look different if you see a single image or two images together. With multiple images it is much easier to judge colour as 'better' or 'worse' (compared to x, and according to your taste). I am not sure where this takes us, but I suspect that subtle colour differences matter little to most people who will be viewing our photographs. While I can see differences in the rosellas in the earlier post, most of these seem to be more about sharpness and contrast than colours, and also if you saw either image in isolation I suspect you would not know that they were processed differently. The differences between them are less, probably, than the differences between different viewing devices (my main calibrated computer screen, my iPhone and my iPad all show subtle colour balance differences when viewing the same photo, which are obvious when you see them together but likely irrelevant for most viewers. All are capable of displaying 'attractive' detailed images). This is not to say that the quest for accurate colour is not a desirable and worthy one, but should perhaps be balanced against (or at least, mindful of) the way most people use and view our images.

Just a vew thoughts.

Simon
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