BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Elijah J. Kihlstadius
 

What am I missing?


I want that great "pop" for my images, the great light quality that I see in many professional shots. I have a Canon 20D and a Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 IS and I shoot stopped at about f4. I have shot in practically every weather condition imaginable, and have yet to get that great color and light quality I want. I also use levels in PS, but that doesn't work either. Am I doing something wrong? Do I need a better camera? Please help! Thanks!


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7/11/2008 10:34:02 AM

 
Sarah G   The people on this site who really know what they are doing are going to tell you they need to see the issue in order to diagnose the problem.

Save time and put some up for them.


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7/11/2008 10:41:07 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   There are lots of ways to do it, but usually it's just a contrast bump on the levels curve; or some form of that.

Or just increase the contrast.

So, when you shoot, shoot with contrast flat, set at zero. You can't take contrast out, but you can always add it. So, then add it to taste. This will add the pop you are probably looking for. The are other ways of adding pop to images. But, it would take a really long time to describe it. Basically, go buy a set of Photoshop actions that have pop actions in them, and it's easy. But, don't stop there. After running the action, look at it and see what it's actually doing to the image. From that point, you can start to create your own looks with pop.

One I like is the TRA actions (google it). They are probably the best set of actions out there. They just came out with a 2nd set, but get the 1st set, as the 2nd set is more advanced and might be a little frustrating if you don't want all the stuff they do. The 1st set is real easy to use and just super rad.


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7/11/2008 12:13:10 PM

 
Sarah G   Website says you need PSCS 2 or above...bummer I can't use them. They look GOOD!


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7/11/2008 12:22:41 PM

 
doug Nelson   One great way to add "pop" is early morning, late evening shooting.

In trying to "pop" your images by contrast adjustment, be sure you aren't blowing out your highlights, or muddying out the detail in your shadows.

There is a trend in comtemporary photography, at BP and even at high end galleries, like photo.net, to boost color saturation. Even good digital cameras tend to default to unnatural candy colors, I suppose to please the general public. Look at getting accurate colors from your digital camera, then tweak them as you wish, but be aware of what you're doing.


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7/11/2008 12:28:28 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   Yeah, you're going to have trouble finding good stuff. All the pros have PSCS2 or 3, and LR and every action set that exists. So, that's why they have the advantage. But, there's no reason you can't do similar things with what you have. Work with levels and contrast. See what you can come up with. Shoot flat, and a little on the underexposed side - just a tad under not too much. Pros shoot almost exclusively in the very early morning, at sunrise, or later in the evening, at sunset. In-between is not good light, usually, for outside work. If you ahve an overcast day, you have the best light that nature could ever provide, a big giant softbox for you. If in the sun, look for nice open shade. The edge of the shade produces the best light for portraits, right where the sun and shade meet; it's slighty better than just being in any old shade, and makes a big difference.


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7/11/2008 3:13:20 PM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
  Jerry,

Take a look at my shots. Do they have enough "pop" for you?

I shoot JPEG with a Nikon D80 (and, lesser times, a Cannon A570) flat images in PSMA modes (mainly) and process with Photoshop Elements v4 (free with my printer), PaintShopPro9 ($25 on ebay) and a few free / trial or really cheap plug-ins.

Oh, and then there's Renata (a wonderful 2nd place BP winner last month), and a few others, who use Picasa, which is just plain free from Google.

You don't need CS3 or hundreds of dollars of whatever. You just need to work on your skills. I read, read, read and then read some more. And I experiment, experiment and experiment some more. I buy mags at the supermarket, I google for tutorials on the web, I read comments / blogs here on BP. I compare my work to the winner's of previous contests and ask myself.... "what can I do to get that look....?"

And, to parrot Sarah (who is always right :D), with out specific examples, you won't get specific suggestions (from me, at least!)

dvc


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7/11/2008 10:15:19 PM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
  Oh, and I should note that Renata shoots AMAZING images with a Kodack EasyShare P&S... no offense to Renata (whom I truely adore), but, a Cannon 20D is FAR AND AWAY a better camera!!

You have a heck of great camera. That is DEFINITELY not the problem (unless there is something wrong with it... in which case get it in for servicing while it's still under warrenty!!)

dvc


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7/11/2008 10:27:49 PM

 
Alan N. Marcus   Hi Elijah,
You say your pictures lack “pop”!

Likely the major constituent causing you dissatisfaction is flare. Flare is an optical phenomenon. Flare destroys “pop”.

Allow me to explain:
The camera lens is a conversing lens. Light from the subject strikes the lens and transverse its elements. In the process, light rays are bent (refracted) inward to form a projected image of the outside world on the surface of the camera’s digital sensor chip. Because an image produced by lens constructed from just one glass element is flawed, we must construct using many glass elements. Some are cemented together using a clear glue; others are air spaced. Thus the complex lens consists of many shiny surfaces. Each shiny surface reflects light away from its intended target. The shiny glass surfaces are over coated with fluoride, this minimize reflections. Nevertheless stray light is always available to bathe the senor chip. This wandering light dilutes the image forming light rays, it is called flare. Flare is devastating. Zoom lenses are complex as their construction requires several more lens elements as compared to a fixed focus (prime) lens.

You can’t do much about the flare triggered by internal elements. You can however minimize optical surfaces by avoiding filters and supplemental lens devices. You can minimize optical flare by keeping the front and rear outside surfaces clean, free of oil, fingerprints and dust. You can make certain that the digital chip cover glass is also scrupulously clean.

You can minimize flare by mounting a well designed lens shade and avoid shooting into bright light. You can reduce flare by using a simpler prime thus avoiding the zoom.

All lenses have a “sweet spot”. Generally this will be 2 or 2 ˝ f/stops stopped down from max. On you camera it is likely f/5.6 or ˝ stop between f/5.6 and f/8.

Likely this explanation will stir disapproval. Anyway, a simpler lens and a clean lens will bring about more “pop”.

Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)
ammarcus@earthlink.net


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7/11/2008 11:29:09 PM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
  While Alan is certain corret about flare, I would not expect that to be a significant problem with Cannon optics, unless the lens is defective, damaged or Elijah is shooting to closely into the sun.

dvc


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7/12/2008 10:54:24 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  "Pop" is too incomplete as a description. You might mean contrast, saturation, glow, color balance...and actually more like several of these at once. An image can have good contrast and still lack color and 'pop'.

A holistic approach to image correction which spans contrast, color and more is really the way to go. Some people like softening that adds glow while not compromising sharpness...and a variety of finishing effects. I cover these in my Correct and Enhance Your Images course (offered again in September -- see the link by my name).

Nothing, however, substitutes for starting with the best initial image. Don't think that Photoshop will make even badly composed and improperly exposed images great. It is best for improving what you have already shot well.

I hope that helps!

Richard Lynch


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7/12/2008 11:06:44 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  "Pop"..to me, translates to our mind's-eye vision while looking through the viewfinder at the scene.
We forever strive to re-create what we've experienced but we too often find ourselves lacking when we view what we've captured.

Keep in mind that software programs can enhance and embellish but can never replace technique and practical knowledge.


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7/12/2008 3:46:45 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  "to me, translates to our mind's-eye vision while looking through the viewfinder at the scene."

Keep in mind that the eye/mind and camera/film/MB record different things. Your memory of a scene is intangible, your eyes see differently than equipment will measure. Digital changes may just bring you closer to what you hoped to have captured, so long as you learn to make the adjustments.

Hope that helps!

Richard Lynch


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7/12/2008 5:43:14 PM

 
Elijah J. Kihlstadius   I'm sorry, what I meant by "pop" is that great lighting quality. I want them to look professional and unique. Do I need to work on my lighting skills? I have tried like everything I know that has to do with lighting and I still can't get that "professional" look. Thanks.


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7/14/2008 8:01:03 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   David,

I didn't look at your work, nor will I. Sorry, I don't care how much pop or non-pop photographers use, it's up to each individual. It's also been proven that you don't need a DSLR to shoot professionally, but then, we all know that already. But, all I was saying, is that IF you want to buy CS3, and you WANT to understand some of this and lessen your learning curve, you can buy some actions, and after you run them, you can see exactly the steps they go through to make the pop happen. Once you start experimenting on your own, you can come up with your own way to pop based on preferences.

It is my sincere opinion that it all starts with a very well lit, and very flat image, slightly underexposed. From there you can make magic of all sorts.

I actually don't give two rips about the equipment people use to do whatever they do. So, don't take offense to what I say. If you use top of the line DSLR's or P&S cameras, I could care less. What does matter is your ability to capture moments, and your ability to make that translation from the moment into a compelling image.

I am providing my opinion based on my circle of knowledge. Picassa is a very good program. You don't need CS3, nor do you need Picassa, there are other programs that can do this.

But, professionals usually do use PS, usually do have alot of actions that they either buy or create themselves (usually a combo), usually do use some sort of either an SLR or a DSLR, and usually know how to shoot and process an image. So, when I am providing advice, that's where I am coming from. Someone asks how, I tell them how. If you don't like the answer, then don't respond, just respond to the OP. OK? We all have different ways of working and doing things. Such is life.


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7/14/2008 10:54:24 AM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
  Jerry, I wasn't responding to you, I was responding to Elijah.

Elijah, if you want some actual, useful advice, you'll have to upload some representative images of what you're talking about.

dvc


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7/14/2008 11:42:08 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   Oh! Nevermind. (LOL).


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7/14/2008 11:58:00 AM

 
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