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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Colleen Farrell
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member since: 4/13/2004
 

Problems Shooting Red Flowers


Hi, I'm having trouble shooting flowers that are uniformly red. Right now, I'm trying to photograph cyclamens. All the detail is lost, no matter what I do. I have varied the exposure many ways, and the most variation I ever get is occasional blown-out portions of the petals. It's very weird!

12/31/2006 3:20:05 PM

 
Carlton Ward
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member since: 12/13/2005
  Your Wrinkly Wrose picture looks very nice. Are you having problems with the edges of the flower being undefined? Red seems a difficult color for me as well, but I would try different lighting techniques since you have tried varying your Depth of Field. Maybe a softer light angled to the side a bit and a longer exposure would bring out the detail. Good Luck - you take very nice flower photos.

12/31/2006 3:39:20 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Since it appears your highlights are getting blown out, instead of maneuvering your lights, try tenting your subject with one grade or another of a translucent panel, and then set your lighting to shoot through the panel. Of course, this may be the different lighting effect that Carlton was referring to.
Mark

12/31/2006 6:09:50 PM

 
Colleen Farrell
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member since: 4/13/2004
  Thanks, Mark and Carlton for the tips (and the compliment!). I'd forgotten about the "wrinkly wrose" -that was shot outside. I'm trying to photograph the cyclamens indoors with sunlight coming through a window covered with diffuser material, so I'll try variations on that. Thanks again!

12/31/2006 7:10:50 PM

 
Howie Nordström
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/11/2005
  Collen, check out Dan Margulis book "Photoshop LAB Color", especially beginning of chapter 9. It might help you understand just what is going on with your red roses. My guess is that the colors are so intense that they need to be surpressed to help recover details.

I just finished reading Dan's book and it's a real eye opener.

1/2/2007 7:07:27 AM

 
Colleen Farrell
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member since: 4/13/2004
  Hi Howie, I did read something on the web about how the sensors of digital cameras struggle if confronted with subjects that are very close to pure primary colors, particularly red. But in the article, it said few subjects are that close to pure red, so I was wondering if there was something else I was doing wrong. I'll look for the book you mention--thanks!

1/2/2007 8:11:05 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Photoshop, Shmotshop. If you shoot it right, you won't have to fix anything and tenting, along with taking an incident exposure meter reading under the tent, are the two necessary steps to shooting it right. And those steps, in turn, if followed, make dinking around with it in photoshop unnecessary...unless of course, you're trying to improve on nature itself, and if so, you're probably not shooting it right. So....here we go again. Now, get the picture?
M.

1/2/2007 9:12:47 AM

 
Andreas G. Karelias
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member since: 7/30/2005
  This is a known problem with bright red objects in general. There is one way to solve the problem is Photoshop. What you need to do is to "borrow" some details from the green and/or channel, and convey it to the red channel. The technique is as follows:
a) Open your image and create a Channel Mixer adjustment layer.
b) In the "Red" dialog box that will apear, red will be at 100%, greena dn blue at 0%. Reduce red to 70-80%, and increase green to 10-20%, so that both together add up to a 100%.
c) In most cases this will solve your problem. If your image appears too dark, you can start increasing the red and the green sliders gradually, so that their sum is higher than 100%, until you are satisfied. There is a trade off in this technique, in the sense that your image will not look exactly as it was supposed to look, but will look a lot better than having red clipped areas. I hope this helps. Regards - Andreas

1/2/2007 9:16:29 AM

 
Colleen Farrell
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member since: 4/13/2004
  Thanks, Andreas! I only have Photoshop Elements (and version 2.0, yet), and there is no "channel mixer" adjustment layer ... but it looks like this is something I could change in "levels" maybe? If it isn't a "fatal flaw" of digital cameras, I would just as soon work it out with my lighting, but it sounds like it is.

1/2/2007 5:12:35 PM

 
Beverly S. Bogart
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beverlybogartimages.com

member since: 8/27/2006
  How about backlighting? Or internal lighting with maybe some fiber optic lights? Are the petals thin enough to let some light through and pick up detail that way?

1/2/2007 6:50:12 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Well Andreas, where I went to photographic school, we learned how to photograph, on film, to capture the detail she's looking for not fix it. Besides, if the pixels can't record it in the first instance, how can you fix it later without spending all the time to do it when, like I said initially, she just ought to learn how to shoot it right. The involves "controlling" the lighting, not fixing it after the fact.

As far as backlighting as Colleen suggested, that's tough to do unless you first have all the equipment, scrims, flags, cutters and gobos, necessary to control the spill of light from behind the flowers back into the lens. Very tough to do.

And as far as fiber optics, while Beverly has an interesting idea I think you need to be concerned about color shifting of the lamps you use and the final color rendering and fixing that in PS. Also, you've kind of got the same problem as spillover and backsplash into the lens.

If you tent what you're shooting, pretend your light source is the sun and adjust it's brightness level, you'll see plenty of detail (and whether your digital camera can record that level of detail is a different story). And THEN before you crank your lighting intensity up or down from your initial level, add some fill cards, reflectors to move your light around into various areas of the scene, like SHADOW areas, OR use dark fill cards to help darken brighter areas.

Also, you need an accurate exposure meter, not in the camera but a separate hand-held meter that will let you take incident readings from the different parts of the scene. A spot meter would be even better for this type of work, even one built-in to your camera if you've got one.

The basic premise Colleen is to be able to control the light. Brightness will wash out details. Tenting controls direct brightness. Shadows will cast details into nothingness. To balance the two, shadows and highlights, you control the intensity and where the light is going by measuring it in gradations.

I shoot a lot of agricultural work, flower and vegetables for commercial growers and seed companies both in the studio and the field in Salinas Valley Calif. I use film for that. But then, what do I know.
Mark

1/2/2007 7:31:05 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  When I say control the light, I mean like this, btw.
http://www.feldstein-photo.net/-/feldstein-photo/gallery.asp?cat=39384&pID=1&row=15
;>)
Mark

1/2/2007 7:34:19 PM

 
Rob Zuidema
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/19/2005
 
 
BetterPhoto.com Photo Contest Finalist
 
Red Rose
Red Rose
© Rob Zuidema
Canon EOS Digital ...
 
 
Man...tents, fill cards, reflectors, etc. Sounds so complicated. But I agree, get it right in the camera so you don't have to 'fix' it in photoshop.

That being said, my very first finalist here at BP was of a red rose. No fancy meters or lights were used. Simply placed the bouqet on the coffee table in front of the living room window with the morning sun coming through the sheers. Then turned the vase around slowly until the light and shadows looked right and positioned the tripod and camera accordingly.

A narrow aperture and long exposure gave me the detail I was looking for. A wide aperture with quick shutter resulted in detail being lost.

The only processing in photoshop was cloning out a bright spot in the background, a slight crop, and a bit of sharpening to counteract the upload to BP.

Please bear in mind that I am just an amature like many folks here, and I rely greatly on trial and error, but I guess that's how I learn. It took me about 20-25 shots of the various roses in that vase to get 1 or 2 good shots. So, like many people here say, just keep on shooting.

Rob.

1/3/2007 6:34:53 AM

 
Colleen Farrell
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Beverly, backlighting is fun but I didn't want to do it on this shot. I'm afraid I don't even know what fiber optic lights are! I'm poor as a churchmouse and can't afford studio lights, much less a handheld light meter. So until I win the lottery, I have to make do with the minimal stuff at hand. ;)
Mark, thanks for the link. Your lighting is beautiful; I have never seen such artistic broccoli! I think you have the answer I really need--just work on the lighting with what I have.
Rob, congratulations on your lovely finalist! By the way, one of the winners is also a red rose. I do think the deeper reds are easier to work with, though--at least they have been for me. I routinely use reflectors and diffusers--sometimes more than one of each. I also vary the metering of the camera to see what effect that has. Now I'm going to try to upload a photo with my comments; I've never done it so I hope it works. As you all will see, I think it's just that I am not creating enough shadow areas to bring out the folds ...? It's too flat or something! This is really proving to me how my eyes can see so much more than my camera! This was shot at f36 and 1/4 using center-weighted metering, manual exposure mode, and my 60mm macro lens.

1/3/2007 8:20:29 AM

 
Howie Nordström
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/11/2005
  In response to Mark:
http://luminous-landscape.com/columns/just-say-yes.shtml

Colleen:
Yes, our eyes work in combination with the brain allowing us to be very selective in what we see and when we see it. Cameras just can’t do that. While we certainly strive to do as much as possible for the image prior to pressing the button, the camera will never record exactly what we see, and thus we often need or want to use mechanical (for film) or digital (for digital and film) methods to make up for what the camera can’t do, or to bring out the impression we want to create.

Here’s a quick adjustment: if Elements can convert to LAB then do so and open curves, adjust the L channel for contrast and linearly flatten (adjust the end points straight up/down with equal amounts so that the center point stays in the center) the A & B channels to lower the intensity of the colors allowing the contrast to be more dominant. Note, by default the LAB curves have darkness on the top and to the right (the opposite to RGB, but you can switch them if you prefer). When darkness is at the top and right, the A channel has teal/green at the top left and magenta at the bottom right, the B channel has Blue at the top right and Yellow at the bottom left. The nice thing about doing these adjustments in LAB is that there’s much more control over the colors since the A & B only have color (and almost no detail) and the L only has contrast (and most of the detail). Those are the very basics of Dan’s chapter 9, the rest of it gives some pretty remarkable ways to create masks for contrast/color adjustments in the subject and/or background.

1/3/2007 8:44:05 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Thanks for the link Howie, but it's for landscape photography, not plants or flowers, at least on that page and I don't need to be taking any scenic shots of Sedona.
M.

BTW Colleen, that shot, which was for American Takii Corp. was made with a single light and a lot of small reflector cards, a couple of scrims which were made from standard screen door material, and some black poster board to cast shadow. You ought to get a couple of books on studio and table top photography. Among other things, they can teach you how to make your own grip equipment, like I've mentioned, by making a trip to either Home Depot or the hardware store in order to avoid B&H. :>)

Even a single clamp-on light in a 5" bullet reflector with a 100 watt bulb and a dimmer switch in line, can work as a main for shooting small objects like flowers. The heat, however, can generate can cause them to wilt pretty fast though.
M.

1/3/2007 9:13:53 AM

 
Howie Nordström
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/11/2005
  Your welcome Mark, and just for clarification the link wasn't directed specifically to you but all artists in general.

Sure, Alain Briot is a landscape photographer but in the fifth paragraph, within his introduction, he states that the essay is about fine art photography and not just landscape. Believe me, in not trying to be pedantic, just wishing to keep all doors open, for art's sake. :)

1/3/2007 10:26:02 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  That's cool Howie. I just thought you referred me over there to take a look at some flower shots is all. No sweat. Thanks for the clarification ;>)
Mark

1/3/2007 5:29:55 PM

 
Colleen Farrell
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member since: 4/13/2004
  Hi Mark, I'm amazed you only used one light for the broccoli shot. I did buy a studio photography book awhile back, and bought a couple of cheapo lamps at Home Depot. Thanks to our discussion on this topic, I've dug them out and begun experimenting again. Oh, and I'll remember to keep the hot lights away from the delicate petals! :D

1/3/2007 6:43:05 PM

 

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