Back Modifications (6)

The organ of dexterity

By Rose73
Hi,
I thought I’d try photographing the hand of the copper statue I’d taken pictures of before. I like this sort of subject matter, so it was about experimenting with angles, lighting etc.
I used my 70-300mm lens at 190mm focal length and an aperture of f/8 to blur the background as much as possible. It was quite breezy this morning so I made sure my shutter speed was fairly fast, as I was shooting on a tripod with the vertical column extended pretty high and the trees were also blowing a fair bit right behind the statue.
The statue itself sits up high on a plinth with a railing around it, so I was a bit curtailed as far as where I could stand and how high up I could get. I don’t feel comfortable using the camera hand held, especially holding it high up and viewing through the LCD flip screen. So I had to work with what I’ve got…shaky hands!!
I converted the image to B&W in Nik Efex and applied the ‘Fine Art Process’ filter and a film filter ‘Agfa APX 400’ to give it a bit more contrast.
I focused just above the knuckle, but still haven’t managed to get the entire hand in focus. I had to shoot fairly close to the statue to get the angle I wanted. Standing further back with the tripod wasn’t an option because of a wall being in the way.
I look forward to your comments and any suggestions regarding improvements I can make to the composition, settings and the conversion to mono. Does it have enough tonal contrast? Thanks. Smile


Tags: Hands Statue Black and white Close-up and macro

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Comments


dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1868 England
8 Jun 2021 6:28PM
All working decently, I'd say.

In Nik, you can adjust contrast and so on within any given preset: there's actually an enormous range of control available if you dig a bit. I've found that I tend to fine-tune one of the presets to give precisely the look I want, and then save it as a custom setting. I can then get similar results from other images, though things like contrast and brightness may need specific tweaking.

It's worth looking for slightly different angles with this kind of subject - I don't know if you tried this? You can sometimes simplify the background without sacrificing the composition, if you see what I mean.

Quote:It's worth looking for slightly different angles with this kind of subject - I don't know if you tried this? You can sometimes simplify the background without sacrificing the composition, if you see what I mean.


I couldn’t really alter the angle a great deal as his hand is lying across his torso and he is lying horizontally on a high plinth. Do you mean maybe try and move a bit further to the right so that his little finger isn’t obscured? I’ve got a feeling I couldn’t move much further to the right because of the tripod legs and the wall that was there…but I’ll go back and try again...Cheers Smile
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 778 England
8 Jun 2021 7:45PM
I think you've done pretty well here.
Extending the centre column of the tripod isn't ideal, but sometimes needs must, so that 1/500 is a good choice.
I wouldn't worry about getting the rear of the hand fully in focus (a 'nice to have' but not essential, I'd say), we can still see it well and the main detail and interest lie in the fingers.
pamelajean Plus
15 1.6k 2227 United Kingdom
8 Jun 2021 8:04PM
Well done! This is much better.
Thank you for going back and trying again. That is very satisfying for critiquers because it shows that their suggestions have been acted upon and a good result achieved.
I have no problem with any part of this being out of focus, it looks good to me.

I couldn't resist a modification or two. I wanted a brighter and more contrasty image that had stronger blacks and whites, and also wanted to do something about the bit of background at the top.

I brightened the image and did a Levels adjustment. My first modification has some of the noise/grain removed from the light bit in the background. My second modification has it removed altogether. You can see that I added some canvas to the top and I feel this makes the hand look less cramped.

Pamela.
banehawi Plus
17 2.5k 4253 Canada
8 Jun 2021 8:23PM
Hi Rose.

Youve done well with this.

To add to the comments above, and answer your question:

I dont think it has enough tonal contrast, and theres at least one main reason for this; when you apply a filter, as youve done, you almost always reduce contrast, especially if it applies a tone to the image; I see a slightly warm tone here. Of course this comment wont apply if your using a contrast enhancing filter!

Apart from that, it looks underexposed to me, and in the histogram; this isn't necessarily an issue if you intended this result, but it will contribute to lowering contrast. Its hard though to judge exposure from this without seeing the original image.

I uploaded a mod that assumes its underexposed and corrects that, and also increases contrast by setting the black point of the hand to a value of 12. This is done in levels or curves with the leftmost slider.


I hope this is helpful,


Regards


Willie
"I wanted a brighter and more contrasty image that had stronger blacks and whites"

Thanks Pamela. I like your modifications, making the tonal contrast much stronger. This is something I've never been able to achieve! My attempts always look 'gray'! Sad

I've been reading both your and Willie's comments here, and having a look at where the Levels adjustment is on my software. Since using Silver Efex, I've been relying totally on this to convert images to mono and then adjust brightness etc and adding filters, and never getting the effect I want. I see lots of images on this site with really sharp, clear, black and white conversions and wonder how they did it!

I see the Levels adjustment that both you and Willie are speaking of is in Elements in my case. I've just tried this with the slider and see the difference it can make to the tonal contrast. This is confusing now! Would you first convert the image to mono in Silver Efex and then close it, and go back to Elements to adjust the Levels? Or is there a Levels adjustment that can achieve this same effect in Silver Efex that I haven't found yet? I play around with the different brightness, contrast and structure adjustments but they don't seem to make the image 'pop' that I've seen in some black and white images.

Willie: I'll upload the original shot I took (which is in colour) to let you see the exposure. When opening up the image in Silver Efex, I chose the 'Fine Art Process' preset and then added a film filter, a tone (coffee 14, burned the edges and then put a border on it. If adding filters reduces contrast, its no wonder it looks so 'noisy' with that lot!

Pamela: Can I ask you how you reduced the noise/grain from the image...it looks great! Smile

P.S. Thanks so much for what you both have explained here...I've been racking my brains not knowing why I couldn't get good contrast! Smile


mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 8:06AM
Hello again, I'm a bit late here. I'll just add two comments:

The Exif shows taken just before 11am - ideally I'd like to get there considerably earlier, or later, and preferably try both. That does depend on the direction this faces and whether you risk shadows from something else falling across it, of course.

Secondly, black and white works differently to colour, the dynamics are totally different, because b&w is about lines as much as, or even more than, surfaces. It doesn't pretend to show literal truth, it declares itself as an interpretation, a distillation. So it's not just a matter of getting a perfectly balanced colour image and then converting it, you need to rethink the image. For me that always means adjustments after conversion. (And no, Levels doesn't appear in Silver Efex). B&W often benefits from much higher levels of contrast than you would use in colour, as the mods demonstrate.

Other thoughts - you are using the film effects, so you will have seen how they work in the colour channels immediately below. Are you experimenting with those channels? And have you tried the colour filters, which can be varied in strength?

And the focus is fine for me, it's where it needs to be, on the fingers. There is no need for the rest of the hand to be sharp.

Thanks for adding the original, I shall have a go.
Moira
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 8:43AM
Back again, I've added two modifications:

Colour: working on your original I added quite a bit more contrast, and filled in the background (the quick selection tool, with a bit of feathering, worked a treat for that as it's all smooth lines - the only bit that needed adjustment afterwards was the out of focus edge on the right).

Then b&w, in Silver Efex. Here I am giving away trade secrets as this is a variation on one of my favourite routes... I started with preset 30, filmnoir1. Don't be alarmed at how extreme that looks, all is adjustable!

My adjustments: Brightness left at +16; Contrast reduced to +30; Structure +10 (beware of going any higher than that as it can cause problems along softer edges); Shadows and Highlights sliders pushed to the right to protect those areas; Then film effect Fuji Neopan ACROS 100 added, which refines the grain. Take a look at what it does in the colour channels! I left Burn edges at the 4th option (all edges soft 2), and changed the border to option 1, adjusting size to 94%.

The result is darker, more mysterious, which I like. This is just a suggestion - but have a go at it yourself!

Oh and both mods have had a bit of Unsharp mask.
Moira
Hi Moira…THANK YOU so much for what you’ve told me here! You’ve answered all my questions regarding how to get the background completely black – which was always a bit of a mystery to me. I followed your instructions and selected the area, and then went to Levels and increased the blackness…success! I can’t thank you enough for that. I take it this will work when photographing a flower with a bit of background that you want to make black?

What you’ve said about treating black and white differently to colour is so interesting. I had a go converting with Silver Efex and following your ‘trade secrets’ - it’s worked a treat. What a difference! I really appreciate you going into it so thoroughly …great!
No, I hadn’t opened up the ‘Sensitivity’ section under ‘film effects’ before to see what happened to the different colour channels. These are all really helpful things to know. Thanks a million.

Love your modifications! SmileSmile
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 10:42AM
Thanks for coming back, and now you have found the colour channels try using them and see what happens! See also what happens there for the various film settings - a lot of people think of b&w as simply removing colour, but in the days of film photography, where a lot of us began, different film types reacted differently to different colours. The colour channels can replicate that.

The filters are also a carry-over from film days, the most common example being the way that a red filter can darken a blue sky. Try it in Silver Efex, then push the strength slider up to maximum and see what happens... This is all a part of the b&w tradition.

Re the quick selection tool, it will always work best on hard, clean lines. Incidentally one thing that I have found with Elements 11 is that when selecting an area for local work, it's best to reset feather every time, as it doesn't always carry a setting forward in practice, even if it is showing up in the settings. Does that make sense?

Quote:Incidentally one thing that I have found with Elements 11 is that when selecting an area for local work, it's best to reset feather every time, as it doesn't always carry a setting forward in practice, even if it is showing up in the settings. Does that make sense?


I'm not quite sure Moira what you mean - 'reset feather every time'. To be honest, when I've selected an area to work on for adjusting the background lightness or using the spot healing brush, I've not actually bothered with setting a feather size yet. When practising earlier this morning, I selected the background with the Quick Selection Tool, then went directly to the Levels adjustment to darken the area.

I've looked at this again now, and after selecting the area with the Quick Selection Tool, I've gone to Select on the menu and then down to Feather. It was showing a pixel setting of 2. I clicked OK and then went up to the Levels adjustment. So, when you say it doesn't always carry a setting forward, even if its showing up in the settings, what would I have to do and when, to check this? This is what I'm not understanding fully. Do you mean, if I'm working to adjust several different local areas on the image, and finish one and deselect that area to work on another, do I then have to check the feather pixel setting again? Is this what you mean?

Lastly, could I ask you, if an outline isn't smooth, what size of feather pixel (roughly) would I need to increase to? Just to give me a ball park figure to start with. For a smooth outline, is about 2 or so ok in your opinion? Smile
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 11:56AM
I select the area(s) that I want to work on, then go to Select>feather and check the setting and OK it. Then if I deselect and select another area I need to go back to feather and re-OK it. But the program has only been needing that to be done in the last few months, it may be something I have adjusted accidentally. I'm quite good at doing that... Blush

Softer edges are tricky, and it depends partly on the pixel size of the whole image. I generally use somewhere between 5 and 10 pixels, but sometimes need to go back and soften the edge later. Other people will have more sophisticated methods, I tend to muddle along experimenting with what I'm comfortable with. My arts background is water colour painting, I'm much more comfortable using brushes than layers!
Cheers Moira...thanks for that info Smile
pamelajean Plus
15 1.6k 2227 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 12:19PM
Hello again, Julie.

Any information we give you about post-processing is going to depend upon the software we personally use. Most editing software has the same tools and options. I use Corel Paintshop Pro, and I don't have Silver Efex. Also, I rarely use Effects. My use of Black And White is equally minimal. However, I will try to answer your questions that you put to me. Also remember that there are usually several ways to achieve the same effect, so choose whichever you feel more comfortable with. I am keen on a "do it yourself" approach rather than a "one fix" method.


Quote:Would you first convert the image to mono in Silver Efex and then close it, and go back to Elements to adjust the Levels?

I convert the image to mono with the Hue/Saturation option, then use Levels for the contrast boost. Simply converting to mono is never good enough.


Quote:Can I ask you how you reduced the noise/grain from the image

In PaintshopPro there are 2 options for Noise Reduction, and I choose the manual one, not the automatic one, so that I am in control. Too much reduction and you lose detail. However, there is also a "Soften" brush which is very gentle, and useful in most cases, though not all. The one good thing about it is that you can work on small areas, because it's like a brush. I may do it once, twice or even more until I get the desired result. Always zoom in close so that you only de-noise up close to your main subject.

Blacking out the background can be done in several ways.
Use the Magic Wand, select the area to be made black and use Flood Fill.
Or use the Paint Brush set to Black and paint over the bits you want to remove (zoom in to get accuracy). Or use Levels sliders to reduce or remove background bits and pieces. This will only work when the background is fairly dark in the first place.

Pamela.
Thanks Pamela for answering my questions regarding removing noise/grain and also converting an image to mono - its very much appreciated.

I'll experiment with the different things you've outlined here and see how I get on. As you say, its about finding the best method which feels easier and which feels the most comfortable using. Its great when you start to learn something new and see some improvements.

I was very impressed with your modifications last night. The 'adding of the canvas' will need to wait a little while yet! I'll get back to you on that for advice! Thanks again.
Cheers Julie Smile
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 2:23PM
Following on from Pamela, I used the paintbrush to fill in, and selected a dark tone from the shadows rather than using pure black. This seems a bit more natural, harmonious to me.

Adding extra canvas space is a doddle by the way. In Elements: Image>Resize>Canvas space. I find it easiest to use the drop-down to set pixels, then increase the number as you require. Use the grid at the bottom to determine where the existing frame will fit into the new canvas. This is also very useful for adding a simple frame to an image - and you can select a colour from the image itself by using the drop-down at the bottom.

Quote: Adding extra canvas space is a doddle by the way.


Yes, it does 'sound' very simple! I'll try it out and get back to you on that! Wink

Thanks for outlining the method for me on how to do this...I'm looking forward to having a go. No doubt I'll make a pig's ear of it!! BUT practice makes perfect as they say! Smile
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2435 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2021 4:07PM
Believe me, extra canvas space really is easy!

I've just thought of possible answer to one of your earlier questions, about noise/grain here. In Silver Efex, you used the Agfa APX 400 film effect, which gives you 400 on the grain slider - not terrifically coarse, but by moving the slider to 500 you do get a slightly finer grain effect.
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 778 England
9 Jun 2021 4:11PM
There are many adjustments in Nik, so experiment with all of them and you'll find your preferred ones.

There are only a few of the presets on the left that I use as a starting point. I like adjusting the Sensitivity sliders to adjust tonal relationships, which work the same as those in Lightroom and Affinity.

I like the toning options in Nik, and while there's nothing that can't be done in other software I like the fact there are known starting point (hich often suit my purpose) rather than starting from scratch in other software though I could easily create my own presets. That said there's a lot of flexibility in choosing silver toning and paper toinng in Nik if you want.

Once you've got your mono conversion done, yes a final tweak to Levels and/or Curves (I don't know if Elements has that now) can make a big difference.

A final note, and I don't know if I've mentioned it before on your uploads, is to start with the best colour image you can to give you the nost flexibility and choice in mono processing and retain as much image quality as you can, and I'm mainly thinking control of tonal relationships.

Quote: A final note, and I don't know if I've mentioned it before on your uploads, is to start with the best colour image you can to give you the nost flexibility and choice in mono processing and retain as much image quality as you can, and I'm mainly thinking control of tonal relationships.


Hi Keith,

I hope its ok to ask a further question regarding what you’ve said here about starting off with the best image quality possible before mono conversion.

I was reading or listening to something about the Nik software, and it was saying that you should put the sharpness slider back to zero in DPP in my case, and use the Nik RAW Presharpener, otherwise it will be too strong and difficult to predict.
The method I’ve been using lately is:
Trim and adjust angles if necessary in DPP
Go to the Tools palette and adjust colour balance e.g. make warmer if necessary
I’ve been leaving all the sliders on the RAW tab at zero e.g. contrast, highlight, shadow, colour tone and saturation, and adjust them in Elements on the Quick tab. (I used to adjust them in DPP before)
On the NR/ALO tab I sometimes check this if the lighting looks particularly poor.
The noise reduction and chrominance noise reduction seems to be set automatically depending on the ISO I’ve used in camera.
Under the Lens tab, I’ve begun recently checking all boxes e.g. peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration, colour blur and distortion. I’ve also downloaded lens data for compatible lenses I’ve got and click on ‘Tune’ under the Digital Lens Optimizer.
Lastly, I convert the RAW file to a Tiff 16 bit or 8 bit if I have to use adjustments in Elements - apparently it can't do it with a 16bit file.

Is this the best method to use to obtain a good quality image to start off with before further processing in Elements or Nik?
Sorry for it being a lengthy question Keith. At least if I start off with the right procedure, I can then experiment with these other settings in Nik afterwards to fine tune and make adjustments to images.
Thanks so much. Smile

Quote: I've just thought of possible answer to one of your earlier questions, about noise/grain here. In Silver Efex, you used the Agfa APX 400 film effect, which gives you 400 on the grain slider - not terrifically coarse, but by moving the slider to 500 you do get a slightly finer grain effect.


Thanks Moira...Smile
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1868 England
9 Jun 2021 8:51PM
I'll add that while it's worth getting the contrast reasonable before a mono conversion, a check of Levels after conversion is worthwhile. Note, though, that a black or white border (as you've used here) can distort things...
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 778 England
9 Jun 2021 8:53PM
It's no problem asking a long question Julie, and in many ways makes it easier to answer as there's more to go on and that's better than something sketch.

I wasn't aware of the Nik recommendation for zero sharpening, but it has to be said that sharpening should be the last step befor printing or uploading. Nevertheless I have a small amount of sharpening applied (1 or 2 on the scale in DPP). It does help when for example I've used a 2x extenfer in low contrast lighting conditions at the long end of my 70-200. So ther are times when it's useful to apply more sharpening than you usually might.

I's goodyou've got all the relevant lens profiles downloaded and the checkboxes ticked.
In the same way with Noise Reduction, Canon know the best settings for their cameras at diffeent ISOs and generally I leave them alone, it's one less step to worry about.

Your RAW workflow is good, and pretty much the same as mine but I do adjust the Black and Whitepoints, shadows, etc. While you cn of course do that in other software, it's quick and easy in DPP and gives you a picture ready to go.
If you can only use 8 bit files it's moe important to get the outpu from DPP as good as you can. There's no reason you an't furhter tweak in Elemnts, indeed you may come back a week later and decide you want more contrast or want to adjust specifi areas ike the sky.

The reason you want the best imge you can before converting to mono (or any other intensie processing) is all about information. An image with good colour and range of tones means any adjustments you make will have more information to use before the image breaks up, banding appears, noise becomes prominent, tonal relationship changes are smoother and more subtle. Of course, you can push the image even further for example for very high contrast and few tones but you want that as an option rather than something you hit when you don't want it.

There is another feature in Nik that you may want to explore, and that's Control Points. If, after doing your conversion, there are areas that need lightening for example, you can use one of these very customisable local adjustments.
For exmple, after using the Push Process preset, some shadow areas cn go almost black and 'lose' detail. Using a Control Point positioned over the area you can adjust the size of it, Brightness, Structure etc as required. You can make equialent adjustments in Elements and other software but it's quick and easy in Nik and while you're in there you nay as well use them. By the way, Control Points are a feature of the Nik Collection suite nd not just SilverEfex so they're useful for colour adjustment too in for example Viveza.
Thanks so much for all this info Keith...I really appreciate the time everyone here has given me today! You all deserve medals. A big thank you to Moira who has been posting off and on all day giving me lots of good advice and information! Smile
Cheers Julie

Quote:I'll add that while it's worth getting the contrast reasonable before a mono conversion, a check of Levels after conversion is worthwhile. Note, though, that a black or white border (as you've used here) can distort things...


Thanks for this John...its so much appreciated. SmileSmile
chase Plus
15 2.2k 566 England
10 Jun 2021 10:20AM
Hi Rose, I am so late to this, sorry, but the advice above is outstanding, I don't do that much B&W Blush so I am taking notes here Wink
It does generally look a tad on the grey side of things, the mods the guys have done make this so much more interesting with the addition of some contrast.

One thing I did note from your comments...
Quote: I take it this will work when photographing a flower with a bit of background that you want to make black?

Be very careful with that as the 'black' , if feathered will 'bleed' onto the edges of your flower if not feathered and you use a hard selection, sometimes you get a really nasty tell-tale dark outline to your subject. Perhaps better to use a black bg, card or material and work on the blacks only in post processing.....gently, all will depend on the lighting of course.
10 Jun 2021 10:50AM

Quote:Perhaps better to use a black bg, card or material and work on the blacks only in post processing.....gently, all will depend on the lighting of course.


Thanks Janet. I sometimes see photographs of a single flower that takes up most of the frame, but there might be a little space at one side or corner possibly. The background is blurred but looks pretty dark - not completely black - but definitely darker. There might be a hint of green that shows its taken outside? I'm wondering for exposure of the image, how this is achieved during daylight hours? Any suggestions? Not having a garden with flowers myself, I can't really cut off nice blooms and take them home to photograph.

I do like flowers taking up the entire frame - with parts of the petals cut off - but sometimes its nice to see a tiny bit of background blurred. You posted a lovely ivory rose a little while back that is filling the frame almost completely, but I think at the top right corner/side there is some background? (its light in this case) Its a beautiful photograph. Smile
chase Plus
15 2.2k 566 England
10 Jun 2021 11:08AM

Quote: I can't really cut off nice blooms and take them home to photograph.

Supermarkets sell lovely flowers these days. Once indoors you can use whatever bg you want, I use bits of old card, material, old net curtains, anything that comes to hand tbh.
Window light is great, my thoughts are that there is no real substitute for natural light but.....it needs filtering, tracing paper, greaseproof paper or similar stuck on the window works very well, then you can position your subject at whatever height suits you, the light remains where it is, it's the subject that can be shifted.
I am a monkey for using textures on my images, originally taken against a plain, light bg generally....I just like the faffing in Photoshop.

Lovely compliment, thank you.
10 Jun 2021 11:17AM
I don't know where my brain is this morning! I hadn't even thought about getting a bunch of flowers from the shop! Yes, that makes sense and is so much easier...also wouldn't get me into trouble cutting off other people's nice flowers!

Thanks for these tips Janet about lighting and background for shooting indoors....Cheers Julie Smile
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 778 England
11 Jun 2021 9:51PM

Quote:Supermarkets sell lovely flowers these days

You couldn't move on this site a number of years back now for the amount of gergeras uploaded Wink

That remins me, there are some flowers in the garden that I need to dig up so I'll try and photograph them before they go in the green bin collection Smile

Just a note on backgrounds, pure black and pure white backgrounds can look very harsh and were as popular as gerberas here a while back so I tend to go for, and recommend, dark or off white. When I say dark, I don't ncessarily mean dark grey as other dark colours can work very well, complementing the colour of the flower. A selection of A4 coloured cards is a good start, and perectly large enough for small arrangements. By angling the card towards or against the direction of light will allow different tonality.
12 Jun 2021 10:05AM

Quote:That remins me, there are some flowers in the garden that I need to dig up so I'll try and photograph them before they go in the green bin collection Smile


I look forward to seeing your flower images when you post them Keith.
You posted a beautiful photograph 'Nasturtium' this time last year. It was taken with your macro lens. It had lovely backlighting, and looking closely at it, it looks maybe very dark green on the left of the image and lighter green on the right where the light is hitting it. Was this taken in the house with a coloured card for background as you've explained here? Was the lighting from a window or from flash? It is stunning! Smile
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 778 England
12 Jun 2021 1:00PM
Thank you Julie.
That image was taken a long time ago so I'm pretty sure that was a natural background that was in shade. I do recall it being early autumn sunlight, no flash involved.
Cheers Keith Smile

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