Part 2 - Off-Topic - advice, experiences, and examples for images being processed in DxO Photolab

I based my estimation of EV on the fact that EV15 tends to work at latitudes further north than India, where I would expect more like 16 in clear sun but, as you point out, the sky was slightly milky (possibly air pollution) but the shadows were still reasonably sharp.

Anyhoo, @mikemyers exposure was certainly adequate.

+shooting through something like a mild, a bit off-grey filter, fooling the camera AWB. I would go up slightly with Kelvins and towards magenta. There are some other artifacts, possibly caused by the window or pressing the shutter before VR was locked (VR was ON!). It might have made bokeh too busy, but I don’t know this lens. Light was scattered too. Some car windows act a bit like polarizing filters, which may affect exposure in certain conditions.

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We are in two different worlds. I think all of you are considering the best way to capture this image, to get the best final result. I won’t argue with anything you have written, but there is one huge difference.

Time.

To even consider the above thoughts, by the time I was able to capture the image, my car would have been hundreds of feet beyond the lady and goats.

In reality, I only had time to lift my camera off my lap, press the rear focus button, compose, and try to keep my body still as I pressed the shutter button.

For the overwhelming majority of the photos I captured in India, I tried to do most of what you’re all suggesting, but did NOT have the camera set up the best way I could have. Next time, my camera will NOT be set to “spot” focus, which I enjoy using for photos of people - put the “spot” over a person’s eye. If the eye is sharp, the photo will be considered sharp.

So many differences between the two interpretations of my goat lady. Here’s a screen capture of them side by side.

What I’m learning from this, is I need to go back to carefully arranged and composed and exposed images, taking my time to think about them, and put some of your suggestions to work. Thanks for all the feedback. If I improve how I take images carefully, I’ll be the much more likely to do better when I’m pressed for time.

As far as I know (as of today) all of Nikon’s trick settings are now turned off, at least on my D780. Not sure what I’ll do with my Df, but I’ll probably set the two cameras side by side, and make the same changes on my Df. I guess I should do the same thing on my D3, in case I ever find a reason to use it again. (I also still have my D2x, which I’m even less likely to use.)

Quick question - does DxO have a page somewhere telling people what default settings on various cameras people should disable, when they will be working with PhotoLab ?

Did you try to lower saturation and luminance in HSL greens? It will make green colors a bit dull, but it will expose more the main subjects. Entering the dangerous area of taste, though.

See NEF Compression
for a good explanation of how it works by Bill Claff. You may read the last sentence first.

Loseless compression is what it says, loseless, the other are lossy. With some Nikon cameras (e.g. Zf, Z8) there are also new “high efficiency” modes, which are lossy and there are still some compatibility issues with these modes. When I bought my first digital camera (D40X), I set it to 14-bit, loseless compression and never looked back, whatever some others were saying. The less potential problems, the better.

Edit: Corrected the author of the link.

You asking me? The reason why I post the .dop file is so anyone who is interested can see what I did (or did not) do. I often experiment with things, to see what I like. I rarely use the HSL tools, but if a color looks to “dull”, that seems to be a good fix.

I rarely lower saturation - I enjoy the photos more with lots of saturation. Too bad that PhotoLab can’t create a “live” summary of what I did, in what order - or better yet, what some of YOU do, in what order.

Most of the time the image feels like “modeling clay”, and I’m reasonably free to make things look the way I prefer. I’ve almost forgotten the old “photojournalism restrictions”. I feel much more free to do what I like/enjoy.

Some people here create such carefully crafted images, that I just have to ask how they did it.

Some of my finished images are satisfactory to me, but others, like mama goat and her baby, caused me to do things against my will. There was a dark “blob” behind mama goat, that I hated, and I really, REALLY wanted their eyes to show up more. Since nobody here is yelling at me about these things, maybe I didn’t make it overly obvious.

I especially enjoy @Joanna’s (and Helen’s) carefully crafted images with everything being perfect, probably from 4x5 film. I’m jealous that I can’t do that. @Wolfgang used to post images that I really liked. I must have learned a few things here along the way, as people aren’t routinely dumping on me for making a mess of things.

In fact, PhotoLab does create a history of adjustments made and, on Mac, that history survives PL being closed and reopened, but not on Windows. Unfortunately, that history is kept in the database and is non-transferable.

But, in truth, the order is not important as PL has its own algorithm for applying adjustments. Just look at the adjustments in the palette and you will see what was done to an image.

The key there is to have the image in your head before you take it with the camera. Then it is knowing how to make best use of your camera to create the best possible “negative” (RAW file), so that it only needs the minimum of post processing.

Without that “previsualisation”, you will never know how to process it to match because you have nothing to compare your work to.

I know it’s mainly about landscape photography but this video by renowned British landscape photographer Charlie Waite is well worth watching. He is not a “snapper” but he is passionate about good photography.

Unfortunately, not so much these days. But Helen made an image with her D810 that an ex-press photographer friend of ours took one look at it and declared that Helen must have used LF to take it.

Finally, I used the phrase “made an image” - something that we subscribe to more and more. It’s not about “taking” a photo and then trying to fix it up in post processing, it’s about the whole process that starts with the vision for the image and ends up with a beautiful 30" x 24" print on the wall - which is where our best images and up.

I know you are more into street photography so here is an image made by my friend Didier Christmann, who is also a street photographer…

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I need to think more about this. I have often had the feeling that you “know” everything I did in editing an image, and either you are very good at analyzing the image, or the .dop file is more powerful than I imagined. I think that if you open any image I took, the .dop file gives you an overview of a “summary” of what was done to that image. But I don’t think it implies or indicates or hints at what was done in what order, which would allow you to make a reasonable guess as to what I was doing, as I edit the image. But even that has an issue, as very often I “finish” editing, and come back to it later, and make more changes based on what I saw in the semi-finished image.

I find that easy and difficult to do - because I am constantly changing my mind and revising what I want the image to show. My imagionation (my spelling) is working over-time, and I may briefly stop and think about it, but the end goal may or not be the same as my original goal. I find/see/imagine things from my images constantly, and sometimes get so frustrated that I stop, and start the editing all over again, using what I’ve learned. I don’t know if this is good, or bad, and it doesn’t happen all the time - sometimes I “see” things in my image that I wasn’t consciously aware of when I “took” it.

Sometimes, on some images, my mind works just as you describe, and my question is what tools to use to get the end result, instead of not being sure what end result I’m even trying to capture - which is often a good time to stop editing, and do something else for a while, or move to another image.

I think I understand, but the best way I can describe this, for me, is that I see something beautiful/fascinating/intriguing/amazing, and want to capture that image in my camera. Then it’s a technical process, trying to accomplish this, and capture my feelings at the time I took it. …and this works best if I edit the image the same day I took it. If I wait a day, or a week, or longer, I’ve forgotten the original goal. The “magic” is gone.

That image you posted - I can picture your friend walking along, and stopping in his tracks by seeing what he could do with what he was looking at - and who was good enough to do such a great job. He must be able to “see” in b&w, and be able to capture all the detail so well. Me? I would have cut off the top of the image, and a little more from the bottom, as the stuff I find most fascinating is towards the middle. I love the shapes, and the shades of gray, and the detail and the reflections. The larger I view the image, the more I enjoy it - so your friend is most likely very talented, to go along with his eye, and his recognizing that what he saw had the makings of a lovely image.

I go walking around searching for images like this, that are “hidden” until they jump out at me. So many things I enjoy about this image. But the very first thing is noticing it, stopping, and then finding the best way to capture it. …my opinion.

Bill Claff ( “Prepared 2006-03-19 by Bill Claff” ) is not the author of dcraw ( that was Dave Coffin ) - Bill Claff probably just prepared the verbal+graphic explanation based on the source code of dcraw …

Right, my obvious mistake. The point was that the information given there is credible and fairly complete.

Better stop fishing for compliments. If people like your image(s), they will tell you.

Some of my finished images are satisfactory to me, but others, like mama goat and her baby, caused me to do things against my will.

Well …

  • You wanted to show up their eyes but misfocused.
    Unfortunaltely, the mother’s head is completely off.

  • You cropped the pic into a static square and ‘poured’ ClearView Plus all over it
    resulting in a boring / distracting background.

check / compare with VC
DF1_5027 2024-01-11.nef.dop (216,4 KB)

Well, Nikon’s NX Studio shows, that you did so with AF-S, but unfortunaltely you missed. In fact the focus is on the goats, just in front of the lady.
( Anyway, I think it’s pretty ambitious to take photos from a moving vehicle through the windshield and with a telephoto lens, but then you tried. )

what you could do in post

  • The static square is not particularly suitable for the group moving along the street.
  • For a more neutral overall color reproduction you can set the white balance selector on the asphalt into the shade of the goats. The JPEG you published is way too greenish.
  • I used PL’s Auto mask to exhibit the group (still embedded in the surrounding).

check / compare with VC
DF1_4450 2023-12-31.nef.dop (70,6 KB)

Here’s another interpretation:

  • Flipped the image (returning home to a shady grove)
  • Darkened the RH chaos to make them less obvious (LA)
  • Colour and contrast overhaul (LA and GA)
  • Crop

Note: Left-handed persons and people who write from right to left are probably more at home with the image when it is flipped back… It’s about seeing habits.

Let’s stick with focusing. I used to use Nikon’s tools where up to 52 or so points can be used for focusing. I was frustrated, because the wrong things were often in the best focus. So, I set my camera to single-point focus, lined up that point on someone’s eye, pressed the back-focus button, released the back button, re-composed, and took my photo. It seemed to me at the time that as long as a person’s eye was sharp, the image was considered sharp.

Then I learned to use my D750 better, when I pressed the back button focus, the camera adjusted the focus, and continued to do so as long as I held the back focus button in. But I needed to keep my camera aimed at the same part of the image. So, now I had single-focus, and continuous focus. Much of the time this worked.

I’ve discovered with the D780 a lot more possible ways to do this:

Ways to focus my D780

  • For a static image, nothing moving, I think I know what to do.
  • For photographing a person, I back-button focus on the eye, release, then recompose without changing the focus.
  • I’m guessing that for photos like the ones I took of the fishing boats, I need to use an array of focus points, and leave it for the camera to figure out what to do - but I’m still confused as to how to do this.

So, using my fishing boat photos as an example, what is a good way to focus, so the camera will try to “follow-focus”.

(I’m asking for my D780, but I’d like a method that works on any camera, for this type of photography.)

@ mikemyers I never used Nikon cameras myself beyond some old P&S Nikon Coolpix 4300 some time in early 00’s - but I was always under impression that a number of people who use [ proper ] Nikon cameras just buy ByThom’s guides if they want to save some time on their own discoveries …

Never use multifocus. It will result in focusing at the nearest by object, whatever that will be. Your example of the boat has one object, the boat.

George

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I couldn’t agree more. I found I have to spend so much time trying to figure out which mode to use for a particular shot, I end up missing the shot.

So far, I found the “group area AF” mode to be the most effective for things like surfers but that may have been just blind luck.

Looking at your boat picture, I would guess that the boat was around 100-150 ft away so, using a calculator, at 100ft with an aperture of f/9 on a 135mm focal length, that gives a depth of field from 82ft to 129ft, which should be plenty to allow reasonably sharp focus if the boat moves towards you.

Using the group area mode, using AF-C, that should work fine for following the boat.

But, just as with exposure, letting the camera do focusing is not a particularly good idea. As @George says, it only takes something to get between you and the subject to tear the focus away.

You don’t have to rely on auto-focus - remember the days when you would follow focus with the focus ring whilst panning? Guess what? It still works today.

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I go with the “blind”. :slight_smile: :upside_down_face:


@mikemyers
Ever since I’m using this “group area AF” mode in combination with

  • AF-C
  • Priority set to Release, while I might continue shooting (with C low set to …)
  • back-button AF

and the cams (in the bag) are preset to

  • Auto WB,
  • Auto ISO (with minimum shuter speed set to fastest )
  • Aperture mode (depending on the lens preset to 1 or 2 stops)
  • and the option to instantly correct Exposure (back wheel)

And no, this does NOT work for everybody. But it serves me better than single-point AF-S ( plus Priority set to Focus ! ), what I use when necessary and then change accordingly … and take my time with it.

YOU need to find out and use, what works for you – and not forget.

On the D780, and presumably the D850, once I decide on AFC, and for as long as I am holding the back button focus technique, this sounds like the best choice for shooting scenes similar to my boat images.

For “people images” I still (now) prefer to use spot focusing, placing the spot over a person’s eye, and accepting that if the eye is sharp, the person will be sharp (in focus).

My exposure will likely be set to “center weighted” (not spot).

My camera used to be set such that pressing the button on the left side of the camera showed one focus spot, in the middle. Based on what I’m learning here, my “default setting” shows that I should use the rear control wheel to select “group” focus, rather than “single point”. Now, the front control wheel selects how large a group the camera will pay attention to. For me, on the D780, I have 7 possible choices for group size.

For those of you who use a Nikon DSLR, when you are walking around with your camera, and would like to be mostly prepared for anything (perhaps for a grab shot), which group size do you leave “on” for your default setting?

More information that may or may not be helpful:
group focusing with Nikon DSLR.)

Or this one, that I am tempted set as my “default” for walking around:
Nikon Group-Area AF Mode

For @Joanna, what do you and Helen do when you’re just walking around, perhaps suddenly seeing a good shot that you need to take immediately? I’m assuming you both use a “default” setting, for use when you haven’t yet discovered something to photograph.

For anyone else using a Nikon DSLR, same question.

Something I plan to read later today: