Darned perception

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkI thought some of the comments on my previous post (I’m gettin’ good) were interesting:

  • “I like the natural look of the first one.”
  • “I know you found the first photo to be drab, but I loved it!”
  • “….it looks a little like there’s too much grays now instead of browns…A little washed out…”
  • “I would have liked just a smidge more color on the queen of the jungle. Just a smidge.”

Why I found the comments interesting:

  • “I like the natural look of the first one.” — The first one was not natural. I had the wrong white balance setting on the camera, which caused the overly warm (yellow) cast to everything. Just because it was the picture the camera took does not mean it’s the “natural look.” Remember what my wise old grandmother said: “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.” Sometimes, though, even the basics are wrong. Fortunately, Photoshop allows us to correct the basics.
  • “I know you found the first photo to be drab, but I loved it!” — I didn’t find it drab, just not what I remember seeing. And in looking at the other pictures I took, it definitely was not an accurate picture of what I saw. The whole picture was too yellow.
  • Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park“….it looks a little like there’s too much grays now instead of browns…A little washed out…” — This comment is a result of that darned perception. Photoshop’s algorithms look at the average color throughout the picture and then subtracts the average wrong color from the overall average color to give the average correct color. Once I got the white balance correct for the overall picture, I separated the lion from its background and added some contrast and sharpening for the lion, not for the background. That allowed the lion to stand out from its background. In the first picture, the lion was getting lost in the too-sharp and too-colorful background, a result of not using a shallow depth of field (low number for the f/stop). Because the background is so much of the picture, some might think that the lion now has too much gray. However, the lion’s color was not changed at all once the correct white balance was achieved. This comment might make a good case for several options: (1) cropping real tight on the lion so that there is less background causing subjective viewing of the lion, (2) increasing the contrast a little more on just the lion, (3) adding some more color to the lion. Number 1 would be my first choice. I think the other two options, especially #3, would create too much depth to the lion’s fur, a depth that just isn’t there on a female lion.
  • “I would have liked just a smidge more color on the queen of the jungle. Just a smidge.” — Another comment caused by perception due to the background. I went back to see what adding a smidge more color to the queen of the jungle and it just looks too artificial, giving a yellow or orange glow to the lion. I was back to having an incorrect white balance albeit by different means.

I’ll give you another example using the following two pictures. In the first picture, my Canon 550D was set for a white balance of “Tungsten,” which is what I use at home so that I can get instantaneous pictures of Zoey the Cool Cat; she’s an indoor cat. When I took the picture, I was in the shade instead of the sun so I could see the LCD screen better than when I took the picture of the lion. The yellow color immediately told me that the camera was still set to Tungsten. I reset the white balance to “Auto” and took the second picture. Both pictures are the basics out of the camera. Some people will like the warmer yellow color, and that’s okay. But for those wanting “natural,” the second picture is the more natural of the two.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I think the comments make a great case for never showing the working pictures, only the final product. After all, the only people who show you working renditions are teachers. Of course, in my previous post, I was being more Photoshop teacher than photographer.

Even professional photographers who make 100% of their income from their photography have every digital photo editing program in existence, even if they refuse to admit that they use them — that’s a lot of money to spend on something they don’t use……lol.

….we return to our regularly scheduled programming: Andy Roddick vs. Novak Djokovic in Olympic tennis.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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9 thoughts on “Darned perception

  1. jmgoyder

    I just liked the picture!
    I love this post because it shows how much care (it also shows that you are too clever but that’s only because you are so much older than I am – hahahahaha!)
    Your blog is a delight for me – thank you!

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  2. seakist

    Everyone’s a critic, right? I’m just happy to see clear photos of gorgeous animals. I love the lion’s tongue sticking out, it’s so funny.

    And I love the comments from your beloved grandmother — what a blessing! I miss mine dearly 🙂

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  3. firstandfabulous

    Funny. The last sentence in your previous post was “Whaddaya think?” Not everyone likes things the same as everyone else. I was responding to your question. NOT trying to be a critic. I would have hoped that you took it as it was meant. It was an opinion, as was requested. I seem to recall having nothing but praise for your work. I’m starting to sound like I’m on the defensive here. Ever feel that way, Russel?

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  4. Dorothy

    The best part about a photographer is they are an artist as well as a skilled craftsman. I don’t think the camera can ever capture exactly what we see with our eye because our mind is interpreting it as we see it, so we can produce whatever we want the public to see. I like the explanation you’ve given with each photo too.

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