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The Dark Room -- Photo Editing and Picture Taking. Advice, tutorials, questions on all things photoshop, photo editing, and taking pictures of beads or glass.

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  #1  
Old 2006-01-15, 1:11pm
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Default Fastest way to better Photography, LEVELS tutorial

What are levels? The heart and sole of your imaging software. All high end software will have a levels control box ( Photoshop, Paint, as well as camera software ). If you do not have levels, it would be a smart investment. You can pick up Photoshop Elements ( a stripped down and lower cost version ).

First here are a couple terms, you will need to understand.
BLACK POINT- the point where a color and or tone saturates to black.
WHITE POINT- the point where a color and or tone desaturates to white.
GRAY POINT- 50% gray. the point in the middle of black & white.
Histogram- don't freak out it's just a Bar chart.

So Lets start by understanding the histogram. Remember, what your looking at is a bar chart. In Fig.1 the top box shows the histogram of the art work above it. There are only three tones in the art work, BLACK, 50% GRAY and WHITE. So the histogram shows three lines 0- black. 1.00 gray and 255 white. The reason there are no numbers up the side or along the bottom of this chart, is because we are dealing with 255 MILLION colors and tones.
The bottom box shows a normal photos histogram.



Fig.2 Shows the controls we will be looking at. The raw photo is there just so you can see what the histogram is showing.



Don't worry about the eye doppers. Their use is fairly specialized.

Fig.3 Before we look at this example. Understand the markings that are in color are not part of the dialogue box. They are my markings to Illustate where I'd move the sliders too.



Fig.4 How to change your color balance.



Now you may not want to mess with the B&W points in the color channels. It gets a little tricky. But if you have set the B&W points in the RGB channel first, all you will need to do is just adjust the Gray point slider. Start out with small adjustments. The fastest way to learn is to mess around and see what happens.

Fig.5 How to adjust Contrast and Brightness. In this example, I have set the B&W points way to far into the histogram to illustate the point.



Fig. 6 Examples of photos and what their histograms look like. Can you figure out how to fix the top four?



In the example SWEET ! ( this is what the histogram looked like after the editing process. ) you will notice white lines in the histogram. That is missing information. That would be a bad thing if there were too much missing. But 25 missing colors or tones out of 255 million is pretty good. I think I can live with that. LOL

There you go, not that complicated. Here are my steps when I edit a photo.

Step 1 set B&W point for each color channel.
Step 2 adjust color balance.
Step 3 set B&W points in the RGB channel ( contrast ).
Step 4 adjust Brightness.
step 5 click OK

Play around and good luck.
Scott
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Last edited by Tanner Studios; 2006-06-17 at 9:31pm.
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  #2  
Old 2006-01-15, 1:52pm
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Very nice tut, I'm sure it will be a big help to lots of people.
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Old 2006-01-15, 2:29pm
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Ok I gotta fire up the printer...dh got me Photoshops Elements for Christmas and I've been puttering around...this should speed things up!
Thanks!
xoxox
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  #4  
Old 2006-01-15, 2:42pm
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Holy ______ my photos just improved 200%!!! THANK YOU!!!
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Old 2006-01-15, 5:05pm
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Awesome information.

Thanks, Scott!
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  #6  
Old 2006-01-16, 5:34am
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Default Thank you Scott!

This was about the best explanation for this procedure that I have seen. Like anything we want to do well, with a little practice you'll gain experience and it will come as second nature. What a helpful tut. You rock!!!!
J.
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Old 2006-01-16, 8:21am
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Thank you Scott. I use this all the time and now I have a few more items to tweek.

This is a great Thread and I'm rating it 5 stars.

Dawn
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Old 2006-01-16, 10:04am
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What a great tutorial.. thanks for taking the time to publish it for us..
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Old 2006-01-17, 6:11am
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Thanks Scott! I'm using PaintShopPro and can't find a historgram plot for levels. Looks like all the other functionality is in PSP though. I'll have play around more! Thanks, ~Juliet
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  #10  
Old 2006-01-17, 2:38pm
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Scott,
Don't freak out (I loved that, just my speed), you may just be my new hero.

If I don't make it back to tell you so, I'm editing my pictures.

Thanks.
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  #11  
Old 2006-01-19, 7:34pm
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I just found a histogram... in my NikonCapture Editor software. Really cool stuff! Thanks for explaing the hows and whys! Here's before and after photos! Thanks, ~Juliet
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Last edited by CorvetteJuliet; 2006-01-19 at 7:44pm.
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  #12  
Old 2006-01-19, 10:10pm
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Way to go ! Juliet , Now Thats what I'm talking about !

Now, let's figure out why your photos have an amber cast ( bias ) in the first place. Like I said before. It might be something as simple as your camera setting. Your light source is Tungsten ( How do I know ? I have seen that color for thirty years ). So make sure you set your camera is set to tungsten light balance ( the light bulb icon ). If thats not the problem, here is what you need to do. Find the balance at the light source. If you have to shoot in Day light balance mode ( the sun icon ) on your camera, But you have tungsten lights. You can put a filter over the lights or the len. The color would be in the blue family.

Over the lens, Kodak makes a filter system for over the lens . They are Wratten gelatin filters or also called Color Compensating filters. The Correction filter you would need is in the 82 family. Filters come in DEGREE's 82 , 82 A , 82 B , 82 C , and 82 D (lighter to darker ).

Now over the lights. Its the same deal. But you will need to filter the lights. Rosco makes filters to balanced the light at the source ( the Lights! ).
there are two kinds... Rosco and Rosco Luxs ( brand name ) . One is made for HOTTER lights. Meaning they won't melt as fast ( and I know how we all love to melt things ).
I can't remember which is which. Or there number.

Over the lights, ( by the way, this is a best way to go. ) But when attaching filters to lights. BE CAREFUL, filters can catch fire. Don't put the filter on too close. Attach it loosely so there is an air space between the light and filter.

Kodak filters.... Pro camera shops.
Rosco light filters..... Pro camera shops, film production supplyers, stage or theatrical supply houses.

By the way Juliet, your new lights, Rock!. There is a nice quality of light in your photographs.

Here is the lession for today. Light's a bitch. It has Four heads..... Contrast, Brightness and Color Balance. The forth ? We'll just say, I saving that for those who understand WAX on WAX off.

Scott

P.S by the way, Way cool beads.... now that I can get a proper look see.
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Last edited by Tanner Studios; 2006-01-20 at 12:34am.
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  #13  
Old 2006-01-20, 6:07am
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Scott, Thanks! About the lights... is it better to stick with one kind or mix them up? Those photos were taken using two knockoff brand OTT lights (which have some fluorescent like bulb) and two incandescent lights - one with a regular bulb the other with some GE color correct (looks like light blue glass) bulb. I figure the color settings on the camera are for standardized light spectra. Is mixing light sources making it more difficult to get the color balance to come out OK? I think on those original photos I had the setting on outdoor (DH used the camera the day before outside and I didn't realize it and switch it back). I've tried fluorescent light setting and that's awful. I'm wondering if I'd be better just using 1 kind of light. I tried just 2 of the 4 lights, but there's not enough to really illuminate the beads, even shooting with a tripod. ANy thoughts on that? Thanks, this is a great help! ~Juliet
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  #14  
Old 2006-01-20, 6:19am
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Yes, Scott. You are the best. My pictures are better. This one looks pretty good, but there is still room for improvement. I can see an even bigger difference in some of the other things I've taken.

I've started using my new $20 tent from eBay. I must remember to get out the tripod, and then better lighting. Before I buy, I'd love your comments. (Currently it is 2 100W daylight bulbs in the reflector type clamp on housing.) Now that I have the tent, I want to get some lights that are free standing instead of clip on. But I want to be sure I know what type of bulbs I need first.

before
after

Last edited by Just Nancy; 2006-01-20 at 10:34am.
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  #15  
Old 2006-01-20, 8:02am
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I'd love some help with lighting. I tried last night to get some pics of my dichrioc glass which is a challenge anyway.

I have a light tent and one halogen light above it. I am thinking I need a spotlight on each side to allow me to NOT use my flash (which leave a big flash in the middle of the dichroic pendant. I did find that my pics were too noisy because I had my film speed set to 800! (Bad!)

Do you think two clamp-on lights, one on each side would give me the light I need?
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Old 2006-01-20, 2:42pm
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Okay, Scott, I'll bite: Why do you photograph on such a busy background and not a plain white or grey one?
Enquiring Minds Want to Know.
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Bullet with 2 15lp oxycons
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  #17  
Old 2006-01-20, 3:17pm
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Great Tutorial!

One small tidbit however, I saw the figure 255 million colors mentioned several times. That should be 16.7 million. 255 "levels" for each, red, green, and blue. 255 cubed is roughly 16.7 mil, not 255. But still an overwhelming number nontheless.
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  #18  
Old 2006-01-20, 6:16pm
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Great feed back every one. And Thank you Prairieson. Your right ! I used the number 255 million incorrectly. Because it just makes it easier to understand that the histogram is just a bar chart. If I went into to much information. I would have freak out! And scared off the newbies. It helped me when I first started. To see the histogram as a straight line bar chart from 0 to 255 million. Even though that is incorrect, Seeing it this way will help newbies wrap their mind around the histogram faster. Thank you. That's Great Info.
Scott
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Last edited by Tanner Studios; 2008-02-14 at 11:14am.
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Old 2006-01-21, 7:19pm
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Lets answer your questions.

Juliet: Mixing the lites is where your touble is comming from. Here's what to do. Do a test shoot with each type of light tube you have and with all your camera modes ( Day light , tungsten, Fluoresscent ) . Find out which Combo you like the best. Then replace all the tudes so their the same. That way you will have the same amount of light. Then filter If need.

Nancy: Great job on the flower and photo. I am going to use it as an example if I may. Every one take a look at Just Nancy"s " After" photograph. I want you to look closely at the back ground. And the high light on the lower part of the Bead. Now Remember what I said in Fig. 3 Your throwing any information . Here is a case, of not throwing out enought. If Nancy would have set her WHITE POINT a little more aggressively, She would have thrown away that blue bias in the back ground. Making the back ground whiter and brighter. (Contrast; one of the masters of light. Make it your best friend. ) However, here's the down side. While Nancy's back ground now looks better, the high light in the bead will have blow out ( loose detail / information ) Thats a bad thing. But it can easy'ly be fixed. Take a look and my photo I have no High lights on my beads. They have all been retouched out, But we will talk about that latter.


Next up is Pierces * Design,
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Last edited by Tanner Studios; 2006-01-22 at 10:03pm.
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  #20  
Old 2006-01-22, 12:44pm
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Posting this here. Thoughts, advice, help??
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Old 2006-01-22, 1:47pm
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Debbie P. Great job! beautiful bead. Now lets look at your photo. If you read my reply ( answer your questions ) I used nancy's bead as an example. The same thing is going on with your back ground, However Deddie has a problem that Nancy did not, Silver wire. Look at her photo she is starting to loose detail in the high lights of her silver wire. But the over all photo needs a little more punch. What should Deddie do? Nothing she is at the point of compromise. I think Debbie used very good jugdment. when she set her white point.

Now heres a thought that will scare you to death. The four hardest things to photograph are; Round reflective surfaces, Glass, Metal and Macro (close up photography ) Guess what? we're dealing with all four of these little monsters, Told ya it was going to be scary.
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Old 2006-01-22, 2:08pm
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Here is a different one that I tweaked just a little different just now. I think I am going to have to use the guidelines you have so graciously shared and just adjust them to my need as you said.

Thanks so mucj!
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Old 2006-01-22, 2:35pm
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Debbie, Again with the beautiful bead. This time You pushed the white point to far. Your silver is too hot. Back off your white point and brighten it with the gray point. BUT! do it form the original photo and not the edited version you are showing here. The reason
for this is.... Once you have edited the file, you have thown information away. Your white point is now set at 255 and there is no way to back off.
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Old 2006-01-22, 4:51pm
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Why don't you Shoot on white?

Every one meet Nanette. She email this question to me. I asked her, to ask it again in here. I thought it would make a good topic. Heres an example of what she is talking about.


I have three reasons. First its boring, I've been an advertising photographer for close to thirty years. I have shot everything under the sun on white and more then once. So it's all I can do, not to put a gun in my mouth. How would you like making white beads every day.

Reason two, it takes to much TIME to knock out the back ground properly. You need to use the pen tool (Paths ). And that takes a lot of time. I sell big sets, around 15 beads. I already spend about 40 minutes per set, setting up my photo's for ebay. Knocking out the back ground would add an addional hour per set.

The most important reason. It's part of my marketing strategy. Yes its true, that shooting on white may show the beads better. And alot of buyer's would prefer that. But what will it say about the artist? The strategy for my photos is not too, just sell beads. But, also sell the artist. So, I add some creative juice into my images to express who I am as an Artist.

Thanks for all the great question everyone.
Scott
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Old 2006-01-22, 4:51pm
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OK. Thanks so much for the comments. I appreciate it very much.

So, the white balance. Maybe I get it now ~maybe I don't.

How's this.
Sorry it's so big, guess I goofed on resizing.

And I did a red and white one.
Before

after


Improving?

Last edited by Just Nancy; 2006-01-22 at 4:54pm.
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Old 2006-01-22, 5:12pm
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Hey Nancy, Oh you soooo get it! the flower "prefect" the red set however. just a little to much black. Look at your reds, just a little over saturated. And the whites in your beads are a little to hot. Your trying to get your back ground whiter then it's willing to go. Thats why if you want a true white for your back ground, You have to use paths and knock out the back ground. See; "why don't you shoot on white".
But you go girl.
Scott
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Last edited by Tanner Studios; 2006-01-22 at 7:25pm.
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Old 2006-01-23, 5:47am
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Scott, Thanks. I thought the flower was very much better than I would have ever thought I could make a photo look. I see what you're saying about the reds, but don't know (yet) how to make it different. I'll play with it later. I definately want a different background because I don't like the texture in my white background. I have several in mind. I'll share once I have something to show.

Thank you again.
Nancy
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Old 2006-01-26, 5:47pm
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Thank you for all the information! What is it that you use for your background? It is very pretty!!!
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  #29  
Old 2006-01-28, 8:06pm
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What a fantastic tutorial. I do use levels but I tend to do my color correction in my browse screen. I am going to give the channels a go and see if I like it better.
As for shooting on white. It is a hard thing for me to drop...... but you have a good point Let me think about it, lol.
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Old 2006-01-29, 6:56pm
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Hi Scott - thanks for the great info. I use levels all the time, but I use the droppers. I don't use the gray one, though, cause I can never find a neutral gray to click on. I absolutely NEVER thought to set the black and white points for each of the channels. I bet that will help a lot since the problem is rarely across the board consistent between channels. Thanks!
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