Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!
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Old 08-24-2006   #1
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Default Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

So, I have a decent picture, but I used a flash to illuminate the subject. In order to capture some ambient light, I bumped the ISO up a bit, and set up a little bit slower exposure. I shot in RAW format, so I basically set a ballpark temp, and shoot away. I got home, started setting up the raw conversion, get everything where I wanted it, and made my image files. During RAW conversion, I started to notice something bugging me about the picture. The lighting - it's mixed. There is a combination of flash illumination and weird fluorescent lighting. No matter what you do, something is off. The best decision is to adjust the WB for the subject. Since the subject in this picture is a group of people, you don't want them looking like Smurfs!

Here it is:



I actually like this photo a lot. It's nothing special - Al Meilutis, from The Polka Bandstand Show on Jazz 90.1 greeting fans during their 25th On Air Anniversary Open House. I just couldn't help but to think it could be better. I was really thinking how I should slapped the 35 f/2 on and shot at ISO 800-1600 and lived with the noise. It wouldn't be that bad, since these were going up on the website. Live and learn.

So I thought about this for a while, and I thought, what do I do with RAW files that don't contain enough range? Well I 'bracket and sandwich' or use HDR tools to expand it. Hmmm. I didn't bracket this, but wait! WB has almost no effect on quality of the image data - to a point. Exposure would be affected by different WB settings, but not by much at all. This will work. I'll blend different files from the same RAW source file, each with a WB for a specific part of the image.

Here are the three files I came up with:

Base File (5400/+5):


Ceiling (3300/+10):


Light Fixture (3900/+3):


I used the Base File as the background layer, and Shift-dragged and dropped the other two images on top using the Move tool in Photoshop CS2. For a quick look at how this would look, I clicked on each of the Ceiling and Fixture layers and used Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All to create a layer mask filled with black. This prevents any of the "WB adjusted" layers from showing. I used the Brush Tool with the foreground color set to white to paint on the layer mask where I wasted the WB adjustments to show through. This is a slow, painful process, and I am not a painter. My lack of skill at this kind of thing is what drew me to photography in the first place: all you have to do is push buttons. What I was doing was starting feel like painting. Here is snapshot of that first attempt:



Not bad, the difference between each of the regions corrected WB is a little drastic. By decreasing the Opacity of each layer, I was able to get it closer to a "balanced image."

I decided there had to be a better way. I decided to try running the TLR Professional Mask Toolkit script. Get it here. I mean it. Go and get it. Great tool. I ran the script to create an extra narrow enhanced surface mask. Now, this doesn't automatically apply any of the selections as masks, it stores them as Alpha Channels. So, I clicked on the Ceiling layer, and then used Select > Load Selection... and chose the Alpha Channel I just created from the droplist. Now all I have to do is use Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection to get a layer mask that is mostly black, but all the edges in the picture are white. I figure this way, I could reduce the "painting" to a third grade art class skill level. Coloring in the lines is so much easier. Here is a quick look at my "coloring in the lines" for the light fixtures, in progress.



I did the same thing for Ceiling layer. Once all that was completed, I needed to tone down the edits. Reducing the opacity was enough to fix all that. I flattened (Ctrl-Shift-E), and continued with the rest of my usual workflow: noise reduction, capture sharpen, selective blur/sharpen/haze reduction, cloned out goobers, resize, output sharpen, saved as .jpg. Here is the final product:



Here is another look, side by side:


This is just a fast run with just three WB files. By rights, I should have used about seven. Another time. I like it better now, and I like the technique. Someone needs to come out with a program like Photomatix that does WB blends. Call it WhiBalMatix. Make a million dollars. Any one is free to add suggestions about how to improve the technique. For me, it's still a little raw. Get it? Raw.

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Old 08-24-2006   #2
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

This is good info to know for important images. It looks like a bit of work on a shot like this, since your original or the base file looked pretty good to me, and the ones in the pic, or viewing on the website, wouldn't know much different.
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Old 08-24-2006   #3
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

Thanks. I'm thinking the application would be where fill was used for a casual portrait, or an environmental portrait for a corporate site. Definitely not really key for this shot, but it was the lighting in this shot that got my attention, and it was a good example of the type of light this can be used to balance. It was a little bit of work, especially when documenting the work for posting. I find, though that by documenting the process, I can free up some brain cells to improve the process rather than trying to remember exactly what I did.
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Old 08-24-2006   #4
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

Free up some brain cells? That leaves Blinky out
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Old 11-10-2006   #5
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

Here is one that I went back to to enhance. Again, mixed lighting - cloudy, cool light from the window, and incandescent light from a chandeleir.

Compromise WB:


Blended WB:
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Old 01-07-2007   #6
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

That's an interesting approach (just scanning the archives on WB and came across this). I'll have a play with this technique myself.
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Old 01-07-2007   #7
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

Glad you found it Paul. A couple of things that will improve the results: Don't use the "Enhanced Mask" in the TLR script, it isolates too many details that aren't necessary for most images. Also, You can get that selection loaded a lot quicker by just running the script, using Ctrl-j to dupe the layer, and Alt-click the alpha channel in the Channels panel. Then just return to the Layers panel and click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom. It's a bit more efficient. Another application for this is in landscape images that have evening sun highlights and shadow details in a shaded area. Sometimes it looks good to leave them as is, but it can also be interesting to mess with mixed WB.
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Old 01-13-2007   #8
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

I always adjust for the subject unless I want the enviroment to be the focus. however you can nail both...

White balance for the subject then pull some of the warmth from the background. It will adjust the fixtures as well. Feel free to post the RAW file or e-mail it to me and I can do it for you. If you don't feel confortable posting the RAW file use photoshop and under the image menu use adjustments-->replacement color will be a quick visual way to adjust the yellow tone out.

-J
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Old 12-28-2007   #9
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Default Re: Mixed Lighting Issues Solved By Using RAW Format!!!

Very good stuff!! Thanks for sharing this John

Best,
Jay


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