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Author Topic: What can I learn about colour management from the photos in this competition?  (Read 2266 times)

ashaughnessy

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I'm referring to these photos:
http://www.livefortheoutdoors.com/Latest/Search-Results/Competitions-and-offers/UK-Mountain-Photo-of-the-Year-2015-choose-the-winner/

Background first - I have a windows 8 laptop with a pretty mediocre screen (it's especially sensitive to the viewing angle) which hasn't been adjusted since I got it out of the box. I also have an external decent quality Dell monitor which I have set up (contrast, brightness, etc) and made a profile with one of those spyder thingies - end result being that a picture viewed on the dell monitor is a very good match for a print from my printer (which also has custom profiles) whereas the same picture on the laptop screen looks quite different.

I understand all this and expect it, all fine so far.

But, when I look at the pictures in that competition, especially for example this one - https://i1.wp.com/files.polldaddy.com/a5a2affcbd53efd4d1ee92586bb686ba-55def9e664e69.jpg - they mostly look much better on the laptop screen and they look darker and more blocked up and generally less good on the good dell monitor.

So I'm wondering how you think the photographers processed their images and whether they have deliberately targeted screens like my laptop screen knowing that that's what most people will be using. I'm also wondering what the competition judges saw when they first saw them and what kind of screens the judges might have been using.

I guess the question really is, when creating content for printing you know what the viewer will see, but when publishing content on the web how do you cater for the widely differing screens people use? What do you target?

Anthony
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Anthony Shaughnessy
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D Fosse

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Great shots, but poorly processed (with a few exceptions). I don't think they've "targeted" any particular displays - seems to me they've simply used inferior displays themselves.

In several of them one or two channels are seriously clipped in the shadows, producing a very unpleasant and dense color cast in the shadows. It kills the light and just looks heavy-handed.

Solid blacks are obviously in fashion here, probably for dramatic effect. It can work, done well, but that's not the case here IMO.

These are great shots, as I said, but they could have been presented a lot better.
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Redcrown

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I agree with DFosse, these are great images, dramatic and stunning. And clearly aligned to a common theme. But they are not representative of high quality processing or good "color management" beyond simple white balance.

I think what we learn about color management from these is that color management is not very important. An attractive and dynamic composition will overide technical faults.

Q1: "How did the photogs process their images, did they deliberately target specific types of display?"

A1: I doubt it. Some may edit on calibrated screens, some not. Some calibrated screens will be set very bright, some darker to match prints. Get any three photogs together and you will find 5 different philosophies on how to edit.

Q2: "What did the judges see, what kind of display?"

A1: Most likely the judges were never together, but were simply pointed to an on-line gallery and used whatever device they own. So, some judges used calibrated screens, some not. Some may have used Ipads, some laptops, some high-end calibrated monitors. The images they viewed were probably downsized jpegs in sRGB. Any great care taken by the original photog may have been lost in translation.

I participate in a large, annual print competition. Average of 1,000 photogs submit between 3,000 and 4,000 prints. Max size is 11x14 and most go the max. Three judges view the prints in a marathon 3 day session. Awards are given in several categories (landscapes, people, sports, nature, etc.). The judges are different each year, but always include on photography teacher, one photo journalist, and one commercial photog (seniors, weddings).

The winners and also-rans go on public display for 10 days. Each year, after the judging, I and a few buddies get together and complain loudly and at length at the results. The most common complaint is, "What the hell were they thinking", followed by pointing out blown highlights, blocked shadows, bad white balance, poor DOF, and soft focus.

Bottom line, the judges probably know about those things (maybe not as much as us techno-freaks), but they don't care and are willing to overlook technical faults if the composition and subject matter appeals to them.
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D Fosse

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I think what we learn about color management from these is that color management is not very important. An attractive and dynamic composition will overide technical faults.

I'll have to disagree there. 20 years ago, shooting E6 transparency film, the job was done when pressing the shutter. But today the photographer is lucky enough to have a vast set of precision tools to realize the image's full potential. You can't ignore that or pretend it doesn't exist. Color photography has changed - the good gets better and the bad gets worse. New technology changes the rules.

I keep hearing the argument that "most people" won't see it on calibrated/profiled systems anyway, so what's the point. That's not an argument, that's just an excuse. As I've said here repeatedly - that's their problem, not yours. So what, not everybody appreciates good work. What else is new.

What can be learned from this, IMO, is most of all how extremely important it is to have a good monitor, properly set up and calibrated. Without it, you end up butchering otherwise splendid images, such as here. It hurts to watch.
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ashaughnessy

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I think my point is that if you look at the pictures on a nicely set up calibrated monitor they do have blocked up shadows, but when I look at them on my laptop screen (not calibrated) they look good. So have they been deliberately processed to look good on the kind of monitor setup most people have, or perhaps they were processed by the photographer on such a screen, or perhaps just dumb luck, or perhaps we just don't know what they're supposed to look like.
Anthony
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Anthony Shaughnessy
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D Fosse

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And my point is that this isn't calculated at all. They apparently did the best they could on crappy monitors.

It's not that it looks "good" on a bad display, it's that you don't see the problems. Shadow separation and color casts are not visible, all you get is a fuzzy gray haze that is more or less washed out at the lower third of the screen, because the TN viewing angle kicks in.
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