Maximize Contrast when taking photo

hartz

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Hello gurus.

Is there a better way to increase contrast, beside through post-processing? Eg by choosing a lower or higher ISO? What settings affect contrast in the resulting photo?

Essentially I've taken some photos of rays of sun through the clouds, but in the photos the rays are barely visible. I remember it looking beautiful, really standing out very well "to the eye" and I am unable to capture it like that. The same thing happens when I try to take photos of a rainbow. Even contrast enhancing in post-processing do not help enough (or my PP skills just suck, very possible that that is the explanation)

This was quite a while ago, I can go find the photos again, I suppose I should do so now that I actually get around to asking the question that has been bugging me for so long (Though it is on an external drive somewhere now)

I've long been saving photos as both JPEG and RAW - RAW for the extra bits of color detail (in case I need to save a photo from less than perfect WB or other in-camera processing), JPEG because most of the time I just can't be bothered with the effort to make the pictures look better than what the camera does by itself.

I took the photos that I'm talking about with a Nikon D3000, but due to stupidity :blushing: I was forced :greenpbl: to upgrade to a D5100 recently (I left the camera outside overnight and it rained). Loving the new camera. Can override "Focus Priority". Easier access to Picture Controls. Everything I want except a live histogram! :D

On the other hand I sometimes wonder whether a lower contrast would not be better, particularly for skin (smooth blemishes). But without loosing detail! (Keep the eyes pretty)

I am lazy and so do very little post processing, I would much rather just learn the best way to set the camera so that I need a little work as possible afterwards! But if post processing is the only way to make these kinds of photos look better then so be it :mrgreen:
 
The Nikon D5100 offers six preset "Picture Control" options. You can adjust Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation and Hue for any of the settings. Consult your manual for how exactly to do that.

Most of us learn to process our photos as a normal step in our workflow. That's the development stage. That said, I generally use a slight "S" curve adjustment to achieve the contrast I want. Most editing programs offer a simple contrast adjustment slider, which makes it even easier, though it has somewhat less control than curve adjustments.
 
Hello Buckster.

Do you mean to say that the only option to enhance contrast and color in a DSLR photo is through the Picture controls and/or post processing? No effect from ISO, aperture, etc?

Thank you!

P.S. I have read the manual and do use the preset picture controls and even fine-tune them, though I keep forgetting how I changed each of them. Going into the menus to check it takes too long ... My photos are mostly candid snapshots.
 
Hello Buckster.Do you mean to say that the only option to enhance contrast and color in a DSLR photo is through the Picture controls and/or post processing? No effect from ISO, aperture, etc?
Not that I know of. A lens shade can help in some cases, but I don't think it's going to be the ultimate solution for you.
 
Post processing will yield the best results of course, but if you don't want to be bothered with that piece I don't see anything wrong with using the picture controls in camera to acheive the contrast you want. I don't know about the Nikon but in my Canon I can set Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, and color tone. There are 6 factory presets and room to store 3 custom ones.
 
If you wanna increase contrast, do that by increasing ISO but do have in mind that your highlights might/will be blown out and noise will be strong, levels would do about the same with you deciding which place to blown out without the added noise. If you do post process your photos, try to use levels/black clip & white clip in curves more and use the S-curve less cause the S curve somehow makes the picture have the 'digital look'.
 
Do you shoot in raw?
 
It's my understanding that underexposing a sunlit sky by 2/3 to a full stop will give you better details in the image. I'm not sure how that will translate to contrast in PP. Shooting in RAW is the way to go.
 
The in the camera picture controls are rude and crude. They can only be applied to a photo globally and have a severly limited number of adjustment values.

Post process edits can be applied locally within an image, and the edits can be made using much more precise values.

The camera does not 'see' the way you do. The cameras image sensor has much less dynamic range than your eye does, and any photograph loses one of the 3 dimensions we can see (depth), and is only 2-D.

It sounds like you are describing Crepuscular rays - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Under exposure helps improve color saturation, but at the expense of adding image noise.
 
It's my understanding that underexposing a sunlit sky by 2/3 to a full stop will give you better details in the image. I'm not sure how that will translate to contrast in PP. Shooting in RAW is the way to go.

Not necessarily, it depends on what your histogram is telling you.

If you're severly clipping your highlights, then yes, you need to underexpose. But the highlight region of your histogram contains more data than any other region, so generally speaking you want to overexpose, not underexpose. This is where the concept "expose to the right" comes from. A few weeks ago Big Mike linked to this article (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/understanding-histograms.shtml), I highly suggest reading it and the other articles that are linked from within that one.
 
Contrast can be applied in-camera by setting the "Tone Curve" parameter to a higher-than-normal setting.

Of course, that can result in blowing out of highlight details earlier than would happen if the in-camera tone curve were set to LOW or NORMAL.

When the tone curve is set to a HIGH setting for example, the highlight warnings on the Histogram will clip and blink much earlier than if the tone curve were at LOW. It is actually a MUCH BETTER idea to set the tone curve to a low or low-ish setting, capture as much dynamic range as possible in-camera, and only then to maximize contrast LAST, at the computer stage.
 
Is there a better way to increase contrast, beside through post-processing?

Why would you want to leave information about the scene behind?

Firstly, you mistake data for information.

Secondly search for other posts by me - I am an absolute advocate of "keep all the data as long as possible".

What is aesthetically pleasing? If the highlights and low-lights in a photo doesn't matter, then throw away the detail in those and focus the available 14 (or how-ever-many) bits that you have on the mid tones where it matters. It depends on the picture.



It's my understanding that underexposing a sunlit sky by 2/3 to a full stop will give you better details in the image. I'm not sure how that will translate to contrast in PP. Shooting in RAW is the way to go.

OK now I want another rainbow so I can go try this out.

JCliche : Thank you for the reading material suggestions. I will experiment with over and under-exposing to see when I get the best contrast in those rainbows and "crepuscular rays". But now I am sure I will have a week of bright sunshine and no clouds or rain :-/

Derrel: Somehow you are encouraging me to just do it on the computer in PP. :)

KmH: Thank you.

brush: Thank you.

480sparky: Yes.
 
Another way is to use a body+lens+filter combination. Some lens and filter are more contrasty than others.
 
Is there a better way to increase contrast, beside through post-processing?

Why would you want to leave information about the scene behind?

Firstly, you mistake data for information.

not really, but ok. I hear ya.

What is aesthetically pleasing? If the highlights and low-lights in a photo doesn't matter, then throw away the detail in those and focus the available 14 (or how-ever-many) bits that you have on the mid tones where it matters. It depends on the picture.

This is an interesting concept that I will have to mull over a bit. I think it is valid in theory, but not so much in practice. Gamma correction comes to mind, but I can't quite place why into words; it boils down to how not all tones are equally distributed in the final image.

I also kind of feel like you're suggesting that one must always compromise shadow detail in order to maintain contrast. This isn't necessarily true, but you do need enough shadow detail to work with in order to bring about the local adjustments necessary, at least in ways that do not compromise image quality.

So I really do not think it is the best course of action to try to get everything "right" in camera. As others have said, you're really relying on how the engineers at Canon or Nikon or Sony or whoever produced your RAW editor think is the ideal way to render every single image that comes it's way - usually this is just a simple gamma translation. It is much better, IMO, to expose for maximum detail across all tonal regions so that you can render the image the way YOU see it.

I suppose that this is what it ultimately boils down to: sometimes the way those engineers see things are flat and lifeless (lol)
 

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