Friday, June 3, 2022

AYWMC: Part 5, Editing: Lesson 3, Tonal Edits

This post is part of a series entitled A Year With My Camera.

Lesson 5.3 in my own words.
  • Tones in an image are simply the shades of grey.
  • Most editing software splits them into 3 broad groups:
    • dark tones
    • mid-tones
    • highlights
  • Pure black and pure white would be on the ends.
  • The better quality image editors allow adjustment to each tone group separately, e.g., tonal curves in Lightroom.
  • Editing the tone groups separately allows you to keep detail. For example
    • Not losing detail in light areas when lightening dark tones.
    • Not losing detail in the dark end when darkening highlights or mid-tones.
    • It helps to imagine the photo in black and white.

This week's project

Create at least 2 completely different edits from the same photo, just using the curves tool, or dark tones/light tones sliders.

GIMP has a color curves tool, but not a tonal curve tool for dark, mid, and highlight tones. So my homework was done on RAW images in ART with sliders.

I started by experimenting with images of flowers and goats. I could see changes, but they were subtle as the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights were subtle. This week's project wants two completely different edits from the same photo, so I chose the same scene that I used for last week's project, but under different conditions. In lesson 5.2 the photo was taken before sunrise on a foggy morning. For this lesson, the photo was taken a couple hours after sunrise on a clear morning. I like that it has distinct shadows, mid-tones, and highlights with which to experiment.

Original from the camera

In my edited photos, the shadows were lightened the same, but the mid-tones were the opposite and highlights were decreased for edit #2. The changes are subtle, so I suppose it's a matter of which image is instinctively more appealing to the viewer.

Tonal edits #1

Tonal edits #2

What I learned
  • Tonal edits can subtly bring out details that are originally visible to the eye, but less so to the camera. 
  • It's a way to draw attention to a particular area of the image.
  • The differences can be subtle or intense.
  • In the end, it's a matter of personal taste.

For my records, here are the individual edits I experimented with before putting them all together.

Original with only shadows lightened

Original with only mid-tones lightened

Original with only mid-tones darkened

Original with only highlights darkened

And because I couldn't leave it alone, here is my tonal edit photo #1 (above), with a few more tweaks.

Tonal edit combo with slightly increased saturation.

Same as above with color temperature cooled slightly.

I have to add that I understand why we were instructed to take our images in the largest size our camera allows. It's a lot easier to see the changes when the image is 6016 pixels by 4012 pixels, than at the 500 x 333 I post on my blog. But the blog posting size is a matter of space and loading time, so while it's a good record, it's not perfect.

All images © by Leigh at Leigh's Photography Journal


Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Interesting. The differences are subtle but apparent as I look for awhile.

Leigh said...

TB, I suppose it's like most other things - we notice the flaws or weaknesses in our own work but rarely in that of others'. Dark shadows and bright highlights are somewhat frustrating for me, because the camera has limits and records these as solid black or solid white. Learning how to tweak these seems to help overcome the sense of flatness I sometimes get from photos like that. They help put the details back into the scene.