How to improve? Could you look at this pic? (post1)

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by mesmerized, Jul 29, 2016.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Dear Users,

    Here's a SOOC picture of Shanghai's Bund. For some reason, the picture seems very bleak and lacks fine details. I'm pretty sure it's my fault, so I'd appreciate any comments or/and suggestions. EXIF added below. Thanks!

    Camera: Olympus E-M5MarkII
    Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 Pro
    Shot at 14 mm
    Exposure: Manual exposure, 1/80 sec, f/8, ISO 200
    Exif Image Size 4,608 × 3,456
    Image Description OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    Camera Model Name E-M5MarkII
    Orientation Horizontal (normal)
    Software Version 2.2
    Exposure Time 1/80
    F Number 8.00
    Exposure Program Manual
    ISO 200
    Sensitivity Type Standard Output Sensitivity
    Components Configuration Y, Cb, Cr, -
    Exposure Compensation 0
    Max Aperture Value 2.8
    Metering Mode Multi-segment
    Light Source Unknown
    Flash On, Did not fire
    Focal Length 14.0 mm
    Lens Model OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8
    Exposure Mode Manual
    Color Space sRGB
    Maker Note Olympus 2 (13,900 bytes binary data)
    User Comment
    Flashpix Version 0100
    Interoperability Index R98 - DCF basic file (sRGB)
    Interoperability Version 0100
    File Source Digital Camera
    Custom Rendered Normal
    White Balance Auto
    Digital Zoom Ratio 1
    Scene Capture Type Standard
    Gain Control Low gain up
    Contrast Normal
    Saturation High
    Sharpness Hard
    Lens Info 12-40mm f/2.8
    Compression JPEG (old-style)

  2. Hypilein

    Hypilein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 18, 2015
    I am not sure, but I think the reason for the flat looking image is just the light and possible smog over the city. I don't think there is anything that you could have done in the capture. From the light I see it seems like the best light was 10-30 minutes before you took the shot, but only you know, as you were there. In terms of composition, I would have had more sky and less water. Your horizon line is quite close to the center. Maybe cropping to 16:9 would benefit this picture.

    There are also a number of ways to increase contrast and fine detail (or at least it's perception) in post. I don't know which software you use, so won't comment on any specifics yet.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  3. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    I think smog is certainly a contributing factor, but it's a contrast issue to my eyes. I can't see the histogram but I'd boost exposure by a stop or so, and then ensure there's a good curves adjustment to spread that histogram out. Both these things can be done in camera or in post.

    There are many ways that this could be improved in post - perspective distortion, dehaze, contrast and levels - and most if not all of the classic cityscapes will have been carefully processed. But I got the impression you were looking for improvements straight out of camera.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  4. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    1) Smog, sea haze, not great light, a bit too dark.
    2) Featureless sky, featureless buildings, featureless water.

    I would have tried a slightly earlier shot for more interesting light if it was available, or a latter shot during blue hour once the lights start turning on - much more interesting colour and detail on the buildings then. I'd also crop wide to get rid of so much featureless sky and water.

    Since this was such a distant shot f/8 isn't necessary, f/5.6 or even f/4 would have been easily enough and reduce diffraction effects. For greater detail and composition flexibility it may have also have worked better to take a 2-3 shot panorama at a tighter focal length.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Legend

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    My advice would be to shoot it at night, on a tripod, at base ISO. This will give you a longer exposure to smooth the water out, and brighten the lights on the buildings to really make them "pop". I took this shot back in September of 2014 when I was there, and have it printed 30" x 20" and hanging up on a wall in the hallway of my apartment.

    Shanghai is a really fascinating city to visit. Much more westernized than I imagined it would be.

    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Examined the picture using Photoshop CC: histogram shows all values bunched up in the middle, no real highlights nor real blacks. Simply improving the histogram (ETTR!!!) and a bit of "clarity" improved the picture 200%.

    • Like Like x 5
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. BigG

    BigG Mu-43 Regular

    May 29, 2016
    image.jpeg I actually love the soft tones in your photo as it gives a true atmosphere to the picture. A change in composition might be an improvement:-
  8. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Rob Campbell
    I agree. I like the soft tones as well. Only thing I'd do is maybe tweak the verticals in Lightroom or DxO to fix the tilt. Add some clarity and boost the shadows a little. I do like @ijm5012@ijm5012 photo with the lights though.

    light is everything. Figure out when sunrise/sunset are in your area and go exploring around those hours.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Thank you all for the comments and advice!

    Thanks! I suppose that cropping the pic in this case can be only done in pp though, can't it? Otherwise, I wouldn't have managed to get all the buildings into the frame.

    That's a very valuable piece of advice. I always thought that in case of landscapes/distant objects I should go with something around f/8-11...

    Thanks Zeus! Emm... what is ETTR?

    The problem is that 95% of pictures produced by my Oly are with soft tones... I really hate that... They all seem to lack sharpness in a way. It's probably my inability to get the best out of my camera, but a buddy of mine who was shooting with his A7ii right next to me (at the same time) came up with a much better shot. Same location, same hour, very similar settings (f.5.6 though in his case) and a slower shutter speed. So one can't help by wonder, how come?
  10. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    1) Crop in camera - you can set the camera to 16:9 or 2:3 crop for JPEG.

    2) Aperture - the f/8 thing is generally a legacy from the prevalence of FF. For 2x crop like m4/3 the equivalent is f/4.

    3) Tones - have you tried to play with the various in camera processing settings such as contrast, tonal mode (e.g. vivid/natural), shadow/highlight control and gradation mode? Gradation=Normal is especially important, if you set it to Auto everything comes out relatively flat because the camera is trying to compress dynamic range. Can't have it both ways though, if you set it for Normal highlights and shadows will clip more easily. RAW gets around this as there is no tonal processing done in camera.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  11. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Remember the rule of thirds. Place your horizon line (waterline) on the lower third next time. Or use ps content aware fill to add to the sky. Also hold the camera level next time since you are far away from the building to keep them from keystoning in or tweak them in ps.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. HHest

    HHest New to Mu-43

    Jun 14, 2016
    I wonder if your issue with softness is related to your high f-stop setting and diffraction limit. There's a nice demonstration of the effect in this post by Amin Sabet What Does 'Diffraction-Limited' Mean?
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2016
  13. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    I agree with @wjiang@wjiang among others above. To me the lighting is not good and there is not a clear subject. Maybe changing composition to show only one of the taller buildings or taking out some water would help.
  14. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    To me this is a great example of where the Olympus Viewer 3 (which is generally disliked by most and very slow but) can come in very handy for evaluating what you shot and how other settings in your camera might have helped. Especially those settings you may not understand, you can use OV3 to show you what they do. If you shoot JPG, switch to RAW+JPG so you have a RAW file version to play with in OV3. You can now load it into OV3 and try seeing how changing say the highlight and shadow tool effects the image. How contrast and sharpness could have been changed to possibly give you an SOOC look you like better. And several other settings.

    As other have mentioned, I think this would have benefitted from better framing giving a bit less water and making the shoreline lower in the shot. In addition, this shot screams out to learn and use the keystone correction tool built into the camera to straighten up your buildings so the outer ones are not leaning towards the middle. Again, with RAW you could turn it on in OV3 and see the effect. Not sure if it will still allow you to do it with a JPG. You can see in the @Zeus1@Zeus1 version this correction was added to make all the buildings straight up and down to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
  15. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    hope this helps...all edits done in photoshop in about 5 min with just the attached photo in the thread...if I had an original RAW, I likely could have done way more
    Dehaze filter a bit
    couple of graduated filters (one on waterline and above and one on water line and below) added clarity and boosted shadows highlights and vibrancy a bit
    straightened out buildings
    content aware crop (to add sky) and crop out building on left side
    • Like Like x 3
  16. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Thanks all for the comments!

    I've decided to take the bull by the horns and fiddle with the RAWs I have. Can I use Lightroom only or do I need to invest in Photoshop? I imagine that perspective correction has to be done in PS...
  17. Hypilein

    Hypilein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 18, 2015
    Perspective correction can be done in the lens correction tab in Lightroom. Just go to manual and fiddle with the sliders to see what happens.
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