Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Web Makes Poor place for Photographs

I was working on set of images from a walk I did about 2 weeks ago to shoot from the top of a large hill, which was the highest point in a radius of 25km. While I was trying to bring out all the fine detail of leafless branches this winter scene it occurred to me that the blog readers will not truly be able to see this detail and therefore may not appreciate the quality of this image. In a large print It is fun to explore the different parts as you scan about the image.

With the other problems I have had with some images being displayed on the web I thought that the web just isn’t that great a place to show your images if you are trying to manage your quality. This is an over simplification as there are many images that do look just fine on the web, but there are still problems.

Fine Detail

The images I display as well as those from many other photographers have been reduced in detail to make them easier to see on a computer monitor. I mostly keep mine to a max width of 800 pixels. Most of the blog readers have resolution 1280 pixels wide or less. There are a few at 1920 px but this seems to be the maximum size. This is a reduction of more than 1/5th in image size.

Any images larger than this resolution will either get compressed by the browser to fit the screen resolution or the viewer will have to scroll around to see all parts of the image. Not the best of solutions. Nothing beats looking at a well-made photograph when printed 16x20 inches in size.

This image was created using 3 Adobe Camera Raw smart layers. The base layer was set to normal default settings, which keeps some of the softness in the treetops. For another layer I increased clarity and the luminance and saturation for the yellow, orange colours and reduced for the cyan and blue channels. I then masked in some parts to give them more visual punch to these parts of the image: the yellow tree branches and the white birches. For the last layer I wanted the distant hills to have more of a cool darker blue tone.

Color Temperature

At first I thought that this was only applicable to monitor White Balance settings, where most people have the monitor set too high in colour temperature, either 7,500 or 9,000K which will tend to make any subtle purple tones almost completely Blue in Hue.

But this also happens with prints where the colour temp of the lights, from Red incandescent, to the blue of bright fluorescents impact the colours. The eyes have the ability to auto correct and therefore it is hard to see a colour cast when viewing a print, but it is still there. If you have ever been in an underground parking and observed the colour on a red car under tungsten (3,200K) lighting, it almost has a muted brown-orange hue, not the bright red you se outside in daylight

It seems that either medium has its own set of colorcast problems. Monitor having too much blue cast and home indoor lighting either too much red (incandescent) or fluorescent ( can be blue or red).

I used 2 B&W layers to create this final image. The first layer I increased the luminance and saturation in ACR for the yellow and green channels and darkened the blue and cyan for the sky. I wanted the green pine needles to go very light when I applied a B&W layer in Photoshop. With the large reduction in Blue channels the sky went to dark near the top and the bottom edge stayed light. By creating another ACR smart layer I could control the sky color better and with its own B&W adjustment layer and then I masked in this sky.

Dot Size

Most monitors these days are LCD types and these have sharp edge contrast to do the construction of the pixels. There are no gradations between LCD pixels, it goes instantly from one color to the next.

Most of the current ink jet printers using a print dot range of 240-360 dpi create images that have ultra fine and subtle tone and edge transitions. I have always enjoyed a printed image over its LCD version even at higher resolutions.

It was an icy cold day and the camera did correctly capture the cold hue in the shadows. There are times where you don’t want WB corrected.

Screen Contrast

By far, this is the one attribute that causes the largest photo alterations. I have 2 sets of double LCD monitors. One is calibrated, the other is only a cheaper type used mainly for pallets and tools. On the cheaper monitor the photos all look drastically different.

I know exactly how my images should look and when I also observe on other monitors, there are drastic tonal changes. Darks becoming brighter and high light tones being almost blown out. Many displays tend to increase the contrast of the image.

Just a slight LAB adjustment to increase color contrast.


No medium is perfect I on average I find more consistent results from printed images but how do you display your works of art and hopefully convey to someone remotely the quality you intended when they are viewing on questionable display monitors.

I don’t have any answers to solve this but I know when I display in a gallery or art fair at least the viewer and I are looking at the image in the same light.

Niels Henriksen


David Schlachter said...

Talking of calibration, I thought that this was interesting:

nielsp said...

I like the first picture because each device requires its own profile in order to colour mange throughout the workflow processes and there are so many devices.
I use a Monaco colorimeter.


Davidlind said...

I have struggled with this issue for two years since beginning a blog. Right now I am using NextGen Gallery. It's a lightbox and it allows me to use the entire browser window side to side for my photos. I wonder sometimes about the quality of the presentation on various monitors. Is it as good as a normal photo presentation? I don't know.

Lynda Lehmann said...

I know what you mean, Niels. The same problem applies to my paintings when displayed on the net. They're very large, so a tremendous amount of detail is lost when the images of them are reduced to one-hundredth of the size of the painting, and compressed as JPGs! Some of my acrylics are 4 x 5 feet, and the tiny web images do not do them justice!

Of course my photos also lose when posted on the net!


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