on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Desaturating the Shadows

Tricks with Luminosity Masks

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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I’d like to talk about a technique I’ve been playing with for about the last year. It first came about when I started to post process colour negative scans for the film scanning business I run. Quite often a good default start for a negative scan is something quite low in contrast which you then give life to afterward by increasing contrast either globally or locally.

If you want to make colour negative film look a bit like transparency film with good colour separation and a punchy saturation, this means increasing the contrast quite a lot, which can have a few nasty side effects. For quite a while I was struggling with making this look natural but I finally twigged one day when I was comparing some shots I had taken on transparency film (Velvia) as well the shots on colour negative (Portra for instance) that the post processed colour negative work had too much saturation in the shadows. The very dark and saturated colours just looked unnatural. When I was recently looking into colour gamuts (at least in print I can’t pronounce it incorrectly) I also noted that it is quite often dark colours that go out of gamut in real world pictures.

I’ve also recently been processing some D800 files and noticed the same issue. This became particularly problematic when printing, as highly saturated dark colours can look very odd on paper. I realised that again this wasn’t a problem when printing from transparency film and after some checking found that transparency don’t have as saturated deep shadows (a generalisation, but a useful one in this instance).

Having discovered this I then had the challenge of just how to desaturate the shadows in a picture. Fortunately I’ve written about a process that could address just this problem in a previous issue of On Landscape.

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