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Author Topic: My photos look so dull  (Read 44635 times)


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My photos look so dull
« on: June 25, 2012, 10:15:40 AM »

well im regularly browsing around several websites checking out portraits cuz thats what i like to shoot too. Usually i come across pictures where i just think they look so good because the photo just looks so "fully lighted".
Feeling a bit retarded at the moment but i will still try to explain what i mean.

For example this photo


Its not about the composition or anything but the lighting in this just looks so good to me. It looks so bright and the shadows are so soft. Like so awesome contrast and colors.

Other examples (randomly picked from pixe-peeper.com with 50mm 1.4 and 1.2):




And in contrast when i take a portrait it just looks so...boring and dull and not brilliant.

Some of MY samples (SORRY FOR ADS ON THAT SITE :( ):



and last one where i overexposured a little trying to get "that look" from the samples at the beginning.


Is it just my lens thats so crappy? 50mm 1.8II L(ens hood attached)? OR my 1100D camera? It just doesnt look so shiny awesome like i want. Like so "mellow" contrast only. Or is it just the post processing? Feel free to give my photos a try.

Thanks already

« Last Edit: June 25, 2012, 10:17:32 AM by sandymandy »

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My photos look so dull
« on: June 25, 2012, 10:15:40 AM »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2012, 11:45:42 AM »
Have you tried using the different camera STYLES?  Those might be an on camera option if you can't afford a software solution.  You can also change the STYLE settings to get even more.  Be aware they are only good for JPEG files and you won't see much [any] change in RAW files.
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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2012, 01:27:22 PM »
Processing your RAW will get the best results. Nail you exposure for the skin tones of the subject.

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« Last Edit: June 25, 2012, 01:40:49 PM by RLPhoto »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2012, 04:41:55 PM »
I did a very quick edit (about 30 secs) of your first image. I started off by increasing the exposure by around 2/3 stop (I could probably have gone a bit further), then I did a curves adjustment, followed by a levels adjustment to fix the shadows I created from the previous step. With a bit more care, I could probably have achieved the same in less steps. As was mentioned, it's all about nailing the exposure and in some cases, getting the lighting right. The in common with all photos, it will need some processing to get the best out of it, particularly when shooting RAW, as they usually need a contrast boost (except in hasrh lighting). It could probably do with a slight hue adjustment too.
I just made some adjsutments to colour balance and dodged some of the shadows.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2012, 02:49:27 PM by Kernuak »
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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2012, 07:48:03 PM »
You will benefit by using post processing.
I imported your image into lightroom and just hit the auto tone button.  Then I backed off the exposure slightly, and added to the saturation slightly.  You can make a image look any way you like it, I preferred to lift the shadows so you can see the eyes. A little work with a raw image, and the eyes would brighten up even more.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2012, 07:51:45 PM by Mt Spokane Photography »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2012, 12:11:32 AM »
Probably the most noticable item on most of those shots is the white balance is off
are you always using auto WB? regardless make sure you shoot RAW and you can tweak the WB a little
also tied in with White balance is sometimes skin tones can benefit from just a very slight tweak of the magenta
when tweaking white balance (in lightroom this only needs to be as subtle as +2 from the base value)
the first shot the lady's skin looks very pasty and pale so i would suggest the following

I'll put some values in to try in light room other programs the values might differ

increase the whitebalance temperature to warm it all up a bit (not sure without the raw but maybe 5200 or there about)
add in a little magenta on the wb colour tone slider +2

in some cases bring up your exposure a bit much better exposing a bit more than trying to pull it up in post though
then increase contrast a little +10 then tweak up or down a bit to taste
increase clarity a little maybe try +20 and again tweak to taste
increase vibrance +10 and tweak it

Add a subtle tone curve to bring in a bit of punch into the midtones also some very minor adjustment to the

black level can really help especially if your blacks are looking a little grey

if you are shooting jpg you should be aiming to nail your white balance in camera grab one of these and set custom white balance for each scene
these are easier to use and carry than grey card and work really well
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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2012, 11:58:59 AM »
What do you use for post-processing?  Picking up a copy of Lightroom is much cheaper than it used to be since Adobe decided to cut the price in half.  Immediately after I purchased it, actually, but oh well.

A little extra exposure would help, possibly brushed onto the faces only, or perhaps by raising "fill light."  Also a little bit of "vibrance" and a small tad of "saturation." 

I agree with WickedWombat on the white balance point.  Add a touch of warmth in the WB, and you should be there, though getting it close while in-camera helps a ton if you shoot JPG because the camera is discarding data and making decisions that cannot be fully reversed as would be possible if you were shooting RAW.  If it is an important shot, consider shooting in RAW +JPG so you have both.

Also, to go low-tech for a minute, your subjects are wearing washed-out colors (grey and faded denim).  The photo you liked of that kid was bright orange and other vivid Romper-Room colors.  Sometimes it is just as simple as colorful clothes and backgrounds.
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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2012, 11:58:59 AM »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2012, 02:27:23 PM »
My swing at it.  levels, curves, contrast, adjusted color, fixed tones and skin, a bit of dodging and burning.  All and all about 2-3 min of work.


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2012, 02:36:36 PM »
There is something to be said for using good glass (e.g. L lenses), where all the post processing in the world won't help... The 50mm 1.8II is a great lens for the price, but it's just that, good for the PRICE.  It can't compete with the 50mm f/1.2L or 50mm f/1.4 in color, contrast and bokeh (The L lens more than non-L).  Those pictures you posted that you like so much are all taken with either the 50mm f/1.2L or 50mm f/1.4 (at least according to the author's tags).  You pay a premium for good glass for a reason! :)


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2012, 04:33:38 PM »
The well lit photos that you've shown (especially the first and last ones) are illuminated with photo lighting equipment. (The second one looks natural light but with a brush on the face to increase its brightness.)

That means that the subject is lit so that it fills the entire optimal dynamic range and tonal range of the eye. This happens because of light intensity, light spectral power distribution and light distribution / direction.

You can recognize this from the lack or softness of shadows and also from the exquisite colors and the very high resolution of tiny detail.

You can compensate (to some degree) the lack of photo lighting equipment with RAW processing, depending on how much time you're willing to spend processing photos.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 04:53:54 PM by NotABunny »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2012, 04:36:56 PM »
Quick edit.  Using only curves and vibrance adjustment layers.  Basically you're exposures aren't perfect so the curves adjustment gets better tones for the underlying values, and then the vibrance adjustment makes the colors pop.  Do the curves first.

Attached is a picture of the curve used, Vibrance was set to 63.  I'd also try to get better exposures in camera, you can practice this by shooting in B&W and if you shoot in RAW, you can always shoot in B&W on camera and it will still keep the color data of the shot when you get the CR2 file back onto a computer.

« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 04:44:38 PM by Jettatore »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2012, 04:50:03 PM »
Here is a before and after-RAW-processing shot. You can see how I've altered the result to fill more of the eye's desire to see light and color. It feels that I've used a flash on the subject's face. This was a good case to get such a result because the original shot had enough light and tonal range in it to withstand the drastic changes that I've done to it. (You don't normally get such good results with room lighting.)

The colors are wacked in Chrome, so don't mind that.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 04:51:47 PM by NotABunny »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2012, 04:54:25 PM »
you need to spend some time here: http://strobist.blogspot.com/

maybe a lot of time.

start by reading "lighting 101"

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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2012, 04:54:25 PM »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2012, 04:56:23 PM »
NotABunny.  My eyes feel you are going too strong on raising the black point (not that you didn't set the black point where it needs to be, you did, but...) I am seeing a loss of detail in areas like the hair of the man behind the woman and the other man on the right's face, and so on (basically anything in shadow is getting some detail clipped).  Nice picture, improved by your editing as well, but I'd try to get that detail back either through masking or via altering your settings/procedures (using 'fill light" in RAW maybe in combination with masking, etc.).  It's a nice picture and I think your adjustments improved it further, but I would like to see those details return, it will add additional contrast to the overall image.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2012, 05:22:59 PM by Jettatore »


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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2012, 05:24:40 PM »
Nice adjustments, some look a little too processed for my tastes but all of them are improvements.

As for the original poster - A lot of new photographers think all of the photos they see on the web came straight off the camera, but rarely is an image perfect right off the bat.  I'd say nearly 100% of the photos you see on the web have at least some basic adjustments, and some have many more.  So don't get too discouraged.  And as it was said before, the lens has a lot to do with it, the 50 1.8 is a great lens for the money, but comparing it to the 1.2 or 1.4 isn't very fair. 
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Re: My photos look so dull
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2012, 05:24:40 PM »