Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Trouble with Red

Rainbow People
Kind of reminds me of the Brady Bunch, or Hollywood Squares. Probably because I was happily chewing and drooling on these guys when those shows were on. (Because I was a toddler!) Ahem. Coming back to the present day, these vintage Fisher Price people presented an interesting photography challenge. Red!

Yes, if you have ever taken a picture you have probably noticed that red does not play well with others. It flattens perspective, outshines other colors, and generally behaves like the worst sort of diva. Here's what this looked like out of the camera:
 You can see how the two red plastic people just glow. They are made of a particularly fluorescent red plastic, which is not just brightly colored, it's reflective and I just couldn't get it right. The first thing I tried was adjusting the saturation:

They didn't glow any more, but they look flattened and tampered with. Unnatural. So I went to the photo critique groups in Flickr and asked for advice. About 5 people responded and said "adjust the luminance." Hmm. There's no "adjust luminance" in Photoshop Elements. You can, however, make an adjustment layer for hue and saturation and select luminance there. So I tried that:
Still glowing. Posted it in Flickr again and asked where to adjust luminance. The answer was "in Lightroom before you import it into Photoshop." Oh. Hmm. Well.

I don't have Lightroom. Photoshop is enough of a challenge for now. So I thought about it for a while. If it has to be done before you import it, maybe it's something you could do to the RAW file? So I explored the RAW window and found a Luminance slider under Noise Control. Well, what the heck. I slid it. Adjusted the exposure, too, while I was there. OK, now let's open that puppy.
Hey, that's getting a lot better, isn't it? Oh boy, now let's tweak the saturation in Photoshop and make the background true white:
Tada! I'll bet someone who really knows their post-processing would laugh themselves silly over this, but it's like a miracle to me. Luminance, huh. I gotta learn some more about luminance.


  1. Very interesting, as is I'm exhausted by saturation and hues and brightness and contrast and levels and now there's luminance to think about?!?! :|

  2. That's pretty much how I felt at first - luminance, what the heck is luminance. Oh god something totally new! But geez it really makes a difference. It also got me experimenting with my RAW files. I started shooting in RAW to see what the fuss was and didn't get it until I started playing around with the opening window. Some of the things that have been driving me crazy (photographing transparent, translucent and reflective objects) are starting to seem possible. And yeah, I'm cross-eyed!

  3. Blah blah blah... when will the print be ready?
    I need this one for my new collection!
    Those are my peeps!!!
    And who are the people in YOUR neighborhood, your neighborhood, your neigh-BOR-hood!?
    I think the toddler drool lends a nice patina...

  4. You can have a print ... next time you come visit me! Bwah ha ha, holding it for ransom...