Photo issues with my new background

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I recently switched lighting and my background at the same time, and since my photos have seemed kind of bright and washed out.

So last night I started trying to figure out what I needed to fix or adjust to get things working better.

As far as camera, I'm normally just using my Samsung S6.  It is more than good enough to show all the flaws in my painting ::D:

My wife does have a decent real camera, but I haven't used it much.

Lights, I was using an old swing arm magnifier lamp with a daylight florescent above with a white led magnifier lamp in.  I now have a bazillion white leds attached to a light arch and still using the magnifier for some additional light on the front.

My old go to background was a redish printed one on standard paper.  The new one is the warm background from the Macromat kickstarter.



I decided to use my Shrewzerker as a test subject, since I'd just finally got him dull coated.  I left the lights as they were, light arch with the led lamp, with the lamp further back than I used to use.  I took a pic with the macromat background:



The popped the old background in without changing anything else



It's pretty clear the camera is treating them quite differently.  Here they are cropped:



While it could have used a bit more light from the lamp (I think) the old background one is much closer to the real colours.  The rim of the base is Noir Black.


Any thoughts on why and how I can get closer with the new backgrounds?

My first thought was maybe its the white spot on the old background helping the camera get things sorted?



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I'm seeing two major differences between the two shots:

  • The magenta background has a lower exposure level than the brown background.
  • The color temperature of the two photos is different.


I suspect what's happening is that the camera is seeing the bright what spot at camera left of the magenta background and reducing the overall exposure to make sure that it isn't being completely blown out. Your choices here are to either play with your exposure in camera. Different camera apps on smart phones have more or less capability, but you're probably looking for "exposure compensation" and you want to use a positive number, probably in the range of +0.7. (But trial and error will be necessary to get the right value.)


Important concept: Modern cameras have complex algorithms to get acceptable exposures. In general, they're trying to balance dynamic range (getting detail in both bright spots and dark spots) with "correct" exposure (averaging out to around 20% gray). This can result in needing to play around with exposure to get what you actually want.


Color temperature:

In addition to the exposure algorithm, there's a complex algorithm that tries to guess whether the shot was taken in daylight (color temp around 5500K), incandescent light (color temp around 3000K), a cloudy sky (color temp around 8000K), or whatever. The algorithm does this by looking at all the stuff in the frame and trying to infer a color cast, then correcting for that color cast. When you use a photo background with a strong dominant color that takes up much of the frame, the algorithm can read that as a different dominant light color. When the scene is strongly magenta, that will tend to cause the camera to push the color toward green to "correct" the color, which isn't what you wanted. You can address this by choosing a color balance that matches your lights rather than allowing the camera to guess. With daylight-balanced lights, that will usually be called something like "Daylight" (surprise! :poke:) or a color temp in the 5000K to 6000K range.


Unfortunately, this means that if you want to use cool backgrounds, you're going to need to get inside your camera app's controls rather than just trusting the camera to automatically get things right. If that's beyond where you're willing to go, your other option is to use a simple medium gray background, with which you can probably just shoot and post.


Let me know if this raises any more questions.

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Posted (edited)

One trick that I've used that seems to help the automatic algorithms out: put a color wheel or band of color off to the side of your miniature, in the area you'll crop out of the picture.  It should have solid white and solid black and primary colors.


Less relevant here, but if you have a solid white or solid black background, try to put a big block of the opposite color in the cropped out area.  When the algorithm tries to "balance" the white and black levels it won't shift way over to the side if there are roughtly equal amounts of white and black in the frame.


Caveat: I am not a pro photographer, so it's entirely possible these are merely placebos.

Edited by fanguad
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Nope, those should help.


And if you have decent post processing software, a neutral gray chip in the photo can be used to set your white balance trivially. (In Lightroom, you need to select the eyedropper tool and click on the gray bit.)

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Played around a little bit last night.


Tweaked some settings....still washed out.



Introduced a piece of white envelope....not bad.



Then tweaked a few more settings.  I think that looks pretty close to reality.


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