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Thread: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    I recently tried setting my camera to -1 tone compensation (a learning experiment for me) and I have noticed that while I love the look of some of my photos (natural, soft, peaceful) other photos look a little washed out...

    As a result, I've learned that I don't really understand what I am doing when I change the tone compensation settings on my camera...

    What is the purpose of changing tone compensation +1, -1, etc... The effects?

    Thank you.

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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Are you referring to exposure compensation or tone compensation? If it's the latter, I'm not familiar with it.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?


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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Tone Compensation..

    Richard thank you for the link but it is beyond my level of expertise and understanding. Thank you.

  5. #5
    drjuice's Avatar
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Hi, Christina -

    I'd suggest that you figure out your own process for learning how to manage things like this. When I start working with a camera, I go through the manual to learn where all the functions are accessed, a button, a slider, a clicker, whatever. Then I practice my process to learn how the new camera performs each of the functions. It's tedious, but I learned to do that with my first 35mm camera and it continues through my latest DSLR camera, a Sony alpha700.

    I will give you a list of what I do which may give you some ideas about figuring out your own process. The first and most important thing is to start with your camera manual and see how it explains things for the particular issue of tone compensation (which is called other things depending on the camera and software other folks may be using). To avoid confusing people about tone compensation, I'm going to use setting ISO as an example.

    Then, for figuring out a process,

    1. I determine the number of settings involved if I just change the setting for the one thing I want to learn about. For my camera, I have ISO choices of AUTO plus 16 different explicit speeds.

    2. Next, I make a list for each of the choices I want to experiment with, so in this case, I'd have a list with one item on each line specifying the speed. The reasons for the list are:

    a. to check off each item as I take the photograph,
    b. to note the image name - for the first image I take today, the image file identifier will be DSC08031.ARW
    (ARW is Sony's file extension for its RAW format),
    c. to have a place to note, in this example, the f-stop and exposure time for each image, and,
    d. to have an organized way to note down my comments as I'm reviewing the images later.

    3. I select a location I know really well for my sample images. Ideally, my preference is for a few large areas of fairly uniform color, some kinds of "regular" patterned areas, and some "natural" objects. Fortunately, just out my front door are the walls of other buildings, the roof tiles, and a large pine tree. So I can frame my image with almost the exact mix of those three kinds of objects.

    4. I nearly always use a tripod, though once in a long while I'll use the balcony ledge if I want to get lots of sky in the image.

    5. For ISO, I would specify auto-aperture and auto-shutter (because as the ISO changes, both the f-stop and the length time to record the exposure will change as the ISO changes, either up or down)

    6. I focus the image and note the focus settings at the top of my list (I try NOT to change anything about the content of the image while I'm taking my test images because it's harder to think about the comparisons if I do, even accidentally).

    7. I systematically go through making one exposure at each ISO setting. As I change the ISO setting, I check the F-stop and the exposure time on my list (on my camera, when I reset the ISO value, the camera will display both of these across the top of the LCD screen + the other "most important" settings that I leave at my personal default)

    When I get all my test images taken, I head for the computer to see what everything looks like, again, noting things I see when I look at each of my images. Now, I know always to go from the very best quality to the very worst, so I can see how things degrade. But, the important point for beginners is to start with the first or last of their test images and progress step by step through all the others so it's possible to observe from one step to the next what changes.

    CAUTION: When you're first getting started, you may not notice anything particular between two steps of your process, but DO NOT TOSS OUT ANY TEST IMAGES. With your notes and the test images, you can go back and revisit what you've done if you ever get confused about what works or doesn't for any particular settings.

    This kind of process works for absolutely every function I've ever cared about knowing on any camera I've used from my first 35mm to a graflex that I got to use for three days back in November, 1963, to my present DSLR.

    Absolutely feel free to work out your own process for learning about your camera based on what I've listed out here.

    Hope this helps.

    virginia
    Last edited by drjuice; 15th September 2012 at 03:35 PM. Reason: add content

  6. #6
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Thank you for sharing your process in such detail. It's informative and helpful, and I have printed out your reply, to learn from to develop a process which works for me.

    Truly appreciated.

  7. #7
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Hi, Christina;

    I had never heard of "tone compensation" so I was a little surprised when I clicked on the link Richard provided above and found it being described as a Nikon photographic function.

    I looked in my third party text on my Nikon D700 but couldn't find anything about tone compensation (guess it isn't offered 'in camera' for that model, or, maybe just isn't covered in that book - I'll have to check the manual)).

    I did find a reference to it in my third party guide to Nikon's Capture NX 2 software; and it is described as: "Determines the image contrast that was set in the camera."

    The author (Mike Hagen) goes on to state: "Tone Compensation is used to either quickly add contrast or take away contrast from your image. In general, I keep Tone Compensation set for Normal. You can make some pretty creative photos by using tone curves. In fact, you can even define your own tone curves by selecting User-Defined Custom Curve. I know of quite a few photographers who create their own custom curves and then upload them to their cameras to create their own signature style."

    Didn't know that!

    I am familiar with adjusting contrast using Curves in Photoshop, where the idea is to make the slope of the curve steeper where more contrast is needed in the image. This is usually done by adding a top anchor point, which is moved upward; and a bottom anchor point, which is moved downward: the section in between will then be steeper (have greater contrast), but the sections on the outside of the anchor points will be flatter and this creates an "S" curve that you might have heard mentioned with reference to adjusting contrast using Curves.
    Last edited by John Morton; 15th September 2012 at 08:08 PM.

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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    I also don't remember ever seeing it described as tone compensation. Maybe I misunderstand, but it doesn't seem like an accurate term; what is being compensated? Compensation for what? I wonder if a more accurate description would be simply tone adjustment or tone curves, especially considering that the process involves using the Curves tool.

    By the way, that article mentions that Photoshop Elements has no Curves tool. The Curves tool was present in version 1 of the software and I'm sure ever since then, so it makes me wonder what else might be a bit inaccurate in that article.

  9. #9
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post

    By the way, that article mentions that Photoshop Elements has no Curves tool. The Curves tool was present in version 1 of the software and I'm sure ever since then, so it makes me wonder what else might be a bit inaccurate in that article.
    Yes the article also mentions Photoshop 7 (which preceded the Creative Suite releases, now at Version 6) Nikon Capture 3, since superseded by Nikon Capture NX 2; so I think that the article must be around a decade out-of-date.

  10. #10
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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Thank you so much John! Now I understand perfectly what I am adjusting in camera... and now that I know I will experiment a little more...

  11. #11
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    Low Contrast tone compensation

    Thank you, Christina, for bringing this subject up! I wasn't aware that this setting was available and now I am going to look into it myself.

    The most recent versions of FDR Tools, which I use for HDR processing, have the option of using a negative contrast value when tone mapping. I have played with that a bit, and like you have found the effect of negative contrast very pleasing:

    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    What I really find exciting about being able to use negative contrast in camera is the fact that one of my favorite film types was a low contrast film (Fujicolor NPS 160 ASA Low Contrast Film). It was (is) favored by wedding photographers because the low contrast formulation is very, very good at differentiating subtle shades of white from each other (bridal dresses etc.); but myself, I have as much interest in wedding photography as I do in herding cats. Where I use to really enjoy using low contrast film was in wildflower photography, such as with these apple blossoms at sunrise:

    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    ... so now that I know my camera can be set for low contrast imaging, I am definitely going to be trying that out!

    Of course, these two images were edited quite a bit after their 'low contrast' stage; but that is the point of using low contrast (film): it might look washed out and 'flat' but it has captured a wide range of very subtle distinctions in shades that would normally turn out to be just one color or shade, of white or pink or whatever; and once you have captured those subtle changes in shade you can them go on to make them much more noticeable in post processing.

    In effect, having captured those tones and shades using low contrast, you can them selectively bring up the contrast where you need it to make those subtle shades stand out. But if you don't capture them in the first place, there is nothing you can do with them.
    Last edited by John Morton; 17th September 2012 at 12:56 AM.

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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    John, thank you for an interesting discussion of low contrast film and digital negative contrast in camera. Now I need to figure out if my Canon 60D can do it.

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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cantab View Post
    Now I need to figure out if my Canon 60D can do it.
    Hi, Bruce;

    Yes I have been looking around on the Internet to see what I can do with my D700 in this way - looks very promising so I think I will have to try and figure this out. There seem to be variations based upon the Nikon system of 'Picture Control'; from adjusting the preset Picture Control settings, to duplicating the Picture Control parameters, resetting them, and renaming to get a new Picture Control; to actually shaping new Tone Curves and uploading them (Somehow...) so this is starting to look pretty interesting since I would like to have a custom low contrast but high saturation setting which may or may not even be possible...

  14. #14
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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    Thank you John for the lesson and ideas... I think I''ll try it out an a white egret.

    By the way, beautiful photos!

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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    Hi Christina,

    Ken Rockwell recons it is better to leave that setting in the default mode. Whenever he says leave it alone it is inspiration for me not to leave it alone. I fooled around with it and then decided Ken is probably right. You need not play around with it unless you really know what you want straight out of camera.

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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Thank you John for the lesson and ideas... I think I''ll try it out an a white egret.

    By the way, beautiful photos!
    Thanks for the kind compliment, Christina; and yes the apple blossom photo is a personal favorite of mine ;-)

    Be sure to let us all see how your white egret photos turn out - I'm sure everyone here is interested is seeing those!

    No chance of trying out reduced contrast tone curves on spring wildflowers up here for a while, but I am hoping that I might have a few foggy/misty early morning opportunities to try this out once the leaves change color.

    Everyone I've read about this technique on the Internet makes the point that these curves can be out-of-camera and applied after the fact using Nikon (for those who so shoot) software; but I think I would like to try editing a few curves of my own and having them available for me to use in-camera.

    This person, for instance, appears very knowledgeable and experienced on the subject of tone curves:

    http://www.leongoodman.com/expose/history.html

    So I am going to see what I can come up with, since I do have all the Nikon programs mentioned as helpful in doing this!

  17. #17
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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    My pleasure John...

    Will post. Thank you for the link... and thank you Andre for your advice.

  18. #18
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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    White Egret (the original jpeg resized to 1600 pixels) -1 tone comp

    Sadly, it's not a clear shot but the white of the egret looks softer and I think you can see more detail in the feathers.. (I'll try for a better shot of an egret another day)

    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    I also tried it on the white clouds this morning, and I like the effect here
    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    What is the purpose of tone compensation?

  19. #19

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    Re: What is the purpose of tone compensation?

    Quote Originally Posted by drjuice View Post
    Hi, Christina -

    I'd suggest that you figure out your own process for learning how to manage things like this. When I start working with a camera, I go through the manual to learn where all the functions are accessed, a button, a slider, a clicker, whatever. Then I practice my process to learn how the new camera performs each of the functions. It's tedious, but I learned to do that with my first 35mm camera and it continues through my latest DSLR camera, a Sony alpha700.

    I will give you a list of what I do which may give you some ideas about figuring out your own process. The first and most important thing is to start with your camera manual and see how it explains things for the particular issue of tone compensation (which is called other things depending on the camera and software other folks may be using). To avoid confusing people about tone compensation, I'm going to use setting ISO as an example.

    Then, for figuring out a process,

    Thank you for the information. I started to kind've do this but get excited about all the settings instead of slowing down & methodically learning 1 at a time.
    So much to learn as a newbie photographer. I chose the flooring to start this. but haven't written about each pic to help keep track.
    diane
    1. I determine the number of settings involved if I just change the setting for the one thing I want to learn about. For my camera, I have ISO choices of AUTO plus 16 different explicit speeds.

    2. Next, I make a list for each of the choices I want to experiment with, so in this case, I'd have a list with one item on each line specifying the speed. The reasons for the list are:

    a. to check off each item as I take the photograph,
    b. to note the image name - for the first image I take today, the image file identifier will be DSC08031.ARW
    (ARW is Sony's file extension for its RAW format),
    c. to have a place to note, in this example, the f-stop and exposure time for each image, and,
    d. to have an organized way to note down my comments as I'm reviewing the images later.

    3. I select a location I know really well for my sample images. Ideally, my preference is for a few large areas of fairly uniform color, some kinds of "regular" patterned areas, and some "natural" objects. Fortunately, just out my front door are the walls of other buildings, the roof tiles, and a large pine tree. So I can frame my image with almost the exact mix of those three kinds of objects.

    4. I nearly always use a tripod, though once in a long while I'll use the balcony ledge if I want to get lots of sky in the image.

    5. For ISO, I would specify auto-aperture and auto-shutter (because as the ISO changes, both the f-stop and the length time to record the exposure will change as the ISO changes, either up or down)

    6. I focus the image and note the focus settings at the top of my list (I try NOT to change anything about the content of the image while I'm taking my test images because it's harder to think about the comparisons if I do, even accidentally).

    7. I systematically go through making one exposure at each ISO setting. As I change the ISO setting, I check the F-stop and the exposure time on my list (on my camera, when I reset the ISO value, the camera will display both of these across the top of the LCD screen + the other "most important" settings that I leave at my personal default)

    When I get all my test images taken, I head for the computer to see what everything looks like, again, noting things I see when I look at each of my images. Now, I know always to go from the very best quality to the very worst, so I can see how things degrade. But, the important point for beginners is to start with the first or last of their test images and progress step by step through all the others so it's possible to observe from one step to the next what changes.

    CAUTION: When you're first getting started, you may not notice anything particular between two steps of your process, but DO NOT TOSS OUT ANY TEST IMAGES. With your notes and the test images, you can go back and revisit what you've done if you ever get confused about what works or doesn't for any particular settings.

    This kind of process works for absolutely every function I've ever cared about knowing on any camera I've used from my first 35mm to a graflex that I got to use for three days back in November, 1963, to my present DSLR.

    Absolutely feel free to work out your own process for learning about your camera based on what I've listed out here.

    Hope this helps.

    virginia

  20. #20
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Low Contrast tone compensation

    John wrote:
    Everyone I've read about this technique on the Internet makes the point that these curves can be out-of-camera and applied after the fact using Nikon (for those who so shoot) software; but I think I would like to try editing a few curves of my own and having them available for me to use in-camera.

    This person, for instance, appears very knowledgeable and experienced on the subject of tone curves:

    http://www.leongoodman.com/expose/history.html
    John, I did a brief internet search and my understanding is that in-camera tone adjustments in the Nikon system are like those in the Canon system: they affect jpeg's but have no permanent effect on RAW. If one shoots in RAW, am I correct in assuming that the benefit of having an in-camera reduction of contrast available is so that the image one sees in the LCD [LED monitor?] will give you an on the spot idea what the final result might be if one was to do no postprocessing? Or have I completely missed the boat?
    Thanks for providing the link to Leon Goodman. I've had only a quick look so far but it seems there is much of interest.

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