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Thread: Noisy Butterflies

  1. #1

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    Noisy Butterflies

    Took some shots yesterday at a Butterfly Conservatory. I would like to go back and get some more and eventually have good enough quality to enlarge and print some of them. Many that I took are acceptable, but I do see the noise and don’t think they would come out to well if they were cropped and enlarged.

    ISO needed to be at least 400 and sometimes 800 to get anywhere close to being able to take a decent hand held shot. Most shots have to be taken at 200mm, wide open (f 5.6 with this lens) Shutter speeds ranged from 1/20 to 1/200 with the average being around half a second. I’ll get better at capturing them with practice, but can’t see that I can go below 400 ISO

    I’m not usually too tuned in to noise in photos, and quite often don’t even notice it when others are complaining about it, but I do see it in most of the shots from yesterday, and would like to know:

    1.How to minimize it when shooting. Are there any techniques for exposure or lighting to pay attention to so one can minimize noise even when shooting at high ISO settings.

    2.The best process to remove it after shooting. I believe Dave H. Has mentioned Neat Image. I am wondering if anyone here is using Neat Image with Windows 7 and also (Dave) what version are you using. Is it the free trial, or do you have one of the official versions.

    3.Any other suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks
    Wendy

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    Hi Wendy,

    As it happens, I am just in the middle of processing some high ISO shots, taken last weekend at an indoor climbing wall.

    Have a look at my climbing gallery at PBase, then click on a picture, form an opinion on the noisiness/softness, then scroll down and see the ISO.

    Then we'll talk more

  3. #3

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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    Hi Dave: First impression from a casual observation point of view was great shots. Good comp and colour. The shots have impact. When viewed at “medium” size it looks like selective DOF. The subject is in focus but front and back look blurred. A group of teenagers that I work with are Rock Climbers, and I’m sure they would love these.

    For the point of this exercise though, I went to “Large” size view and my observations were that the backgrounds all look a little strange and there is loss of detail in the hair and other areas. However the detail is there where needed, Handholds/footholds, facial expressions, tools and ropes are clear and distinguishable. The shots still have impact when viewed larger. Casual observation would still be “Great Shots” but inspection shows the loss of detail in areas.

    When I scrolled and saw the EXIF I was pretty shocked. I wouldn’t even try it seeing what I get at ISO 800. Would it be possible to see one of the originals? I’m curious just how much work went into these.

    I assume you used Neat Image. I found an old post of yours from July, which explained your workflow at that point in time, but I’d love to know what you are up to now.

    Thanks
    Wendy

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    Hi Wendy,

    Yes, I'm not that happy with them - you have accurately identified the major faults
    However, it was pretty dark in there, hence the ISO used!

    I had to develop a special workflow for these;
    1) Open in ACR and "Auto" (with presets of 0 all sharpening sliders and 100 for both Noise Reduction sliders), ensure a bit of clear space between 0 and blacks and 255 and peak white for later LCE)
    NB No capture sharpening!
    2) Neat Image (around on 60% Luma and 100% Chroma)
    3) Crop and straighten
    4) Levels, grey slider to between 1.1 and 1.3 depending on content
    5) Local Contrast Enhancement (LCE) with USM: 20%, 100px radius and 0 threshold
    6) Clone out any significant remaining noise spots
    7) Reduce size to 1000px on longest edge
    8) USM sharpen: 100 - 250%, 0.5px and 5-8 threshold

    For 800iso, the NR in ACR is all I use/need as a rule.

    Hope that helps,

  5. #5

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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    Yes, I'm not that happy with them - you have accurately identified the major faults
    However, it was pretty dark in there, hence the ISO used!
    I don't know why you would not be happy with these from ISO 1600. I'm sure they are much better than what came from the camera, and based on my experience with on camera flash, I'm pretty sure I would prefer this to the flash. It's good to know what can be done. I'm sure the kids in the pics thought they were great and were not worried that every last strand of hair did not show up.

    Thanks for the workflow. I've copied it into an ever growing document with tips that I've garnered from this site. I will try the regular ACR noise reduction and the usual processing on my 800 ISO shots and see how that works out.

    I do think I will try out the Neat Image one of these days though. I'm a little short on cash right now, but maybe I'll try the trial version for a bit.

    Thanks again
    Wendy

  6. #6
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    I do think I will try out the Neat Image one of these days though. I'm a little short on cash right now, but maybe I'll try the trial version for a bit.
    Which reminds me; you asked above what version I have - it is the Home Pro (from memory), giving me 16 bit processing.

    The NR in ACR is free, so unless you go to 16/32/6400, you shouldn't need Neat Image - unless you under expose and need to bring it up a lot. I started on Neat Image with the free trial though.

    Camera flash might have worked for the nearer shots like this:
    Noisy Butterflies
    but not for the further away ones near the back wall (see in third image below).

    You also asked for an original; so here's a 100% crop from the unprocessed RAW, simply converted to 8 bit and saved as jpg.
    Noisy Butterflies
    When you see this, you begin to wonder how the processed one above looks so "reasonable".

    and for comparison, the full frame, but simply reduced to 1000px width, note how much that alone helps with the noise
    Noisy Butterflies

    EXIF Nikon D5000 with 18-200mm at 56mm, 1/180s @ f4.8 iso6400

    I think the thread should be called Noisy Climbers though - I haven't seen a single butterfly yet

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th February 2010 at 11:43 PM.

  7. #7

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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    You also asked for an original; so here's a 100% crop from the unprocessed RAW, simply converted to 8 bit and saved as jpg.
    When you see this, you begin to wonder how the processed one above looks so "reasonable".
    Indeed!!! Now that is noise. I am amazed at the rework. I don't think there is an image that you would not be able to save.
    Big difference in the reduced full frame, but of course you need the crop so the rework most certainly wins. I don't think a casual observer would be happy with the noise, whereas the only people who would find fault with the rework, are photgraphers who are looking for problems and not really looking at the picture.
    Looks good to me, I think I will try the trial version of Neat Image and see how it goes.

    I think the thread should be called Noisy Climbers though - I haven't seen a single butterfly yet
    Here are a couple butterflies just to keep the thread honest. I did RAW processing including noise reduction in Lightroom. I think I can make them a bit better with some of the techniques you've shown me in Elements, but this is also a test to see if EXIF data stays intact if I don't use Elements. If it doesn't I will tack it on later. I would not mind at all if you had some suggestions for when I go back to the butterfly conservatory for a reshoot.

    Focus/camera shake and subject movement are also problems, but I need to concentrate on the noise right now and how to reduce it at capture time. What I tried to do for many of the shots was to spot meter the butterfly - lock the exposure - recompose and then take the shot. I'm still clumsy with the buttons so it's all practice.

    I'm not sure how you determine what is a 100% crop, but this one has more than half cropped off. Most of the background was dark compared to the butterfly, so I dialed in -EC (EV). Not sure if I'm going in the right direction, but that's what I did.

    Noisy Butterflies
    Noisy Butterflies

    The next one is the backlighting thing again. I did dial in a bit of + EC (EV) but probably not enough, and again I am not sure I went in the right direction. I would like to get more like this. I don't mind the blown highlights, I like the white background, but I would like to be able to take the same shot without the noise and the hard outlines (chromatic abberation?) that I get quite often with backlit shots. Again Focus is not great, but with LUCK I can correct that.

    if you are having a deja vu moment as you read this, I know, I know, You've been through this before with me. I am progressing though, at least I'm testing out the controls now. That's a big step for me

    Noisy Butterflies
    Noisy Butterflies

    Edit: Added Screen Snips of EXIF which did not show up here with my KUSO exif viewer.
    Last edited by ScoutR; 7th February 2010 at 02:40 AM. Reason: Add EXIF info

  8. #8
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    Quote Originally Posted by ScoutR View Post
    I'm not sure how you determine what is a 100% crop
    Ah, sorry, bad use of English on my part, what I meant was a crop of an image at 100%, or 1:1 view - with no downsizing, the 1260 x 1707 I posted in middle image above is full size.
    The size of the crop is largely immaterial, but I left big here to show noise on different picture content. To get the full horror: right click and open it in a new tab and click for full size so you can scroll up and down it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ScoutR View Post
    ~ but I need to concentrate on the noise right now and how to reduce it at capture time. ~
    I just gave up on "how to reduce it at capture time"; I knew they'd be very noisy, but the alternatives were blurry pics due to subject movement - and there is still some of that, but I was wide open and maxxed out on ISO. I knew under-exposing everything (to bring back up in PP) was going to make the noise exponentially worse, so I just had to time the snaps well, or sometimes shoot 2-3 of each to get one with minimal subject movement.

    I didn't want to distract the climbers by asking them to hold a pose for me - could have nasty consequences and certainly wouldn't endear me to them. I was just there 'photographing climbing', not 'doing a photoshoot with climbers'. Also another reason not to use flash, they might become self-concious and distracted. I also stuck to my son and his University buddies, not the general customers at the wall.

    Moving on to your pics; "What I tried to do for many of the shots was to spot meter the butterfly - lock the exposure - recompose and then take the shot. I'm still clumsy with the buttons so it's all practice." I tend to still use centre-weighted at the moment, although I am thinking of trying spot one day soon - Colin has been very helpful in other threads recently . What I tend to do is take a shot, review the histogram and take a second shot with some EC dialled in. Then it is easy to get the direction (+ or -) right, if histo is too dim (too far left) make +, by holding down EC and moving wheel to left. OK, I accept that sounds backwards, having described it, but you get used to it. On the D3000/5000. there is a menu option to reverse control/indicator directions, but I don't have that on and I'm not sure whether it would have any effect. Talking of menu options, I would switch to 1/2 stop increments, rather than 1/3 stop if I were you. Then you can be a bit "EC" bolder, use +/- 0.5, 1, 1.5 and occasionally 2. Not "pussyfoot" around with 1/3 and 2/3

    In PP: on your first picture, I would get rid of the background blob of peak white by cloning or burning, then review the histogram in Levels to get a full range of tones, making the butterfly a bit brighter. I agree it does look a bit noisy and Neat Image would deal with it, but I am also betting you didn't have the LR Noise Reduction at full-tilt (both 100) did you????

    On the second:
    Yes there is CA: the green on left, red on right, of the vertical stems against sky. Not sure what you mean by "hard outlines" though - on what?
    As you say, the biggest problem is the focus is not on the wing, or the wing moved after focusing and/or during the exposure
    I wouldn't actually try a shot quite like this, a bit too much blown sky and all the light is going to give flare, and exascerpate CA - but that's just me, stuck in my ways

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 7th February 2010 at 08:36 AM.

  9. #9

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    Re: Noisy Butterflies

    I tend to still use centre-weighted at the moment, although I am thinking of trying spot one day soon - Colin has been very helpful in other threads recently .
    I will see what I can find. I have been checking out all past posts on the subject of noise and exposure. There are a lot of them, and although it is starting to sink in a little bit. I still have a long way to go until I can evaluate a situation, make an automatic decision and then fiddle with all the controls to get it right.

    What I tend to do is take a shot, review the histogram and take a second shot with some EC dialled in. Then it is easy to get the direction (+ or -) right, if histo is too dim (too far left) make +, by holding down EC and moving wheel to left. OK, I accept that sounds backwards, having described it, but you get used to it.
    Sounds like a good habit to get into. I found out the hard way that everything seems backwards, I'm getting used to it now, but still go in opposite directions a lot of the time. As for viewing the histogram, it must be just me, but I find the LCD screen very hard to see. I have it set up now so that the Highlight screen comes on for a few seconds so I can see if I have the blinkies, but other than that I don't look too much. I will try to slow down and force myself to get into the habit of having a closer look. I think there are some gadgets available to make the screen easier to view. I'll try to find something.

    Talking of menu options, I would switch to 1/2 stop increments, rather than 1/3 stop if I were you. Then you can be a bit "EC" bolder, use +/- 0.5, 1, 1.5 and occasionally 2. Not "pussyfoot" around with 1/3 and 2/3
    I agree, I would prefer half stops. With a quick look through the menu options, I have not been able to find how to change this, but I will go through the full manual that I downloaded and see what I can find.

    In PP: on your first picture, I would get rid of the background blob of peak white by cloning or burning, then review the histogram in Levels to get a full range of tones, making the butterfly a bit brighter. I agree it does look a bit noisy and Neat Image would deal with it, but I am also betting you didn't have the LR Noise Reduction at full-tilt (both 100) did you????
    Yes, the LR Reduction was at 100% for both colour and Luminance. I figure I can get both shots a lot better when I take them into Elements, but I just wanted to post them with just the basic adjustments.

    Yes there is CA: the green on left, red on right, of the vertical stems against sky. Not sure what you mean by "hard outlines" though - on what?
    You don't see it so much here, but when I view 1:1 in LR there is a solid dark blue line around the bottom right and about 1/4 way up the bottom left edge of the butterfly, and a solid yellowish red line along the bottom of the small leaf to the right and below the butterfly.

    As you say, the biggest problem is the focus is not on the wing, or the wing moved after focusing and/or during the exposure
    I wouldn't actually try a shot quite like this, a bit too much blown sky and all the light is going to give flare, and exascerpate CA - but that's just me, stuck in my ways
    I did get some shots with better focus, but these particular ones seemed to show the noise a bit better. They are difficult subjects though, they just don't sit still very long.
    I think I should quit with these heavily backlit shots too. I should know by now that they just don't work. Generally, I like the looks of them, but when the inspection part comes in they just don't stand up.

    As usual, thanks for your help. Another small step in my education. Am I going to get a bill in the mail one of these days?

    Wendy

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