Introducing the Power Box – Some Simple and Powerful Controls in Version 4

Introducing Sagelight Loadable/Saveable profiles

This blog entry features examples and “user profiles” that you can load in Sagelight to get the same results automatically.  This is great, because now you can load these profiles and get qualitative feedback on some of the concepts discussed.

Introduction

(note: The images presented below (except the last one) are images created using the Power Box and some other real-time controls, in order to demonstrate the powerful controls in the Power Box.  They don’t necessarily represent final images, where you might add a Vignette, Soft Focus, noise reduction, color balancing, and other functions to further refine the image)

The Power Box is a new feature in version 4.0.  It has a set of tools that was carefully constructed to work synergistically with the other real-time tools in the main interface (i.e. Quick Edit or Pro Quick Edit).

These tools include Sagelight Vibrance (a deep vibrance/saturation algorithm developed just for Sagelight), Definition, Smart Contrast, and Darken (like a one-sided contrast) tools, all working as individual layers in real-time, so that you can control every element as you work with these and other controls in Sagelight.

Sagelight Vibrance – Getting great color with just one slider movement

Sagelight Vibrance is a new vibrance algorithm that allows you to get deep color, with a wider range than typical vibrance and with a lot less noise.   A while back, I wrote a blog entry about getting great color by using a few steps (see Learning more about Sagelight (me, that is…) — Getting Amazing Results from Sagelight).  Sagelight Vibrance emobodies a lot of this methodology in one slider.  It looks at what is going on in the image and “resaturates” the image as it goes.   As a superset of a Saturation model, you can determine how much vibrance vs. saturation you want in your image.

A couple simple examples.  The examples below were created by moving the Sagelight Vibrance Slider (in the Power Box) to a setting of 25. For the two examples below, load the samples (links below) in the Quick Edit Mode, and then load this profile: http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/vibrance.QuickEdit.slp

Original Car Image.

Car Image after moving the Sagelight Vibrance Slider to a setting of 25.

Download the full-size (low-res) image here http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/car_lowres_jpeg.jpg, then load the user profile “Vibrance” linked to above.

Notes:

  1. Try using the “Percent Slider” in the Sagelight Vibrance layer in the Power Box.  Try this while increasing the Vibrance Slider.  This shows how you can control Saturation vs. Vibrance, and also shows how the Sagelight Saturation (i.e. when the Percent Slider is set to 0) is a deep saturation, preventing overruns — often a good replacement for general saturation, or as a mix.
  2. Try using the definition sliders when adding vibrance.  Since this is a small picture, try the “sharpen” setting in Layer 1 while keeping the default setting in Layer 2.

.

Original Seagull Image

Seagull Image after moving the Sagelight Vibrance Slider to a setting of 20.

Download the full-size (low-res) image here http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/seagull_lowres.jpg, then load the user profile “Vibrance” linked to above (then bring back the vibrance slider to 20).

Notes:

  1. I really think this image can use some contrast.  Try using the Smart Contrast Slider in the power box.  Also try using the Definition Sliders as well.
  2. Also try using the Low Tone Contrast or Shadows Slider in the Quick Edit Mode.

Using more Power Box Controls

As mentioned above, the Power Box is meant to be used in a synergistic fashion with the controls in the left panel.  In the example below, the Definition Layers in the Power Box are also used.  The Definition Layers provide two layers of local contrast where you can control the radius and the strength.  In this case, it really brought out the definition and scales on the Iguana.

Original Iguana Image

Iguana Image after using the Power Box (Vibrance + Definition, and a few controls in the Kayak/Pro Quick Edit Mode).

To load this image yourself, click on this link to get the original image (low resolution version) http://www.sagelighteditor/db/iguana_lowres_jpeg.jpg.  In the Kayak/Pro Quick Edit Mode, load this profile: http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/iguana.ProQuickEdit.slp to get the same image.

Notes:

  1. When the profile is loaded, you’ll see the colors come out as well as the definition.
  2. A good trick to add color (i.e. through the Vibrance Slider or various saturation sliders throughout Sagelight) is to use the definition layers.  If you add color all by itself, it can look artificial.  The above image is obviously very colorful for demonstration purposes.  As you add Definition (i.e. local contrast), it makes colors more believable, where otherwise they can look very artificial.
  3. Note the use of the Gamma and Highlight sliders.  These are used to reduce contrast.  This can be done in many ways; this was just the way I did it.
  4. Also note the use of the Fill Light Slider.  This helped give the image a higher dynamic range as I was adding contrast. (another image-editing trick)
  5. The “Strength Slider” in the White Balance area is set to ‘3’.  The Hue was adjusted by using the Auto White Balance.  A setting of 3 doesn’t seem like much, but it removed an overriding yellow cast — the image is still warm, but not overbearing. Try moving the Strength Slider to the left and right.  As you move it to the right, the image will become more neutral, which can be an interesting look, too, depending on what you like in pictures (I tend to like more neutral pictures, while others may like warmer pictures).
  6. The “Exaggerate” option is on in Layer 1 of the Definition Layers in the Power Box.  This was to bring out the definition on the Iguana as much as possible.  This is more because of the small picture size; on a normal-sized picture (i.e. 8+ Megapixel), this wouldn’t really be required.
  7. Note the warning symbol in the lower-left-hand corner of the Pro Quick Edit Mode. Click this button to see the areas that Sagelight veered away from in the Auto Balance.  It decided not to brighten the image too much to protect these areas.

Using all of the Controls Together on Challenging Images (like RAW images)

Getting a “Base Image” to work with very easily

The image below was originally a RAW image.  It came out dark because of the range inherently in RAW images — the sky needed to be preserved, so the rest of the image had to fit more in the midtones and shadows.  This is an example of a challenging RAW file that doesn’t come out as bright and defined as the camera-written JPEG.  But, the camera-written jpeg would certainly turn the sky white.

The RAW image gives us a chance to preserve the sky.  First, let’s get a base image:

Original “Gate Lion” image, supplied by Paul Lawrence.  As you can see, it’s a little plain, but the sky is also blue!

Here is a “base image” created with the Power Box and other controls

Image after controls set in the Power Box and the Pro Quick Edit Mode Panel. Not Bad!

You can try this yourself by loading this image: http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/gate-lion_lowres_jpeg.jpg (a low-res image, but the point gets across). Then, go to the Pro Quick Edit Mode, and load this profile:  http://www.sagelighteditor.com/db/Gate_lion.ProQuickEdit.slp to get exactly the same image.

The Base Image

I call this a “Base Image” because it is just one set of controls that you can use with Sagelight.  This particular “Base Image” killed the sky, for example.  It’s not impossible to preserve the sky, but this would mean keeping other things darker.  In short, it’s going to be a small amount of work to deal with the fact that we want to save the sky and make the rest of the picture nice and bright and sharp. .

With Sagelight, I can simply use the Undo Brush to undo the sky and address is separately.  All I need to do once I use the Undo Brush is to Brighten areas selectively, either with dodging and burning, or just the RGB controls (in the Quick Edit or Pro Quick Edit Modes), and then use the Undo Brush again, as well as bringing up the saturation in just the blue areas (which can be done through the Masking in Sagelight via the Quick Edit Mode, Power Curves, or Sagelight Saturation (formerly known as Power Saturation) — that is, by many methods.

Another reason I call this a “base image” is because once I get the sky where I want it, I’m going to want to do more.  I’m going to want to sharpen the edges in a more defined way (through the Unsharp Mask Controls, which provides an edge-based sharpen).  In most pictures I edit, I also add a subtle vignette that can’t really be seen but brings out the subject of the picture.

Re-using controls

This is what the Apply Button is all about.  Once I get the Base Image, can press “Apply”, which is like saving the image so we can edit it again with other controls or the same controls.  In this case, for example, I pressed Apply, dealt with the sky (as described above), added the vignette, the edge sharpening as discussed, and then dodge and burned where I felt appropriate.   More than that, though, I re-used the Power Box to add even more definition to the foreground to bring it out.

The main idea with Sagelight is that you can re-use these controls to add more power.  For example, you can only get so much with the definition sliders, or saturation controls, or Fill Light, etc.  But if you press “Apply” and use them again, you can get some very dramatic effects, especially with things like the Definition Sliders.

Incidentally, I just mentioned what I think are the 5 (or so)  main principles of my personal workflow/style:

  1. Get a Base Image.  That is, generally make the image look nice by balancing it and getting a fair light.
  2. Always try the Smart Contrast.  It’s still the most powerful tool in Sagelight, in my opinion.
  3. Adjust with the Vibrance Control (it is turning out to be a very useful tool)
  4. Dodge and Burn.
  5. Add a Vignette, or at least try it out.  Adding a subtle, targeted (i.e. move the center to surround the subject) vignette that can’t be detected as an obvious vignette can really bring out a subject in suprising ways.

“—————-“

Oh, step #6: Tinker!  Well, this is where I usually get in trouble because this is where I;m going overboard.  “———-” represents the break I need to take — to move on to another picture or something else.  Then come back.  Even just 2-3 minutes away from a picture at a certain point can change your perspective.  So, for me anyway, it is Step #5, some break, then tinker with it after I see what I might like to continue to work with.

So, here is my final result.  It’s too bad it’s so small here:

Notes:

  • I used the “Darken” Slider (in the Power Box) with the “lows” setting.  This is turning out to be a great tool to add starkness to your picture.
  • There is so much going on with the controls in the profile, I would suggest moving one control at a time to see what kind of difference is made.
  • Notice, for example, that the definition in the profile doesn’t have the same detail — again, that’s the base image to bring out the local contrast.  This helped set up the edge-sharpen later, with an additional pass of the Definition Sliders with a lower radius.  I also used the “Soft Focus” feature, which always helps bring out sharpness while adding a soft touch tot he picture.
  • Notice also that there is a very subtle vignette — so subtle that it is really helping to bring out the lion into the forefront of the picture.  Since the vignette is subtle, this helps bring out the lion in a kind of mysterious way (the soft focus function with an additional Dodge and Burn with the Darken setting does this also)
  • The sky is intact in this picture. Much of the time, we see this pictures with a pure white sky, thinking that’s the price for taking a picture of something with the shadows, at least without one of these new HDR cameras.  But, that’s never really been true.  That’s the great thing about using RAW.  As you can see, with pictures like this the RAW comes out a little less than presentable, but it’s not hard at all to turn it into something very nice.  It helps to take a good picture, too. So, thanks to Paul Lawrence for the picture.

Conclusion

With new Version 4 controls such as the Power Box, Sagelight Vibrance, Definition Layers, etc., which work seamlessly with the main Quick Edit/Pro Quick Edit controls, you can get dramatic effects from your image with just a few slider movements. It’s easier than ever to get an enhanced picture with little effort.  For more complex pictures that need some work, you can get a base image very easily and then work from there to use and re-use the many other controls in Sagelight to get some incredible images.  Remember to snapshot your images every once in a while.

P.S. How to load a Profile

Look for this icon (in the Quick Edit mode or Pro Quick Edit Mode):

Then click it.  It will come up with load and save options where you can load the profiles described above.  In the Quick Edit Mode, it’s in the middle-left of the controls pane; in the Kayak/Pro Quick-Edit Mode, it’s in the upper-right of the control pane just underneath the White Balance controls.

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4 thoughts on “Introducing the Power Box – Some Simple and Powerful Controls in Version 4

  1. Pingback: The Two Most (singularly) Powerful Features in Sagelight « Sagelight Image Editor Blog & Newsletter

  2. Hi Rob,
    Thanks for all your hard work; this is an amazing upgrade! Two small points:
    1. The sample JPEG links above don’t seem to work.
    2. How do I actually load a profile; I can’t find anywhere in SageLight where I can do this. What am I missing?
    many thanks,
    Adrian

    • Hi, Adrian.

      Thanks! I appreciate it.

      I fixed the links, and I just added a section on how to load a profile. To load a profile, there is a button:

      Just click it and it will come up with load/save options. In the Quick Edit Mode, it’s in the middle-left area; and in the Pro Quick Edit Mode, it’s in the upper-right area.

      Rob

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