Learning more about Sagelight (me, that is…) — Getting Amazing Results from Sagelight

As I work on the next version (I should have a pre-release in just a few days!), an interesting thing is happening.  I am learning more and more about the power contained within the current version (3.1).

Learning more about Sagelight Editor’s current Powerful functions as I add new ones

Here’s an example.  For the next version, I just put in hand-drawn curves.  I have written articles about how hand-drawn-based curves are basically dead — for image toning.  And, well, they are.  I don’t recommend curves (that is, hand-drawn curves, i.e. the traditional sort with the diagonal line moved with the mouse and control points) for general image toning and believe they are definitely passe.

It turns out that curves can be a powerful tool in other ways, however.  For example, here is a very basic “solarized” effect with a simple curve (and then smoothed out with the Image Smoothing function in Sagelight):

Image Created with Sagelight (hand-drawn) Curves

But, outside of simple tricks like this, hand-drawn curves aren’t really too interesting for image toning (though, they are particularly useful for other things, a subject of another blog post)

Sagelight Curves Really are that Powerful

There’s definitely a difference between having one thing and saying its better, but not having the thing you’re comparing it against.  Such was the case with curves.  I basically went to town on implementing hand-drawn curves for version 4.0.  They’re no beginner material, but I put a lot of emphasis on the things I’ve always hated about curves, like having to do far too much to select different channels, upsetting my rhythm.  Well, more about that in a week or so when I release the pre-release.

But, now that Sagelioght hase hand-drawn curves, I very quickly found out just how powerful the Sagelight Curves (i.e. the “RGB Controls” really are).  In a recent blog post,  I compared them to what I can do in, say, Adobe Photoshop, but never having implemented them within Sagelight, I really didn’t see the extent of the new technology developed for Sagelight in the Sagelight Curves and how much better they work for image toning compared to doing it yourself.   I spent over a year fine-tuning the curves to work together, so that you can control and mix coarse and very subtle elements.  You can perform upwards of 30 curves simultaneously with just a few sliders, which generates a composite basically impossible to get with hand-drawn curves.

For example, just moving the Low Contrast and Shadows Slider together can generate 5-6 curves which mix together.  This would be like opening the same number of hand-drawn curve windows at the same time and having to work with these curves. Add just a couple more slider movements (i.e. different sliders), and you’re very easily up to 10+ curve settings fluidly working together (you can see the composite curve generated in the histogram curve display).

So, with just a few slider movements, you can perform tasks that would take a large amount of experience and work to just do what you can do by feel with Sagelight by moving a few sliders.

Getting Deep Saturation With Sagelight

I just spent the last month working on color theory.  It’s been a big reason for the delay in getting Sagelight 4.0 out, but I think you’ll see its worth it — even for version 3.0.  Applying a number of things I’ve realized about color theory led me to realize that Sagelight already does many of the things I’m putting in!

Of course, what I’m putting in may make it easier, but Sagelight has a very solid core engine based on image processing fundamentals.

Here’s an example: Deep Saturation.   I’ve been putting in some rather aggressive “Vibrance”-like algorithms in Sagelight, but realized that there are problems with Vibrance-ish technology functions — they exacerbate noise.  It’s their nature, and in many cases, you’re better off sticking with the fundamentals anyway.

One thing I’ve developed is a way to resaturate an image.  And, I also realized there is a way to essentially do this in Sagelight.  Here’s a before-and-after example:

Original Image Image after using the technique described below

Image after using the technique described below

As you can see, the after-image is really much nicer, and I did it by realizing that Sagelight can already do the things I’m working on!  This is one of the reasons Sagelight has always had very serious masking.  It can mask in H,S,L and YUV mode (superior to YCrCb, in my opinion — LAB mode is used a lot in Sagelight, too, but it really isn’t necessary, and using XYZ or YXY mode is a better option for most things anyway.  LAB, a lot  of times, is another one of those cool labels like “exposure” that really doesn’t have the impact on your image the connotation is supposed to… but I digress).  The reason I put such powerful masking into Sagelight from the beginning is because this ability is part of the core image-processing fundamentals I used to give Sagelight a very solid foundation, amounting to a lot of power.

The above example is a result of that, and this is also why I am continually discovering more and more about the capabilities of my own creation — because I see a concept and realize “Hey, Sagelight can do that!”

Here is how to get this type of Deep Saturation in Sagelight

Original Image

  1. Select Masking (just click on the screen, or Select “Advanced Masking” from the Mask Menu)
  2. Select “Advanced Masking” from the Color Picker (if you clicked on the screen)
  3. Select “YUV” for the input.
  4. Click on the screen for the color area you want to deepen
  5. Set the ranges of the Y,U, and V elements to about 30% each (for some reason V comes up as lopsided compared to U and Y — set U and Y RANGE (not value) to where V defaults to.  This is a good setting).
  6. Set the RANGE values to where the mask makes sense.  You can see the mask move around as you change the values (or click elsewhere on the screen).

Here is an example of what the screen will look like:

How the mask will look (more or less)

Here is an example of what the mask menu will look like.

  1. Press “Commit Mask Selection”. This saves the mask selection so you can do multiple operations without changing the mask.
  2. De-select ‘F’ (in the RGB controls) to de-select fine mode
  3. Move the Brightness Slider down some amount (starting to get dark, but not too much, but a little aggressive)
  4. Press “Apply”
  5. Use the Saturation Slider to Saturate as much as desired.  If you don’t get as much as you want, that’s ok — keep it under 70.
  6. Saturate again.

That’s all that is needed!

The Result

Basically, what you’re doing is selecting a specific color range and using a basic principle: when you darken colors, they can take more saturation.  Therefore, you get deeper colors.

Another example:

Here is an example of what’s coming in the next version:

Original Image

Image after just one slider movement

Probably over-the-top color-wise, but the main point is that you can do an awful lot with color these days.

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11 thoughts on “Learning more about Sagelight (me, that is…) — Getting Amazing Results from Sagelight

  1. Hi Rob,

    Sagelite is my favourite editing software, I am like a kid in a candy store, always trying various ideas with the many options.

    You just keep lifting up the tempo, thanks very much.

    Sincerely hope you keep your enthusiasm up.

    Neil

    Ps. All the Topaz plugins work well with your software.

  2. I sometimes take a portrait shot, where the face is in shadow but the background is very bright … a common situation but at times unavoidable when I want to capture a particular background scene. I can brighten the face using Sagelight but it is very difficult to avoid a light “halo” around the face.

    I’ve also had such scenes, where I want to capture an interesting cloud formation behind the portrait. I’ve turned down exposure to avoid blowing out the clouds and used a light infill flash but I still can’t get a satisfactory image after editing.

    Any thoughts please ?

    • Sorry for the delay in my reply. I didn’t realize these comments were here (I typically get notified by e-mail, but didn’t in this case).

      Yes, I have a few comments. About the face. I’ve developed a procedure just for this. If you want to send me an example, I can use it and tell you how to do it. It involves using the masking, and I intend to make a video of it, since this is a common issue.

      With the haloing — that is sometimes unavoidable. Sagelight version 4.0 will have a layer structure with a Soft Light layer that will probably take care of it.

      But, in any situation you may always get a little haloing. A strong function in Sagelight is the undo brush. You can revert to the original and use the Undo Brush and brush away the halo, or you can go back to a specific point (through the View Undo History function, or by having set a snapshot and then re-loading it to put it into the history).

      About the clouds. That’s pretty much the way I would do it. What are the problems you are seeing (again, please feel free to send me a picture). My main issue with combining flash with outdoors is making sure I am not too close with the flash. The flash can tend to a) make things too bright and to make them a “pure” white against a sunlight white, which can look artificial. So, perhaps working with the flash-filled areas to make only these areas warmer.

      One of the main issues with toning images (I discuss this in a blog post somewhere) is that toning specific areas is what makes it look real. Often, toning the entire image just gives it a cast instead of a tone, because it takes everything with it.

      So, perhaps using either the mask to specifically select (or de-select areas), or tone the image, but then use the Undo Brush to apply that tone to just certain areas (for example, the foreground, but not the sky, clouds, or mountains).

      Rob

  3. In the case described first, I am using a mask with a generous amount of “soft” feathering and then apply the Fill Light to taste. I have not noticed any halo problems.

    • I’m glad you mentioned that. There are a couple things I forgot.

      Yes, using the feather is a good way to go, and also using the “Gamma” function in the advanced masking was designed specifically for this kind of thing. It performs essentially an interference feather that causes the feather to direct itself inward towards the selection, and this can help eliminate halos.

      Another thought, too, is to use the Smart Light feature. It can work well to keep down halos. You can then use the Undo Brush to apply just want you want to keep.

  4. luc,
    I normally don’t mask in such situations … just the fill light, shadows etc. I always use RAWs.

    I did use masking on a photo of an algae bloom at our local beach a couple of days ago. It made the local paper – the entire front page. Now I’m wondering whether such editing is ethical.

    • I think it’s ethical. Thanks for sending the pictures. I look at it this way…

      The original picture represented the way the camera needed to capture it to squeeze the range into the CCD’s range (not to mention the output range). So, like many outdoor pictures, it was a little washed out compared how we would have seen it with our eyes.

      I think your edit was just putting it back into a more realistic and perceptual frame.

      Besides, in the past, using polarizers and other techniques to get a “raw” negative was considered ok, and these were used for purpose of clarity and deepening colors for a more artistic presentation.

      So, I think as long as it represents the original scene in a realistic manner (like your picture does), it’s ethical. It’s just when people are turning brown trees green and that sort of thing and then representing (or implying) that the picture is the natural setting; that’s when I think it crosses the line when it is published in a paper. Or maybe even as a photograph hanging in a gallery, since there is a similar representation there, too.

  5. Congratulations for making the front page nevertheless.
    Well, our newspaper (the Sacramento Bee) hardly publishes any outdoor pictures anymore without giving them an “HDR look” – gives me a weird impression of the paper.

  6. Pingback: Introducing the Power Box – Some Simple and Powerful Controls in Version 4 « Sagelight Image Editor Blog & Newsletter

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