How much touchup is "legal"?

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btschumy
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How much touchup is "legal"?

#1 Post by btschumy » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:08 am

I'm new to microphotography and I'm curious as to how much touchup of an image is considered kosher? Many beautiful images I see have very clean backgrounds. Was the photographer just careful about their preparation, or did they remove the background debris?

I realize most of us are doing this for our own enjoyment and in reality you can do whatever you want.

Here is are before and after images. Is this considered too much?
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Original.jpg
Original.jpg (103.76 KiB) Viewed 3117 times
Modified.jpg
Modified.jpg (19.14 KiB) Viewed 3117 times
Bill Tschumy
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billben74
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#2 Post by billben74 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:21 am

I guess the key idea is that, happily, there are no laws governing this behaviour.
Some people are going for an artistic look. Some people are just interested in the "science" and don't give a fig about if the background is clean.
Sometimes the cleaning might be via extensive physical preparation techniques -> diatom mounting by Klaus Kemp (famous diatomist) for example leads to fairly clean image.
But even then you can't really avoid tiny little imperfections in the images.
So you can clean it up digitally. Or not.

I do think its good if people are clear about how they achieved their image. This is not only honest it also allows other forum members to learn more about how to make similar images/preparation/etc.

To my mind its the last point that people should stick to as we have different motivations for creating images. And that is just fine (for me anyway).

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cuxlander
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#3 Post by cuxlander » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:39 am

Hello btschumy,
there really is a lot of debris in your first image.
In your example I would prefer a cut-out enlargement of the main object and a moderate touch-up the background to emphazise the main motive.
To me your second image definitely received too much touch-up.
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#4 Post by rnabholz » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:03 pm

No legalities involved fortunately :D

My approach is to include equipment and processing information on each post. Single frame or stacking, DSLR or phone, masks or filters, cleaned backgrounds, other post processing adjustments, etc

As a relative newcomer to the hobby, I always appreciate knowing how an image is made. It helps me understand what methods and equipment make the images that I am attracted to, which may affect the the direction I may take in my own approach.

In the end, we all get to decide how we want to present our images, and the audience gets to decide if they like it. Post em, and be open to questions and well intentioned critique.

Looking forward to seeing more from you.

Rod

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Crater Eddie
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#5 Post by Crater Eddie » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:13 pm

Personally, I don't mind a little debris in the image, it helps provide context and looks more natural. But that's just me.
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apochronaut
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#6 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:16 pm

I can't see the forest for the trees or is it, I can't see the trees for the forest?

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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#7 Post by KurtM » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:33 pm

I'd have to say it depends on what you want to show. Given the example above, it could be either that you wish to present a comparison of Desmid to Diatoms, or that you mean to show how a sample from the birdbath generally appears under the big eye, and those are two very different end results to shoot for. In case of the former, I'd clean some of the distracting debris up, but leave just enough to look realistic (I suspect you really blasted it to make a point) and crop as much as resolution allowed. In case of the latter, probably go with straight out of the camera.

In the case of specific subject objects, like Door Number 1 above, my personal approach is to punch it up in post processing to wrest as much information out of the image as possible; it often takes a tweaking of light levels to increase contrast, among other things, also look at sharpening, which is in fact local contrast, and play with saturation levels to get the general look I think best represents the scene. How much or little I tweak depends on the exposure, sometimes it's a lot and other times not so much.

I always clone out artificial blemishes like dust on the camera sensor and such. For image background artifacts, debris, etc., I may eliminate all of it, or none of it, or only some of it, again to achieve the general look of the image I think portrays the subject most fairly ... and beautifully.
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btschumy
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#8 Post by btschumy » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:42 pm

Kurt,

True, I did go to the extreme cleaning this one just to see how it would look. I agree it is a bit stark. I will continue to do some cleaning, bit leave enough "interesting" debris so it doesn't look fake.

BTW: can anyone ID the desmid? I assume this is Closterium?
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#9 Post by KurtM » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:48 pm

btschumy wrote:I assume this is Closterium?
Yep. And diatoms probably Navicula sp.
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#10 Post by charlie g » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:03 pm

Hi,Bill...good question you raise! I tend to enjoy the actual sample field,,,then I either wait, or dilute an area to be image captured...or even transfer the target object to another slide with 'clear water'...for image capture.

The choice of magnification you are able to use for your image capture greatly affects the surroundings included in an image capture.

I am mostly in the camp of Kurt and CE of enjoyment of the context of my target specimen...rather than a blank surrounding and the target object of the image capture.

The location from which the sample is collected offers a variety of habitats to sample..each habitat often sprinkles characteristic items (one microscopists debris, is anothers context signature habitat of an object imaged) in field of view of an imaged specimen. So you already make a difference in what you will observe when you get a sample to the microscope slide.

When you observe the sample (fresh after collection, or two weeks latter) affects the observered objects.

With my astronomy hobby observing and reading...'false color', and touch up images are always part of what my eyes 'import to me'. I always wonder about what the quality of illumination we use for our microscopy world views..for me the illumination color choice tends to be tungsten square-filament, halogen filament, and LED when on holiday to rural areas.

As has been said..your first image gives a pleasant sense of the variety of green algae organisms present..for me this is not 'clutter'. You can on that fluid slide survey for pleasing targets...before you plop down a cover slip ...you can gently move that desmid into a clearer situation...and then plop down the coverslip. Thank you for the great question, Bill.

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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#11 Post by hkv » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:09 am

Most have been said already, but I would not be too afraid of "cheating". I have a principle that as long as I use information that the camera sensor registered to make up the final image, I have not cheated. I would never add new objects that I have not captured through the camera, but I gladly remove distracting objects. As previously pointed out. People have different purposes with their images. I try to make images that I enjoy looking at, like for a coffee table book. I can even enjoy less details (contrast and resolution) to make a pleasing image rather than having squeezed the max out of the image to show all details. Others wants to prove a scientific point and does not care about the "looks" of the image.

You may argue then that focus stacking also would be cheating. After all, you remove a lot of data (which is out of focus) and replace it with information in focus. It is like an automated photoshop on steroids. So, my main point is. Do what ever you like. It is your equipment. It is your images. It is you who know what you want to achieve with them. :P
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btschumy
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#12 Post by btschumy » Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:36 pm

Thanks for all the replies. I guess for now my policy will be to use a "repair" tool to remove distracting elements but not go to extremes and paint an entirely different background (as I did above).

As I was working on some images yesterday I feel a bit like a sculptor removing elements to get to my final result. I would leave some blobs or an out of focus diatom because I felt it left a pleasing balance to the image.
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#13 Post by zzffnn » Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:52 pm

Bill,

You are herein arrested for illegally touching up images :mrgreen:

Seriously, what you did looks fine to my eyes.

I too prefer to provide both the original and the enhanced version and say how the enhancement was done. "Distracting" background may provide some biological context, so I would keep it.

A neutral grey background is sometimes preferred by many people, though it is not always eye-catching.
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#14 Post by mrsonchus » Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:29 pm

I'd agree with all of the above. Sometimes I apply a gentle blur to a background rather than a complete removal or 'average', even a slight transparency may slightly decrease a distracting or just plain 'mucky' background without removing it's contextual info as mentioned.

I'm a definite fan of PP - as long as no previously absent information is added during the edit of course.

Nice pictures, and I too like your treatment of the subject & background.
John B

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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#15 Post by Rodney » Mon Jan 09, 2017 2:58 am

I like the real version without any removals and touch ups. You have both sides without much asking. Trying to wipe out a flicker in the background in astronomy work could resort in something important being lost.
As far as i`m concerned a true image is such. A doctor can only touch up so much until its another photo and not really real from where it was at the beginning. Who is it to say what should be added or removed?
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Re: How much touchup is "legal"?

#16 Post by c-krebs » Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:40 pm

As has been mentioned, the "intent" of the image will dictate a good deal of how much to clean it up. A purely "scientific" intent verses a purely "aesthetic" intent will receive different treatments. I think a great many of the images we like fall somewhere in the middle. I tend to be very careful about editing out much on an image where I am very unfamiliar with the subject and wish to learn more. There may be "clues" as to ID or activity that I don't initially recognize as such, and they may mean something to a more knowledgeable and experienced eye. But if it is a familiar subject and I want to show a nice specimen or interesting lighting technique that worked well I tend to give the editing more thought. Typically I don't want it to be ambiguous to the viewer what it is they should be looking at. I don't want the viewers attention to wander about the frame trying to decipher various forms and "blobs" that I know are simply detritus and ultimately only divert attention from the subject I want to present.

For example....
Look at the two images above that btschumy posted with his question. When you begin to look at the first image try to assess your eye movement and attention shifts as you "take in" the image. Then do the same with the second image. I understand he did this as an extreme example, but it really does make the point. When looking at the first image my eye wanders all over the place as I try to determine what is "worthy" of my attention. I "lock on" the large dark blobs on the top edge and lower edge of the frame. There is some subject detail buried in there. While I am really not consciously thinking these thoughts, there is something going on like "Why are they included there?" "Is there something of value I am supposed to see there?" and if I find myself spending too much attention pondering what is only extraneous debris. This is certainly not the case in the send image.

Your personal preference might be to leave a little bit more in the background and/or crop it differently... that's totally up to you. When working on an image I find it worthwhile to pause, close my eyes for a second, and then look at the image again to see how effectively the included elements and the composition work.

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