Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Workflow Technique #068

Digital Fill Flash (PC & Mac)

note by Uwe Steinmueller


This workflow is based on own ideas and some input by Imagenomic (creator of the Noiseware plugin). It resulted from the discussion how to limit the noise removal more to the shadows only.

We face a very classic situation that an image has very dark (nearly opaque) shadows. Here is an example.

1Ds @ ISO 160

Actually it is quite easy to open up the shadows using the PS CS Shadow/Highlight tool.

Sample S/H settings

Shadows look now better

But a close inspection reveals the truth that the noise in digital images resides in the shadows:

Noise after S/H at 200% magnification

Noise after S/H at 200% magnification

This clearly sends the message that opening up shadows needs to be followed by some good noise removal.

Digital Fill Flash Workflow (and action)

We use several tools to get a better result. Here is what we do step-by-step. You can download an action that performs all the steps in the right order from here. The DOP tools used are available as demos (can be used up to 1500x1000 pixel images). Also the Noiseware plugin is provided as a tryout version.

Note: This workflow is meant to be an example only. You need to tweak it for your needs.

1. Create Shadow Mask

We create a mask for just the shadow part as we want the luminance noise only to be removed from the shadows. For this we use the DOP tonality toolkit.

Create a normal shadow mask

This shadow mask is then saved for later use (for details check the action)

2. Shadow /Highlight

Perform the same Shadow/Highlight step as shown above.

3. Add Mask

Load back the selection to limit the noise removal to just the shadow region of the image

4. Run Noiseware to remove luminance noise

Noiseware removes luminance noise only

This is a central step as the noise removal does only effect the shadow areas.

5. Deselect the selection

6. Run Noiseware to remove the color noise

Noiseware to only remove color noise

We remove the color noise from the entire image.

7. Sharpening with EasyS Sharpening Toolkit

We normally sharpen the final image with our own EasyS Sharpening Toolkit. For sharpening we also used the same shadow mask again as we did not want to sharpen the shadow area that much. Sharpening would just bring out the artifacts that maybe created by the noise removal process.

Here is the resulting image:

Of course this downsized image does not show anything about the noise. We revisit the same crops from above:

at 200% magnification

at 200% magnification

We have no intention to remove all of the noise as this often leads to some sort of plastic look with most finer details lost.

We hope this workflow inspires you to roll your own Digital Fill Light workflow.

Note: Digital Fill Flash is never a replacement for the real Fill Flash if you can use it.



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