Problem & Solution of the Month

[written by Ah Bluff and compiled by Ah Kopi]

Wacko lighting at The Esplanade recently caused what many F.U.N. members consider to be the “Problem of the Month” if not the year.

Stage lighting has always presented challenges for the photographer. But during the DA:NS Festival 2010 in October, it got real Eat 6 (means bad), with red, blue, orange, yellow, green, golden kim kim and other coloured lights producing skin tones that remind of yam, ham, Spam (not junk email but luncheon meat), char siew, siew yoke (means roast pork in Chinese Cantonese language), Sunkist orange and other fruits, vegetables and processed meats.

YAM and reddish colour adds to the feeling of romance

[photo: Ah Ying]

More romance

[photo: Ah Chef]

Golden kim kim pix

[photo: Ah New]

Here are more Eat 6 examples…

[photo: Ah Bluff]

And one which requires “E6” (Eat 6) processing

[photo: Ah Kopi]

An assortment of seafood, meats, fruit, vegetable and illness…


Char siew (roast pork)

Sunkist orange


On the slow road to recovery…

Becomes HAMmy YAMmy

[photo: Ah Ying]

Maybe The Esplanade has a new lighting technician. As an aside, during a classical violin recital at The Esplanade Concourse during the Crossing Borders series in September, the lighting was brilliant. It turned out that The Esplanade technicians had offered all the multi-coloured lights, but the performers turned them down and asked for just “normal” lighting.

Classical violin recital during Crossing Borders series

[photo: Ah Bluff]

[photo: Ah Bluff]

Back to the wacko lights… They are not necessarily “bad” and the point is not to reproduce natural skin tones under stage lighting conditions.  In fact, one of SELim’s psychedelic images from the DA:NS Festival is quite brilliant. But when a face looks marinated in chee cheong fun sweet sauce, that is not usually acceptable – even though it might be accurate. Between accurate and nice-looking pixs, we usually prefer the latter.

Out of this world psychedelic colours

[photo: Ah Lim]

And so F.U.N. members cracked their heads to develop complicated post-processing work flows in order to achieve luscious, lau nuah (means salivating in Chinese Hokkien language) standard skin tones. But with limited success. Out of desperation and exasperation, Bluffname decided to try the grey picker and… Tadaaaa!! With just one click, he got very close to beautiful skin.

“Lau nuah” standard skin tone

[photo: Ah Bluff]

Very juicy and delectable skin with healthy pinkish red hue

[photo: Ah Kopi]

The grey picker is nothing new – except that some F.U.N. members had not previously noticed its presence. It is found in Lightroom, Photoshop, HyperUtility and just about every image processing software available. The idea of the grey picker is to choose a spot that is supposed to be absolutely grey, or black, or white. Pick on this point and it converts to grey while the rest of the colours adjust themselves around it.

Grey picker in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.0

Grey picker in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Grey picker in Fujifilm HyperUtility HS-V3

[screenshots: Ah Kopi]

The trouble with the grey picker is that it is not easy to select the correct grey spot. If you choose the wrong spot, or even pick just a few pixels away from the correct one, you may end up with even more wacko colours. It is highly unpredictable. Success is akin to winning a lottery.

Before “one click” with grey picker

After “one click” with grey picker

[photo: Ah Bluff]

But the good thing about the grey picker is that the software does a whole series of adjustments simultaneously, whereas with manual adjustments, we can only adjust one variable at a time. For example, when Bluffname tried the grey picker (using Lightroom 3.0) on one of his images, it arrived at these values:

Colour temperature: 2,000 K
Tint: – 111

On his own, he would never have adjusted so drastically because the image would begin to look awful long before the color temperature reaches 2,000 K, and long before the tint reaches – 111. But the two values combined worked. They may not produce the ultimate pleasing results, but quite close. Only slight fine tuning is needed. Instead of tens of minutes, or longer, the time needed to adjust an image was reduced to a few seconds.

And so the grey picker became the “one click” solution of the month.

More than that, it heightened the awareness of F.U.N. members about what is pleasing skin colour and what is possible with post-processing. By the end of October, during Pesta Raya 2010, the Malay Festival of Arts, there was a significant improvement in the overall colours of F.U.N. members’  stage performance images.

Significant IMPROVEMENT!!!

[photo: Ah Ying]

[photo: Ah Chef]

[photo: Ah Soonhoe]

[photo: Ah Bluff]


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