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Thursday, 29 November 2012


In LR4 you have five choices of background colors: white, light gray, medium gray (default), dark gray, and black (these are the LR terms for each color).

If you right-click the background in LR, you get five options, labeled White, Light Gray, Medium Gray, Dark Gray, Black. I haven't measured their values and there doesn't seem to be a way to customize further, at least not an obvious one.

With no paint bucket tool in Lightroom, you approach it differently. Right-clicking or control-clicking the background area gives a short list of background colors, like this:

Dark gray reads as 82 on my setup (Zone III-ish on your zone chart), medium gray reads as 145 (Zone IV-ish), and light gray reads as 217 (Zone VIII 1/2, maybe?). I Like medium gray too.

"And now you can tell that I overcorrected for corner vignetting. Bet you didn't notice that in the version up at the top."

Nope; you're right. I was looking at the silly "duck"!

That sculpture is titled "White Negress II" by Constantin Brâncusi.

It's part of the permanent collection and is normally always on display in the 3rd floor north galleries Modern Wing of the AIC. (Note: interactive pano link.)

The value for middle grey on the 0-255 scale depends on the colorspace of your image. In sRGB and AdobeRGB, with a gamma of 2.2, the middle grey has a value of 118, so even darker then you would like it Mike.

As an aside, Brancusi had diverse interests and talents, and was a good photographer, often using arrangements of his own sculptures in his studio as subject matter. He had a great eye not just for form, but for subtle tonal variation.

It's 18% reflectance, or 50% lightness in Lab Color, or hex triplet #777777, or 128 in hexadecimal notation

A small but important point. It's only #777777 or 128 (decimal) if the gamma is L*. If you've calibrated to 2.2, filling with these values won't give you an exact mid gray. The same with working spaces with 1.8 or 2.2 gammas. So if you fill with a 50% Gray/K or 128,128,128 you don't get 18% reflectance, or 50% lightness. You can confirm this yourself by setting the secondary readout in the Info panel to Lab Color. It doesn't matter when you're working visually, but is important when trying to calibrate your output to deliver a true mid gray. Don't worry, yours is a common misapprehension. If there's any takeaway from all this, it's that all coordinates for a visual value in both Color and Gray spaces are dependent on that space.

English not being my native language I didn't understand:
"Viola, as the second fiddle said"
so I googled it up and found this joke:

What's the difference between a fiddle and a violin?
No-one minds if you spill beer on a fiddle.

here's the link: http://suewidemark.com/violinjokes.htm

Back to topic: I appreciate you consider 158 better than Zone VI (153) but am not sure if 158 on your screen will be the same on mine... Very subtle difference. aren't we spoiled?

The "pinstripes" option in Lightroom varies the apparent tone of the five value selections illustrated by Philip Morgan. It's very quiet and smallscale, but this texturing does present as distinct from any flat coloured areas of image which may occur, of near to the same tonal value.

"At any rate, not a duck."

Hey, "if it looks like a duck, etc." Perhaps it's a white negress duck?

Lightroom 4 doesn't give you a custom option that I know of. You can have white, light grey (D1D1D1), medium grey (7F7F7F), dark grey (3F3F3F), or black. I don't find any reference to custom background colors in Help.

"Bet you didn't notice that in the version up at the top."

I did.
Do you think I should seek professional help?

The fiddle joke is good, but it only works because you misspelled the word "viola"… It should be "voilà", meaning "Here it is" in French. But many Americans, not being too interested in any other language than English, do the same mistake I'm afraid.

Am I sad that my desktop background is (115,115,115) - even though I run photo-processing apps full-screen maximized?

For those of you with Aperture, to get a 158 grey set the brightness of the viewer to 55%. True for my MacBook Pro display anyway.

I use an Eizo, clearly see the giant dark halo in the first image...

"It's 18% reflectance, or 50% lightness in Lab Color, or hex triplet #777777, or 128 in hexadecimal notation"

128 here is actually decimal notation, not hexadecimal. Although... hex 77 is not decimal 128. Hex 80[8080] is decimal 128, hex 77[7777] is decimal 119.

Software tips now as well as gear reviews. Is TOP heading in a new direction? Can't say I blame you - DPR did.

Hey, Mike---

A tidbit on zone VI: remember Zone VI Workshop? It was a small company that had several incredibly useful gadgets (a temperature compensating timer! modified spotmeters, and more...), some out of this world graded paper---the best I ever used--, an opinionated newsletter, etc.

They called themselves Zone VI, as I recall, because that was how the palm of a caucasian person's hand should be "placed". Cool tip for when you forgot your grey card.

BTW: Soon I'll have some big news about LightZone (remember your post about how they were helpful in your skinny early days...). It's still alive....more next week hopefully.

And about that densitometer you owe me...

As a teacher and mentor of photography one of the first steps I encourage is to set the background of Photoshop and Lightroom to white. This usually results in protests of " But it doesn't look as good as when it's against black, or other 'shades of grey'." And that's the point; the photographer's job is to do the best for their photograph so it communicates to others, not to indulgently present it to themselves in the best possible light.

Viewing it against white is going to show all the flaws from the midrange through to the delicate highlights. And that's where most photographers make mistakes of judgement, evidenced by their dismay when they print it and it just looks too dark.

However, viewing against a black background is also vital to see what is happening in the shadows. So, not one rule for all. Use the tools you need.

A note of caution; the above suggestions work best with a calibrated and profiled monitor. Most monitors are set way too bright for accurate visual judgement. Mine is set at 80 cd/m2 and viewed in a dimly lit room. Brighter environments demand higher screen brightness but once you get over 120 cd/m2 then visual judgement is compromised.

Bonus track: My pedantic mind forces me to point out that you have spelt Fuchsia incorrectly. The flower is named in honour of Leonhart Fuchs, the esteemed 16th century botanist.

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