Tonemapping ethics in Farktography

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    So, first off, this isn’t my original idea. Killerclaw first brought it up here: And Chupathingie posted a link to an example he did here: But, here’s the latest quandary.

    In the HDR theme, one of my shots was a psuedo-HDR made by tonemapping a single RAW image. So that got my curiosity up, and I started playing with various methods of software-enhancing photos using only global enahncements. Examples are here: and here:

    If you read the discussion between Elsinore and I on the first one, you’ll see the foundation of this.

    Basically, I’d like to see some debate (even if there’s no immediate resolution) on the use of mild tonemapping as an acceptable global enhancement. I could honestly argue both for, or against, in good consience.

    Point: It’s too close to HDR, it’s too software-heavy
    Counter-point: it’s still a single image/exposure and mild treatment really isn’t much different in concept than usage of curves/saturation/etc. Also, a well-executed mild treatment wouldn’t even really be noticed.

    Point: wild cases look too garish and unnatural, and it would be too hard to police/enforce.
    Counter-point: The same can be said for contrast and saturation.

    My personal gut instict is that mild usgae should be okay, but I’m really afraid of starting a slippery slope of pushing the boundaries of the tonemapping into a point where every contest looks like an HDR theme. So do we draw a line? If so, where? Do we outright allow tonemapping? Do we outright ban it? Opinions please.

    Here’s an example of the same image with mild, medium, and wild.

    If I were considering usage for a Farktography theme, I’d have no problems with the mild, heavy reservations with the moderate, and the wild would be right out.

    /note: I haven’t used, and don’t plan on using tonemapping for any contest other than HDR/other heavy software allowance themes until otherwise integrated into the rules. The TopazAdjust that I reference in the comparison shots is also right out. It looks pretty effing sweet, and I’ll use it more in some of my non-farktography photography, but I think it just screams software way too much to even consider.


    Ive always thought of anything that uses tonemapping, whether its from a single raw or multiple exposures, as hdr. All 3 of my shots used for this last hdr contest were all from a single raw where after I got them on my computer I thought these might look better in hdr. Even though just using 1 raw is a single exposure its still increasing the dynamic range of the image from what you would have in the original image digitally. From looking back over some of the original discussions we had about whether or not to allow hdr photos everyone seemed to be considering multiple exposures or an hdr from a single raw as the same thing so I’d lean towards not allowing any tonemapping. Also, I wouldnt want to be Elsinore trying to police something as subjective as a mild amount of tonemapping.


    I always thought the idea of farktography was do leave the image unprocessed, excepting maybe taking out a link fluffle that might have been on the lens. I don’t correct, in any way, the images I post (and I’m sure it shows; some of my edits of my postings are way better; gamma corrections, saturation, etc.)


    I have been using Topaz Adjust & more recently Topaz Detail for a while. Obviously not in a garish pseudo HDR form, but for contrast adjustment, sharpening and noise reduction. Topaz DeNoise is the best on the market IMHO. I never even thought about whether it was going against the rules to be honest, as it is applied across the entire image. I have not used Photomatix to tonemap however.

    I use Topaz Detail heavily on my band shots and love the results I get but I would not use those shots for Farktography as they are obviously heavily edited.

    As for allowing mild tonemapping? I don’t have a problem with it, but who decides what is too much?


    I just took a look at the Topaz site. IN one before/after example, a light sky got darker, highlighting clouds, and a dark treeline got lighter, highlighting the trees. Looked like HDR to me, but that’s just my opinion. On the other hand, looks light software I’d love to have!


    I just took a look at the Topaz site. IN one before/after example, a light sky got darker, highlighting clouds, and a dark treeline got lighter, highlighting the trees. Looked like HDR to me, but that’s just my opinion. On the other hand, looks light software I’d love to have!

    To explain topaz in as few words as possible, it divides the image up into smaller, logical sections based on shapes in the image (and a number you specify) then locally enhances contrast, saturation, and sharpness. Because a) it can do so much so easily, and b) the wild effects capable, I’ve just outright not used it for Farktography. In NBD‘s case with his music shots, he’s probably been using it very mildly which is why the effect hasn’t been noticed (Which I’m not opposed to). But yeah, it’s capable of pulling out some HDR-like effects, too. You can see a halo-like effect around the tree in this shot that shows where the boundaries of some of the logical zones were.


    Then, from what I read of the rules just now, it should be okay. But from what I feel about the contests’ premise (i.e., good quality photographs without digitally enhancing them), it’s a no. But I’m still a newbie around these parts. What do I know?


    On the other hand, such semantics are what make politics so abhorrent. Bend the rules, tweek the message, fool the public, get elected.


    I think under the current wording, an argument can be made for any global adjustment that isn’t cartoonishly done (and anything more than the mild example above seems way too much for me). However, I do think it violates the spirit of the rules, if not the letter of the law. On the one hand, I’m not too worried about a mild treatment, but saying outright that the technique is ok opens us up to having big debates (and hurt feelings) over what image might or might not be allowed after the fact. I’d much rather have rules that are clear enough that people know what’s expected and allowed going into things rather than having entries pulled after they’re posted when it can feel like a personal slight and not an objective ruling over technique.

    I will say that part of the reason I’ve equated single exposure RAW with HDR as much as multi-exposure HDR is that that specific technique generally still uses multiple files where the RAW exposure is pulled or pushed to provide differently exposed files for the base HDR. From the way it sounds, that’s not quite the case in tonemapping, but from the description of Topaz (at least Topaz Detail, maybe?), it does sound like it’s doing a *lot* more to even out contrast and bring out detail than can be done with simple contrast, curves, levels, or unsharp mask.

    So yeah, that’s kind of a non-answer, but my opinion leans toward the “tonemapping really isn’t what Farktography is about” line of thinking. Ultimately, though, I’m only one person here, and I’d want to see consensus one way or the other.

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