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Old 13-08-2008, 18:00   #1 (permalink)
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Soft and Lacking Definition

Hi,

I uploaded some pictures to Alamy and they came back saying that there were soft and lacking definition. I don't really know what this means or what to do fix this?

I am using a 400D with the 18-55 kit lens.

I can't really put the pictures on here cause they are too big

Any thoughts?

Thanks
Paul
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Old 13-08-2008, 18:25   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

Could be sharpening needed, levels, curves, etc. Best thing is to resize and post into this thread - or crop a section which won't exceed 300k

Alamy do like to have their quality images!
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Old 13-08-2008, 19:00   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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Could be sharpening needed, levels, curves, etc. Best thing is to resize and post into this thread - or crop a section which won't exceed 300k

Alamy do like to have their quality images!
No sharpening allowed on alamy, they need to be sharp at 100%, if 1 in the batch fails all rejected,

Last edited by gsgary; 13-08-2008 at 20:11.
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Old 14-08-2008, 09:41   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

here are the 4 pictures that I uploaded.

http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic1.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic2.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic3.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic4.jpg

I did have to resize them to make the uncompressed size correct. I did this by increasing the picture size by 10% and did this 4 times
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Old 14-08-2008, 09:43   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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No sharpening allowed on alamy, they need to be sharp at 100%, if 1 in the batch fails all rejected,
I think you will find it's evidence of sharpening. Got all mine through & some had some serious sharpening done
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Old 14-08-2008, 10:29   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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here are the 4 pictures that I uploaded.

I did have to resize them to make the uncompressed size correct. I did this by increasing the picture size by 10% and did this 4 times
Resizing will add softness to them but main problem is that they all exhibit burned highlights/clipping which won't help the quality threshold

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I think you will find it's evidence of sharpening. Got all mine through & some had some serious sharpening done
Yup! The trick is to make sure it's not evident - like resizing!
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Old 14-08-2008, 10:31   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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Resizing will add softness to them but main problem is that they all exhibit burned highlights/clipping which won't help the quality threshold



Yup! The trick is to make sure it's not evident - like resizing!

So how do I resize the pictures without adding the softness to them?? Also I guess the burned higlights is just an exposure/apeture problem?
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Old 14-08-2008, 10:54   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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So how do I resize the pictures without adding the softness to them?? Also I guess the burned higlights is just an exposure/apeture problem?
With difficulty! Only ones I've done (as I needed to) were from my Sigma SD10 but although it's only 3MP it uses a Foveon sensor so no interpolation (so doubling in size brings it up to the quality of most cameras which use Bayer sensors). Also used Genuine Fractals which seems to produce a slightly better result. But when all's said and done, the original shot has to be spot-on in all respects - resizing wil make any quality issues bigger!

And yes, burned highlights is just overexposure but when the sensor is overloaded it just produces a patch without any detail
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Old 14-08-2008, 16:08   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

If i were you i would forget about submiting to Alamy and concentrate on your photography for a bit longer and invest in some good quality lenses, the lens you are using wont help
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Old 14-08-2008, 16:21   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

ok,, I thought that the lens may let things down a little ( am thinking about buying the 17-85 IS Lens )

I thought I would just upload to Alamy to see what the outcome was... Do you not think its worth it then?
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Old 14-08-2008, 16:28   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

Here is a link to a fantastic explanation of why your images were rejected.
The Smyrnoff Blog: Alamy's Soft or Lacking Definition
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Old 14-08-2008, 17:01   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

I'm slowly getting to grips with what they want and as the blog above suggests it has to be pin sharp in the centre of the picture or it fails. Strangely they allow pictures to go through if there's some softness in the corners (a trait of cheaper lenses) and I'm getting a reasonable success rate using my Sony DT 18-70 kit lens.

Therefore my current advice is to use a tripod if possible and only shoot in good light conditions. As always if it's sharp to start with you have a chance.
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Old 14-08-2008, 18:03   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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Originally Posted by Slicker View Post
ok,, I thought that the lens may let things down a little ( am thinking about buying the 17-85 IS Lens )

I thought I would just upload to Alamy to see what the outcome was... Do you not think its worth it then?
That lens is still a consumer lens gets bad reviews between 17mm-24mm and shooting wide open personally i would get the 17-40L
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Old 14-08-2008, 22:54   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

Remember ....try using the tripod as much as you can !!
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Old 14-08-2008, 23:42   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

I'll try to condense my Alamy experience so far

The technical side:
I have been using a Sony A100 with 18-70 kit lens or a 80-300 telephoto lens, which I consider competent low end kit. The 10m pixels really help.

Always shoot on iso100 or the minimum / slowest your camera has, this helps keep noise to a minimum.

Using the cheap kit lens try to use an aperture between F8 and F11, I tend to use aperture priority metering. This tends to be the sharpest any lens can achieve.

Try to not use the extremes of the zoom lens, this tends to keep the image sharp with the least amount of Chromatic Aberration. Removing CA in photoshop tends to decrease sharpness.

Turn off image stabilisation and use a tripod if possible.

Use auto focus sparingly and choose the focus zone carefully.

Use the histogram and / or bracket the shot to minimize any saturation.

When hacking in photoshop:
Increase the size of the photo so the longest side is 5200 pixels and use the bicubic interpolation method. This give a tiff (uncompressed) file of just over 50Mbytes.

Use the unsharpen mask last, after increasing the size of the photo.

All in all I'm wringing the last ounce of performance from modest gear, it kind of reminds me of many happy hours of film photography but without the dynamic range.

The artistic side
This is what I've discovered so far:

Fantastic artistic landscapes don't sell well.

Beautiful women do sell well (be aware of any licensing issues).

Simple photography with room for copy text sells well.

Warts'n all photography doesn't sell well, in general people are using stock photography to sell a better world than the one we're living in.

In general look at the photographs used in dentist waiting room magazines and use them for inspiration.

I hope this is helpful

Steve
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Old 15-08-2008, 09:37   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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That lens is still a consumer lens gets bad reviews between 17mm-24mm and shooting wide open personally i would get the 17-40L
hmm,, will have a look at that one and see if my budget can stretch to it....
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Old 22-08-2008, 15:38   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

I've joined Pixalo as a result of that link to my blog. I've added a few Alamy QC Tests since with actual 100% examples (good and bad) so have a look there to get a feel for what is and isn't acceptable - start with test no. 1

The Alamy forum is another good resource (although they won't be friendly )

Having looked at your pictures I think they are many elements you need to improve on and it is a combination of these things which are letting you down. You will probably end up spending some money along the way, but you ought to do everything you can about your technique first.

Could you post up the original pictures before you prepared them for Alamy - straight off the camera and maybe we can help from there as half the softness comes from upscaling and this often masks the real reasons for the failures.

I'll be glad to help anyone in the same situation, after all, I'm a hobbyist too so I don't have a high horse to sit on

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Old 22-08-2008, 15:48   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

Here are the originals. They were taken before I decided that shooting in RAW was the best idea so they are all JPEGS from the camera.

http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic1_orig.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic2_orig.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic3_orig.jpg
http://www.pcrate.co.uk/pic4_orig.jpg
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Old 22-08-2008, 16:34   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

OK. I reckon you could get pictures no. 2 and 3 through Alamy QC with the right workflow. They are at the limit of what is good enough. Learn straight away that this is the softest level of image you should ever consider submitting and this is a sharpened image. Once you start shooting RAW unsharpened images they will be softer and these same images will no longer be good enough. Using sharpening to get through QC is a hiding to nothing because you may then sell the image only to have to client return it, making Alamy and you look bad. So, with your lens and camera you need to select only absolutely perfect pictures before even thinking about preparing them for Alamy, as the softness multiplies a hundred fold once you start upscaling.

Number 1 and number 4 aren't good enough. Number 1 shows what looks like camera shake but is probably a combination of poor focus choice and lack of DoF (due to low light) and high contrast conditions which your camera is not coping with very well. Number 4 is mis-focussed and shaky and I can't see a way to rescue it.

So on to workflow...actually, I haven't got time right now to write it up. Do a search on the Alamy forum and you will find a couple of links to people's blogs where there are step by step instructions. You need a professional image tool - CS2/CS3, GF or Capture NX (or Canon equivalent) to do the upscaling. Go for the upscaling option which gives the smoothest result (not sharpest). If the resulting image has become soft or lacking definition rather than smooth and showing definition, ditch the image and start again.

Finally, I would actually have shot new photos for your initial submission to Alamy. Shoot them from a tripod, on RAW with sharpening off, at the best aperture on your lens (f8 probably), of a well lit but not too contrasty scene with no trees in it, on a windless day, at a fast shutter speed on the lowest ISO, focussed precisely with good DoF!

Picture number 3, with mottled reflections on the paintwork with limited DoF is asking for trouble!

Good luck in your quest

Andy
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Old 22-08-2008, 16:58   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

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Originally Posted by andysmee View Post
OK. I reckon you could get pictures no. 2 and 3 through Alamy QC with the right workflow.
Thats good to hear.

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They are at the limit of what is good enough. Learn straight away that this is the softest level of image you should ever consider submitting and this is a sharpened image. Once you start shooting RAW unsharpened images they will be softer and these same images will no longer be good enough.
So is using RAW a bad idea then if it makes the images softer?

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Number 1 and number 4 aren't good enough. Number 1 shows what looks like camera shake but is probably a combination of poor focus choice and lack of DoF (due to low light) and high contrast conditions which your camera is not coping with very well. Number 4 is mis-focussed and shaky and I can't see a way to rescue it.
The sunset picture was my first attempt at a Sunset with my SLR. I guess a tripod would have made this better. I had the lens set at f7.1 for this, should it have been higher?

Never really noticed this mis focus on the car. I see that the start of the word CUPRA is not in focus. I guess that would have made a difference in this? Again, I am assuming a higher F number would have helped here? It was taken at F5.6

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So on to workflow...actually, I haven't got time right now to write it up. Do a search on the Alamy forum and you will find a couple of links to people's blogs where there are step by step instructions. You need a professional image tool - CS2/CS3, GF or Capture NX (or Canon equivalent) to do the upscaling. Go for the upscaling option which gives the smoothest result (not sharpest). If the resulting image has become soft or lacking definition rather than smooth and showing definition, ditch the image and start again.
I use Photoshop CS2 for my image editing

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Finally, I would actually have shot new photos for your initial submission to Alamy. Shoot them from a tripod, on RAW with sharpening off, at the best aperture on your lens (f8 probably), of a well lit but not too contrasty scene with no trees in it, on a windless day, at a fast shutter speed on the lowest ISO, focussed precisely with good DoF!

Picture number 3, with mottled reflections on the paintwork with limited DoF is asking for trouble!
I assume you mean picture 4 here.

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Good luck in your quest

Andy
Thanks for the info!

Paul
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:44   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Soft and Lacking Definition

I've stumbled back on this thread as it still provides traffic to my blog, for which I'm very grateful. I've sadly removed the QC Tests from my blog as my high res hosting changed and I forgot to move all the images, but they weren't being used by anyone.

I trust Paul has long since succeeded in his quest to join Alamy and is selling well. I've hit one sale a month from 700 images which means it ticks along nicely for me, and I now concentrate on other outlets which bring in more profit. However, I thought I'd just mop up the answers to Paul's questions which I never saw at the time, as Alamy is still the same old PITA to join!

Quote:
So is using RAW a bad idea then if it makes the images softer?
No, RAW doesn't affect softness. Switching off sharpening affects softness. The key to understanding Alamy is to understand that softness/sharpness has nothing to do with definition. If your images lack definition it doesn't matter whether you sharpen or soften your images, they still won't pass QC, although sharpening probably helps a little if they are in a hurry!

Quote:
I had the lens set at f7.1 for this, should it have been higher?
No, not always. If you have a camera and lens combination which is borderline for Alamy, you will be best to shoot at the sharpest point on the lens, both in terms of aperture and focus. For most lenses, this is f8. If you have decent lenses then you can shoot from f8 to wide open, it's the small aperture end which will cause problems with Alamy..so from f11 upwards is to be avoided, unless the picture is low contrast and you need the DoF of course (you can see that there's no hard and fast rules here, but we're trying to pass Alamy QC for now!).

Quote:
I use Photoshop CS2 for my image editing
The key point in the workflow used to be the interpolation that Alamy needed to upload a 48Mb file. Now that they've dropped that requirement, and you can submit at the native size from the camera, the workflow is less critical. As a ready-reckoner, you can now submit 8MP files to Alamy, but you need good optics and low noise for that to work out for you (I use a G11 as my second camera and submit successfully to Alamy, but only about 20% of the pictures from it are good enough for me to submit)

Andy
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