Sony a7 and colour science for portraits

ionian

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Colour is subjective. Even the spelling of the word is contentious (unless you live in the UK, and then you spell it right). As a portrait photographer used to working with Olympus or Adobe colours I am having to adapt my processing having made the switch to Sony. Now, I realise I'm a couple of generations behind here as I am using the original a7, but I am keen to start my new Lightroom presets with a good skin tone colour base.

As such, and as changing colour profiles has been made so much easier in recent Lightroom iterations, I'm trying the "cross camera color profiles" offered by Cross Camera Color Profiles – The Classic Series – PSKISS as I find the adobe colours flat and the Sony colours too yellowy-green. I work on a basic monitor that is colour-checked but only to sRGB display. I am looking for natural-looking colours, but not necessarily a faithful recreation of the scene (whatever that is!), more something that is flattering and works across different images.

So without further ado, here's a shot of my wife and daughter with different colour profiles from the PSKISS set applied - I'm curious as to your opinions on how they work and what you feel is natural for their skin type. I've used a RAW image taken with natural light at ISO 1250 and then used the auto white balance and auto levels. The only thing that has changed between these images is the colour profile.

Adobe Standard:
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Sony Portrait:
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Canon 1DX mkiii Standard:
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Canon 1DX mkiii Portrait:
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Nikon D3 Portrait:
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Leica:
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Pentax:
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Comments welcome.

And, for completeness, here is a somewhat finished version of the image. I do have a slightly stylised version of processing, and I wanted to show my wife's freckles, but in hindsight I probably need to turn the dial down to 7 - and maybe add some pink back to my daughter's face. Can you guess which colour profile I used?

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For the future: experiment on different skin types! And probably the cats.
 

bdbits

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It is all a very subjective thing, as you said. I like the one you've labeled Sony quit a bit, actually. I think the Nikon D3 is perhaps a bit more flattering, but I am not really a people shooter beyond straightforward photos at family events.

From what I have read, early Sony colors are generally considered pretty flat or neutral, and the A7iii I have heard has improved colors. Anecdotal only, I only have the older A7ii and an A6000.
 

AlwaysOnAuto

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On my HP 2009m monitor I don't really see any discernible difference in any of them.

Maybe that's why my pictures don't look as good as others here. :hmmm:
 

bdbits

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On my HP 2009m monitor I don't really see any discernible difference in any of them.

Maybe that's why my pictures don't look as good as others here. :hmmm:
I opened the page in two browsers and flipped between them as I scrolled down on one browser. The differences are there, but are subtle to me on an HP 27er in it's certified "Technicolor" mode (no really).
 

quezra

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The thing I realized about color science is that having spent hours agonizing over color balance, when I printed a few of my shots out, they came out looking totally different! It was actually my monitor that was deceiving me. Now on a calibrated monitor, I've also learned to not care too much about the small perceptual differences. All the camera companies do a pretty good job these days. I had some trouble with the JPEGs of Sony in the NEX era, but moving to the A7 was already night and day difference in a good way, and there's been slight but noticeable improvements since then on the A7III. In fact, I can't do better than the SOOC JPEGs of the A7III most times except for on high dynamic range shots.
 

WNG

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I like the Nikon, Leica and Pentax versions. And think you used Leica as your basis in the edited result.

The 1DX Portrait is too pink/magenta.

I'm a proponent of Capture One as I prefer the way they cook their default RAW output over Lightroom. They look much truer to the result I was seeing in the EVF.
Partly it's because the RAW files take into account the model of camera and lens (if that meta data is available). I think the skintones and textures are truer to life than the Adobe Camera RAW's flat output.

I suggest you try a trial copy of C-1 for Sony and open the same test shot in both apps and see if you like C-1's output enough to match it with a custom A7 preset in Lightroom.
I'm no expert with C-1, but the basics are pretty quick to figure out once you know where everything is from playing with it.
 
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ionian

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Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. The differences are subtle, but they are there - and how much it matters depends on onwards processing I guess. My usual style has, in the past, been to desaturate anyway so I like the Sony profiles from that perspective, but there is a definite (albeit slight) pissy yellow cast to my eyes. I think I like the Nikon best but I'll need to experiment with using it within my processing to be sure.

@WNG - I guess I feel invested in lightroom but I'll have a look at capture one.
 

christilou

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Hello, I've spent quite a lot of time looking at this subject myself. I found this thread on DPR that I found quite interesting although probably not an answer!

Sony skin tones: Sony Alpha Full Frame E-mount Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

For myself, I struggle to get a pleasing skin tone. Of course a lot depends on the light but I generally use presets from Mastin, Tribe and SMAL and "tweak" them. On all the Facebook pages of the foregoing presets, almost all the pro photographers tweak the settings to suit themselves so I guess there's no easy answer. Kirk Mastin will say that the skin tone almost always depends upon adjusting either the white balance or the green/magenta slider but it's a skill I certainly struggle to master! Will be interested to find out more though :)
 

ionian

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@christilou - I've read that thread too, but it didn't provide much in the way of clarity unfortunately :) but it was useful so that is for.posting it.

I'm a member of Looks Like Film so I'm familiar with the tribe, meridian and mastin presets and their use although I personally have a little folder of my own designs based on some of those popular ones - LXC, Portra, the usual suspects. I find that I learnt more from reverse engineering them than I did from anything else - learning how the RGB curves work in relation to the hsl sliders for example - and knowing that the deeper you go with these edits the more it doesn't matter how you start!

The shots I've posted in my recent portrait thread are a good example, as lollie has such pale skin, and I lit her very brightly because I wanted it to look glowly, healthy but desaturated. No amount of colour space tweaking would change that because my execution was such that it made no difference. Similarly, skin tones are going to look different under different lighting conditions (backlit sunset Vs cloudy day for example), and are going to require tweaks to get the best.

I've actually really simplified it since posting this thread - having looked at them all together on a few photos, I've decided that I like the canon 1dxmk3 "standard" profile as a base, so I'm going to build my Sony presets around that. But they will all look different at the end - LXC will still be orange, ektar will still have green in the shadows, so it'll be about applying them consistenly.
 

christilou

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Ah yes, consistency! I flit from one thing to another. I use Wolf 06 from Tribe quite often because you can just warm it up and it looks good on baby skin. I have LXC but find it rather green/orange. Mastin works well if you bring up the exposure a lot.
 

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