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Color Processing Ethics?

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#1 Gipht

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 05:44 PM

When I look at all the beautiful photography posted here , I have a question.   Is there  an accepted ethic or practice in the astrophotography community about how much color processing is acceptable?

 

 I have seen fantastic variations on the Orion Nebula for example.  Many of the colors featured have to be considered an artistic interpretation.  I myself dabbled  in water colors for a while,  and I'd like for everything to have shades of blue.  If there  is no offense taken,  I might let things go even further flowerred.gif .  That is unless someone feels offended.  What say you oh creatures of the night?



#2 deSitter

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 05:55 PM

When I look at all the beautiful photography posted here , I have a question.   Is there  an accepted ethic or practice in the astrophotography community about how much color processing is acceptable?

 

 I have seen fantastic variations on the Orion Nebula for example.  Many of the colors featured have to be considered an artistic interpretation.  I myself dabbled  in water colors for a while,  and I'd like for everything to have shades of blue.  If there  is no offense taken,  I might let things go even further flowerred.gif .  That is unless someone feels offended.  What say you oh creatures of the night?

IMO all false color is bad color. I can hardly look at pics from the Hubble lately because they have gone off the deep end totally into the realm of hallucinations.

 

-drl


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#3 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 05:55 PM

There aren't any rules really.

 

My personal ethics is that anything goes as long as you are honest about it, and mention it in your caption.

 

Then the viewer can make his own judgement about how they feel about the image.

 

You'll get all kinds of opinions ranging from "the colors should match what you see visually" to "anything goes".

 

It won't take long for this discussion to go down the rabbit hole.

 

I have an article about the ethics of digital enhancement here on my web site:

 

http://www.astropix....git/ethics.html

 

Jerry


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#4 Alex McConahay

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 06:21 PM

This is not a question of ethics. It could be, if you were claiming to represent scientific data. But if you are just posting pretty pictures, you are free to assign whatever colors you like to the data. And you are free to choose the saturation level of such colors also. I do not believe, however, you are free to make up structures that are not there in the first place.

 

Now, I should say that if you come in with something outlandish, you probably would not be well received here. It would be similar to having Picasso in the era of Rubens, or Pollock in the era of DaVinci. Were we all in Holland in 1600, and see a Picasso we would tell him to get outa town. Were we in Rennaissance Italy and saw a Pollock, we would have the same reaction. (On Edit.....Or maybe you will start a whole new trend.....Who knows?)

 

Right now, I think most of us would say, that in LRGB imaging we should pretty much match what the original wavelength of the color is at any given pixel to the best of our ability. In Narrowband, we cannot say that.

 

I would also say that it is okay to boost saturation some, but please, use some discretion.

 

And, of course, what does a deep space object really "look" like in "real" life? It looks black or dimmest gray probably. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to see what a camera can discern.

 

Another interesting take on this is the thread that went on recently up in Beginning or General astronomy about whether we could even see nebulosity were we in the middle of a nebula.

 

There is no answer to this. Do what you like. But, don't make it up entirely, adding structures that are not there in the first place. If you like it, that's cool. If I don't like it like you do, it is my loss. Or yours. Who cares?

 

Alex


Edited by Alex McConahay, 05 June 2017 - 06:22 PM.

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#5 bobzeq25

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 06:22 PM

When I look at all the beautiful photography posted here , I have a question.   Is there  an accepted ethic or practice in the astrophotography community about how much color processing is acceptable?

 

 I have seen fantastic variations on the Orion Nebula for example.  Many of the colors featured have to be considered an artistic interpretation.  I myself dabbled  in water colors for a while,  and I'd like for everything to have shades of blue.  If there  is no offense taken,  I might let things go even further flowerred.gif .  That is unless someone feels offended.  What say you oh creatures of the night?

Well, you could look at what the best imagers say.  My reference for that is the book "Lessons from the Masters".  Slightly paraphrased.

 

"Our eyes are incapable of discerning the true color of DSOs because they are so dim.  Our images always exaggerate color.  So don't be shy about color saturation - it's a discretionary decision, and more can be more interesting."

 

"When I first started color processing I was sure the "color police" would invade my dome.  I carefully used color balancing with G2v stars as a reference.  These days I just use my judgment."

 

One point here is that using G2v stars as white is rather anthropomorphic (as are all color decisions to some degree).  For that reason the developers of PixInsight favor using galactic cores (of a specific type) which blend multiple spectral classes together.

 

I'd add, different eyes see color differently, as has been proven by experiment.  Color blindness is not a yes/no thing, it's a continuum.   Some forms of it lead to seeing colors differently than the norm.

 

http://www.colourbli...lour-blindness/

 

My bottom line is that anything goes, as long as it's not a cartoon.  For examples of those Google search images for the Orion Nebula.  I had one imager criticize my California Nebula as "too red" while another said he loved how the intense color represented the true nature of an emission nebula.

 

You can't please everyone.  So, please yourself.


Edited by bobzeq25, 05 June 2017 - 06:30 PM.

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#6 dkeller_nc

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 06:31 PM

One thing to realize is that there isn't a "natural color" to most deep space objects.  And this isn't just because they'd be too dim for you to see the colors.  It's also because the earth's atmosphere absorbs certain wavelengths preferentially over others, even in the visible spectrum.

 

There is, however, a perception of natural color, however false it may be.  That's a subjective artistic thing, so one has to strike a balance between what others would see as cartoonish, and a nice picture.  Or simply ignore what others think, and please yourself. ;)


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#7 Tony Finnerty

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 07:14 PM

I take astro pics for me, not for others.  As a retired scientist, I enjoy artistic freedom.  Working scientists can worry about ethics in their imaging.


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#8 Darren in Tacoma

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 07:40 PM

I consider AP to be art with a touch of science, or science with a touch of art and I am pretty liberal when it comes to art. I don't really care if it is cartoonish and outrageous. I may or may not like it, but that is all art.

 

I've had this conversation several times with people who are unfamiliar with astronomy and they generally feel let down (regarding false color) until I explain the reality of astrophotography and the fact that electromagnetic wavelength detectors don't all work the same, including the biological kind.


Edited by Darren in Tacoma, 05 June 2017 - 07:41 PM.

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#9 MCovington

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 08:17 PM

I think we need to distinguish between processing an image and altering an image.  When you process an image, everything that comes out is determined by what went in, plus the processing algorithms.  You can alter the colors systematically or even turn a positive into a negative, but you're still presenting something that is (in the mathematical sense) a function of what the camera captured.

Ethical questions arise when you alter an image by changing what is in it -- wiping out a reflection, drawing in some additional detail on a planet, etc.  Those things are seldom done.


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#10 t_image

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 10:25 PM

I always love the irony when, with certainty and dogmatically,

the idea that "there are no rules" is presented as an overall "rule."

Seems a little self-defeating in logic.

Obviously our humans minds want to make sense of things and have a tendency to construct paradigms that are helpful in processing information.

Photography is both capturing what is,

while also being the art of presenting it in a beautiful way.

Philosophy has some ideas of what "beauty" may be......

[look up philosophy of beauty or aesthetics].

Although many might try to reject any fundamental agreeable characteristics of what would be reasonably beautiful, there are centuries of clever minds that would debate this....

 

Astronomy is the science of observing and describing what is out there........

It stands to reason Astro Photography seeks to describe and present what is out there, while also using artistic skill to present it in a beautiful way.....

 

Ethics deals with what one "ought" to do........

 

In my opinion,

it is a skillful AP artisan who can use a process of data acquisition, capture, and processing in such a way from workflow to final delivery in a way that:

produces a recognizable object,

in a beautiful way,

and has the ability to,

if attempted,

repeat and produce the same result repeatably.....

 

Sure one can do "art" in a way that is unrepeatable,

but to dabble in astronomy,

I expect as a minimal standard in the process of science,

for things to be somewhat repeatable.....

 

People are free to do artistic interpretations of the heavens,

but then call it that.

One can take license and change size and proportions and shapes with the same flexibility some do with colors.....But really quickly people have a problem with the previous.....

If one want to proclaim a work of astrophotography,

then there need to be some scientifically authentic presentation of the data,

in such a way that the producer or someone else with the same conditions and workflow,

could competently reproduce a image of similar appearance.......

That's my opinion of what "ought" to be.......

As with "Narrowband wavelength" images, there are often agreed-upon palettes of color representing the data in an ordered way. To take this "false color" methodology and proclaim it is therefore all arbitrary is too much of a leap.

Additionally, even if our eyes in low light can't distinguish colors in DSOs, such doesn't mean well calibrated electronic instruments like cameras we use to describe what is out there is also incapable of detecting color and therefore it is all arbitrary. This is another fallacy of logic.


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#11 MCovington

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 11:07 PM

In further defense of "false color," more generally, color is a means of presenting information.  The information need not be the same thing that the eye would see viewing the object directly.

 

And on a trivial level, some people think "true color" is "the color of the object photographed on Ektachrome film."  Ektachrome sees hydrogen-alpha well and hydrogen-beta poorly (because of a gap in its response).  It is often surprising how bluish or purplish a nebula is when photographed digitally using R, G, and B bands without any gaps.



#12 Jon Rista

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 11:23 PM

When it comes to the "ethics" of color, or really processing in general, I think there is really only one....well, let's call it an expectation:

 

Don't lie! 

 

I think that is the only thing people really expect in the end.

 

Outside of that, to be perfectly honest, I don't think anyone is under any obligation to tell anyone how they got their data or how they processed it, or why they chose the colors they did, so long as they got the data and they processed it. If you are using someone else's data, say so. If you got the data but someone else processed it, say so. If it's a collaboration of many people, say so. Most definitely don't steal someone else's image and say it's yours (sadly, this happens, and on some occasions the thief has even won awards...for someone else's work!) Don't say Hubble or other public data is yours. If you combine public data with your own (some people do this, and to great effect, I might add), say so. 

 

Outside of that...your image, feel free to do what you want with it! wink.gif  Not everyone will like every image, so don't expect them to. Each person has their individual personal tastes. Some people love rich saturation, others prefer softer color. Some people love wild and unusual colors, others like classic palettes. Some people demand as much scientific accuracy as they can get, others prefer artistic license. It's all art to some degree in the end...so, have some fun!


Edited by Jon Rista, 05 June 2017 - 11:24 PM.

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#13 bobzeq25

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 11:49 PM

I think we need to distinguish between processing an image and altering an image.  When you process an image, everything that comes out is determined by what went in, plus the processing algorithms.  You can alter the colors systematically or even turn a positive into a negative, but you're still presenting something that is (in the mathematical sense) a function of what the camera captured.

Ethical questions arise when you alter an image by changing what is in it -- wiping out a reflection, drawing in some additional detail on a planet, etc.  Those things are seldom done.

Speak for yourself.  <grin>

 

On that California Nebula image (most popular I've ever had on astrobin), you'll note I don't have the usual bloated star (xi Persei).  I used PixInsights CloneStamp and swapped it out for one that was similar in color, fairly bright, but not bloated.  The PI people will probably repossess my program.  <smile>

 

Question for you.  Bloating is an artifact.  Is my imposter star less realistic, or more?  Jon - Is it a lie?

 

The answers aren't really important.  What is is that these are reasonable questions that reasonable people could disagree about.

 

Confession is good or the soul (and the conversation).  I also routinely reduce the number of stars in my galaxy and nebula images (MorphologicalTransformation), to highlight the main target.  I don't think I'm alone on that one.


Edited by bobzeq25, 05 June 2017 - 11:59 PM.


#14 Daniel Dance

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 05:16 AM


Ethical questions arise when you alter an image by changing what is in it -- wiping out a reflection, drawing in some additional detail on a planet, etc.  Those things are seldom done.

Which is only applicable when presenting an image which would be presented as scientific data or a photograph submitted for a scientific publication where it is assumed the information contained is unaltered.

 

For all other applications, such as posting on your own website, printing for your own home, or even submitting in your local photo contest, it is perfectly fine.  Modify away.  No ethical questions there.


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#15 Daniel Dance

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 05:18 AM

 

I think we need to distinguish between processing an image and altering an image.  When you process an image, everything that comes out is determined by what went in, plus the processing algorithms.  You can alter the colors systematically or even turn a positive into a negative, but you're still presenting something that is (in the mathematical sense) a function of what the camera captured.

Ethical questions arise when you alter an image by changing what is in it -- wiping out a reflection, drawing in some additional detail on a planet, etc.  Those things are seldom done.

Speak for yourself.  <grin>

 

 

 

  I also routinely reduce the number of stars in my galaxy and nebula images (MorphologicalTransformation), to highlight the main target.  I don't think I'm alone on that one.

 

Heck, I even clone stamp entire sections of background sky if there is a dust mote I can't get rid of.  Who really cares?  I'm not submitting my images for a scientific journal or analysis.  I shoot my photographs for the purpose of "pretty pictures."


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#16 ImNewHere

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 07:19 AM

I take what my camera sees and boost the saturation then call it a day.



#17 dkeller_nc

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 08:21 AM

"Photography is both capturing what is,

while also being the art of presenting it in a beautiful way."

 

Just an off-hand comment, btw, but the first phrase is false, and objectively so.  However, it is an extremely common misperception.

 

The very nature of photography absolutely prevents capturing "what is", no matter how careful one may be about it.  Just two examples, and there are many, many more:  any photographic film emulsion or digital sensor is utterly incapable of capturing the full range of brightness in a typical scene that our eyes can see.  As the photographer, one must either choose what object in the photo will be correctly exposed, or artificially compress the brightness range in the photo by taking several different exposures and combining them.

 

Another example is the selection of lens for a photograph.  Different lenses not only have radically different magnifications, they also have radically different depths of field, distortions and chromatic aberration.  It is simply not possible to put a lens on a camera that would reproduce what an average human would perceive by looking at a scene.

 

Bottom line - all photographs are interpretations, including scientific ones.


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#18 MCovington

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:37 AM

 

 

I think we need to distinguish between processing an image and altering an image.  When you process an image, everything that comes out is determined by what went in, plus the processing algorithms.  You can alter the colors systematically or even turn a positive into a negative, but you're still presenting something that is (in the mathematical sense) a function of what the camera captured.

Ethical questions arise when you alter an image by changing what is in it -- wiping out a reflection, drawing in some additional detail on a planet, etc.  Those things are seldom done.

Speak for yourself.  <grin>

 

 

 

  I also routinely reduce the number of stars in my galaxy and nebula images (MorphologicalTransformation), to highlight the main target.  I don't think I'm alone on that one.

 

Heck, I even clone stamp entire sections of background sky if there is a dust mote I can't get rid of.  Who really cares?  I'm not submitting my images for a scientific journal or analysis.  I shoot my photographs for the purpose of "pretty pictures."

 

For thoroughness, I would disclose that the image has been retouched.  Someone might try to use it for scientific data much later.  I seem to recall that a few years ago, a variable star was discovered in the field of M27, and researchers scrambled to collect old images of M27 from a lot of different sources.



#19 jgraham

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:50 AM

Color is a bit of a moving target. For example, who has really seen what the 'true' colors look like? How do you judge color fidelity? Not to mention that no two monitors seem to be the alike. I always thought that it would ne neat to take an emission spectrum of a deep sky object and compare it to a spectrum taken off of your computer screen. My guess is that they won't match very well. Plan-B... take a picture of a color target and compare the picture with the real object. I did that once, and the results were.... interesting. At that point I gave up and decided that color in imaging is like seasonings in cooking; season to taste and try not to over-do it. :)


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#20 Gipht

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 12:05 PM

The above discussion, especially the philosophical part, is  very helpful  to  me.  Being  very new to this community, it  is sometimes hard to get my bearings and balance.  Thank you all much for the thoughtful answers.



#21 schmeah

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 12:50 PM

Everyone has their own threshold. Using an example above. I couldn't bring myself to clone stamp out a bloated star, then copy and paste a smaller identically colored star in its place. Yet I can spend twenty minutes using every tool I know, curves, minimum filter, star shrink, star spikes pro (without the spikes) etc,etc to make that bloated star look exactly how I think it should look. What's the difference if it looks exactly the same with both methods? I have absolutely no idea ...

 

Derek


Edited by schmeah, 06 June 2017 - 01:06 PM.

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#22 bmhjr

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 01:24 PM

I don't see how removing a reflection or even bloated star would be unethical.  It seems similar to removing a dust mote, both are artifacts of capturing the image and have nothing to do with the true representation of the object.  Our equipment, techniques are not perfect and neither are the images.  I say crank up the saturation and do as you please.



#23 MCovington

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 02:25 PM

I don't see how removing a reflection or even bloated star would be unethical.  It seems similar to removing a dust mote, both are artifacts of capturing the image and have nothing to do with the true representation of the object.  Our equipment, techniques are not perfect and neither are the images.  I say crank up the saturation and do as you please.

Removing a reflection could give the false impression that an area of sky was blank when in fact there was a star in it (obscured by the reflection).  People doing a search for variable stars or pre-eruption images of a nova could be misled.  That's why I disclose when that kind of thing has been done to one of my images.



#24 Goofi

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 03:38 PM

There's only one really ethical situation I can think of with our images:

 

Don't post "your" image if it's my data.

 

Every now and then we'll see someone posting an image that clearly wasn't taken with their gear. Either it's a famous astrophotographer's image, or shot with an impossible scope for the detail given, etc.  If you use someone elses data, make sure you have permission and give them credit.

 

As for color .. hey, who am I to talk: I'm famous for my goofi-green palette.  grin.gif

 

But, this brings up two additional points:

 

1.Narrowband imaging (which is what I do) gives a little bit more freedom of artistic/color expression; and

2. Sooner or later you're going to develop a processing style - your 'signature' and color will be a part of it.  

 

Some images I can take a quick  look at and know is responsible because it's got their look/signature.  For one member here, it's their stars - both the quality of the look, and their color.  For another, it's the smoothness of the background.  I could go on, but whether intentionally chosen, or accidentally stumbled into, we all seem to develop our own artistic signature. Don't fight it, embrace it.


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#25 Jon Rista

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 03:41 PM

 

I don't see how removing a reflection or even bloated star would be unethical.  It seems similar to removing a dust mote, both are artifacts of capturing the image and have nothing to do with the true representation of the object.  Our equipment, techniques are not perfect and neither are the images.  I say crank up the saturation and do as you please.

Removing a reflection could give the false impression that an area of sky was blank when in fact there was a star in it (obscured by the reflection).  People doing a search for variable stars or pre-eruption images of a nova could be misled.  That's why I disclose when that kind of thing has been done to one of my images.

 

Anyone who is using arbitrarily sourced images for "science" is doing something wrong. You have to properly source your data if you are pursuing some kind of scientific endeavor. Most of the time, that means getting the data yourself, not "cloud sourcing" it off the net from who knows what source at what level of accuracy...that would be ludicrous. 

 

I think this takes things too far, the whole notion of having to disclose what you do to a personal, artistic image. It really doesn't matter! And if someone is mislead because they tried to use your data for scientific purposes without first querying about the nature of the data and how it was processed, that is THEIR problem, not yours, not any one of the imagers on this site...not any amateur imager at all. You can't put that burden on everyone, it's just not the right way to do it. 

 

Science must be done properly. Doing science properly is the job of the scientist. If you CHOOSE to disclose the editing done to your image so that it MAY be used for scientific purposes, that is all well and good, more power to ya. But seriously, such a requirement should not be imposed on everyone else all the time. People should feel free to remove a reflection, without disclosing that fact, whenever and if ever they see fit...it should not be a requirement that everyone who clone stamps in a star or removes a reflection disclose it, unless either they personally choose to, or their intention is that the data be provided for scientific purposes (although then I'd question the editing practices, as from a scientific standpoint, you really don't want any modifications done to the data at all...you should be supplying raw, unprocessed data so the scientists who source it can do whatever they need however they need, and not be stuck with your processing at all. :p)


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