Photography Stuff – Part Two: Nikon P900 Post-processing limits

This is primarily about photography and camera (Nikon P900) and post-processing. There are photos but if you’re not interested, watch this video and then go look elsewhere for something that interests you more. 

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In the previous post, I wrote about some of the issues one might encounter when shooting with the Nikon P900 in various lighting conditions and with subjects at different distances. 

By the way, WordPress once again is screwing around with the links and how the photos are processed when I insert then within the body of the post.  I’ve mentioned before that WordPress is making it difficult for me to get exactly what I want as far as how my photos are presented and having them linked to my SmugMug galleries. As I said, I’ll eventually be pressured to switch to either another platform (unlikely) or make use of my own domain and design and maintain my own blog and — possibly — my own photo galleries. Mind you, I have no problem with SmugMug but since I don’t sell photos and since they just raised their prices, I would probably consider integrating the whole thing into a custom website. 

If you read a post of mine and it looks like I’m talking about photos that are not there, it probably means WordPress is messing with me again and wiped my links. In that case, let me know via the comments. In any case, the linked SmugMug Gallery will have all the photos.

In the last post, I showed this photo:

original

If you click on the photo, you’ll get a larger version and you can see the bird is not in focus. 

I would normally try a few tricks (contrast, sharpening, noise reduction, brightness) using various software packages (Photoshop, Lightroom, DxO Labs, DxO Nik Collection) but the best I could hope for is something like these results obtained using different software suites or combinations of different post-processing tools:

Small, the above two photos don’t look too bad but if you click on them you get versions that are twice as large and you can see the bird is still out of focus.

Note: on a phone, all of the above may show up as sharp and in focus because you’re looking at a small and compressed image file. 

So, recently, Topaz released Sharpen AI

Curious to test its capabilities, I tried each of the three options on the file: Stabilize, Focus, and Sharpen.

Here are the instructions you get when you open the program (click each one for actual size):

One word of caution . . . like all AI-type programs, it’s computation-intensive; there are hardware requirements you should be aware of. 

My laptop doesn’t meet the requirements;  that doesn’t mean I can’t run it. It just means that it’s slow. Even “slow” is a relative term since “slow” these days means anything longer than 30 seconds. 

Anyway, the first thing I tried was Stabilize . . . 

Again, click on the file for a larger version. Click on the original and compare the two. I was somewhat impressed. 

One of the things they will hopefully implement is the ability to stack adjustments. As it’s now, you need to save the one adjustment and then load it as a separate file to “add” more adjustments. 

For the above, doing the Focus and Sharpen didn’t have anywhere near the amount of improvement as Stabilize. 

This is the result of adding two “focus” operations and one “sharpen” operations:

From there, I did my usual post-processing for this as the end result:

As a reminder, here’s the original:

original

I encourage readers to click on each photo (they will each open in individual tabs or windows) and switch back and forth between them to see the amount of improvement. 

Understand this . . . still ugly at the pixel level but with the horizontal at 1280 pixels, that result looks good enough to share (in my opinion). 

At first glance, I thought I found the Holy Grail of photo processing; the ability to shoot a crappy photo and have it transformed into something worth sharing. 

Alas, that’s not the case. There are limits . . . 

Original crappy photo

I tried a couple of different combinations of adjustments and . . . 

Stabilize (twice)
Stabilize and Focus

If you click on either you will see the bud on the lower right has been significantly improved, the bird has mild (but not good enough) improvements in sharpness, and the tree bark is a sad mess. 

To be fair to the software, the original is way off and I think that is beyond the capability of the algorithm. You can only work with what you’re given and the developers go out of their way to say it works best with small problems and adjustments. 

I have a whole series of versions of this heron with various combinations of adjustments and processing . . . 

But nothing really helped so I won’t even show them. Well, OK, the best one was this . . . 

. . . and it’s not good enough to share . . . other than as an example. 

I theorize there are two problems with the above . . . one, it’s a poor photo, and two, there isn’t a lot of information because the subject is captured not only at maximum zoom but it’s also over a hundred yards away. 

I plan to work more with the software and try it with photos from different cameras. Stay tuned. 

As of now, my verdict is . . . Sharpen AI is impressive under certain circumstances but only if you have a must-use photo and no alternative. 

A smarter plan is to become a better photographer but for them cases when you need something like this, Sharpen AI is pretty good. 

. . . yeah, I know; that sounds like hard work. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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