Darktable – Fixing burnt out leaves

I like to shoot when hiking in forests. And I hate when I see photos after that 🙂

There are two factors that are photo-unfriendly in this case:
1. This happens around noon, so the sun is higher and casting harsh shadows.
2. This happens in good weather and clear sky – no one likes to hike if expecting a thunderstorm 🙂

When I shoot between trees what comes out of the photo is only hard shadows and bright sun spots. Like you see a pile of dalmatian dogs. One of the issues I’m encountering is with tree leaves – they just come out too bright, painting all the picture in dull burnt green.

Let’s check out a very regular photo:

At first glance you might say “What’s wrong with that photo, it is perfectly fine?” Yep, it is fine in terms that photo like this comes out of the most point and shoots and we are all used to see pictures like that. But it was not what we REALLY see in the wood. Where is that magic that takes your breath away and makes you to get out your camera? Seeing any magic here? Nope, only a blobby gray-green mass.

Here the folage is packed in the bottom and the top part. You can see the problem in the bottom part. It is more pronounced when you have more foliage.

There is a module in Darktable called “Color zones” that is under the Color group. It allows you to adjust lightness and saturation of only particular colors. In our case I want to darken the green, and maybe lower its saturation. It is one of my favourite modules and I certainly am going to show you more tricks with it later.

After that we get the following image:

Looking better, eh?

Question: isn’t it better to use the “Shadows and highlights” module?
Well, maybe. If you have other green objects in the frame, they will be adjusted along with the leaves, and that probably is not what you want. But it seems the highlights module alone is not capable to bring back too overexposed leaves.

Anyway, we have to remember that every photo is different and might need individual approach. There is no “magic setting” that works for every single photo.

This is part of the Darktable tutorials series.

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