Red Rhododendron... why are some flowers so difficult?

I thought this plant was looking particularly good this year so grabbed the camera. Watching the in camera JPEG on the screen while still looking at the real thing showed what a poor job the camera was doing. The default DT effort was terrible too. I’ve tried myself with Darktable but looking out of the window… my efforts still look nothing like the real thing - some parts of the petals end up looking pink and the whole thing looks quite dull. The real thing is a lovely deep red… there is no pink!

Mind you, looking at some photos of rhododendrons online… some of them are no better than mine.

On some other flowers I’ve found that altering the ‘preserve chrominance’ setting in Filmic RGB helps a lot (e.g. using Luminance Y) but that trick didn’t work for me with this one.

Raw and my least bad JPEG effort attached… along with the XMP that produced it.

IMG_7089.CR2 (24.3 MB)

IMG_7089.CR2.xmp (9.0 KB)

Enjoy :slight_smile:


Hi @Halina3000,

Oh, I do agree with you that flowers are dead tricky to develop.
I just made a swift experiment before dinner – would this treatment
be more to your liking?

IMG_7089.CR2.xmp (7.6 KB)

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden


The red channel seems to be completely clipped, here’s my best, which is not very good. Hard to work around the flat lighting too.

IMG_7089.CR2.xmp (15.9 KB)

Good job on the exposure, I see no clipping, not even in the red channel (usual problem with red flowers)

Although the flowers are a bit dark in my version… dt 3.8.1
The most trickly part for me was the white balance, I assumed the flowers were in the shade.


red.rhododendron.cr2.xmp (10.7 KB) darktable 3.9.0+1634

EDIT: Also did this one using RawTherapee:

red.rhododendron.jpg.out.pp3 (16.4 KB) RawTherapee 5.8 Development

This second one is the better of the 2 edits in my opinion.


The gamut clipping slider in color calibration can also help with flowers. If the get too intense say like red roses you can pull it back a bit using that slider

Welcome to, Halina! (Are you one of the very few ladies here?)

Nope. sorry!

Thanks for all of the input (and renderings) so far. The flowers were in the shade. The sky was bright but cloudy so it wasn’t deep shade like on a very sunny day.

Several folks have managed to kill the reflections on the leaves better than I did. I like that.

The flowers though all seem to be heading towards pink rather than looking almost scarlet which is the way the real things look to me, plus they all look duller than the real thing.

I do wonder if the problem here is that the camera and display medium may not actually be capable of reproducing the real thing. It brings to my mind my first trip to an F1 Grand Prix in the 1980s. I thought ‘oh, McLaren have changed to a fluorescent red for this race’. Later I saw photos of the event and they looked the same as photos of McLarens in all of the previous races… but not like what I saw first hand. Could the same thing be happening with the rhododendron?

My pic of a purple rhododendron on the other hand seems like a fair match for the real thing.

Yes, the problem is probably the fact that your screen is not capable of displaying very saturated colors - what kind of display do you have? Plus the JPEG is probably in sRGB, which is too small to display certain shades of red.
If you need to be in sRGB there is no other way than reducing saturation in the reds - the resulting color might not be so similar to the real thing, but more pleasing to the human eye.

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IMG_7089.CR2.xmp (11.0 KB)


@priort : Do watch out for the small blown spot top left (turning on highlight recovery should be enough). But besides that: Nice edit.

You’re probably right. I was being lazy and using my laptop screen. Looking at the same (JPEG) photo by viewing this thread on another screen produces much more vivid reds… but I don’t have Darktable there. The brighter parts of the petals still look pink though… which the real ones don’t.

Food for thought. My main thought at the moment is “don’t photograph such difficult flowers” :wink:

I also took a couple of photos with a 35mm camera which is currently loaded with Kodak Gold 200. It willl be interesting to compare those… but there will be no instant gratification there because there are loads of frames left on the film.

Thanks …that was a nasty little spot. I was so focused on the flowers I didn’t really notice it

…in the end I just did a quick and dirty retouch to hide it…

Similar issue from a year ago…

Maybe that’s what you would like to reach?
IMG_7089_02.CR2.xmp (8.8 KB)

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The problem with vibrant flowers is they are often out of gamut. Our cameras capture them just fine, but monitors, most of which can only display srgb, can’t display their full saturation. When colours are out of gamut, they get shunted back in gamut for display. This can either lead to clumpiness/posterization and loss of fine detail, or hue shift such as red towards Magenta. The only ideal solution is monitors with bigger gamuts. Short of that, if you want to retain detail you need to desaturate, but then they look dull. In the other thread @priort linked to above I found the best way to deal with them was to avoid boosting exposure much, or at all. Watch the waveform and ensure you don’t push the red channel above clipping.

The gamut compression slide is a nice assist as well… or can be…playing with that and selective tonal chroma, saturation and brilliance tweaking in rgb CB usually give something pleasing at least if not accurate…

Throwing a LUT on is another way to see if you can massage the color… some nice greens and reds I think with these ones (116.4 KB)

PhotoFlow + G’MIC

Take 1

Take 2 (looks better with darker background - by default, the forum’s is white)


with Art


IMG_7089.CR2_red.arp (12.4 KB)

IMG_7089.CR2.xmp (13.7 KB)

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