Saturday, March 17, 2012

Watching Out for Leprechauns

Green-eyed Leprechat

Today was St. Patrick's Day. Lulu was on duty looking for leprechauns, lest they sneak in the house and practice their mischievous ways. Lulu with her green eyes has a special gift for spotting leprechauns.


This was taken with the Olympus E-P2 and the MZ 45mm, aperture priority and auto ISO. The camera chose both the shutter speed (1/100s) and the ISO (400). Post was done with Lightroom 4. I used LR4 a bit more aggressively this time:
  • Highlights -100
  • Clarity +50
  • Shadows -50
  • Sharpening +25
  • Exposure -1
  • White Clipping +25
  • Orange Saturation and Luminance +50
  • Yellow Saturation and Luminance +50
  • Green Saturation and Luminance +50
The goal was to bring back all the detail hidden in what appeared to be the over-exposed hightlights around the mouth, while loosing distracting detail in the shadows, and make the overall image more dramatic. The change in the orange, yellow, and green channels was to accentuate the eyes and the the nose, especially the eyes, which have a green and gold look to them. What's interesting was I didn't feel the need to fiddle with the black clipping. I got the look I was after with clarity, shadows, and exposure.

There's been an interesting back-and-forth about whether to use JPEG or Raw conversion over on TOP (here, here, here and here). When I purchased my first digital camera in 2004, a Canon Powershot A300 P&S, it produced JPEG only, and I took everything straight out of the camera. That was suitable until 2006 when I purchased my first Olympus, an E-300 kit. Then I was introduced to the Olympus Master, and used it to begin to manipulate the images the E-300 produced. I stayed with JPEG only until my next Olympus camera, the E-3. And I continued with JPEG all the time until late mid-2009. My sister was getting married and she wanted me to be the photographer. At that point I grabbed the beta version of Lightroom 3 and started practicing how to manipulate Raw from both the E-3 and the E-300. It was like a binary switch; I went from pure JPEG to pure Raw, and stuck with Raw processing pretty much from that point forward. The only time I dabbled with JPEG was when I got the E-P2, and I played a bit with the built-in art filters. Even then I shot both JPEG and Raw.

The reason I went with Raw all the time was paranoia. I wanted to have complete control over the process of producing the final image to my evolving tastes. Developing Raw is something very personal to me and has become an integral part of my workflow. The JPEG engines are very good in the Olympus cameras, but I want something a little bit different, a little bit unique. I still use JPEG with Raw, especially if I have photographed a very difficult scene. I use the JPEG as a guide and a reference to keep me from going overboard in post. I also use the JPEG for those few times when the person I've been photographing for needs results immediately after the shoot, and I don't have time to convert from Raw to JPEG, even if I make no changes.

It's foolish to make the claim that all images should be taken Raw and post processed. I do it because I want to do it, not because it was dictated to me. I know others who use the same equipment who can achieve quite acceptable results straight out of the camera. The biggest advantage of SOOC over post is the much shortened work flow. And there are a lot of situations where Raw processing just isn't necessary. The decision to use JPEG or Raw must be made on a case-by-case basis, and after a lot of time practicing with both. I'm comfortable handling Raw because I don't have a heavy work flow with thousands of images. If I were in that situation you'd better believe I'd move back towards a more efficient workflow that minimized post as much as possible, such as switching back to JPEG. The JPEG vs Raw arguments are silly. Bottom line is to use both where appropriate and as the image processing technology in the cameras and on the PC evolve.

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