D600 OOC Results, Window Light, and Other Questions

The first two lighting field guides have been out for a month or two now and to be candid I have been extremely happy with the response so far. They are proving a bit more popular than I expected and the feedback overwhelmingly positive - so far. I have received a couple of questions from photographers that have read them though. As usual those questions are never what I would have expected. I probably should have but I didn't. While I answer all of them via personal email and address answers very specifically there are a few things that have come up that I thought might interest a broader audience than one so here is a mixed bag of things that could be considered themes.

Actually they aren't specific how-to's they are more curiosities that needed to be satisfied. Why not - in the interest of full-disclosure and in no specific order…

Curiosity #1 - I used one standard preset - VSCO and Lightroom 4 for all of the images in the lighting guides. No local adjustments. In the case of window light auto white balance, etc, etc so not to pollute the matter at hand - lighting and what OOC results "should" look like. The question was - what do the images look like with no VSCO preset. You asked so here is an example.

This happens to be in Aperture 3 since I am boycotting Adobe ATM. It's an image I shot specifically for the window light eBook but didn't end up using. I am sick of the other ones.

The above was with VSCO film 02 Kodak Portra 400NC - a tweaked version. The following is OOC with nada…

Those are at 100% if you open them in a new window to see all the pixels. Why? To kill a couple of other birds with one stone.

Curiosity #2 - Could I have shot this with the X100/XPro1 instead of the D600, Why did I get rid of the XPro1 and keep the X100, Does the X100/Xpro1 have "better" skin tones than the D600, Should I buy an X-series or a D600, etc. All Nikon vs Fuji stuff.

Well sure I could have shot the eBooks on any of those cameras or any number of others. Doesn't really matter. I didn't use any exotic features of the D600. No hyper speed sync stuff no lenses outside of what you can do with an XPro1. I just reach for the D600 as a general purpose tool more. If I have a camera bag and lights and other gear I may as well use the D600. I also felt that using something like the X100 was a little too fuji cultish. There's still a little bit of ummm fetishism associated with the X-series cameras. I wanted to make the guides more general with no associated "magic" ingredient that might exist in someones mind associated with using a camera outside the "norm". I thought it might turn them into more of a Fuji thing. Maybe I will do a guide using just the X100 down the road who knows.

As for what should you buy… Obviously it's a personal choice based on need and desire but I had to pick one and only one out of the X-series or the D600 I would have to say the smart money is on the D600. Better, stronger, faster, IQ that' a generation or more ahead of any of the X-Series. Better physics, more convenient, more fluid, a far far better value for the buck with the proper selection of glass, more refined, almost perfect.

Moving onto skin tones etc. Honestly this has far more to do with the way each camera chooses WB than most other things. Secondarily some of the JPEG settings on the Fuji might be a hair better for people - maybe than the Nikon OOC JPEGs. If you shoot raw then I call foul on "better" skin. The D600 has fantastic rendering of skin and hair and just about anything else. One of the reasons I like it is that it's probably the first DSLR that crosses the rubicon in terms of image aesthetics that I give a hoot about. I can shoot it how I want to shoot it to get OOC results I prefer and not play stupid games in post to get what I want or even close to what I want.

Take the shot at the top of the post - another shot that I hope will kill a couple of birds. I shot it for the window light field guide but also didn't end up using it. The first bird to kill being image aesthetics I care about. In the past I have ranted and raved about how I dislike the way digital capture renders certain things in an extremely ugly way - at least to my eye - compared to film. Subtle highlight differentiation being one thing, certain common fine detail the other. It's not about pixel peeping the fine detail it's more about a holistic way it "looks". Specifically hair and leaves never looked quite right to me under a lot of various and common conditions. Check out the hair in the top shot. Trust me this looks really really good for digital with no monkey business. This is the way it should look under these conditions to me. This is the way I like it. I can almost assure you that very few cameras will render hair like this under those lighting conditions at that exposure level.

The second bird to go down - semi related to the way that hair renders is why I didn't use some shots. This shot was not used because I completely failed. I didn't use it because it certainly is not reproducible on demand on any given day with any given camera or any given window without a bunch of gear. The lighting conditions are such that it will be rare. Worse yet is that I don't include enough of the scene to illustrate what is going on here. Lastly even if someone else did the exact same thing this hair looks way better than most digi-cams in these conditions. Bottom line - putting ego aside I wanted all of the images to be representative, illustrative, and reproducible easily. I did however cover very similar looks in the simulating sunlight field guide.

Curiosity #3 - I mentioned vaguely that the guides while very focused on a single topic are also a backdoor stealthy way of introducing people to some pretty advanced studio concepts and hopefully nuanced use of lighting gear. Even though the first two guides use either no purpose built gear or one and only one speedlight. How is that. Well if I said that then it wouldn't be stealth would it? Kidding. The lighting field guides are designed to be completely stand-alone but also hang together as something cohesive when taken as a whole. Each one reinforces a couple of very key lighting concepts while introducing and focusing on one specific one. They don't cover the same ground but hopefully I am presenting the material in such a way that readers will make the critical connections intuitively and go… "oh my… I get it. This concept is a whole lot like this other one and they hook together real nice…" My whole goal is that instead of a couple of recipes to replicate readers will get a real understanding of what is going on with any given lighting scenario - how to use it - how to replicate it. Why things look the way they do and use it to make their own things they way they want them to look.

I hope that cures a few curiosities. Anything else.


Ps. An international reader let me know that some non-US credit cards were being rejected. Obviously that was not wholesale. It had to do with non-dollar currency techno crap that was card/bank specific. I cured the issue with an obscure paypal IPN option. If you had trouble buying my eBooks without a paypal account it should work now.

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