VSCO, Tools, And Other Vexing Topics

Two for the price of one today. That's right two posts in one day. For all the bitching and whining I do about the state of affairs in digital tools I just happened to be tooling around in Lightroom 4 today to make sure I didn't miss any of the housekeeping crap that I have delayed for quite some time in terms of getting images all cataloged in Aperture 3 - my main database. Good thing Aperture 3 is pretty darn good at reading XMP sidecars when importing. Too bad it ignores them forever more after import otherwise multitool workflows would be a breeze…

I could go on for hours on the 'WTF' kind of metadata stuff as I just did above but let's cut to the chase here. Namely what inspired a second post in one day. Welllll, I checking out if I had imported all the stuff I shot of Fayette I happened across some shots I just knew I had used VSCO 800Z on in Lightroom - turns out I did. Since it happened to be in my recent memory having grabbed two random shots for the first post today from the same session I noticed something strange.

From memory they looked really really close to a batch I processed in Aperture a few hours ago… Also using VSCO 800Z for Aperture 3 - plus all the stupid crap I whine about on how I hate having to fork around with "presets" that are supposed to emulate the same film from the same company blah blah blah.

I just had to see them side by side so I exported the "specially profiled for Nikon" version from Lightroom 4 and imported that into Aperture 3 just so I could have a look-see considering color/tone from memory is not the most accurate thing going - far from it to tell the truth. Check out the shot at the top. I shit you not - this is the strait-up 800Z preset with the Nikon profile from Lightroom 4 and the monkeyed around with version of 800Z of mine from Aperture 3 with no after the fact matching on my part.

The biggest difference to my eye is that the vsco toning in the highlights on the ACR/Lightroom version via split toning is way stronger and a way different color. The rest of it is pretty much the same or close enough for me not to complain. Here's how "hard" it is to push that toning into the highlights now that I see them side by side.

Ummm not too hard. There's six ways to do it - I just took the most direct path with the tint wheel in the Enhancement block. All the other tweaks and mods that I did where all that crap that I have discussed for the past week or so regarding blackpoint, saturation, blah blah blah. The really funny part is that I absolutely did not put any time in to "matching" up the two sets of VSCO presets between Aperture 3 and Lightroom. I spent way more time bitching about how freaking far they are off and how it they seemingly didn't take into account Aperture's default tone curves and saturation at all.

There are a couple of things to take away from my little random observation here.

  • Most important thing first - all this shit, the hardware, the software, the presets, are all just a means to an end. If you have some end in mind the tools are not going to stop you from getting there. They may make you take a slightly different path. One may be a little quicker than the other but they will all do unless they are majorly broken.
  • You really really really think there is that huge a difference between the top RAW processor contenders? Really? Think it somehow affects your output to a degree that anyone gives a hoot?
  • Being extremely repetitive - use what you like the best and really saves you the most time. Don't listen to internet wisdom. Don't try to "future proof" yourself - impossible.

Warning this part is all rant

So all this is true for sure. Why does it irk me so much that VSCO's Aperture 3 presets aren't good to go "out of the box". Besides that fact that just about everything irks me to one degree or another - like towel dispensers you have to reach up to dry your hands - ggggggrrrrrrrr. I thought about it for all of two seconds and tried to put myself in a normal person's shoes. Yep normal shoe's and all it still irks the shit out of me.

One word will explain why PRESETS. It's why you and I buy them in the first place. It's why I actually endorse only one set of these so called presets. Most of them are ill-conceived crapola - they are not at all general purpose. They are packaged in an ill-conceived way and are usually a random collection of over-the-top "looks" that might look appropriate for exactly one photo that the -designer- purveyor has.

Come now there's like 4 freaking knobs here - it's not rocket science or alien technology of some sort. I bought the VSCO for Lightroom originally because I have this fetish to try everything that allegedly is going to make my OOC digital look like my film… I know they are not going to but I get a kick out of proving it and then calling bullshit on them. It's a hobby.

Turns out the VSCO presets were actually put together well and thought through and I don't have to manufacture 1000's of extra TIFF files in a slow workflow and I don't have to maintain them myself and I am lazy and I hate screwing with this stuff and I like to shoot and be done. Fast forward - they release a set for Aperture 3 - okay cool. I plop down my money and it's like WTF is this… or this. See I pay for them because they are PRESETS meaning I don't have to do shit to make them look like the other PRESETS of the same name. I pay for the "brand" too bad the "brand" doesn't appear to give a shit about Aperture 3.

Why the hell should it be a do-it-yourself exercise to match them up to some remotely close similarity in the way the look? I am not talking about some sort of absolute precision here. Just a reasonable proximity of the Lightroom versions. It re-re-re-pegs my WTF meter when I ran across this today. How on earth can my generic adjustments to what they "should" look like done without "matching" them up side by side come this stinking close and the developer can't seem to? How can both of them be marketed as "accurate" - really how can this be?

I get vexed with these kinds of questions until I absolutely know how and why this sort of thing happens. I really do - call it a personality flaw. I just have to know - I am a curious person.

Did two completely different people make them. Do they talk to each other? Maybe one guy's monitor is broken really bad? Maybe the Aperture guy has a old CRT tv set from 1976 that he hooks to his apple 'cause he's all retro-hipster. Did they ever even try the same files in both sets of presets? What happened when they did? Did they wait until they were "done" and then were like "ah fuck it" nobody will know. See I need to know how things like this actually go and who says what to who and how it get's rationalized. Maybe I should have been an anthropologist or something.

Anyway all done now. Main point - tools don't matter that much. they just have to work. Presets and such are for convenience I get all whacked out when tools don't do that they are defined as hence the word "preset" not actually being "pre-set". I would feel the same way if I bought a macro lens that didn't close focus or a bike that was actually a boat, or… you get the point.


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