If you're counting thats a whopping two free presets in as many days. I am declaring it Apple Aperture celebration month. All this was prompted by me spending a lot of time in Aperture 3 lately, cleaning up a big disorganized mess from earlier this year where I barely touched Aperture. The last free preset meant to mimic my recollection of Fuji Astia to some degree was pretty wild. This one is much tamer and of more general use.
Before everyone scans the rest of this post for the download link consider a couple of notes on this preset for a moment. It happens to be one of about 9 different presets I have that mimic various characteristics of Kodak Portra 160VC. Nine - that's right I have nine with 160VC in the name. That doesn't count all the other ones that have Portra in the name. How is this? Well for those of you without extensive film shooting somewhere in the past - or even those with a lot of experience but that never really looked at the results produced critically here's reality…
- The results you get on any particular film can vary immensely or subtly based on how you shoot it, where you shoot it, subject matter, what day it is, etc, etc.
- All of that is a nit compared to how your lab processes, color corrects, and prints it.
- All those things conspire to make any kind of exacting this is the definitive reference of how this film looks preset a fallacy.
- Oh and shooting digital is completely different than shooting negative film - looks different, responds different, etc, etc, etc.
Since the dawn of digital I have tried and tried and tried using every method under the sun including "camera profiling" using color test charts and the Adobe profile tools, curves, color adjustments, ICC profiling, everything to capture the exact way film looks for some of my most shot/loved films. Guess what - isn't going to happen in some one shot, one preset for all things definitive "this is Portra 160VC. That's how I have nine or more of them laying around in Aperture 3.
This particular one is one I actually use a lot and is based on my personal extensive experience with Kodak Portra 160VC. A film I shot gaggles of along with the NC sibling. Take into account that my take is based on how I shot it, how my lab CC'd it, and how I liked it printed. It's sort of an average of results that I tended to get shooting it at ISO 100 - I do mean really and truly overexposing it about 2/3. I did this mainly to get good contrast in the shadows and be able to print good blacks while getting bright poppy mids and highlights. No "fading" or bad blacks here - maybe I will do one of those but that's really the domain of underexposed film that I thought didn't look that great on real film…
I chose this particular preset to let out into the wild because it happens to have some characteristics that I think are interesting relative to a lot of presets you will run across. It's pretty vanilla and has specific thought put into it that allows a great degree of flexibility for applying it while using relatively extreme flexibility in how you set the dials in the white balance, exposure, and enhancement adjustment blocks. Particularly with people and skin.
If there is one thing I really liked about real color negative film and Portra 160VC in particular there was a fairly wide latitude in the various looks you could get in terms of relative color saturation, color correction treatments, and print density while still looking good - really good with people. That's what this particular preset attempts and is pretty darn good at from a relative point of view.
You may have noticed with other presets the WB, exposure, and especially saturation controls act like a hair trigger. Any tiny nudge sends them off into left field - especially when it comes to skin. This one is designed to keep a "look" while allowing you to run the range from cool to warm, dark to crazy light, and unsaturated to pretty damn saturated for a variety of 160VC based looks using just WB, exposure, and enhance. Take a look at the screen shot at the top…
From right to left here are three random examples of various looks you can easily get using the three controls I mentioned and doing nothing to the rest of the preset adjustment chain. From right to left we have:
- The base 160VC preset. Dead neutral white balance, exposure as ooc, and saturation untouched.
- In the middle a considerable bump in white balance warmth, an increase of 0.33 (1/3) stop in exposure, black point of 0 (vs a default of 5 for this camera) and saturation ratcheted up to 1.1
- Over on the right let go further still. How about crazy amount of additional white balance warmth, two thirds (0.66) increase in exposure, again black point of 0, and a whopping 1.2 in saturation.
Pretty diverse while still maintaining basic color relationships, reasonably believable (non-nuclear) skin, and solid looking upper mids and highlights. From my point of view that is a heck of a lot of flexibility in a preset considering all of those things at the top are magnified as they go through the rest of the adjustments. This is a big failing for most presets not a lot of range in the basic adjustments for something that looks reasonable by the time it goes through the rest of it. Also note this is not some underexposed image it was shot really really hot in terms of exposure in the first place. I shot it for the simulating sunlight Lighting field guide but didn't end up using it for that. This means it also is in mixed light - cool speedlight flash along with much much warmer ambient. This preset also has a lot of flexibility in mixed warm/cool light while looking natural - just like the real deal.
This extremely long post for a free preset has a point - in trying to get order to the the stuff I personally use in Aperture 3 for various looks I am also trying to put together a generic version of how I actually work in Aperture 3 when it comes to post processing and correction. I do it in a very "Aperture-y" way. Meaning I don't rummage through shit loads of presets in the effects menu and apply 18 of them to get a look and fine tune it. I use a mix of shift-command-C, delete delete, shift-command-V and variations on a few of the adjustment block sliders that the preset does not use. I never have presets screw with the exposure block or enhance block, never. So in organizing and packaging some film look presets I am also devising some guidelines on use and making sure that they are generic across the whole bunches of them.
Here's some tips for using this one:
- Try exposure adjustments from -0.66 to +0.66, not as corrections but as variations on a correctly exposed image.
- Try black point values from 0 to a little over your cameras default. New Nikons tend to be around 5.
- Try warm/cool variations. Even if you don't use the skin tone mode of WB for actually correction switch it on anyway and without clicking anywhere just use the warm/cool slider. If you are in the right ballpark to begin with this is a very subtle control for nuanced effects - it doesn't crazy-fy your image with a tiny nudge it's a nuanced and fine control for tweaking color. The Neutral Gray warm/cool slider on the other hand is very touchy - at least for people images.
- Try nudging saturation up/down you will be surprised at how flexible this preset is. My example of 1.2 saturation is very very big generally. Go ahead try vibrance too but I just wanted to put it out there than touching the saturation slider does not send skin into never-never land like you may have seen with other presets.
Without further delay put your mouse right here right click to download, unzip, open with Aperture 3, and have fun. Please not that this preset is designed for modern Nikon cameras - specifically those that fall into the Picture Control category. If you use them on other cameras your color will be a bit off what the preset intends. I cannot give you a list of all cameras and how they will be off but most will exhibit different blues, a slightly different yellow/green distribution and Fuji X-Trans specifically will have way to saturated and bright pinks. Don't worry I will do a Fuji version. This will generally work it just won't be exactly the same as I intended.
As usual please leave feedback on your likes, dislikes, wants, and desires when it comes to Aperture presets. Now's the time. I usually don't revisit this kind of thing for quite a while and I am definitely interested in Aperture users 2¢ on what they are looking for. I hope you like it but I want to hear from you even if you don't.