Matching VSCO ACR In Aperture 3

On the eve (maybe not literally) of me releasing some presets for Aperture 3 I received a somewhat interesting query based on this post to the OTP crit wall. It resulted in a brief exchange that ended up where it usually does. Images adjustments and post processing. Not to bore anyone with all the details it did spur a thought and one that I might not have been clear on so I wanted to post this quick thought.

The screen shot at the top is a 30 second matchup (or close enough for government work) between Aperture 3 and an imported version of ACR 8 and VSCO profiled Portra 160. Pretty darn close. I could make it perfect with another minute or two of work but then I would loose the train of thought for the post. Here's how It was done…

  • I applied my Portra 160VC preset and got rid of everything except the color skews as I figured they would be in the same direction as VSCO New Portra 160.
  • Added a blank curves control and matched up the tonal curve.
  • Screwed with the red and blues in my pre-applied color controls to better match what VSCO/ACR was doing. Not much.

What does this have to do with that post to OTP? Well the conversation started with "what post processing". Answer = Lightroom/ACR VSCO Nikon Portra 160 contrast+ grain none. That's it. Why is that important to Aperture 3 - or for that matter any other RAW processor users? Well, take a look at the tone curve in the top screen shot that was used to match the results. I added to definition as well to match up the results of whatever ACR/VSCO was doing. Have you ever used anything that looks like that on an image?

Here's the point Aperture 3 as well as other RAW processors may have radically different starting points. One of my biggest criticisms of VSCO and the crux of my disappointment was the fact that it looks NOTHING like the ACR/VSCO results - that's about the only thing I wanted. A quick and easy way to match up results across RAW processors. No dice = me not happy. There is a corrolary… You really really need to know where you want to end up to evaluate any set of tools that get you there. If you rely on whatever a particular tool does by default that's a pretty dicey way to rely on getting to the end result that you desire. It's probably not the best way to evaluate a give tool either. Except for presets.

About 99.9% of what I chuck up here is OOC default stuff with maybe some simple preset applied. That's because I personally am all about shooting. When I did it for a living I had someone else deal with the post one way or another. That didn't absolve me of a responsibility to know what I wanted in any way. It did allow me to focus on the part that I love rather than the part I detest. The bottom line is post processing, color correction, density correction, all of it is absolutely critical. My devil may care attitude towards it on this blog is in no way a statement lessing it's import - I hope people did not take it that way. The absolute most important part of it is knowing what you want or at least having an idea. Do I like Aperture 3's default tone curve - no. Do I like any RAW processor's default tone curve? No… color? Nope… Heck I don't really much care for most camera makers default JPEG renditions…

For the small amount of work that I do now that actually goes anywhere beyond this blog I would be willing to bet that not many of you would be able to figure out whether I used Aperture 3, ACR, LR5, Film, whatever. Same goes for the cameras. Doesn't really matter. Here's some advice - figure out what you want your end result to look like. If you cannot get there using another tool - figure out why and how to make that particular thing irrelevant. Trust me there will come a time where the tool goes away or has too many obstacles to it's use. It will free you to start evaluating things that may actually be more important qualities to your picture making than what something might do by default.


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