Aperture 3, Lightroom, Presets, Etc

Warning the included images are not work-safe. There we go, a disclaimer, better late then never but you probably didn't need it as you can see for yourself. A strange way to open a post on RAW processors and presets but as usual posts here are on a mishmash of topics beyond what the title might imply. Today's little segue is what exactly is work-safe. Little things like this don't really cross your mind until they must and then there are a bunch of conundrums. Take this last weekend as an example. I spent as much time as I could shooting fly-on-the-wall BTS stuff as I could without getting in anyone's way. The X100S did a great job with it's diminutive size and silent shutter. Perfect for this kind of thing even if I did need to shoot wider scenes than I might have wanted.

I made some okay stuff – I think. Here's the rub; every single booked session, workshop, and tiny bit of daylight was crammed with photographers making images of people sans clothing. I'm fine and dandy with that even though I prefer a bit more wardrobe. I'm no prude in any sense of the word. The problem is that we need a ton of stuff for illustrations, promotions, blog posts, you name it. While people in the raw are okay for some of the above purposes it's not at all good for at least half of what we need to talk about or promote. First off it's just not appropriate or illustrative. Second it's not work-safe. At least it's not here in the U.S. I did my absolute best to hide all the naughty bits. I even compromised framing and timing to do so. Take the image at the top. No naughty bits but in my opinion definitely not work-safe. Before moving on, am I being a bit too conservative? Is this work-safe? What exactly is work-safe… commentary welcome.

Okay let's get on with the topic referred to in the title. Anyone that's stumbled across my little corner of the web knows that I prefer Aperture 3 over other RAW processor/work-flow solutions by a wide margin. You also know that I'm tool agnostic in other ways. I use what works for the situation. In workshops that are in-camera oriented I usually switch it up when it comes to what software I will use for tethered examples. The image at the top of the post was processed via Aperture 3 on my aging 11 inch Macbook Air a few hours after it was shot. I did a quick and dirty funky film-ish kind of treatment from scratch with a cooler overall color balance than dead neutral. Aperture 3 does a great job with the Fuji X-TRANS files. I'm happy with that but then again I look at post treatments as something that's neither here nor there in terms of making or breaking the image. I'll change my mind tomorrow as to what I feel like, especially when it comes to color.

The second image to the right was processed using VSCO's brand spanking new Film 05 preset pack. You know I'm a sucker for VSCO's Lightroom stuff and still believe that if you like presets and they help that VSCO's for Lightroom are about the only one's I've seen worth taking a look at and you know I'm no fan of presets in any case. The preset used on this photo was Agfa Vista 100 Cool+ with an as shot WB. Definitely obvious how much blue/cyan is pushed into the shadows and mids via curves and split toning.

Forget which particular treatment tickles your fancy at this moment. If you're like me that will change next week and next year. Both are okay in my book because neither has gone off the reservation in terms of an effect that will age about as well as the polyester leisure suit did… Neither screams at you in terms of effect. Both could be generally acceptable if they came back from the C-41 lab as long as you didn't have a particularly scientific need for arbitrary color accuracy. They both feel a tiny little bit different but are obviously the same image and obviously from the same person behind the wheel during RAW processing.

Here's the surprising part and a different way to look at the Aperture 3 vs Lightroom thing as well as the preset thing from a comparative point of view. Forget how different the treatments are for a moment and look at it in reverse. Look at how similar the post processing treatments are given that one was done with a completely different RAW processor on an 11" screen from scratch and the other done days later on a much better screen with an unaltered VSCO preset released yesterday. Except for the toning pushed into the shadows the two treatments are remarkably similar in terms of overall contrast, density, where the contrast is increased and where it's compressed. Shadow levels are about the same. Almost identical highlight rendering. All of it. What could be more different than my from scratch treatment in Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 5, a custom ACR camera profile, 5 different curves, 10 different color skews, etc, etc, etc. I would venture to say that they are far more similar than dissimilar.

Food for thought and context for my wrap-up here. This post was inspired by a deceptively simple question yesterday I received via twitter while twitter-er-ing random BTS photos processed with VSCO Film 05 variants. The question – "Is VSCO Film 05, worth it" as in the price vs value. Twitter narrows a verbose guy like me down to quite the unqualified answers. My response was; If it gives me just one new idea then YES, it's worth it. All of the diatribe above was the second half of the answer that I never gave. What comes out the other end has far more to do with you and the judgement calls you make then presets or no presets as well as Aperture 3 or Lightroom or Capture One.


Ps. If any of you want some sort of level-set in terms of what Film 05 looks like when contrasted to say Film 01 in Lightroom so that you can decide for yourself I will be happy to provide those side by sides for what I consider the major themes of both film packs. Just say so…

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