Hey all, I have been very busy outside of photography the past months. With spring coming I feel it is time to refocus on my photography and really start taking things serious again. To this extent, LifeInDigitalFilm is going to be torn down and rebuilt for my needs.
I no longer want LIDF to be a preset site, or even a Lightroom site. In the coming weeks I will be transitioning LIDF from this general purpose mish-mash of olds presets and out-dated how to’s into my personal photography blog… which it was intended to be from the beginning. I just got derailed by presets.
And this bothers me to an extent. I never showcased my photography here, I rarely gave my views on things. I gave stuff away and wrote some photo tutorials. I need this to be about me and my body of work.
As most of you know, I have been doing a lot of work at X-Equals. There I have written a litany of tutorials and have produced what I feel to be the best film emulation option for Lightroom, XeL. XeL represents the culminations of all of my preset efforts. Sorry, XeL is not free, but it has been a lot of work and I deserve to make a little money off my efforts.
So if you want my presets or wish to read my dry, technical writings, hop over to X-Equals. I will still be contributing there and Brandon and myself have a grand vision for where we are going next over there… so stay tuned.
Now, for the gist of my posting today. LIDF will be losing most of its content. I have been pruning content, and this includes old presets for Lightroom 2. All the presets are gone.
All of them… I really can not believe how many people are still getting my old LR2 presets. They have evolved well past their LIDF incarnations. Its time to move on.
I will be changing themes and deleting the crap. I will keep any old pieces I still find of value, but it is really time to move on.
It is time to share and sell me.
Back Soon – M
Okay, I am officially in a mood. I am in the middle of two big development pushes, sitting on a book that I am not comfortable in completing and insanely busy at home and work. I have not picked up my camera for fun in over a month. Things are insane right now.
When I get like this, I get really agitated over pettiness, bravado, ignorance and plain stupidity. Which is unfortunate, since part of my daily wind down is checking a few photo blogs, message board and checking out Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.
What has been gnawing at me for days is the frequent asinine comments I come across in those venues. I avoid the discussion myself, but I feel its time for me to address some of the common statements I encounter. Here they are in no significant order.
“Presets should be free / No one should ever pay for presets”
Okay, I develop presets that are sold to the public. I also have made quite a number of free presets for Lightroom and ACR over the years. Countless others do the same, but this hits somewhat home to me.
If someone is inquiring to the usefulness of a retail preset package, they are clearly considering using them to assist in the creative workflow. It is complete not germane to the conversation to give your idealistic view of presets should be free. Almost every thread I read in a message board relating to presets has at least one asshat who feels the need to drive home this point.
Feel free to tell them the package isn’t that great, or tell them how you have leveraged it in your workflow. But don’t take the time to reiterate for the thousandth time that they can do it themselves and that presets are simply scripts that should be free. Because the odds are you have never once put 15 hours into developing one set of presets that work reasonably well over a range of differing images.
Guess what hotshot, almost every Lightroom/ACR/Aperture/Photoshop user already knows how presets or scripts are made in the platform, even if they don’t know the actual process by which to do so. Also, consider this, maybe they like the look of a particular preset someone else has developed and do not want to waste their time reinventing the friggin’ wheel. They know presets simply adjust sliders, they know presets are scripts that do just that. Get over it.
This is not to say every preset collection is golden, this is not to say that the creator put hours of loving diligence into designing their product. There is crap out there. I like to think mine are quality products, but you may differ, that is fine. If you don’t like it, don’t support me. If you do and buy, thank you. Bottom line, people put time into these presets, if they give them away great, if they want to be compensated for their efforts they will sell them. You don’t have to buy, but don’t be the repetitive guy who has to lambaste every person asking about presets.
And remember, you can do everything any commercial plug in does with just Photoshop. It just takes a hell of a lot longer.
“Some photographers make art, others just make pictures”
Actually, all photographers make pictures… and they all make art as well… just not what you may define as art. Get off your bloody high horse. Don’t denigrate a photographer by calling their images simple snapshots. One person’s snapshot on a street is another person’s idea of the second coming of Cartier-Bresson. Just because you don’t see art in it doesn’t make the image any less valid.
So, you consider a shot of a toilet taken in low light with Tri-X pushed to EI 12800 art. Others may consider it a grainy picture of a toilet hung on a wall in bad taste. You may find a close up of rumpled bed sheets converted to black and white and heavy contrast to be fine, abstract art. Others see a mish mash of black and white.
All photographers make pictures, some viewers see art. You may see your own image as art… and it is! But to Bob Smith down the road, it may just be a picture of a damn frog.
Statements such as this are broad generalizations based off personal opinion. The statement means nothing in and of its self, and when I read these comments when an image is being discussed it sickens me. Say you don’t like it and move on.
I never liked Andy Warhol’s art personally, but I won’t deny that its art. It’s just not what I want on my wall.
“Photoshop is cheating”
So… then I guess Ansel Adams was a cheater as well, because he manipulated the hell out of his images back in the day. He exposed negative for the express purpose of post production, in the form of dodging and burning, sandwiching negatives and a multitude of old school, analog image manipulation techniques. There is nothing new under the sun… Photoshop did not change this in the least.
Photographers have been using masks, layers, compositing, dodging, burning, contrast manipulations and even cloning for years. Photoshop just made it a whole lot simpler. Ansel would be using Photoshop today, actually any photographer who ever pushed the boundaries of possibilities would be. And they wouldn’t be cheating by doing so.
Stating photographer who use Photoshop is cheating is like saying Graphic Designers who use Illustrator are cheaters as well. In the old days they had do create their works through a multitude of mechanical means, including >gasp< drawing by hand. Because digital technology has made their tasks easier in no way makes it cheating, and they are never accused as such. Heavy Photoshop users are frequently accosted on in this manner.
Not that I personally care much, I am from the school of get it as right as possible in the camera. But that’s more a function of not wanting to work in Photoshop much, as opposed to having some self righteous opposition to people using the tools available.
“Film is dead”
And so is vinyl, but there are always new LP’s on sale at the few music stores left. I shoot film; most of my photographer friends shoot film to one degree or another as well. It is a different experience from digital photography, and has its own strengths and weaknesses, but is just as valid today as it was years ago.
Others point to external factors for film’s demise, aside from <sarcasm> the vast superiority of digital </sarcasm>. Case in point, Kodak filing for bankruptcy andFujicutting their film lines, both big issues for film photographers. While it is true these are not exactly great for film photography, it is far from killing it.
Kodak has stated that its film division is still profitable, doing much better than other business segments. What killed Kodak was their inability to be agile in the early days of digital technology, not developing good products and selling shovel ware crap re-branded cameras, amongst other really bad ideas. Kodak has cut film stock from their offerings, but they have also added new stock to their offerings in the past years as well. Kodak film is going nowhere for the time being.
And if Kodak goes under, there is a thriving craft market of film manufacturers inEurope. Hell, the Impossible Project brought us semi-functional Polaroid type instant film again. Rollei/Maco is producing beautiful black and white films, and Ilford is still doing what that brand name has been doing for years.
There is a multitude of other small market manufacturers breathing more life into film, and a few businesses are doing their part as well… Freestyle Photography and Lomography both keep the love alive. Even if I hate the lomography movement, I still love the movement keeping film rolling through the processors.
Film is not dead. You may just be too lazy or cheap to be bothered with it, and that is okay. But don’t sound the death knell for something you no longer have any interest in.
“Film is superior to digital”
And Vinyl is superior to iTunes AAC, but the odds are if you heard both in a dark room, you couldn’t tell the difference, aside from the pop and hiss of the turntable.
I shoot primarily film, I love film. I love its organic nature and stark simplicity. But it is not superior to digital or vice versa. They are simply different mediums for the same style of art.
Sensor vs film frame. If I were to take my son’s Minolta Vectis APS SLR and photography the same subject with my bother’s Sony A200 what would I see? Both images are made on the same basic dimensions (Actually, the Vectis is shooting in APS-H format which is slightly larger than the A-200’s APS-C sensor).
First, the odds are that the digital image will have better resolution, in terms of resolving power. At the frame size, I am getting 10 megapixels of quality image from the A200. Scanning the APS negative on a Nikon Coolscan at the maximum 4000 DPI setting renders me 12.5 megapixels. But it is over resolving the film, pulling out dye cloud structure, not more image. Subjectively, I will peg APS film on a Nikon at 10 megapixels, and that is being favorable to the film.
So, from two semi-equivalent image sizes, we should have two identical images, right? Not really. The demosaiced raw file from the A200 will generally have better sharpness than the film scan. This is due to the size of the grain converted to dye clouds in the film, versus the size of the pixels in the Bayer array of the A200. But what about dynamic range, you ask? Negative film has about a 12 stop range normally, slide film as between 6 and 8 depending on emulsion. The Sony A200 at ISO 100 and full RAW goes about 10 stops. Better range than Slide but slightly worse than Negative film. It’s a wash.
So, the digital image has one up on the film image, general sharpness and detail.DynamicRangeis a washout. So how about color fidelity? The A200, shot in RAW with properly set white balance will show a slight divergence from the real world colors. This can be corrected in Lightroom or ACR with a camera profile, but it will never match real life exactly. The Vectis will produce the colors that the film stock creates. If it were slide film, it simply would not match the real world at all; you get what the film gives you. Negative film is a slightly different matter.
But when is the last time you saw the “real” colors produced from negative film stock? The orange mask of the film makes that equation a bit crazy. If you scan your own film, you can take care to correct completely for the orange mask, and upon inversion, get the colors produced by the film stock… which again strays from reality quite a bit. And if you send your film off to a lab, the odds are it gets scanned in a Fuji Frontier machine and color corrections are done by the machine automatically, deviating even more from what the film captured.
What about darkroom prints then? Well, color printing requires the use of filter packs to correct for the orange mask and color balance. Then you are at the mercy of the printer, of if doing it yourself, your own eyes. Color fidelity is a joke of a metric anyways. Choosing a film is like choosing your paints, it defines the appearance of the image. Much the same as your camera picture settings or camera profile in Lightroom, or hell, what presets you apply.
The advantage goes to digital right, well not so fast. There are more variables to consider. While the digital image may be shaper in general, the grid array of the sensor leads to jagged edges in the image, due to the pixel structure. This is corrected with anti-aliasing. This decreases the overall sharpness, yet it still tends to be sharper than most film images and it does not eliminate the appearance of jaggies at large print sizes. Film handles this much more organically with the film grains, which are random, and the dye clouds, which tend to blur together.
In general we are looking at two different media for the same art style.
“Digital is Superior to Film”
First see above. It’s a wash at the same sensor size in general. So, let’s look at 35mm 135 format film vs a Full Frame sensor. At 4000 DPI, a film scan yields approximately 24.1 megapixels. Some modern Full Frame cameras exceed that in 2012, others fall short. This also discounts film quality, some stock will be better than others; Fuji Velvia scanned is pretty damn close to being equivalent to 22 megapixels, other films fall short of that.
So, Digital is now in the driver’s seat with resolution and resolving power. So it’s a win right? Not really. Remember the megapixel wars? How many pixels do you really need? Velvia in 135 format can make wall sized prints that look good if so desired, just as good as a 30+ megapixel full frame camera to be honest. Digital still has pixelization and jagged edges at large sizes.
But we can always step up in film format. Medium format anyone? The modern Digital medium format cameras utilize the 645 format (4.5 cm x 6 cm). Phase One has a back that does 80 Megapixels! Scanning a 645 negative on the no longer available Nikon 9000 can render a 645 frame at just less than 67 Megapixels so win for digital right? Yes and no. Film can always be shot in an 8×10 camera, which at 2400 DPI (under the possibility of over-resolving most films) can yield 460 megapixels. Just saying.
And if you print film opically, the discussion of megapixels is moot anyways.
Another film advantage over digital is in the area of highlights and shadows. Film’s response to light is logarithmic, as it’s a chemical function, digital on the other hand has a linear light response, because it’s well… digital. This means on two, otherwise equal shots, as demonstrated in the APS battle earlier, film will have less blown highlights and more recoverable shadow detail than digital. Day in and day out. Sure, if you are scanning, you will have to use multiple scanner exposures, and merge the image to retain all the shadow and highlight detail, but you can. You have to bracket images and merge an HDR to do the same in digital. The point is, film handles light much more gracefully.
Either way, it is still a draw betwixt digital and film.
Anyways, that’s enough for today. I have a second part to this coming up as well, with more comments that royally piss me off.
From my sitting drafts, no images but some opinions. Sorry for the absence.
A Film Advantage…
Point and Shoot cameras. Now days we consider any pocket sized digital camera to be a point and shoot, but the origin of the term started in the film days, when fixed focus, single aperture cameras with usually only one shutter speed were introduced. Quite simply you pointed the camera at what you wanted to take a picture of and took a picture, not thinking required.
Modern digital point and shoots are much more sophisticated than these simple affairs, with auto focus, auto exposure and zoom. They are an example in convenience, ready to go and take that picture when you need it to. However, modern digital point and shoots have their downfalls.
First, their image quality is generally poor in comparison to modern DSLRs. A select few models can compete in the image quality game with the big cameras, such as the Canon G-Series. Over 90% of the point and shoot digitals shoot noisy, over compressed JPEG images that are usually only suitable for 4 inch by 6 inch prints.
Another downfall is their shutter lag. Have you ever used an digital point and shoot, find that decisive moment and push the shutter, only to find that the image you wished to capture was over before your digicam got around to taking the picture? If you have ever used a consumer grade digicam I know you understand what I am talking about.
To make a long story short, there is a huge trade off in image quality and performance when switching from a Digital SLR and a digital Point and Shoot. Personally, aside from a Canon G10 I occasionally use, I cannot stand shooting the pocket digital cameras. If I cannot have the speed of a DSLR with a reasonably close image quality, I feel I am wasting my time. To me, small, pocket digital cameras are a fantasy I am not to realize.
Now let’s step back into the world of film for a minute. You know, film point and shoots did not start and end with the fixed focus, toy style cameras. There are true Point and Shoots with all the Auto Focus and Auto Exposure features of modern digicams. Some even have zoom lenses, nice long ones at that. The best feature of these film Point and Shoots? There is no shutter lag and the image sensor is a full frame 24mm x 36mm.
Aside from that, some of the top of the line pocket cameras have some excellent optics. I recently picked up a Canon Sure Shot Z90W at the Goodwill for my son to have a new camera. Guess what? Good glass lens, with multiple elements and a decent lens coating. Hell, it even has an 18-90mm zoom lens at that. The camera comes loaded with Auto Focus, Auto Exposure, ISO capability from 25 to 3200 requiring DX coding and a crappy pop-up flash. Everything a digicam offers except for the convenience of digital images. The best part? The camera cost me five bucks.
While there is the ever present inconvenience of having to develop the film, not to mention the scanning or enlarging process, you garner much better images than most mid range digicams. Even Walgreens scans will normally be superior to digicam results.
And then the complete lack of shutter lag makes a huge difference. Most digicams use a form of contrast, generated from the image sensor itself. This takes time. Albeit, focusing methods in film point and shoots differ in technique and speed, on whole they are faster and more reliable, especially if you take time to locate a manual to learn about the method of focusing utilized.
Another advantage for film cameras is that they all use a viewfinder. Optical viewfinders are becoming increasingly rare in the digital market. Electronic viewfinders are an acceptable compromise, but those have been relegated to the higher end now days. Most digicams use the display for composition, requiring you to hold the camera away from the body, decreasing stability whilst shooting. This is a great way to lose a shot.
I’m starting to ramble a bit, so I will get to the gist of what I am getting at. In my opinion and experience, a film point and shoot is much more reliable than a digicam at successfully capturing a desired image. My backup camera is an Olympus Infinity Stylus Epic Limited, with a fixed 35mm lens rocking a f/2.8 aperture. I carry this beauty when I’m shooting digital, 35mm or medium format. It is reliable, fast and compact. I could carry the Canon I mention before if I know I need a longer lens, but rarely do I find the need. Loaded up with Portra 400, it produces great images that I can then scan and use, with great print quality at 11×14 and very usable well beyond. I can’t do that with most digicams or my beloved iPhone 4.
My Stylus slides easily into any pocket, and if needed I can spool up some Tri-X into a 1600 speed cartridge and get a great low light performer. At 1600 with an f/2.8 optic, I can capture images in low light with the beauty of pushed Tri-X. The noise generated by the small sensors of most all digicams make them useless to me by that point.
Really, it’s a personal thing, but I get better results day in and day out using a film point and shoot. Sure, I only get 36 shots, but I know those a quality chances… My experience with digicams tells me that they are not going to give me the same opportunity generally.
In short, give a film point and shoot a chance. You can find them at goodwill, yardsales, second hand stores or your parents basement. Generally you will never have to spend more than five bucks. You will have to pay for film and developing, but for the images you get it may well be worth it to you.
Michael W. Gray
Some days are better than others. Same thing goes for weeks, months and years. This past year, until its waning months, was the most trying time of my life. My personal life was torn asunder and all aspects of my life suffered, including my photography and this blog.
I am not going to go into details regarding my personal life, other than I discovered deep dark places I never want to venture into again. However, I have finally resurfaced, with the help of family and one very special person. That aside, it’s time to get my photographic life back in shape. All I really lost was 2010.
So, I still have no clue as to frequency of posts on LIDF for the foreseeable future, but I am going to make an effort to keep some fresh content up. My writing and development duties over at X-Equals take a precedent over LIDF, and I’m behind over there as well. So the next few months are a time to dig out and make a fresh start.
So content will be slow to come for a while, as I play catch up and attempt to redesign the blog. I have a few post ideas simmering, nothing major, but useful. Once I get my Kodachrome slides in, I will work up a piece on scanning Kodachrome.
Got a new product line of Lightroom presets coming up on X-Equals. XeL is a new preset platform, rethinking the way in which presets are used in Lightroom. There is a full series of XeL toolkits in the pipeline, which will be dropping throughout the year. In case any digital shooter are reading, hop over and check it out.
Also, in progress for a few months are two new eBooks. I have coming a book covering a SilverFast + Lightroom workflow, from prepping film to printed photos. There is also a version of the same book eschewing SilverFast, focusing on a VueScan + Lightroom workflow. Both books focus on how to get the best scan quality possible from consumer grade film scanners. Hope for both of these to be available by July as PDF, ePub, and Kindle files.
Well I’m going to wrap up for now. You all know I’m alive, and hope to be back helping revive film photography quickly. Catch me on Twitter @mwgray.
Be back soon.
Hey all, been busy here at LIDF lately, getting a special preset collection made to help XeLerate all digital Lightroom workflows. Well, I need a break from the technical of digital, film, scanning and Lightroom. So I am going to finally do something I have been meaning to for a while.
Today I want to introduce everyone to a photographer whose work has made a deep impact on me, and has been affecting my personal projects quite a bit of late. This is not a profile on the photographer, that may come later; for now this is simply a presentation of his work he has shared with the public.
Today I would like to ask you to take a few moments and reflect upon some of my favorite photos by Nick Shere (@kukkurovaca on Twitter). Nick is primarily a film photographer, as you can see from his body of work, but can also weild a DSLR with equal style.
Nick’s work of most interest to me is his unique urban landscapes and his street photography. Follow along with me as I take a look at a few of his photos from the past year that make a particular impact on me.
Koni-Omega Rapid // Koni-Omega Hexanon 60mm f/5.6
Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to EI 1600
THis image shows what Nick easily accomplishes that I often strive for. Extraordinary in the ordinary. This image is one that many would simply pass by, not giving the scene a second thought. Here Nick created an image that creates great tension through great utilization of unique textures along with a series of converging lines drawing your eye right to the center of the image. An otherwise mundane scene, that would have unlikely worked in color, is transformed into an image of interest through great composition and the choice of black and white film, which removes the distraction of color and forces you to only consider the composition and textures within. The Tri-X film provided smooth tones with good contrast, pushing the film provided the additional shutter speed to freeze the moment, while the Koni-Omega (being medium format) allows for the push while still retaining a reasonably fine grain.
Nikkromat FT-2 // 2.8cm f/3.5 H
Efke IR820 Aura exposed at EI 3
When creating an image on infrared film, choice of subject is important. You want to get a good contrast in the image, while making sure that you have something in frame that makes the IR effect bloom. Nick’s composition here is simple and straight forward. The church rides on the left third, the tree on the right third. The road at the bottom rises at an angle, leading you eye right up the tree branch into the infrared glow. A simple image, but with simple comes elegance. The angle of light in the frame further enhances the image, creating brightness in the shadow area that is the church, which primarily serves as a good backdrop for the beauty of the tree interpreted on infrared film. The interplay of highlights and shadows contributes to the image as much as the composition itself. One could argue that the expose could be more dead on, but the exposure presented showcased the unique aspect of the film well, and when shooting IR you have to always keep in mind the essence of your medium and utilize it.
Voigtlander Bessa R // Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7
Kodak Portra 160NC Expired
Another one of those shots that is easy to pass by, however Nick saw it and conquered. The lighting of the day lend toward enhancing the water that rules the bottom two thirds of the frame. The reflection of the tree adds content to the otherwise spartan face of the water and the light provides a smooth gradient from bright white to deep blue. The structures across the top and right of the frame use their angular nature to move your eye to the primary subject of the image, the hose snaking through the water, with its diverging line causing your eyes to snake right along with it from the top to the bottom. An amazing image.
A unique take on street photography, from inside a vehicle to the outside, depicting the platform and rainy weather outside. The image conveys the feeling of dry warmth on the inside, while allowing the cold, wet environment of the outside seep through. The image captures the passengers going about their activities; drinking coffee, reading and apparently simply fidgeting. The rain streaked glass blurs away the people trying to stay dry outside… you can almost feel them shivering. The choice of film for this application helped to make a very natural feel, helping you to further immerse yourself in the scene.
Kodak Portra 400VC
One look and ask yourself, would you have taken the shot considering the light? Nick did, and with great timing created a great image.At first you might think that the woman in the steps is the subject, but I would disagree. To me, the subject is the streak of light running across the frame. Most of the image is pure black, with less than a tenth of the image actually lit. A lit sign, person and some flare. That is the content of the light breaking the firmament of darkness. An unconventional image the impress thoroughly.
Nikkormat FT-2 // 50mm f/1.4 S
Kodak Portra 400VC
Street photography can be a technical skill, but to me it is more about conveying the feeling of a time and place, much like photojournalism. That is not to say that composition is not a prime component of street photography, it is simply more important to capture the moment. The mix of people and activity, the bridge spanning the top of the frame, all leads to a very interesting photo. What I believe makes this image special to me is the sign dominating the left of the frame, clearly announcing to the viewer exactly where they are and what they are viewing. Even have a photographer hiding behind the sign taking an image of her own at the same time. A simple moment captured, allowing the view to further extrapolate upon what is occurring at and beyond this single moment. Nick captured the essence of street photography here in my opinion.
Bessa R // Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5
Kodak Portra 400VC
Another prime example of what I like in street photography. At first glance the image is mundane, but as you take in the atmosphere, notice the subtle complexity of composition, you can start to appreciate the moment frozen in time. Much like the previous picture, the image conveys feeling and location well. And the natural color palette of the Portra 400 VC lends the feeling of reality, allowing the view to be swept away into the scene. Simplicity sometimes can create excellence, and in my opinion that stands through here.
Voigtlander Bessa R // Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7
Kodak Portra 160NC
Verging away from both street and landscape, this image is simply a still life. This is a prime example of choosing an interesting subject. The collapse jack o lantern and aged furniture create a homely feel, especially when framed against the rather modest home. The interplay of light and shadow add to the complexity and the reflections in the mirror even convey, slightly, the presence of the photographer. As you view Nick’s work you come to understand he really has an eye to make the ordinary something more. A large part of a photographers job is to choose interesting subjects and Nick is a master of finding interest in the mundane.
Bessa R // Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5
Kodak Portra 160VC
Here Nick deftly combines both his natural feel for street photography with his take on urban landscapes and throws in a healthy does of “fine art” to boot. I could go on about how technically perfect the image is, the great choice of film for great colors, but that would be excessive. Quite simply this image is pure composition. It would work in any photographic medium; digital, film, color, black and white, 35mm, large format and even instant film. It is a composition of such complexity, with the added benefit of great timing that pulls a simple photo from the ranks of snapshot to a once in a lifetime image. The lines in the image are all straight, riging either the horizontal or vertical, with little diagonals present. The textures of the image come together to prove a sense of real depth. A splash of green upon rather earthy tones helps the image come to life. Col. Sanders is also dressed quite dapper for the photo. But the real subject here is the sculpture and the man seeming to walk into it, as if entering a portal. This image is magic and transcends technique and art… it simply is.
Hopefully you found my selections from Nick’s Flickr stream of interest. Don’t stop here, jump over to his Flickr stream and actually take a stroll through his body of work. There are other great nuggets to be found, especially some of his avian photography. I chose only his film shots here on purpose, both because Nick primarily shoots film and because I really wanted some of you to see what film can still accomplish. Hopefully seeing some of Nick’s work has given you a bit more appreciation for the capabilities of the film media.
For more from Nick Shere, take a look at some of his ongoings around the web:
On Twitter: @kukkurovaca - A great follow, especially if you are into scathing wit.
On Flickr: Kukkurovaca
On the Web at Large:
Hope you all enjoyed the change of pace!
Months ago, I reviewed a fine piece of Web Gallery Engine for Lightroom from The Turning Gate, the one-man creation of Matthew Campagna. That piece of software, TTG Highslide Gallery Pro, made creation of high quality, attractive galleries simple. Plus, the added benefit that these beautiful galleries can be generated and uploaded directly from Lightroom.
TTG Pages is a complimentary product to TTG Highslide Gallery Pro. However instead of creating galleries, TTG Pages lets you create elegant websites, easily, right from Lightroom. Now understand, these are not Dreamweaver masterpieces; but solid, simple, elegant websites. TTG Pages is a great front end for the varying TTG Galleries. TTG Pages makes it easy to create specialty websites, such as weddings, online exhibitions and even your online portfolio. TTG Pages is the go to software for quick design, creation and deployment of small, custom sites directly from Lightroom.
Installation of TTG Pages is a simple affair, although if you are not familiar it can seem intimidating. Web engines are not a simple menu click affair like importing presets, you have to manually move the files directly into your Lightroom settings folder. Instructions for installing Web Engines can be found on The Turning Gate site. Along with the Web Engine, the TTG Pages download includes a number of preconfigured Web Templates, allowing a quick redesign of the elements that make the web page with a simple click. Installation instructions for the template again can be found at The Turning Gate.
Once the installation is complete, just fire up Lightroom. Select a few photos you want to use to decorate you webpage and click on the Web Module. From here, simply click on TTG Pages in the Web Engine palette on the right tool panel of the Web Module.
Give Lightroom some time now, as it is prepping your selected images and rendering a web page viewable in the preview panel. From here you can select from a selection of pre-made web templates for TTG Pages, or mosey on over to the right tool panel and start scrolling through your options.
TTG Pages provides a myriad of settings to help create the perfect website for your needs. Everything can be adjusted from the right tool panel, leaving you no HTML that you have to deal with. Not saying you can’t tweak the resulting web page, it is just that you don’t have to. It will be fully functional on export.
What is tricky is text. In most tools, not designed for Lightroom, you would simply type text onto the web preview. Formatting already would be applied. However, due to limitations of Lightroom’s design (I mean, Lightroom is not really a webpage editor) you cannot format paragraphs on you pages. However, Matthew found a nice way around that and has separate text boxes on the tool palette for up to five paragraphs on a page. Most times this will be all you would need.
TTG Pages automatically generates a number of pages automatically. The bare basics are a front page, an about page, a gallery page and a contact page. From here you can also add hotlinks for linking to other pages and TTG Pages even has an easy to use contact form for the contact page that can forward comments and questions directly to an e-mail account.
The gallery page automatically takes one of your selected images and creates a link to a gallery. TTG Pages does not create galleries; you would need to use another TTG gallery engine such as TTG Highslide Gallery Pro. However, TTG Pages is designed to automatically link to galleries you produce when you follow the simple instructions on the TTG pages site.
I am really just touching the tip of the iceberg here, TTG Pages is a powerful tool and used in conjunction with TTG Highslide Gallery Pro it was to be the quickest way to create stunning websites to show off your images. Once you finish you website you can either save it locally to fine tune and upload, or you can directly upload your new site directly from Lightroom.
This review is rather brief, as I do not want to go too in depth, as I am working on a complete tutorial walking you through the use of TTG Pages and TTG Highslide Gallery Pro, from start to finish, to make a “boutique” website, such as that for a wedding or portfolio. It is shaping up to be quite in-depth in both applications, but quite easy to follow. So if this does not generate interest in TTG Pages, I am sure the walkthrough will. In fact I am working on my own special project currently utilizing both of these tools.
Here is a sample site, created with TTG Pages. I did not fill out the page at all, used the standard design and did not upload galleries. Since there are no galleries in the gallery folder, there is no previews shown in the Gallery Index. This is just a sample to play around with, and is only temporary, as I will link my project I am working on here to show exactly what TTG Pages can do.
Overall, I found TTG Pages to be a well-rounded piece of software. It is fast, simple and create fine website. Using TTG Pages on its own has limited appeal, but in conjunction with another TTG product or two you have a complete design solution for quick and elegant websites. If you already have a TTG gallery product installed, TTG Pages is a must have. TTG Pages makes it easy to create an great frontend to present your galleries.
TTG Pages is available at The Turning Gate for $25 USD.
US Legal BS: I was provided with a review copy of the software and received no other form of compensation for this review.
Alright, let’s get this going. The most important step in setting up your scanning workflow is your choice of scanner. However there are so many scanners out there, it would be impossible for me to guide you towards the best scanner for your needs. I use and love my Epson Perfection V500 and my Plustek OpticFilm 7200. Both are fine scanners, but technology passes and hardware improve with time. They are both a little behind the curve now days, but still produce great scans. If money is no object, just throw down on a Nikon Super CoolScan 9000 ED, otherwise you have some research to do.
Later I will write a basic guide to help you choose the scanner you need. However today I want to look at the next most important variable, scanning software, where I feel that I am able to provide some good feedback to help you made an informed choice.
As it is, when you buy a scanner, it always comes with software that allows you to start scanning. Usually the software is fairly bare bones, with limited options. Other times, especially with high end scanners, you will be provided with some robust software to get you running quick. Nikon scanners ship with Nikon Scan, which is a robust piece of software, and may be all you need. However most other scanners on the market ship with the manufacturer’s software, such as Epson Scan with the Epson scanners.
From here we will assume you chose to but a mid-level scanner, such as an Epson Perfection V500 or Epson V700. The V500 and V700 both ship with Epson Scan. The V700 also ships with a piece of software called LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast SE. This is a high quality piece of software, but is crippled in comparison to its sister product SilverFast AI. You may find that SilverFast SE is all you need, or maybe EpsonScan provides you with good enough images for your needs. But either way, you may find you desire more options and more horsepower.
If you find yourself in that situation, I have two options for you to look into. The first option is LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast AI, which is an expanded version of the SilverFast SE software often included with mid-range scanners. The other option is Hamrick’s VueScan, a veritable Swiss Army Knife of scanning technology. Let’s look a bit closer at both, of which I have used both frequently, and then I’ll give you my take on the situation.
LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast AI
The SilverFast line of scanning software offers tools for any scanning need, from amateur to professional needs. SilverFast AI is there middle of the road software package, with most the pro features the average photographer would need. SilverFast AI Studio and SilverFast Archive Suite are the higher end offerings, but they offer features above and beyond what is needed for my scanning workflow. So I am going to dig deeper into SilverFast AI.
SilverFast AI is specially configured for each model of scanner. This allows SilverFast to consistently provide the highest quality scans from your hardware as the software is tailor made for your scanner. The base software download costs $119 USD for the Epson V500, you can add a custom IT8 calibration target to your software, brining it to $218 and even add in printer calibration software to guarantee accurate printing for $317. Calibration is not required, but is a must for accurate scans. SilverFast comes with both a stand-alone application and a TWAIN compliant Photoshop plug-in.
After the initial purchase, SilverFast is a workhorse when it comes to scanning. It can use your scanner’s Digital ICE technology and has its own built-in scratch and dust repair capabilities as well. A big plus is SilverFast’s ability to scan “HDR” scans from film and they offer a separate piece of software specially designed to manipulate these custom scans. SilverFast is not merely a scanning app, but is expandable to a full suite of scanning tools, called SilverFast Archive Suite. The sky is the limit, but so is your wallet.
SilverFast is full of features, from their excellent NegaFix optimization, which optimizes color and contrast of film scans based on profiles for individual stocks of film. Adaptive Color Restoration helps you bring the color pop back into old shots that have faded. Selective Color Correction allows you to make up to four layers of adjustment, allowing you to selectively alter objects of the same color inside the same image. GANE is an excellent Grain and Noise Elimination tool, allowing you to make clean images from even the grainiest negative. SilverFast’s USM sharpening tool sharpens better than any other scanning application, as it can compensate for your scanner’s sensor and scan motion. MidPip allows for the easy removal of color casting at time of scan and SilverFast’s Multi-Sampling tool combines multiple scans of the same image at different exposures to aid in creating noise free scans, from the deepest shadow to the brightest highlight.
In actual use, SilverFast has a slightly odd feel. If you are used to how the image program GIMP is configured, you have a general idea. Each pane of SilverFast is in a separate, undocked window. At first this is disconcerting, but can easily be adjusted to. Once you get used to the strange layout, SilverFast’s scanning workflow is simple and easy to get used to. It is easy to get high quality, true to the film scans. Even Kodachrome, notoriously one of the hardest film stocks to scan, is handled well by SilverFast, and LaserSoft even offers a complete Kodachrome workflow for sale with Kodachrome IT8 targets.
You will not be let down if you choose to utilize SilverFast as your primary scanning application. While not overly customizable, SilverFast is solid and knows your scanner inside and out.
Hamrick VueScan, as mentioned before, is a veritable scanning Swiss Army Knife. With a single purchase, you have one software package that can be used with almost any scanner, old or new. VueScan is a stand-alone application, with no Photoshop plug-in, but the relative ease of use more than compensates for the lack of a plug-in.
VueScan is developed and maintained by Ed Hamrick, and he built the software from the ground up, by himself in C and C++, to allow him a better interface to manipulate his scanners, getting better quality out of them by accessing them at the hardware level, by passing the normal scanner drivers. He still maintains VueScan on his own, rapidly updating the software for new scanners and fixing bugs on a regular basis. VueScan is updated frequently, with a new version out about every one or two weeks.
Unlike Silverfast, VueScan supports a multitude of scanners. As opposed to configuring special versions for each unique scanner model, Ed Hamrick has profiled many scanners and their capabilities into the VueScan software. While this does not allow the familiarity that SilveFast and its custom versions allows, VueScan is more than capable of getting a lot of your scanner. Plus, since you are able to use VueScan with any scanner, you get more from your purchase as time goes on.
VueScan comes in two flavors, standard and professional. The Standard edition has most all capabilities of the Professional version and allows for free upgrades for one year for $39.95. The Professional version is the same as the Standard, but allows you to save raw scans, define color spaces for your scanner, monitor, printer and file output and calibrate your scanner using IT8 targets, much like SilverFast. If those additions are not enough to persuade you to choose the Professional edition, then consider this. For $79.95 USD you get all those added features and unlimited upgrades past the one year mark. Pay for VueScan Professional once and you have a scanning solution well into the future.
VueScan also has a different interface than you may be used to, as it is very vanilla. However this lack of visual polish allows for an easy to maintain software package for Ed and allows for easy porting to other systems. VueScan works natively on Windows, OSX and Linux (and usually in BSD as well). While Spartan, the interface is very utilitarian, allowing an insane amount of customization to scan settings.
VueScan also has different levels of use. There is a very basic interface, allowing only the most basic of tools to be available, to keep scanning as easy and straight-forward as possible. Then as you step through, you add more features of VueScan to the interface, until you reach the Advanced set-up that allows you precise control over all scan and image processing settings.
VueScan come packed with features for you to utilize. Batch scanning works great, allowing you to define differing areas of your scan platen as separate images and scan them all at once. A life saver when you are scanning a roll and you can scan the maximum amount of negatives your scanner can hold at one time. Multi-sampling and multiple passes are additional options, for scanners that are capable, allowing for an average of scans of multiple exposures with multiple scans of the image. When compiled these multiple passes allow you an image with less noise and more dynamic range, surpassing the normal capabilities of your scanner.
VueScan also supports infrared scanning, i.e. Digital ICE, and does an exceptional job of reducing scratches and dust using it. Upon scanning a preview or even a whole resolution scan, VueScan has a strong editor, allowing for setting white and black points, adjusting color balance and contrast. VueScan has built-in profiles for a variety of common film stocks, although not as large as SilverFast’s NegaFix offers. However, VueScan has a procedure allowing you to sample a film’s base color and lock in exposure and base color for an entire roll, allowing custom profiling of film with no additional need for target.
With the pro version of VueScan you have the ability to define ColorSpaces for your scans. This comes in handy, as your scanner normally has a wider gamut than that of sRGB, so you can save your scans in Adobe RGB or ProPhoto, allowing for more color depth in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you happen to have an IT8 target or purchase one, you can custom calibrate your scanners for more consistant scanning, beginning to end. Raw film scans are also possible with VueScan (which is much like SilverFast’s HDR scans) allowing you to save the scan generated by the sensor, in full color plus infrared in a 48/64-bit file. This allows you the most perfect conversions of your scans in Photoshop.
Of importance to my workflow, VueScan allows you to directly save TIFF scans directly to DNG. Many would disagree with my use, but native DNG compatibility is a big plus in my book and integral to my workflow.
The biggest drawback of VueScan is also one of its strong suits. Frequent updates. The current version of VueScan is not playing nicely with batch scanning, with its automatic multi-frame feature not working right with my V500. This is easily remedied by downgrading to a prior version of the software, however the prior versions are not available on Hamrick.com. You will need to save copies of the installer for “known good” builds for your needs. While the occasional update will break your scanning, the quick revert to a known-good copy will fix your ailments. Plus, Ed is always working on new updates, so if he knows something is broken, it will be resolved rather rapidly in an upcoming update. In fact, the latest release alleviated psrt of the problem, however the feature is not back to 100% yet, on my V500 at least.
While not as intertwined with your scanner as SilverFast, VueScan will get more out of your scanner than the manufacturer’s software. At the cost, especially when considering the compatibility, VueScan is a must have. With this software, you will be scanning for years, even as you upgrade your hardware.
If you couldn’t tell by now, I whole heartedly recommend VueScan over SilverFast. Four big reasons weighed my choice.
Those four reasons where the reason I chose VueScan. For the rest of my scanning series and impending e-book, I will be utilizing VueScan for my tutorials and workflow. I feel if you chose to use VueScan you will not be let down and have a solid workhorse application day in day out for years to come.
That is not to say SilverFast will let you down. If you choose to go that route you will get high-quality scans easily, without having to concern yourself with the myriad of options VueScan allows you. SilverFast is solid, and comes just behind VueScan in my book. I some areas it is superior to VueScan, and I feel it generates better scans with less work. However, I feel with the tools VueScan gives me, I can consistently create better scans with that software.
In the coming days, I will post an in-depth review of both SilverFast and VueScan. They will delve deeper into the software than I did here and even do a basic workflow for each, so you can get the gist of how to use each. So if you are still up in the air hang around for that.
Hopefully this gives you some insight into third-party software for you scanner. You can still use your OEM software that came with your scanner, but you will get better results easier with either VueScan or SilverFast. Choosing your scan software is the cornerstone of your scanning workflow. You have to get the image data you need at time of scan, and these two pieces of software guarantee you will get the most out of your negative and slides.
See ya next time,
Michel W. Gray
I really don’t know what triggered this, but it seems the great film vs digital debate has risen from the depths of Flickr groups and message boards and surfaced in the photo blogging community. In the past few weeks I have read pieces from all over focusing on film, and casting it in either a positive of negative light in comparison to digital. Frequently the comments below these posts have exploded into heated discussions from both sides of the aisle.
Film vs Digital seems to be the great argument in the photo community, and has been for a while. Much like the Windows vs Mac debate in the computer world and the right-wing vs left-wing squabbles in politics, film vs digital seems to never die out and occasionally rises to prominence. It seems to be a prominent discussion at the moment.
As a self-described hybrid photographer, using both digital and film in my work and even blending the two together, I fail to understand the need for this discussion. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and a reasonable person can see this. There are cost, creative and stylistic issues for both.
As you can plainly see from my work on LifeInDigitalFilm, from my film emulation presets, to discussion film and scanning, I love film. From my articles on X-Equals, it is plain to see I am just as devoted to digital. I feel as such, I can give a fairly balanced overview of the argument and show, in the basest terms, there really is not debate at all.
I could discuss this on a point by point basis, but that is asinine and could make this article drag on forever. So I am going to make this quick and do a quick pros and cons list for both digital and film photography. This is by no means a thorough listing, but the points that come to mind most frequently when I find myself in this discussion.
So there, a fairly balanced list of pros and cons for each. There is no right answer for the question of film or digital, so I compromised and use both. For work shots I shoot about 80% digital and 20% film. For personal work its about 80% film and 20% digital, so more or less I am 50/50. When shooting film, I develop myself and then scan in myself, digitizing my film early in the process and working up the images as I would any shot from a DSLR. I still step in the darkroom once and a while and make some optical prints, but I have also been known to make a transparency print from an inverted digital shot and make contact prints on photo paper from my digital work. I blend both photography techniques together on a regular basis, working towards what I envision my final product to be, not limiting myself to a chemical or digital workflow at any time. I do what works best. There is no film vs digital debate in my book.
One other benefit of film I forgot to mention is resolution vs cost. I can much more affordably shoot medium format or large format film and scan in for a high resolution image than invest in a digital medium format system. a $300 dollar camera and a $6 roll of medium format film can easily be scanned into a 40+ megapixel image at home on a consumer grade photo scanner. To get comparable results in the digital world would require an prohibitively expensive setup. Sure, comparing 35mm film to digital is one thing, digital has won that war years ago. But comparing Medium Format and larger film to digital is another situation entirely. When I know I need to go large, I still shoot larger format film.
From my point of view, film and digital where equivalent in resolution around the 10 megapixel mark in DSLRs. Now this is a generalization, as maximum resolution in film really depends on the film used. I would still put 35mm Velvia up against any Pro level DSLR today. Velvia’s resolving power and resolution is still insane to this day, but the DSLR will still win out in the end, especially if you include color accuracy in your rating matrix. I shoot a lot of 35mm film still, but the argument really leans in digital’s favor in this film format. I still love the unique look of each film available, and I love using the inexpensive, high quality gear at my disposal, so I still shoot 35mm film. But as I just alluded to, digital will not be displacing my Mamiya gear any time soon.
So, those are my arguments both ways, take them for what they are. I love both methods and use each every day. I see no need to debate film vs digital, as in my consideration photography is both film and digital. With proper technique, even 35mm can compete with digital any day of the week, and like it or not there is a certain feel to film that digital does not have. Same as records vs CD’s, there is a certain warmth to film.
Now let me know your thoughts on the matter. Fire off your thoughts in the comments below. I would also love to run a series on why you use film still today, so if you would be interested in writing up a piece telling why you still love film, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know, I’ll get your opinion up for the world to see, along with some of your work if you would like.
That’s it for now.