Thursday, April 12, 2007

Camera Profiles as Raw Emulsions

Camera Profiles are the film emulsions of the new Raw Workflow.

As a photographer, I have a set of "signature looks", which I choose to stamp on my work. These looks define my own way of rendering the world of color.

Also, in this new digital world, can package my "color vision" in a profile and share my "look" with other users. This is like cooking up an emulsion and selling film boxes. My experience with the my heavily edited Leica M8 portrait profiles has been a definite success in this regard. As they say, payment is the most acceptable form of flattery ...

I find that camera profiles as exploited in Capture One and Raw Developer are an easier way to stamp my look on a bundle of files than the Lightroom/PS curves approach. Let's compare workflows and we'll see why:

- In C1/PS:
I load my image and set my *signature camera profile*. This overlays my "signature look" on the screen preview. Now, I can twiddle the twiddle the C1 expsoure controls to my heart's content, but *signature look* is already embedded in the image. It's as if I had loaded a preset emulsion in my digital camera. And I haven't yet even opened PS !!!!

- In ACR/PS:
I take a Raw image. Open with ACR. Twiddle the ACR sliders. Get it roughly right. Then move to PS, apply curves etc. Now only can I see my final image *with my signature curves*. Of course a skilled retoucher will work mentally towards this target, but the target "color look" is only fully visible after the last curve is applied in Photoshop. Oh, and by the way, I love curves, and I hate those zillions of sliders in ACR, Lightroom and Aperture!

We see that the Capture One/Photoshop combo and the Lightroom/ACR/Photoshop solution work up differently although they should reach the same image quality.

My opinion in a nutshell: Camera profiles can and should take the place of film emulsions in the new world of Raw, and their use should be integrated in all Raw processing software. Conversely, the current Adobe approach to Raw suffers gravely from general kludginess and an excess of sliders. More controls do not a more intuitive interface make.


PS. A debate with Andrew Rodney on the LL forum allowed me to formulate my position more clearly. I would like to recommend Andrew's excellent tutorial book to all my readers who wrestle with the practicalities of color management.

1 comment :

Edwin Lopez said...

I agree with you completely Edmund. By starting with a signature look of one's choice, like your losat tuned2 profile which I use, and then adding one's own touches, amazing amounts of time is saved.

Thanks a million.