Wednesday, 16 May 2012

For Photographers: VSCO film review

So, a few weeks back I mentioned that I was going to start a 'For Photographers' section of the blog, I suppose my motive was maybe to help anyone who, like me, is in the first or second year of running their business, still holding down a day job and possibly nosy about how someone else does something. I've decided to be quite open with these posts and would love to hear any thoughts or comments...

So, workflow, that mythical and terrifying thing. Or not, but there's a whole, huge market out there for things to help us out - Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets. I've bought loads of them, maybe a secret (or not so secret) shopoholic tendency of mine! Each time though, before I invested I wanted to do my research - I'd study Flickr, read blog posts, check all the links on the various websites and any reviews and each time found it really helpful. So, once I had these actions amassed I would do everything in batches, opening 40 or so at a time in Adobe Camera Raw and then editing each image individually. A whole wedding would take ages.

Then I started introducing Lightroom as a tool - doing all my RAW adjustments in one place and then using it to adjust sizes and export nicely labelled and resized images, but I never did my 'creative' edits in it. I knew people who did, but I could never get things to look as soft and smooth as I liked; the contrast was always wrong. The thought of not being able to individually control the curves was terrifying.

Anyway, to cut a long story short VSCO film happened. It was supposed to be a way to achieve the looks we all wanted in Lightroom using some fancy camera specific profiles. It was bigged up by everyone's favourite photographers. So what did I do? Ignored the hype and carried on working the way I did before.

Then, this year, after upgrading my camera to the D700, I decided to give it a go. As I could find precious few reviews by 'ordinary' photographers, here I am. It's amazingly simple to use and has streamlined my workflow no end. Instead of doing each image individually I can get one just how I like it, and then replicate it across similar lighting conditions. I still check and tweak each one, but using Lightroom makes it so much easier. The Black and Whites are amazing, and just to try it out I edited some images using my previous techniques (mainly Red Leaf Film Shift actions with a contrast adjustment layer with the contrast brought down to -15) and compared the two and their was almost no difference. The colour options are pretty good too.

I've shared some SOOC shots next to the edit, with a description of the 'recipe' for each look. As you can see, there's not lots to it but it's a subtle change that makes all the difference to my work.

                          SOOC                                                                     Edited

Carys & Tim SOOC-1-2Carys & Tim engaged
Carys & Tim SOOC-2Carys & Tim engaged-8 Carys & Tim SOOC-3Carys & Tim engaged-9 Carys & Tim SOOC-4Carys & Tim engaged Carys & Tim SOOC-5Carys & Tim engaged-26

The B&W images are all made using Kodak Tri-X++, with the following applied from the toolkit - Faded+, Vignette++ and Grain++ and I'll play with the fill light too.

The colour has a few more steps and has to be done in this order to achieve the same look: Kodak Portra 400, then from the Toolkit: Faded +, Creamy Highlights (safe), Magenta Shadows +, Grain + and Vignette +. In addition I'll sharpen slightly and slide the blacks up, usually no more than to 5 otherwise it gets horribly contrasty. See, super simple and highly recommended. It's given me my evenings back, which is worth the investment alone.

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