Photo from October 7, 2011

I think I had just gotten a close-up filter to replace the on-loan Canon 400D. We went to some Thai restaurant in nearby whose name I’ve since forgotten. When Marie’s sake order game, after staging it onto my side of the table, I used it as an opportunity to test out the new filter on my camera.

The Richmond, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, Hoya Pro1 Digital MC Close-up +3
1/50sec @ ƒ2.8, iso 800, 29mm

This image was processed entirely using DxO Optics Pro 10. DxO was kind enough to comp me a free upgrade to it after I complained that I have been a paying user and upgrader since version 3 and noted that I only processed 2 images with my Optics Pro 9 upgrade. Sadly, they didn’t give me the latest Filmpack, even though I’ve paid for versions 1-3. 🙁

When it comes to getting the right look out of your photo, DxO simply can’t be beat. In this case, after correcting the white balance and slight underexposure, Filmpack easily provided the right rendering I was looking for (via Kodak E-100 GX Exktachrome). For those of you confused about which digital film to use here is my rule of thumb for color film: stick to positive film and if it’s nature use Fuji Velvia, if it’s a portrait use Fuji Provia, and you want a natural rendering, hunt for something among Kodak’s line.

Other than that, I did use the HSL slider to recover some of the lost red in the fake flowers in the background and added some vignetting and blur in order to prevent the in-focus silverware from getting attention.

A big weakness of DxO relative to Lightroom is in the toolsets are not very friendly and immediate. Lightroom and Nik both make it easy to see the application of any effect via masks and such. This makes things like contrast hard to adjust. My solution for those cases is to get around this has always been to pre-process in DxO and then apply finishing touches somewhere else which foreclosed using things like film grain. In this case, I wanted to see how far I could go entirely in DxO.

Here is the original image:

Technically this is just the default Lightroom-processed RAW since I didn’t record a JPEG sidecar. The most noticeable issue is with the improper white balance.

When I mean that DxO’s suite is flat-out better than anything else for getting the “base” look you want, it’s probably hard for people to understand. To demonstrate this, I processed the same image using Adobe Lightroom CC 2015. Here is what I got:

Same image processed in Lightroom CC 2015.

I feel that this is more modern but less natural. It has better contrast but the color rendering is all wrong. Getting the color right in an area like the wooden cup gave it a green cast. Getting the photo to pop correctly gave a noticeable blue to the shadows. Furthermore, the lens correction only adjusted corner edge vignetting. I guess Adobe figures it’s not noticeable or too difficult to handle barrel/pincushion, lens softness, and edge chromatic aberrations outside in high end camera/lens combinations.

On the other hand, it was much easier to get the right color back in the flower (because of better controls) without loss of detail like in the DxO version. Also the film grain was easier to apply and see—DxO’s grain may be more realistic, but it’s not noticeable in web view sizes.

I finally found out “Color Priority” vignetting is a good substitute for gamma vignetting and avoids the “stomp-all-over-the-image” of the default “Highlight Priority” setting. There is some irony in removing corner exposure darkening in lens adjustments only to put it back in (and then some) afterward, just as it’s ironic to de-noise the image only to add a film grain back in. We live in an era where the bulk of us grew up with the “natural” grain of chemicals rather than the “unnatural” grain of digital shot noise. Someday, when movies other than sports and porn are shot in 60 fps instead of 24, we won’t need such tricks. Until then…

And yes, I could adjust the contrast issues in Lightroom and find a different way to get the right colors without creating casts, but the point is to process it the way I was shooting for, not to see how far one can emulate the other. Lightroom has its own personality and that personality steers me to a contrasted, more detailed image with color cast issues. 😀

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.