Keeping It Simple

Most of my quest for finding home has to do with simplification and minimizing distractions. I was a bit harsh on MacPhun the other day while ranting about how pitifully bad Lightroom's grain emulation is. Maybe my umbrage mode took over and laid waste to everything in my view. Overall how much can one expect from a small company with relatively new apps?

On a more encouraging note at least MacPhun is trying right? You might have noticed that the vast majority of the posts here list Lightroom CC with VSCO FILM05 BW400 preset applied on import as the tools used to make pictures associated with any give post. That has nothing to do with the ultimate treatment I'll land on when producing output for the black/white project. I can almost guarantee that will not be the final treatment I decide on. It just so happens that one of the few tools loaded on my laptop happens to be Lightroom. I tend not to clutter up my mobile computer with every tool I own or ever used.

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Since I don't have the capability of shooting dual SD cards in the Fuji XT-1 I always import them if only as a backup when I make work in the field. I just happened to use Lightroom and that particular preset on import so I stuck with that as my proofing solution.

On any work-in-progress I tend not to start down the road of dallying with treatments, and options, and monkeying around with individual images until near the end of a project. It's too much of a distraction to me and a giant waste of time if I'm not even remotely ready to decide on what images I'll include. Hell, most of the stuff here so far are experiments for approach, I don't even bother tweaking the density at this point unless I'm making a print. That's part of keeping things simple but what about taking it a bit farther.

Tonality The Downsides

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I've mentioned that if this project were destined for color I may just use JPEG's and be done with it. Now that's simple. Of course I would shoot RAW+JPEG just like I always do. Doesn't mean I must use the RAW files. I tend not to use JPEG's for black and white output for a bunch of reasons I'll go into some other day. That doesn't mean I have to use the RAW files for proofing though does it? Maybe just maybe I'll use something like MacPhun tonality to keep things really simple and fast on JPEG's until I'm ready to start evaluating final treatments. That would certainly be simple right.

In case you missed the part where I elaborated on why tonality doesn't work for me as an overall solution here's where it falls down for my needs…

  • Somehow it doesn't apply built-in lens corrections for any camera that has them embedded in the RAW file. Everything else that uses Mac OS RAW does.
  • Some sort of strange behavior I've not taken the time to nail down when exporting JPEG's (see above artifacting/aliasing in Jenna's hair in the export vs the screenshot) There's a bit of those artifacts in the Fuji JPEG as you can see below but doing the export from other apps doesn't seem to magnify it.
  • I'm not super comfortable with how Photos.app plug-in's work at all right now.
  • Some of the controls are a bit twitchy. In other words a bit too much range so they are hard to use with precision and subtlety. On the other hand other ones seem to have too little range.

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Tonality The Upsides

So it's out as a final production tool for the moment. What about the upsides?

  • MacPhun seems to be serious about the Mac as a photo platform considering all of their stuff is Mac only.
  • The UI is pleasant. The Pro/CK version which you see above has batch processing, decent short-cut keys, and a few other niceties added that the AppStore version lacks. I grabbed that on sale for $30 which is a bargain for messing around with treatments.
  • Has reasonable local adjustments for my needs. Big sloppy brushes and a gradient for dodge/burn. As an added bonus it sort of adds those to Mac Photos.app even if you don't want to do a black and white conversion.
  • Even though just about all the presets are way over the top the range of tools are great and it has a decent grain simulator.

Maybe I'll just use Tonality CK's batch processor with the Fuji XT-1 color JPEG's as a proofing solution. That would certainly be simple enough and truth is It may even be a decent tool to play around with final treatments even if I use something else on the images I end up selecting as finals for print.

We'd all like to use the exact same tools for everything be it evaluation, cataloging, processing, all of it. That sounds simple but honestly there's not one I can live inside right now and be happy. Maybe for me at this point it's really not a simple solution to just use Lightroom as my proofing/experimentation/etc solution then other things on top of that for final output. Maybe that's just the lowest common denominator solution. Maybe the simple solution is using something else with lightweight JPEG output from the Fuji's. Now the only thing I need is a really fast, really slick photo browser that won't make my eyes bleed with it's horrid UI.

End Notes

The image used in this post was made for one of my side projects. The treatment shown is one that's very different than the proofing treatment used so far. It's a treatment that I'm playing with for use on that side project. The additional adjustments beyond the overall black and white conversion are pretty simple and representative of my typical needs. In truth they are on the limits of what I would do in post processing. I used one of the spot healing tools somewhere to touch up one or two marks on Jenna's face and one leg that were temporal (as in don't exist all the time). I dodged the hair on the lower right. Dodged the face a hair. Dodged the highlight on the black stocking and black corset near the back in the lower part of the frame. That's it.

All images were made with the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55 XF. Post processing was MacPhun Tonality CK using the OOC JPEG on Pro Neg-S.