As a portrait and wedding photographer, it's awfully tempting to jump on the latest shining thing that comes along that claims to cut post-processing time down by a significant margin.
After all, what would you rather do, have the time to photograph or sit there in front of your machine for hours processing images? No one I know has opted to do the latter. It just wouldn't make sense to them. So, the search for that holy grail continues.
MY POST-PROCESSING WORKFLOW
My process after an event, be it a portrait session or a wedding, is to download my images off of my CF cards (for the curious, I use Sandisk 8gb Extreme III's). I cull my images in PhotoMechanic, as it allows me to quickly view my raw files and then I mark the ones I want to keep. The ones I edit out are moved into a different folder and out of sight. I then edit images in either Lightroom or Photoshop, depending on how many images there are in the “process” folder. Choices, choices. In the past, I would chug through a wedding with more 1500 images to edit. Lately, I have been thinking of sending them out to Colorati and having them tweak the images for me.
PRESETS FOR AND BY PHOTOGRAPHERS
There is however one other option. Yes, that bright and shiny thing I mentioned earlier on. It's called Visual Supply Company, or VSCO. If you use Nikon or Canon cameras and you shoot RAW files, your ears should perk up about now. Once you've imported your raw files into Lightroom or Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw, you are able to apply presets based on your camera's profiles. So Nikon users would use Nikon presets and Canon users would use Canon presets. A select number of Nikon and Canon cameras were used to test these presets to create custom profiles. From what I have been told, the company will continue to add more profiles as they are tested and as newer cameras come into the market. I personally like this progressive aspect of the company a lot. Here is the current list of cameras that have been profiled so far.
From my experience with the presets (which I bought), I needed to have correctly exposed and white balanced images before beginning to work with the presets. So, that should be your first step (getting the exposure right in the camera) and then batch correcting the white-balance, if you have that option after you get home.
EMULATE THE LOOK OF FILM
I don't know about you, but I started out in photography using film. I have shot untold number of rolls of Kodak Tri-X and T-Max 3200. I miss the rich, textures that digital files have all but obliterated. Yes, in the words of Jonathan Canlas or Kirk Mastin (both awesome film-only photographers), I could pick up a film camera again instead of making a digital file look like film. They have a point. Yes, I could do that. But VSCO gives me the opportunity to emulate the look of film without the added expense of working in that wonderful medium. For me, it's really the best of both worlds.
BLACK & WHITE EXAMPLE
>Straight Out Of Camera, or SOOC
>First Tweak – Just Clicked on the TriX-400++ Preset
>Second Tweak – Used the Vignette++ Preset
>Third Tweak – Used the Dark Skies+ Preset (notice how the t-shirt in this is darker?)
So, in three clicks, I arrived at what I consider to be an acceptable final image, ready to be shared with my clients. The images will definitely go through another round of tweaks, in Photoshop if the clients were to order this image.
>Straight Out Of Camera, or SOOC
>First Tweak – Clicked on the Kodak Portra and Contrast++ presets
>Second Tweak – With the above image being a little “hot” in the highlights, I used the “recovery” slider to bring back some highlight detail.
>The Final Image – Took this image into Photoshop and used brushes to smoothen out natural blemishes, bring some light back into the eyes and sharpen the image up.
For both sets of images, I used the Visual Supply Company Studio Version. I also processed the images in ACR. With the processing engines the same in both ACR and LR, sometimes it is more convenient to fire up ACR (for a small set of images) versus Lightroom (which I use for image sets that are 100 or more). Wanting to emulate the film look, I was more enamored by the way VSCO's Film helped me produce black and white images. In fact, I might use this almost exclusively to create black & white prints for my clients.
IS THIS FOR EVERYONE?
In one quick answer, no. It's not. I would recommend you look at your needs first. Figure out whether your clients (if you are a professional) would not just see but also appreciate the look you will be producing for them. If you are an amateur or hobbyist, just looking to create images with a different look, these presets will help you achieve that. Let me put to you even more simply – if you are inclined to produce images that you want people to merely look at, then you should pass on this. However, if you are the type of photographer who wants your viewers to dip into a well of emotion and feel the image, then you should definitely buy these now.
THE SWEET DEAL THAT ENDS ON NOVEMBER 29th!
Until Monday night (that's tomorrow night), you can get the Standard, Pro and Studio versions for quite a bit off of their regular prices. I bought the Studio version as it includes both the Lightroom and ACR options for both Nikon and Canon cameras. In the event I work with a photographer who shoots with a Canon system, I can now very easily tweak her/his images as well. If your business is primarily shooting portraits, I would nudge you more towards the Pro version.
From Visual Supply Company's Twitter feed:
“All prices will increase after Monday at midnight PST #VSCOFILM. Standard $59 will be $79, Pro $99 will be $119 & Studio $179 will be $199.”
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
You should also read John Keatley's review of Visual Supply Company's Presets. And Jonas Peterson's review too. Just look at the images they have on display.
SHARE YOUR IMAGES
If you bought the Visual Supply Company presets, please share your images with me and tell me in the comments sections below which presets you liked the most. Do you use other