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Interpretations of "The Truth"

by Uwe Heimburger

Somtimes I hear people say that they produce their images straight out of camera (SOOC). This statement often seems to be accompanied by a proud untertone. As if SOOC would guarantee more realistic, unchanged and truthfull images than post processed ones. Maybe I'm too sensitive at this point. But let me continue as if I'd be right in this observation. I always wonder about such an attitude and therefore like to say some words about it.

Starting Point

To talk about this topic I choose an image example, raw image data delivered by a raw DNG file. The macro capture was made using my K-1 in APSC mode and lens-teleconverter combo DA TC1.4x • DFA100WR.

The camera was set up for the capture as follows …

  • Metering Method: Multi-segment
  • EV Compensation: 0
  • White Balance: Auto

These are color and brightness influencing parameters.

The Custom Image Profile only has effect on JPG files out of camera and the camera’s JPG preview image embedded into the raw file. The JPG files are generated by the camera built-in raw converter.

This profile doesn't have any effect on my external raw converter Capture One Pro. In opposite camera white balance setting is used by the external raw converter.

Flat Raw Development

Here are my base characteristic settings for development of this image within Capture One Pro (C1P):

  • ICC Profile: Pentax K-1 generic
  • Curve: Linear
  • Engine: Capture One Pro 11

The original DNG file is converted to a flat image without any adjustments except those that are included by standard within the Pentax K-1 generic ICC Profile.

Flat original colors and brightness according to C1P generic K-1 ICC profile

Compared to my remembrance I recognize a slight color shift to yellow. In this case it is something I want to correct.

Camera Preview

Hm - interested in the cameras built-in raw conversion? I didn‘t use camera setting DNG + JPG. So no chance to get it? Wrong!

We can get the preview image by extracting it from the DNG raw file by using Exiftool.

The following command extracts all previews from DNG files availlable in the current directory where jpg and xmp files are excluded from the processing and meta data is transferred to the preview files.

exiftool -b -previewimage -w %d%f_%ue.jpg -ext DNG -execute -tagsfromfile @ -srcfile %d%f_%ue.jpg -overwrite_original -common_args --ext jpg --ext xmp .

That‘s the original camera preview of the capture …

Colors and Brightness "supported" by Custom Image Profile Natural

It shows 720 x 480px - enough even for standard internet postings!

We recognize that the original camera preview is brighter than my flat C1P version.

Reason is the chosen camera Custom Image Profile Natural. It defines the in camera raw conversion rules for this image and seems to brighten up things a bit more than my C1P flat development.

Emotional Sceneries

Often digital cameras are set to automatic white balance. The reason why out of camera JPG images of sunsets or other sceneries with special lighting show neutralized „emotional colors“. The JPG image looks boring and widely off the feeling that we had in place when photographing.

In such sceneries it makes much sense to change white balance to a fixed value like white balance for shadows. Especially when shooting solely JPEG. We have to get it right in camera because post processing of JPG images leads to loss of detail. Negative for post processing JPG files, a bold plus for shooting raw.

Some cameras offer settings for specific sceneries like sunsets. So you can adjust it accordingly. It's a manual intervention. The associated conversion rules are applied by the built-in camera raw converter and resulting colors and brightness are visible in live view if activated. An optionally shown histogram is based on this JPG presentation.

Such changes of scenerie settings don't effect the raw sensor data for development with an external raw converter. There's only the embedded ready JPG image showing the changes as mentioned in the former chapter.

Using this preview image can make sense if we use it as a lead for a more sophisticated post processing raw conversion. By example instead of purely guessing we could choose the Black & White (monochrome) custom image profile to get a better vision of the scenery in Black & White and store it with the raw file.

The external raw converter supports much more and more subtile adjustments. In addition comprehensive special corrections can be done concerning the weaknesses of the camera sensor (noise, dynamic range, …) and lenses (distortion, chromatic aberration, …) used.

An external raw converter and / or an image editing software let you fine tune your photograph to your previsualization and personal artistic perception much better than the camera internal development functions.

Interpretations

I'd like to show you some different interpretations of the above image. None is right or wrong IMO.

The first one meets my perception in place. Significantly darker than the flat C1P and camera JPG file. I would say I could have used negative EV compensation combined with maybe the Custom Image Profile  Bleach to get it in this direction for a SOOC JPG file.

If you know how digital works having exposured the scenery brighter and without highlight clipping, it is an advantage in raw post processing. Keyword is ETTR (Expose To The Right) technique.

Adjustments: Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, RGB and Luma Curve, Clarity and Structure, Color Tone Shift

Adjustments: Exposure, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, RGB Tones, RGB and Luma Curve, Clarity and Structure, Color Tone Shift, Black & White with color filtering

Adjustments: None but using ICC Profile Phase One Effects Bluetone instead of C1P K-1 generic ICC profile

Adjustments: None but using ICC Profile Leica M Monochrome Neutral instead of C1P K-1 generic ICC profile

Adjustments: None but using ICC Profile Leica M Monochrome Neutral plus Black & White Tool enabled without changing color filtering instead of C1P K-1 generic ICC profile

Adjustments: None but using ICC Profile Phase One Effects B&W Panchromatic instead of C1P K-1 generic ICC profile

Closing Words

Do Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) produced images reflect reality more truthfully than those generated using an external raw converter? After reading my post I think you know my answer.

The only thing that's important to me is that the picture should satisfy my previsualization and my artistic notions. If I can get this SOOC - fine. But most of the time it doesn't meet my expectations completely.

Expectations are like taste. They are something really personal. To get where I want to be with my pictures I always use an external raw converter - that‘s my choice. Years ago I chose Capture One Pro (C1P) as successor of Apple Aperture. I‘m happy with my descision.

One great thing in C1P is, that you are free to use any kind of camera profile for your specific camera. You are not satisfied with Phase One's camera specific profile? You are not bound to it. Try another. Above I showed some examples.

Using the very good color editors in addition and saving the result as a new ICC profile, your can reuse the settings to your liking, immediately - have fun!

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