Why Picktorial 3 is not (yet) for me.

I have read some interesting comments about the new raw processing software Picktorial 3. Well, it’s not really brand new but this third version came out in April 2017 and I read that there is a plugin that would give me the film simulations I love so much when I use my fujifilm cameras. This post is not a full review but a first look or rather my first steps using the software and the comments I made to myself on the way.

So what is Picktorial ?

It is advertised as being a raw converter that gives you a non destructive workflow in an all-in-one package. It enables global and local adjustments from a catalog-free library. It has an export menu that enables to write a jpg or tiff file to disk or a small list of other options for export (mail, messages, twitter, Facebook…).

Note that it is Mac only. It is not a digital asset management program, so it will not enable tagging, keywording, colour tags etc… It does not allow collections or searches. The only asset management I found was the classic 1 to 5 star. The “catalog-free” library just means that Picktorial can load a photo from your hard drive if you can find it in the right folder (and that means a good organisation of the thousands of raw files you have!). The list of feature from there website is here.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 19.00.07.png

SOOOOO…. what is the appeal ?

Well, there have been quite a few raw converters coming out in the last couple of years to take a slice of the market of Lightroom, most of them boasting lightning fast editing and more advanced functions than Lightroom. The all-in-one package is the USP. To be fair to Lightroom, its strength an main reason of existence is its calalog and digital asset management functions. The raw conversion and editing is enabled by the integration of Camera Raw. The versions that have come out over the last couple of years have greatly improved on the editing side and have sparked the idea that an all-in-one program is possible. Why not ? I’m not a pro but I still go into photoshop from time to time. The more I can do in Lightroom, the better. It saves me from having an intermediary tiff file next to my raw files.

Picktorial has some fantastic appeals on the local adjustment side of things so I downloaded the 14 day trial and gave it a go, comparing it to what I can do in Lightroom.

The first photo I tried is a 1/3s exposure of a river taken on a mini tripod. The exposure is ok but the highlights in the water were badly lacking in detail. I just cranked down the highlights to -100 in Lightroom and adjusted the greens a little with the HSL sliders and here is what I got.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-17h59min22s

I then opened up the photo in Picktorial, the interface is easy to use and clean by the way.   I found the how to do the same thing quickly but although the colours are very pleasing, the highlights stay very overexposed.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-17h59min22s_pktI can get them down a bit if I underexpose the whole picture by one stop.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-17h59min22s_pkt2I honestly tried bringing down the highlights on the water with the local adjustment tools, trying the very promising luminosity masking, but to no avail. Keep in mind that I’m trying to recreate what I did in Lightroom in one step and I have neither the skill nor the patience to create complicated local adjustments to get better highlight management.

To give Picktorial its due, the luminosity masking is easy to do, it would take me much longer in photoshop to get similar results. Picktorial also boasts colour masking, radial and gradient masking with adjustable edge detection. The sophistication is there!

I tried a second picture which was taken at ISO 8000 to look at the highlight and shadow recovery there. The photo has a very strong contrasts betweens the light parts and the dark parts. Lightroom does a good job but there is some chromatic aberration where the rock meets the sky.

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-16h23min03s

Here is a crop at 100% of the area with the sky.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 17.57.01

You can clearly see the purple aberration at the water-colour rendering of the details. The photo was taken at f/1.4 so there is no expectation of sharpness here. There is some global sharpening and noise reduction done.

Here is the equivalent photo in Picktorial 3:

fuji-X-T2-2017-08-01-16h23min03s_pkt

You can see that the highlight recovery suffers in comparison but so does the noise reduction. I set the luminance slider to 20 in Lightroom and the luma slider to 30 in Picktorial. Anything more and the details start going really mushy. Here is the 100% crop.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 18.03.37

It looks seriously worse to me… The lack of recovery in the highlights annihilate all the details that Lightroom can show, albeit in a bit of a painterly way.

Conclusion:

Picktorial 3 looks very promising, it has very advanced local adjustments, has a slick interface and tools that Lightroom does not. It is not in my opinion a standalone program as you will need some kind of asset management program. Maybe Photomechanics or something similar.

I don’t really know why I had a look, I think everyone is tempted from time to time to have a look around to see if there is anything better out there. I have done this several times, trying Capture One for example. Every time I come back to Lightroom because nothing can beat having a good digital assets management program and also because the raw processing and editing powers are better than good. Lightroom may be sloooooowwww but I have used it for years and it is seriously in my opinion the best program out there for getting photos off a card at to start working.

Picktorial has all kinds of bells and whistles on the editing side that push the boundaries of what a raw processor can do but if the raw engine is not up to standard I cannot use it.

I’m hoping the team at Picktorial will appreciate the positive comments made here and address these issues. I’m sure we will hear about Picktorial again!

Have a look at their website here and give it a try.

Post-processing a colour portrait

This is a quick walkthrough of my method to post-process a portrait taken with my fuji x-pro2 and 90mm lens. The method works essentially with any camera/lens combination. I use lightroom only.

The portrait I am using is from my collection of portraits from Thaialnd (see here). Here is the original imported raw file:

portrait_import

As you can see, I have not cropped or straightened the photo, the exposure is pretty good too. I used aperture mode with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125s (that I need to change to 1/250s with the 90mm lens to avoid blur). I also use auto-iso set from 200 to 12800 which is the whole range.

The first thing I do in the Develop module is to scroll right down to camera calibration and choose a profile. I hear a lot about classic chrome but personally, I use Camera Pro Neg Hi a lot more. I like the contrast and the muted colours.

calibration

portrait_1

The thing I like about the recent fuji cameras is the ability to change film simulation in Lightroom. You can do this with all cameras in lightroom but the choice will depend on the make of the camera. The list with fuji is impressive and interesting in the different outputs you get. With a Leica M10, you just get one choice : “Leica M10” and with the M240, just the “embedded” option. A bit poor in my view.

The next step in too do a few global ajustments :
Shadows +3
Highlights +12
Clarity +5 (I prefer this to ajusting the sharpness because fuji files don’t sharpen well in lightroom)

As the Pro Neg Hi gives a desaturated colour to the skintones, I go to the HSL tab, click on the button circled in red below and then click and drag upwards on a part of the face where the colours are too muted. This saturates the colours a little while keeping a natural look to the photo.

untitled-2
Here is what I get :
portrait_2

Each step is subtle but it all adds up…
Time for some local ajustment on the face. I always brighten up the face a tad and I rarely touch anything else. After all, in a portrait that is what I want you to see. With the local Ajustemnt Brush, I paint over the face and increase the exposure, clarity and saturation. This is to taste and I can change my ajustments quite a lot from one photo to another. Lately I have taken to drawing a T shape across the eyes and down through the nose and mouth instead of covering the whole face.

portrait_brush

I then add a bit of a post-crop vignette (-17 here) et voilà!!

fuji-x-t2-2016-10-26-09h19min54s

 

 

 

 

 

The 50mm in street photography.

Let’s start at the beginning. It is commonly accepted that a prime lens in preferable over a zoom in street photography. But why? There are several good reason:

  • First of all, a prime lens is smaller than a zoom and being inconspicuous is important. The camera is also smaller and fits into a smaller bag.
  • Prime lenses are lighter. You shoulder/neck/back will thank you.
  • Framing and shooting needs to be done quickly because in street photography a scene can be very fleeting. Sometimes you can find yourself moving your camera to your eye and before you can press on the shutter, the scene has changed, the moment is gone.
  • Prime lenses are reputed to have a better image quality than zooms, although IQ (image quality) is good to have, there a few bad lenses. More importantly, prime lenses are faster : ie. they let in more light. A good (expensive) professional zoom will open to f/2.8 but  a “nifty fifty” (cheap 50mm prime) opens to f/1.8. A better quality prime will open to f/1.4 and it will let in 4 times more light than more expensive f/2.8 lens at a lots more that the kit lenses usually sold with cameras.
  • Some prime lenses are very special in the way they “draw” the photo. Leica lenses have this reputation. I own the fuji x35f/1.4 and in my opinion, it has an extra something…

    fuji-x100t-2013-08-30-15h26min32s
    Fuji x-e1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/4 + 1/2700s + iso 200

As you see the 50mm lens is a great candidate to be the street photographers friend. It is also the cheapest prime lens.

The first difficulty when starting street photography is getting close enough. When you are close, people will see you. That makes it all the more difficult to raise your camera and take a photo. The 50mm is a “normal” lens, it is wide enough to let you capture a scene and at the same time it is “telephoto” enough to let you stay far enough so you are not noticed.

Marché des Jacobins
Fuji x-e1 + xf35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/2000s + iso 200

The longer the focal length, the better bokeh you get when you are close to your subject. Bokeh is a Japanese word that means he visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image. It is noticeable especially in the highlights (the bright areas) of a photo. With a lens that has good bokeh, the subject is well separated from the background and stands out well. With a 50mm prime lens open at f/1.8 or f/1.4 it is relatively easy to get a good background separation. This is not the case with the standard kit zoom lens that is bundled with a lot of consumer grade cameras.

fuji-x100t-2015-03-15-09h43min44s
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/280s + iso 200

The 50mm focal length is great for portraits as well. Be it a head shot or a head & shoulders shot, this focal length gives great rendition of faces. Beware though, it is not the focal length studio photographers use for portraits usually : a small telephoto (90mm to 135mm) is often preferred because you can stay further away from your subject while keeping a good bokeh and getting much less distortion on the face.

fuji-x100t-2015-06-14-16h03min26s
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/2 + 1/1500s + iso 200

In conclusion, the 50mm prime lens is cheap and lightweight, versatile in the sense that you can capture a scene and grab a portrait, and you get fabulous image quality! If you are starting out in street, travel or documentary photography , you should seriously consider getting one.

fuji-x-t1-2015-02-17-11h07min43s-edit
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/40s + iso 200

A few words on equivalence…

Photographers speak in focal lengths when talking about lenses. When I talk about the 50mm lens, I am talking about a focal length on a 24×36 film camera or on a “full frame” digital camera. Most of us own a camera with a small sensor called apps-c, micro four thirds, 1 inch or even smaller. There is a “crop factor” to consider in these cases so that the apparent focal length stays the same. (That also goes for the aperture of the lens in the way it blurs the background). A smaller sensor give less blur.

  • On an aps-c sensor (Fuji x series, Nikon D3000, Nikon D5000, Nikon D7000 series, Sony 6000 series etc) the crop factor is 1.5 and 50/1.5 is roughly 35 so a 35mm lens on this sensor will give you the same field of view as a 50mm on a full frame. I own the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 and I say it is my 50mm lens.
  • Canon apps-c sensors have a crop factor of 1.6. Their crop sensors are smaller.
  • On a micro-four thirds sensor, the crop factor is 2 so you need a 25mm lens.
  • On smaller sensors there are no interchangeable lenses to my knowledge now that the Nikon 1 series is discontinued…(just a rumour so far…)
fuji-x-t1-2015-02-17-16h31min59s
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.8 + 1/1500s + iso 500