Over the past couple of weeks I’ve participated and/or read a number of online discussions about colors and how well they turn out or look. I thought I’d share a shot I took this spring in New Orleans’ French Quarter, processed 4 different ways to highlight why I prefer LR over NX for quick RAW conversions that give me colors I like.
Note I said “I like.” Color “quality” more often than not comes down to (a) preference and (b) what we’ve gotten used to as “normal” or “accurate,” so I don’t expect others to necessarily concur with my choices. Don’t let preference distract you from the point I want to convey, namely that with Lightroom one can adjust and enhance color more flexibly to arrive at the desired result than if one were to rely on Nikon’s Picture Control construct.
Having said that, let’s look at the first two samples, both converted in ViewNX. The first one is a straight conversion using the Picture Control I had set in the camera (Portrait). For me this result is okay, perhaps even “true to life,” but lacks pop.
For the next sample, I used ViewNX to switch to the Landscape Picture Control. Now I get a little bit more pop, especially in the sky where I like deeper blues. Notice that the bass is also a deeper, more eye-catching orange. Blues and oranges play off each other (opposite in the color wheel), so that’s an appealing element in this photo.
Now let’s switch over to Lightroom for this next sample. I prefer Lightroom because it lets me isolate the effect I want by color (blue, orange, red, yellow, green, etc.). It also lets me play with tone curves on the R,G,B channels independently (can’t do that with Picture Control Utility), which, although not used in this case, gives another layer of power and flexibility. Ditto for split-toning. As you can see in this sample, the blues are really popping (okay, perhaps over the top), but this is one preset I ginned up which I sometimes apply to my outdoor non-people photos.
In the end, I went with a VSCO modified preset I use for my people photography. The look is more “filmy” (allegedly emulating Kodak Portra 160 film stock) for what I think is an interesting, appealing result. If you look inside this preset, you will find lots of the independent color tweaking I mentioned along with a multifaceted tone curve. For me this “filmy” look best fits the subject, namely some cool-looking musicians in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Again, you may not agree with my preferences, but hopefully you now see how many more possibilities you may have for creativity and expression when you move beyond the Nikon Picture Control construct. Let me know what you think!
Eduardo Suastegui serves Los Angeles, California with story-telling event and wedding photography.