Year: 2021

Dynamic Range Adjustment on Fujifilm cameras and how this affects darktable

Dynamic Range Adjustment on Fujifilm cameras and how this affects darktable

A real quick post here guys as this issue was stumping me until I found this page – https://www.darktable.org/2014/08/using-x-trans-cameras-with-darktable/ – at which point it all became a little clearer.

Basically, and as you can see from the image below, my jpeg and RAW files when read by darktable are light years apart. The jpeg is reasonably well exposed while the RAW file is much darker.

On the left is the jpeg SOOC while on the right is the RAW version as seen bydarktable

Now, in some respcts this is unsurprising as the jpeg has been processed in-camera, in this case a Fuji x-T1, following either a standard base recipe, or in the case of applying a specific film simulation, what ever that receipe looks like. This is generally what Fujifilm shooters like to do as the film simulation options provided by FujiFilm are one reason why so many photographers choose Fuji eco-systems and why Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) jpegs are so highly regarded by the Fujifilm community. Anyway, I digress.

From what I have learned, what is happening here is that because I generally apply dynamic range adjustments to my images, I often choose to use DR400, this is applied only to the in-camera jpeg only. My RAW file by contrast, which is basically what the sensor sees, has been under-exposed by 2 stops since this is how dynamic resolution works on Fui cameras. Had I used DR200 then my RAW would be under-exposed by 1 stop. In truth I do tend to push EV when I am using DR400, for example ev +0.67 however this still leaves my RAW files under-exposed by 1.3 stops. So, how to overcome this issue?

The obvious and quick answer is not to use dynamic range adjustments as a catch all in my photos. Just set the camera to DR100 (which is off) and have done. I can then use ISO 200 rather than ISO 400 or ISO 800 and I don’t need to worry about dialing in some exposure compensation. What I’ll get is a perfectly usable RAW than can be processed with darktable or any other editor I choose to use. Interestingly, this problem does not appear to manifest itself in On1 PhotoRAW or Affinity Photo, my two other go-to editors and I have also not seen it on Luminar although I haven’t used this software in some time. Even with dynamic range applied, it seems that these editors are able to figure out the correct settings for viewing the RAW file on import.

Another alternative is to look at somehow modifying the RAW file by applying a different base curve to the imported RAW. From what I have read, this seems possible but with only five or 6 days experience with darktable under my belt, yep, you read that right, I feel I might have to research this a little more!

So, there you have it. If you are using darktable and your Fuji RAW files are way darker than your jpegs, check to see if you have dynamic range adjustments applied in camera. Pound to a penny, that will be the culpret.

If you have any comments, advice or solutions, please feel free to write a comment below.

darktable – Advanced RAW Editing for FREE

Darktable is one of those pieces of software that you know nothing about until someone tells you about it. Like many open source applications it attracts wide support from a small and tightly knit community who, at least from my experience, are extremely passionate about it. But what is darktable? Well, the darktable website provides the most sustinct answer by saying “darktable is an open source photography workflow application and raw developer. A virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them”. To put this in perspective think Lightroom on steroids. If you are a Lightroom user than much of what you find in darktable will be familiar. However, that’s where the comparison stops. Lightroom, part of the Adobe stable of tightly integrated photo and video editing applications, has been designed with the average user in mind. Someone who wants to quickly process their RAW files to a good standard with the minimum of fuss and effort. While darktable does exactly the same job, immediatly you open the application you realise that you are working with something very different albeit that the various panels and tools may seem familiar. If you don’t know Lightroom, or have never used any RAW editor then darktable, like so many photo modern editors, can look very confusing and even intimidating. That being said, there is a good sized community of users out there and lots of material to help you get to grips with darktable so if you like a challange, and prefer not to pay a subscription fee or indeed buy your software on a perpetual licence then darktable is going to be of interest to you. This is doubly true if you are an editor that likes to push the boundaries somewhat.

The first question you’ll probably want to ask is what software does darktable compete with? Well, there are many RAW editors on the market and in truth, darktable competes with them all. These include Capture One, Luminar, On1 PhotoRAW, Lightroom, Photoscape X Pro and many more. What it doesn’t compete with are tools such as Affinity Photo, Photoshop, GIMP or any editors that focus on photo manipulation rather than basic RAW editing. There will be some overlap of course but in general, tools like darktable develop the RAW files for software such as Affinity Photo and Photoshop to fine tune the image as a final product. Of course, nine times out of ten most photographers will stop at the developed RAW and don’t really need to process their images further but for those photographers that do need a little more, something like Affinity Photo will enable you to apply the finishing touches.

So, without further ado, let’s get into how darktable does it’s stuff.

Lighttable

On startup, darktable goes initially into lighttable mode. You can also go back into lighttable at any point simply by clicking on the menu item top right. Lighttable is where you can import your images and folders, apply tags such as stars, colours and meta-tags etc to your images. It’s also where you make decisions as to what stays and what goes. You can apply all these decisions both individually or in batch mode. You can also search and filter based on various criteria so as to be able to work on a smaller subset of selected images. You can also control the layout of lightable using the various controls at the bottom of the screen.

This is what you’ll see when you access lighttable mode

As this is really just an introduction to my early thoughts on darktable I don’t intend to spend much time on any particular feature of the software, I just want to provide a quick overview and tell you my thoughts. While lighttable may not be the best DAM available today, it is certainly very useable and competent and will provide most of the functionality that you are likely to need. As a new user myself I have yet to work out how to automatically update a folder of images so that they are always current but I assume that I will be able to find this. I’ll list the pros and cons with regards to working with darktable later so for now, let’s just say that lighttable is a competent and efficient DAM without the bells and whistles found in other systems.

Darkroom

Now, as I have mentioned this is simply an opportunity to tell you how I feel as a new user to darktable. My total experience of using the software consists of about 4 days of intensive use. My normal editors are On1 PhotoRAW 2022 and Affinity Photo but for the purpose of learning how to use darktable I have pushed these to one side and I’m using just darktable at the moment. My frustrations will therefore be your frustrations!

Basic darkroom editing panels

When you open an image to edit for the first time you will be totally confused by the miriad of panels and functions you can use. It’s intimidating. However, as you get more and more into the software, and you watch more and more helpfull tutorials you begin to get a sense of the product and a feel for how to employ your own workflow. As with pretty much any photo editing software today, there are multiple panels to contend with. On the LHS you have information panels, your editing history panel plus export, tagging etc. In the centre you have the image you are working with and underneath this pane, although I forgot to turn it on, you have some tools for helping you with clipping and if you want it, a camera roll of images in the folder you are working on. I tend to close these although to be fair, I do normally retain the image clipping tools as these are useful. On the RHS you have all of the modules (tools) available to you to convert your RAW into a jpeg, tiff or whatever you want. These tools are grouped together – see just under the histogram – as favourites, basic, colour etc. You can re-group these if you wish or just leave darktable to do its stuff.

If you are conversent with editors such as On1 PhotoRAW then you’ll probably already have a workflow which you like to use and which works for you. For example, I like to employ tools such as exposure, dynamic contrast, tone, shadows and highlights, curves etc and darktable allows you to do all of this. The ways these tools work is no different really to other editors but the effects of the sliders is different and the way each tool is laid out may confuse. My personal tactic has been to apply the module and then push things to extremes to see how they apply to the image. Once I undestand this I can fine tune the sliders to give me exactly what I want. It’s clumsy but it works!

One nod to FujiFilm users, and depending on your camera model, darktable does include some film emulations for you to apply directly to your RAW files. These include Classic Chrome, Astia, Provia, Velvia and a Monochrome simulation. RAW files from later cameras, mine is an older FujiFilm x-T1, may however have an expanded list to choose from.

A before and after example of basic RAW editing. To view, simply move the white line to either side

Darkroom is, as is so much of darktable, fully customisable. As a new user I eventually found Workflow Beginner in the dropdown at the end of the editing groups area (under the histogram) and that helped a lot. However, you can re-group, remove and add modules with relative ease so in theory you could easily set up the RHS panels to work as you do.

One of the things I was most keen to try was masking, cloning and healing and while I am not going to labour on these in this short article I just want to say that they all perform really well. While not as intuitive as some other software I have used, On1 for example, after some playing around how they work and what they can achieve becomes very clear. In fact the image of the two ladies having coffee does benefit from having my knee and a dogs rear end removed. Masking is equally good, once you realise that every module allows for masking rather than say, as in On1, needing to go into a local adjustments panel. Here’s another example of removing an object using the retouch tool plus some final adjustments to the image.

Before and after image showing object removal. To view, simply move the white line to either side.

With regards to other useful feature, I also like the history panel on the LHS. While confusing at first, I soon realised that this allows you to quickly remove modules and edits as well as enable you to take a snapshot of where you started from and to compare this to where your edit it at any moment in time. Very useful to see how things are going.

Conclusion

This was never going to be a long article as I really wanted to just give you a flavour of what I have managed to learn about darktable over just a few days. Now, I am quite an experienced editor so while darktable was somewhat of a shock to my system, it wasn’t catastrophic. I recognised much of what i was seeing and I was able to apply the various techniques I had learned elsewhere to darktable. I also made good use of the various online tutorials that I found, these being mostly on Youtube, and I spent a lot of time experimenting. Now I haven’t spoken much about tools such as masking, cloning, healing etc but I have tried them and they are pretty damn good. Once I learned not to transfixed on the history panel I found making adjustments really easy and if I didn’t know what something did, a quick look at that particular module answered any questions that I had.

In summary, play with this software for more than a couple of days and if you are anything like me you’ll love it more and more. It’s a super-lightweight, fast and effective RAW processor that just seems to get the job done. I honestly can’t believe that this is FREE software, it’s so good at what it needs to do. Sure the interface could be better streamlined but the results it produces are exceptional. If you give it a week you’ll love it and you’ll wonder why you are bothering to pay a small fortune on products such as Adobe Lightroom, Capture One etc.

Pros

  • Hugely powerful RAW editor with lots of features
  • Ultra-lightweight, no bloatware
  • Adobe Lightroom users will be somewhat familiar with the interface
  • Comprises of a comprehensive DAM plus RAW editing platform in a single application
  • Fast to edit once you understand the software and workflow
  • Tooltips help you understand the various functions and modules
  • Comprehensive tools (modules) for practically everything you can imagine
  • Some support for FujiFilm Film Simulations (under Colour Lookup Table)
  • Fully customisable
  • Open Source
  • Updated regulalry
  • Helpful community and lots of online resources to help you get started / become expert
  • FREE

Cons

  • Overwhelming at first, there’s a lot to take in
  • Overly complex layouts daze and confuse
  • It looks like what it is, a product developed by a community rather than a single development team
  • Not particularly intuitive on first look
  • You’ll need help from tutorials etc to get the best from it
  • If you are a user other editing software, eg On1 PhotoRAW, much of what you see will be familiar but in an unfamiliar way. You’ll need to poke around to find the tools you want to use and to learn what they do
  • There’s stuff in here I didn’t know I needed or missed from other editors

Here are some useful links to darktable

Learn more about darktable here https://www.darktable.org/

Access the darktable manual here https://darktable.gitlab.io/doc/en/index.html

Noise Reduction Software – Is it worth the money?

Noise Reduction Software – Is it worth the money?

Before & After Noise Reduction

A friend recently sent me a RAW image taken on a very old Lumix digital camera with a 1/1.7″ sensor. The image was a really tricky one, very under exposed and while it was only shot at ISO 400, combined with the small sensor this created quite a messy, noisy image. What this did though was to formulate the idea in my head of writing a short article on how to improve a difficult, noisy image using some of the noise reduction tools I had available to me to clean up this image. These are basically On1 2022 NoNoise, Nik Dfine (the old stand alone verion not the newer DxO version) and Affinity Denoise. However I eventually decided just to keep this article short and sweet by focusing on one of my images and just looking at the new kid on the block which is On1 2022 NoNoise Ai.

Why bother about noise? Well, the vast majority of photographers will tell you that noise is ugly and that therefore you should do everything possible to remove it. For this reason trying to control noise in-camera, and if this fails, later in post, becomes hugely important. This is in sharp contrast (excuse the pun) to grain which can add enormous character to photos giving them an ageless filmic look which can be very attractive, even in a digital image. The two are therefore very different but beware, overdone digital grain can be equally distracting so it needs to be used with care.

Getting back to the main theme of this article, as a start point I needed a suitable image to work with. Racking my brain I recalled an image from a night shoot a couple of years back which was taken on a Lumix GX-80 and exposed at ISO 25,600. It was of revellers coming out of the theatre here in Torquay after The Rocky Horror Show. Regrettably, the RAW in question was inadvertantly deleted a year or so ago but I was able to locate a jpeg, which at just 2400px wide offered even more of a challange than the RAW would have done as NoNoise is really designed to process large RAW files not small jpegs. Anyway, as you can image the jpeg was full of really horrible noise so presented a stiff test to On1 NoNoise Ai.

Now for those that don’t know On1 NoNoise, this application is a core feature found in the latest release of On1 PhotoRAW 2022. It’s embedded in the development functionality although since it is usually the first process to be applied, it’s somewhat strange that On1 have chosen to embed it towards the end of the development tools. That being said, it’s perhaps also worth noting that there is now a stand-alone / plug-in version available which works with Photoshop, Capture One, Affinity Photo and others although unlike previous On1 releases, you now have to buy the plug-ins seperately, either individually or as a plug-in bundle. That’s good news for say Lightroom / Photoshop users who only want the plug-ins but not so good if you are an exisitng On1 customer or looking to buy On1 PhotoRAW 2022 as a new customer. Personally I have some strong thoughts on the way On1 have treated their existing client base but rather than bloat this article, feel free to visit http://thecreativecamera.co.uk/groups/bonjour/ to learn what they are!

Now, with regards to the results I obtained, in all fairness to On1 2022 NoNoise Ai did a pretty good job – see the split image above which is a before and after of the image I was working on. Here the noise in the original was completely removed using just the base (default) settings in the NoNoise panel. As I didn’t want to phaff around with this image, I just wanted to get a good comparison, I only really adjusted the white balance after the application of NoNoise simply to make the image look a little more realistic. I did this simply by picking on something white in the image, in this case the mans shirt,and applying a colour shift to it. You could also use Curves if you prefer or the colour settings available in the Effects section. This adjustment reduced the greenish tinge between the original and the processed image. Whether it’s worth working on the image any more than this is debatable as it’s such a low resolution but it does make a great image for comparison purposes.

In Summary

So, what are my thoughts on the results? Well, this is an image that isn’t going to stand a lot of close inspection. Had I started with the RAW, I think the results would have been much much better. If you do a deep dive into the image you’ll see that yes, the noise is really well controlled but at the expense of any real details in the faces. They look very plastic close up although that is as much a result of what I started with as what NoNoise was able to achieve so please don’t go away thinking that this is not a good result. As I mentioned, I made no effort to fine tune the image using either the sharpening or details sliders that are available. Stand back and look at the image from a distance though and it looks pretty good, especially given its history.

UPDATE

Although I initially decided not to do comparisons with other software I did throw the original jpeg into my FREE version of Nik Dfine2 to see what it could achieve. Now bear in mind that this version of Nik has received no updates since it was acquired by DxO in late 2017 so you are looking at the results here from what is now classed as old, defunct technology. Make you’re own mind up as to how far digital noise reduction has come in the past few years or so.

Processed using the unsupported, non DxO version of NIK Dfine2

Something else I noticed about On1 NoNoise, this was on a completely different photo, was that where the software was confused by shadows, in this case rain on the window, it caused some difficulty with the colours and tones behind it. This is best explained by showing you a before and after – see below. I’m not sure if this is a one off or it can be modified in some way but it does show some limitations with the technology.

Original on the left / with NoNoise applied on the right. Notice the degradation in skin tones in the NoNoise image.

Remove A Colour Cast from Your Photos

Remove A Colour Cast from Your Photos

One of the most annoying things associated with photography is getting the white balance (WB) wrong, especially at night or under artificial lighting. While auto WB should help to overcome most lighting issues, it does pay to make sure that you use the right WB option available to you in camera for the situation you are filming in. But what about if you don’t make the adjustment there and then? Is it game over? Can you recover a scene that has a strong colour cast for example? Well, yes, in general you can and it’s all thanks to the power of the Curve tool together with a little help from our old friend WB. These two tools are found in practically every decent photo editor available today from Snapseed on your mobile phone through to Photoshop, Affinity Photo and Gimp.

What’s a Colour Cast

A colour cast is basically where the underlying colour tends to shift towards a particular tint. It’s most often seen in night shots where photos can adopt an orange tint or in the studio where the WB is not corrected for the types of light being used. While in some night shots a golden orange tint or glow can enhance a photo, it certainly doesn’t look good in studio photography or where age has spoiled a family heirloom. This article presents some ways for you to improve your photos where a colour cast is spoiling things.

EXAMPLE 1 FIXING THE COLOUR IN AN OLD IMAGE

Let’s start with an example on how to remove the colour cast in an old photo.

Copyright unknown. Image used purely for educational purposes

As can be clearly seen, this image has a very strong orange colour cast. It’s also not helped by the fact the predominent colours in the image are earthy tending towards browns, red and orange. Even so, bringing out the blues and dropping the reds and browns has to be a good start in making this image look more natural.

To recover this image I have used two techniques. The first is to identify an object in the photo that should be white and then to use this information to find other areas within the image that should also be moved towards white. Here the most obvious white colour is in the boys tee-shirt. In the first photo above this has a pinkish tinge especially around the neck. In this technique we create a rectanglular box, colour pick the pink tint from the teeshirt and apply it to the box. We then pull out the handles until the box completely covers the image. Setting the blend mode for that layer to Divide results in other areas of the image that should be white or close to white becoming white lifting the whole image towards more natural tones. Here’s the result of undertaking that process. Notice that the white tee-shirt now looks white while other tones within the image have improved. However, to my eye the photo still exhibits a strong bias towards earthy colours which might not be desirable deping on the intended use.

Copyright unknown. Image used purely for educational purposes

To improve this image still further, especially with regards the peol in the photo, we can additionally apply a curves adjustment to the image to remove much of the red and to better control the greens and blues. To do this we simply shift the RGB values in the image towards what they were more likely to have been. For example, jeans are typically blue so act as a guide here. The resulting image below shows just how powerful the curves feature can be in everyday editing.

Copyright unknown. Image used purely for educational purposes

And below is the final image with pretty much all of the colour cast removed. Applying a white balance correction could improve this image still further but as a demonstration of technique, it pretty much serves it’s purpose.

Final image with curves applied. Copyright unknown. Image used purely for educational purposes

EXAMPLE 2 PROBABLY THE QUICKEST FIX THERE IS

In this example we are going to use the very simple technique discussed above of applying a colour picked rectangle over the image and setting the blend mode to Divide. This only works if you can identify an area within your original image that should be white. Here, the jacket does have some white so I have carefully picked on this shade (see image 2) in order to colour the rectangle that covers the image. As you can see in image 3, this is a distinctive shade of cream rather then the white it should be. In the final image I have set the Blend Mode to Divide in order to neutralise all of the colours in the image bringing them quickly back to what they were on the day of shooting.

As the final picture of the series shows, this is a remarkably quick way to compensate for a colour cast in your images where you have a known area of what should be white. To work though your editor must include the Divide function within its Blend Mode options. On1 for example does not have this option so this is not a teqhnique that will work if you have On1. In such cases I recommend using curves and white balance modifications which I describe in more detail below.

EXAMPLE 3 RECOVERING FROM WHITE BALANCE ISSUES

Here’s another example. In the first of these photos the image again has a very strong orange colour cast. Here the colour cast is caused by an incorrect setting of the white balance in camera during a photo shoot. The second image shows how easily the image can be recovered using the simplest of work flows.

On the right hand side of the above image you can see the various layers applied to the photo. Firstly I duplicted the image, just is case I do something stupid which affects the integrity of the base image, then I used a Curve to modify the colours in the image. After this I used an Unsharp Mask to affect a little increased sharpness in the eys, hair and pearls and finally I took the opportunity to remove a few tiny flaws such as flyaway hairs etc in the overall portrait. An alternative strategy could have been to complete the basic work up to and including the Curves adjustments and then to take the image into say, On1 Effects Ai and or On1 Portrait Ai to apply some adjustments. To be honest, Affinity is excellent for portraiture so I’m not convinced there’s a huge lot of benefit of going into On1 to achieve a better resullt. I also have the option though of using Anthropics PortraitPro but again, here I didn’t feel the need to do this.

So, let’s now look at what the tone curve would need to look like in order to achieve the above result.

This is a pretty simple curve adjustment but of course, for each RGB channel ie Red, Green and Blue as well as the Master channel you can apply much more complex curves in order to achieve your required goal. As it is, these simple modifications work pretty well although as mentioned, I did also reduce the temperature in the white balance to add a little more blue.

So, that’s pretty much it really. In some cases, particulalry where the lighting is used to effect a particular artistic look it is much more difficult to return the image to a neutral colour pallet because this actually doens’t exist. It can also be difficult where orange, green or blue lighting is used to create an effect, for example on buildings at night. However, where your camera misunderstands the colours due to processing confusion as in the above example, it is really quick and easy to return it the neutral colours which actually existed.

This final image of Sarah, from the same set as those above, has been further processed to illustrate additional ways to enhance the basic image. As above, the original image was also colour tinted orange and has therefore undergone a similar transformation.

Model: Sarah Dowrick. Image copyright Dave Collerton

I very much hope this short introduction to colour correction using very basic tools available within any quality editing suite has been helpful.

Dunked your camera? It’s not all over, you’ve got a fighting chance to save it!

First off let me say that the experience of falling in water with your camera around your neck is not the best fun you can have. My personal attempt did result in good scores from all judges especially as I bounced on some fairly large boulders before hitting water. Sadly, my Fujifilm x-T1 also saw action and while I have now dried off, and indeed so has the camera, the 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens that was attached to it is proving to be a little stubbon. Here’s what I have been doing to recover from this semi-disasterous situation.

Your Next Actions Make a Difference

Firstly, let’s rewind a little because the actions you take when this sort of thing happens really matter. So, while still lying in the water I had the presence of mind to pass the camera to a passer-by who came across to help. That move was practically instantaneous which meant that while the camera was under water for a few seconds, it was not in water for minutes. It was also turned off, another plus point. The other big plus point here, if there can be one in this situation, is that the water was practically pure as well as being fast moving as it was generated by a cascading waterfall on Dartmoor. Had the camera fallen into seawater, or a murky algae laden pond I would not be as confident that I can recover the camera or the lens. So, what can you do to improve your chances of a successfull outcome?

  • Turn the camera off or keep it off
  • Remove the battery and memory cards
  • Wipe down the camera with some form of absorbent cloth as soon as you can – inside and out (not the sensor though)
  • Wipe down and dry the lens as much as possible
  • Open all of the comparment doors to enable them to circulate air into the camera
  • Protect the sensor with a body cap or use another another lens
  • Get the camera and lens into a dry, warm environment as soon as possible
  • Do not be tempted to turn on the camera for several days. Put it aside and leave it alone!

The Camera Body

Firstly, let’s talk about the camera body. Although emersed for a few seconds, all the compartment doors were at least closed and the camera was off. Once I was back on my feet, and although drenched, I immediately removed the lens, the battery, the memory card and I opened up all of the compartment doors. I was fortunate in that I was carrying a microfibre cloth and although my canvas camera bag did get a little wet, it didn’t get soaked. That was lucky because it also had two spare batteries and a Viltrox 23mm lens inside. First job, remove every drop of water off every part of the camera body I could access. Amazingly, no water had got into the sensor chamber, it was bone dry thanks to the 18-55mm that was attached. There was a little water in the various compartments but overall it cryed off externally very quickly due in no small part that it was a nice dry and warm day. Normally I would have hightailed it home at this point but as it was a family day out and we had our grandchildren who are only three and five, I decided to trudge around for the next hour or so. In fairness, other than being drenched and a little sore I came off pretty lightly and my youngest grandson George was a delight helping me up and down the routh terrain at every opportunity. As I walked, I allowed the camera to sit in the breeze with all the compartment doors open. I had fitted the Viltrox 23mm by this point as I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire by allowing dust and debris into the camera body via the open sensor compartment. Ideally I would have used a body cap but of course, who carries one of these around just in case you fall in a river, stream, pond or the sea!!

Over the next couple of hours the light breeze dried off the camera a treat and I eventually made it home about three hours later. When I did, the first thing I did was to remove the Viltrox 23mm and to put some cling film over the lens apperture. It was still bone dry so I think I got really lucky here. I then opened the window and hung the camera on the window pole to gently continue to dry out in the breeze. By this point in time there was no water apparent anywhere so I thought this was perhaps a good first step. I left this overnight and then in the morning, I put it on a radiator (this was on very low setting) to allow a little more heat to access the internals. I didn’t however put the camera directly on the radiator, I lifted it up about an inch to allow the warmth to envelop it. All the doors remained open, including the LCD panel which I had pulled out earlier to dry off and had kept it there. After a day and a night more of doing this, I decided to test the camera. Interestingly, the on/off switch, which on the x-T1 is part of the shutter button, was really stiff which worried me a little. However, with a little persuasion it moved and turning it on and off a few times (with the battery out) resolved the problem. I also checked all of the other dials and buttons for similar problems but these were all good, no stickiness as far as I can see.

Did the camera fire up? Amazingly it did, without issue other than it looked like the damp had forced a factory refresh as I needed to reset the language, the date and the time. All of my eight Presets had also been wiped but no big deal, I only really use two slots and I know the settings off by heart. Having shot a few bland test shots I turned off the camera and set it to one side. It’s being sitting in the corner since then and I’ve just tried it again and it’s working fine.

The Lens

As I mentioned, the Fujifilm 18-55mm really didn’t do well in it’s encounter with water. Unlike the camera it was sopping wet. The worry here then is that even if I manage to dry it out, it is very likely that despite the water being really pure, there are going to be some water marks on the internals of the lens etc. It is also a toss up as to whether the electrics will ever work again. Now I’m prepared to sit it out for as long as it takes to dry it out totally as I still have the gorgous Viltrox 23mm working perfectly on the x-T1 plus I have the Samyang 12mm manual to play with which is huge fun. All in all, and while I might miss the 18-55mm, I can still shoot perfectly well with what I’ve got. Anyway, let’s talk a little now about what I have done to try to recover this lens.

The first thing I did was on the way home we stopped off and bought a huge bag of rice. Rice is brilliant for sucking up moisture so it’s a good first step, after drying the lens externally, in sucking up the moisture in the lens. Now, given the amount of water drops I could see on the internal lenses, this was never going to be a quick solution. It could take days if not weeks to remove all of the water, even in a warm home. Anyway, I popped the lens into a plastic container completelysurrounded by the rice. I used a fair amount of rice for this as it’s cheap and plentiful. I then put a cleanfilm over the top and let it sit for 5 days before sneaking a peak. Interestingly, the top lenses were dry, or at least appeared so, while the lens closest to the sensor, which had ben bone dry whan I started drying out the lens, was covered in water drops. This tells me that water is moving freely around the lens and that the process is working, albeit very slowly. In order to try to speed up the process, although why I don’t know, I have now put it on the radiator, which is only slightly warm, to hopefully help with the process. I also felt it wouldnt hurt to move the rice around. I’ll add some photos later to illustrate the process of camera and lens drying.

Initial Conclusions

So, as it stands I have at least achieved some success. My body is repearing itself nicely and the x-T1 appears to be working OK, no apparent problems although time will of course tell how it fairs in the longer term. The 18-55mm although initially not looking particularly healthy has now, and this is after 9 day sitting in rice in a warm environment, dryed out significantly. It might actually be bone dry but you know what, I don’t need to push it and while another few days won’t affect me it might be good news for the lens. Examination today shows that there are some marks on the lens surface, but these aren’t substantial. Whether it will ever work again, I still don’t know. The chances 50/50 I’d say. If the electronics work I have found an interesting article on dismantling and accessing the top two elements to clean them which I will try if necessary. I suspect that this will be some time yet though. Whatever happens I will update this blog post and let you all know how things turned out.

I hope that this article is helpful. Having a good plan of attack in such circumstances is key to success. You also need patience. Everything has to be 110% dry before you even consider turning the camera on and that probably means waiting the 4 or 5 days as I did.

What’s the best lens for street photography?

Right off the bat I just want to say that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In truth, the lens you choose is probably going to reflect your confidence levels as a photographer. If you like mixing it up on the street then a 28mm is probably perfect as it gets personal at that focal distance. If you are a little shy or worried about photographing strangers then a longer prime or even a short zoom is probably going to favour your style of photography. The essence of this article then is that, there is no perfect lens for the job, it’s all about you and your confidence levels as a photographer!

All this being said, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing street with a long zoom. Candid / street photography requires you as much as possible to blend into a crowd and nothing shouts photographer like a DSLR armed with a long zoom. Equally, a fisheye or an ultrawide lens is pretty much useless in my opinion unless you like standing toe to toe with your subject. With that lens you are going to see more that the whites of their eyes and that means getting very personal. Great for urban landscape photography for sure, but candid people biased photography, in my opinion, leave it in the bag or at home. Now while some photographers also spout long and hard about the benefits of vintage glass, which is often manual focus of course, forget it. It’s not 1961 when you had no choice, it’s 2021 when you certainly do. Rely on a manual focus lens / camera combo and I guarantee you that you’ll miss that pulitzer price winning shot when the opportunity arises. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that you’ll miss a lot of really good shots. In street, great images don’t come along everyday so when they do, you need to be nimble and nimble means more often than not, nailing it on auto.

For me, the sweet spot for street and candid photography is going to fall somewhere between 24mm – 75mm in full frame terms although my favourite squeeze for candid photography today is the pocket sized Canon G7X, purely because when I started to get really interested in street and candid photography, that is what I bought. I use it a lot for street because it’s small and unobtrusive and easily fits in a trouser pocket so is highly portable. The 8.8 to 32mm lens combined with the 1″ sensor seems to capture great shots even in low light. In full frame terms that’s 24mm to 96mm so pretty handy for street. In truth though I’d be equally happy with any good quality 1″ sensor compact nowadays, such as Sony or Lumix. Another good option of course is the Fujifilm x100V (or an earlier variant) and the x-Pro series ie version 1 through 3. All great cameras for street and candid photography.

The diminutive Panasonic Lumix GX80 with 12-32mm kit lens.

Another favourite of mine is my Panasonic Lumix GX80 which has an M43 sensor. Again it’s small, descrete and very capable. Armed with the Lumix 12-60mm f2.8 (or even just the f3.5 if cash is tight) this is a great street combo because again, it’s small and compact. In fact it might equally be as good with the kit lens, the diminutive 12-32mm. What I certainly wouldn’t take out with me is my Nikon D600, even with a tiny pancake lens. Way too big for serious street work. And although I have used my Fuji x-T1 a lot for street photography, especially with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 and the Viltrox 23mm, I still think that this size is too big for serious street. This is because with street photography you really just want to blend into the background, not make a statement along the lines of “hey, look at me, I’m a photographer and I am photographing you!”.

France, 2018. Image taken with Lumix GX80 with Lumix 12-60mm lens

Now I am a member of a couple of Fuji facebook groups and the buzz on these groups is about SOOC photography ie straight out of camera shooting. Like many, I do like the jpegs that Fuji cameras can create, especially with a filmic simulation applied in camera but I maintain that for good street photography it pays to blend in and you’ll do that best with a small, innocuous camera like the Canon G7X or something similar. Because I am as happy playing with RAW as I am with JPEG’s, I don’t worry too much about SOOC although as I mentioned, with the right light, Fuji cameras can produce stunning yester-year film quality results. As mentioned above, for the serious Fuji street photographer I would suggest that you look at the X100V or perhaps the X-Pro3 if you want lens interchangeability. These two cameras for me, along with many modern compacts are about as perfect as it gets for street and both sit alongside my Lumix GX80 and Canon G7X for this very reason.

Recolouring B&W photos using Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is not for the faint-hearted but put your soul into learning and prefecting it and you’ve got the perfect editing partner for life. That’s not to say that there aren’t some amazing photo editors out there, many for free, just that it is a well supported, hugely capable product from a major author. Serif have left nothing to chance with Affinity Photo and with each release, it just gets better and better. Add to that a healthy, growing userbase with many users adding quality tutorials to YouTube and elsewhere and you’ve got the perfect, practically zero cost alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

Now, as I mentioned, Affinity Photo is not for the fainhearted but if you know Photoshop, you’re already more than half-way there. I bought my version of Affinity Photo back in 2019 and I used the pandemic lockdown to throw myself into it. That doesn’t make me an expert, far from it, but I have yet to find something that Affinity can’t do. Where it differs from Photoshop, other than in price and the lack of a yearly subscription, is in the number of people developing presets for it. Whatever you need to do, Photoshop probably has a preset to help you automate the task. That’s not to say that Affinity Photo doesn’t have similar features, just that currently at least there are fewer people building add-ons (Serif calls these Macros) for Affinity Photo. Now doubt as time goes on, that situation will change.

Before I go futher, this article is not meant to be a HOW TO for Affiity Photo. These are best created using video as you really need to see the process rather than read about it. All I am trying to do here is to introduce an interesting creative process which is to convert an old 1940’s post card sized photo into a colourful, period acurate image. Lets take a closer look at this particular image.

Home Guard, West London, 1940’s

The primary reason for doing it was because it contains an image of my grandfather Frank, who served in the home guard during WW2. Frank, for those interested, is bang in the centre, top row. This then is a labour of love and is still very much work in progress as far as I am concerned. So far I have completed perhaps 80% of the editing work with the concrete road and finishing refinements still to do. There’s no hurry on my part as there’s no client to wory about but had there of been, a job like this would take perhaps 4 – 6 hours depending on the level of detail required, historical accuracy and overall refinement needed.

Now, although I have said that I don’t intend to talk about the exact process of re-creating this image in colour, I do need to talk though the strategy and process as this is important in understanding how we can create a colour accurate image of wartime 1940’s. The only real way to do this then is to find relevent colour images from that period or failing this, find appropriate colour images from things such as renactments which utilise, for example, authentic uniforms from that same period. Same goes fo rthe buildings, roof and road colours. Given the lack of colour images of this type from that period, the latter approach then is much more feasible. For a start, in the 1940’s B&W was the predominant film stock used and while colour film existed, google searches don’t always deliver the necessary results. The other thing to remember, since we are going to gradient map the colours we find in more modern photos onto the B&W image above, the highlits and shadows in that image play an equal part in contributing to the reality of the final result. For this reason we not only need to find a colour accurate scene, we also need to find one with similar lighting and tonality conditions ie light and shade.

Having found relevent photos to use as a guide, we can now create swatches that will help us to recreate the colours, for example of the uniforms, on the B&W image. Here, you can see that the sampled colours from the above photos have been applied to the B&W image as reference colours. On Affinity Photo these are on a seperate top layer. From left to right we have uniform lows, mids and highs, in the centre facial colours again from lows, though mids to highs and on the right, the colours sampled from the door of the barracks, again lows, mids and highs. Amazingly, this is all we need to begin the fascinating process of recolouring the B&W image.

As previously mentioned, the process of applying the colours from the swatches is done using a Gradient Map. For example, in the case of the skin colours we simply sample the colours above setting the low on the gradient map (which is in red) to the darkest shade, the mid colour (green) to the mids and the lightest colour to the highligh (blue) colour. This is perhaps better explained by the reference image below which shows the default colours applied to the image. Here red depicts shadows, green depicts the mids and blue depicts the highlights in the original B&W image. Of course we aren’t just talking about 3 tones, you can add as many points on the gradient map as you like by simply sampling colours between low and high and adding them to the map.

This all being said, let’s take a look at where the image is right now as I write this article so I can talk more about the process and the refinements that I still need to make. In this image, I have applied four gradiant maps. One is applied to the uniforms, another to the skin tones, a third to the buildings and finally, a fourth to the roofs. Of these I am least happy with the ashphelt roofs and will revisit this shortly to lower the harshness of the blacks and to add some texture.

I chose to create this article to inspire others to have a go. We all have family photo treasures, many in B&W, and in my view, simply adding colour to a face immediately brings it to life. The last time I saw my grandfather was 40 years ago but looking at his face here, irrespective of the fact that the resolution of the image is terrible, it immediatly bought back wonderful memories of spending precious time with him when I was a boy. Master builder, mandolin player and a great father and grandfather, as is so often the case we don’t know how good things are until we lose them.

Affinity Photo is an amazing image editing tool. Serif offer a short trail period if you wish to give it a go. With special offers, Affinity Photo can be purchased for about £25 which is basically stealing. If you do decide to try it though, my suggestion is to persevere as if it was your only editing tool. You can’t pick up and put down Affinity as you can something like Luminar Ai or even Lightroom, it requires practice and patience. Put the effort though in and you’ll be rewarded by some some amazing editing tools on which to build real editing ability.

It doesn’t matter what you photograph – just make it your best shot ever!

I’m writing this article because I am seeing an increasing number of what I consider to be relatively poor photographs among the varous groups I frequent, at least in terms of subject, composition and lighting and this appears to be a growing trend It’s almost as if pointing the camera at anything and clicking the shutter is enough to say, look at me, I’m a photographer. Truthfully, it’s all just noise, detracting from the really good stuff that gets hidden away in those very same groups.

Now, I’ve said before in a previous post that I don’t understand the rush to post your photos on facebook. It’s the same really for other social interest groups, including Instagram which at least does give you a profile of images to show off. That being said, if you class yourself as a photographer, whether new to the genre or an old hand, we all need to stop accepting that meadiocre is good enough and start pushing for great. If we don’t do this collectively then we simply can’t improve and continuous improvement is what makes us better. I know from my own experience, and never more so than recently when I had to reconstitute a lot of my photography from it’s earliest days, how I have changed as a photographer and hopefully how I have improved with time. A lot of this improvement has come from the help and support of others as well as from my own personal development and my interests as a photographer and as an artist. What I thought was really good four years ago is no longer necessarily what I think is good today.

Of course, what I consider poor may differ hugely from what you consider poor and I think that is part of the problem. However, while we may differ on the stuff that interests usand makes us hit the like button, what shouldn’t differ in what we agree makes a good image. For me this is very simply:

  • Content
  • Composition
  • Exposure

If any one of these three items is missing then that photo really shouldn’t see the light of day. And turning it into a HDR masterpiece isn’t going to help. You can’t turn a pigs ear into a silk purse as they say!

When you look at an Ansel Adams photo you know, assuming that you know something about photography, that it’s an Ansel Adams photo. There’s just something about the depth of tones, the subject matter, composition and the overall exposure that screams Ansel Adams. You don’t even have to like landscapes to value his images. Everything is in the right place, everything has the right exposure and the subject always captures the imagination. When you look at images from Cartier-Bresson or another great candid photographer, for example Robert Doiseneu, Vivian Maier, Saul Leiter, Fred Herzog or Diane Arbus and indeed, any number of others, again, everything you could possibly need to tell a story is all there. Nothing is missing. Does this mean that photography is easy? Well, in truth yes but in order to sell it to others, you just need to think a little more about the story you are trying to tell before you press the shutter button. Of course you then have to rely on the viewer understanding your message or your story and that is not so easy, especially looking at what some photographers think is a good image!

Of course, we are dead lucky to live in an age where the modern camera does all the hard work. Exposing your image correctly, and getting everything in focus really shouldn’t be a problem. Even if for some reason it is a little dark or a little too bright, five minutes in post really should be all it takes to nail it. So, while some minor latitude may be required in the technical areas, all we really have to do then is to find the amazing compositions that tell a great story. Easy really! Well, no, it’s not and that’s why most images today – and I’m talking of the millions of images taken daily on everything from a smart phone to a Hasselblad – just don’t work. That’s where experience comes in, that’s were looking at successful photographers and their images pays off and that’s where talking and listening to others pays dividends. You might be the next Cartier-Bresson, self taught, self critical and extremely capable but chances are, you aren’t. Very few are. That doesn’t mean though hat you have to accept your own images as being good, let alone the output of others as being good. If you suck up photography as a sponge sucks up water without question you’ll become a better photographer. Just don’t spend your time sucking up the dross you see on facebook and thinking that this is good photography. Sadly, it all to often isn’t.

On1 PhotoRAW 2022 – Getting better with Age? Maybe.

Disclaimer! I’m a big fan of On1 PhotoRAW. As a user since On1 PhotoRAW 2018, every major upgrade has improved the software dramatically. In On1 PhotoRAW 2019 we welcomed Portrait Ai which made it a lot easier to fine tune portraits albeit with some limitations, for example relighting of subjects which for me is a very important feature. For this reason it isn’t close to what can be achieved using PortraitPro Studio, which is a seasoned exponent of the perfect portrait, if sometimes the results can be a little overdone. Nonetheless, the results, up until now, have been pretty good and I was hoping to see incremental improvements with Portrait Ai in On1 PhotoRAW 2022. More on Portrait Ai later.

On1 PhotoRAW 2021 is a pretty solid application for photo editing. In my eyes it’s right up there with Lightroom and even shares a few features with Photoshop. I’ve been using On1 PhotoRAW 2021 for about a year now, alongside Affinity Photo for the really heavy lifting, and it’s my go to everyday editor. That doesn’t mean to say however that it is the only editor I have tried over that time. Since 2018 I have also used Luminar 2018 through to Luminar 4 and more laterly, I spent a month solely with Capture One. As I mentioned, I have also used Affinity Photo extensively although only when I’ve run out of ideas on On1. Although these are all good editors, I always come back to On1 as for me, it has everything that I need to edit my images on a day to day basis. Not surprisingly then, I was pretty keen to be one of the first in the queue to receive On1 PhotoRAW 2022 which was released just a few days ago. Armed with a 25% couplon code I found on the web, plus my customer discount, I bought the standalone version of On1 PhotoRAW 2022, together with the plugin bundle for just £90 GBP. Normally I wouldn’t bother with the plugin bundle, it would also have only cost me £50, but since this has now been seperated out from the core system, I thought I would hedge my bets for use with Affinity Photo, especially NoNoise Ai as this is proving to be a great addition to On1 PhotRAW 2022. I also want to access the batch capabilities of Resize Ai, whicih I am told exist in the standalone plugin, although time will tell.

Right off the bat I hit problems with getting On1 PhotoRAW 2022 to load. Now I have to say, if you have a massive HDD or SSD with lots of spare capacity then my experience here isn’t going to be yours. It turns out that migrating data from On1 2021 to On1 2022 requires quite a lot of disk space, especially if you have thousands of images. I have a feeling that if I had retained the catalog image size at Standard (I recatalogued at Minimal) that I would have needed a whole lot more disk space. Minimal though does seem to bring down the cache size so my photo data (which was what needed migrating) required just 33GB of free space to complete the migration process. That being said, the free space on my internal drive (a fast 500GB SSD partitioned as C: and D:) was only 15GB so somehow I needed to find an additional 20GB of free space. That’s not easy when you have a lot of applications loaded!! After an hour of moving stuff around, for example moving Dropbox and OneDrive from C: to D: and deleting all of the remnants of earlier versions of On1 from my Roaming directory – there was another 7GB of crap in there – I managed to just squeeze out enough free RAM to achive the migration of On1 2021 to 2022. The good news is that I now have 27GB free disk space on C: so that’s a bonus! So, after a short battle I was all good to go and On1 PhotoRAW 2022 completed its setup and was now running OK.

Once loaded, and based on some recent posts on the support forum re optimisation and speed, I undertook a few experiments with moving around the SCRATCH and Browser Cache and eventually settled for putting them both on the internal D: SSD drive. Some commentators say this is wrong but that disk is so much faster than anything else I have access to that I really don’t have a choice. More on this later!

So let’s look then at what On1 PhotoRAW 2022 gives me that is new. In truth the changes to the front end are fairly minimal so it still looks like On1 PhotoRAW 2021 albeit that more is going on now in the RHS panel than in previously versions. The various other panels, i.e. the LHS panel which contains the Browse, Catalogues and Presets areas, and the bottom of the screen which is a filmstrip of the current folder all still work in practically the same way so migrating my brain to On1 PhotoRAW 2022 was a lot easier than migrating my data!!

My immediate thoughts on what I have played with the most over the past few weeks or so, this is the DAM, NoNoise Ai, Resize, Portrait AI and a fleeting glimpse of Sky Replacement are improving with time. Whether I have some hardware incompatiabilities I don’t know but overall, performance seems a little more sluggish on the editing side, in particular in masking and painting of local effects than in On1 PhotoRAW 2021. Now I don’t intend to use On1 PhotoRAW 2022 for Sky Replacement, it’s not something that interests me, but I will use Portrait Ai occasionally (when I don’t need the power of Affinity Photo or PortraitPro Studio 21) and I’ll use the DAM and it’s associated smart tools pretty much all the time. In my opinion, the DAM is one area where On1 has really done a good job, especially in it’s search features and albums.

So, without further ado, here’s my first thoughts at On1 PhotoRAW 2022 as a user rather than as a reviewer. Now, before you read on, your hardware is going to differ from mine. If you have an old PC or laptop with 12GB or less RAM and limited resources my experiences could well mirror your own. What I tell you here then could help you to resolve these and improve your usage of On1 PhotoRAW 2022. If you have a power PC or new laptop, I suspect that you will have very limited problems. If in doubt, download the trial and use it. I intend to expand on this blog post later, indeed I already have, as I get to grips with more of it’s capabilities over time but here are a few of my early observations.

General Usage – UPDATED 12/10/2021

Because I have been an On1 customer for several years now the overall user interface is very familiar to me. As mentioned above there have been some cosmetic changes to the Browse screen but for existing as well as for new users, this won’t be a problem. Here’s what you’ll see when you open up On1 PhotoRAW 2022.

When you first open On1 PhotoRAW 2022, assuming you’re a new user, you won’t see any catalogs. You’ll need to create these before On1 PhotoRAW 2022 can do it’s magic. Basically creating a catalogue means that you point On1 at the folders where you keep your images, for example I have one folder called Pictures under which I have all of my images in various subfolders. By adding the top level folder as a catalog ie Pictures, all of the subfolders below this are also cataloged and with them, every image in my collection. You don’t have to do this of course, you can catalog any of your folders which contain images in any way that you wish. One tip for laptop users though, for your folders set the image preview size to MINIMAL as this hugely reduces the size of your PerfectBrowserCache. I mean we are talking orders of magnitude smaller here with no particular degredation in what you see on screen.

Performance in browse is pretty good now but very occasionaly I do see the “On1 is not responding message” at the top of the screen. This is much less often now that I have moved the cache to an internal drive which is 10x faster than the USB handicapped Seagate T5 I initially tried. It’s only momentary and is no longer as annoying as it was. Finding the right location for your cache is of real importance as it does affect general usage such as browsing, masking and brush (local) editing.

Editing an image is straight forward, highlight an image and click on the Edit icon top right of the screen. This opens the image as well as making a number of presets available down the LHS panel. On the RHS you have a variety of editing tools, basically these are the same as in On1 PhotoRAW 2021. Under the Develop tab you’ll find the new NoNoise panel so watch out for this as it is hidden away. Like most editors, you can use a pen tablet for editing which should make editing a lot quicker and more accurate but so far I have not found this to be the case with On1 PhotoRAW 2022. The mouse is a tad slower to use in local adjustments, ie there is more lag when doing masking etc but the pen tablet is very much slower again. The point I want to make here is that I run Affinity Photo and On1 PhotoRAW 2022 on the same laptop so the same hardware. Affinity Photo is blisteringly quick, especially for brush intensive work while On1 PhotoRAW 2022 is incedibly laggy. This was particulalry noticable in the Sky Replacement module. Given that Affinity Photo works flawlessly and On1 doesn’t points the finger at On1 PhotoRAW 2022 code, or more particulalry perhaps, how it interacts with the hardware available. as being a big part of the problem. On1 really need to get on top of this in future releases because at the moment whenever I have brush intensive work to do I fire up Affinity Photo. In the meantime I have been able to slightly improve brush performance in On1 PhotoRAW 2022, more on this later.

So, what about some of the other main features?

Backup & Restore – UPDATED 12/10/2021

New to version On1 PhotoRAW 2022, Backup & Restore provides a much needed way to protect our valuable work. Although I had some initial problems with this feature, after re-installing On1 PhotoRAW 2022, this seemed to clean up a lot of problems, Backup & Restore seems to be working OK now. Fortunately I have not had a reason to use the restore function as yet but backing up takes about 5 minutes for my particular setup. That does seem like an eternity when you are watching the screen but in reality it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

DAM (Digital Asset Management)

I mentioned above that the DAM is one of my favorite features of On1. The DAM in 2022 appears to be little different to On1 2021 and indeed, earlier versions. It has the same layout as for 2021 – catalogued folders, browse, presets, albums, advanced search, tethered shooting and recent files. These all exist in the LHS panel under three tabs. Performance of the DAM is also on par with 2021 although for me this was improved by choosing minimal for image information / rendering – it also crushes the size of the PerfectBrowserCache file which when set to Standard size was absolutely huge, some 300GB at one point. Nowadays I have this down to around 6GB so I recommend this option for fellow laptop users. It’s still a little quirky in use though, for example I have some catalogued images that are orphans ie they take up space in the catalog but theres nothing there to edit and as such, you can’t delete or move them from a search query. This confused me initially as I had set them to a red flag, along with others I wanted to delete but deleting all of the images was impossible while the orphans remained in the search results. Annoying but not the end of the world especially now as I have isolated them. On1 Support told me it was probably my graphics drivers or my inability to setup my GPU properly as these are common problems/ However, since these are bang uptodate via the Nvidia Experience application I use and I do know how to set up the GPU to work with On1 I personally don’t think so. Besides, I have found 608 orphaned thumbnails – all Fuji BTW – when I undertake a search, use Dates which is also a search tool, and this points the finger at the database behind the software. Surely On1 Support will have a solution for this problem which I await with interest!

There’s been no improvement in Smart Organise as far as I can tell, it still can’t find similar images for the most part. I don’t know what On1 thinks a similar image is but I would have thought ones that look identical should fit that criteria. The good news is that Dates, which I have just mentioned above, and which allows you to drill down into images from various years also finds duplicate images (because they are from the same year) across the whole of your catalog. This means that I have a super simple and quick way of clearing out duplicates. Of course if that fails, I also have access to CC Cleaner which also does a great job of finding duplicates with the same names. Dates BTW also finds all of the orphaned thumbnails which do clutter up the screen somewhat.

Advanced search is still good with lots of options for tracking down individual images etc. So is the adding of meta-tag info in bulk or to individual images. I use this feature a lot. Not sure removing the rating info from the bottom browser bar in Browse is a good step as I kinda liked it there. However, it’s still available but now in the RHS panel under Info which I find to be a little less useful.

Before talking about mouse or tablet intensive activities, let’s focus on hardware limitations – UPDATED 12/10/2021

If you read my earlier comments you’ll know that I had problems using a Pen Tablet to do masking and brush editing in Sky replacement and as local adjustments when general editing and I suspect that unless you have something like a power PC or high resource Mac, you may also struggle to get the best from it. Now I’m pretty sure that this can be partially solved by ensuring that your hardware is bang uptodate and using the latest drivers etc. What I did then was to benchmark my hardware to find out where the bottlenecks are in order to avoid them. Having recently bought the well regarded 1TB Seagate T5 SSD after a HDD failure, I have concluded that because it runs off of a relatively slow Super Speed USB port which is now some 4 years old, I am not getting the best transfer rates. My hardware test confirmed this on the T5 as “Performing well below expectations”. The problem then is that I am trying to force a lot of data down a straw when I really need access to a hosepipe!! For this reason I moved all of the On1 cache (Scratch and PerfectBrowserCache) to my much faster internal SSD drive (D:) which has helped improve performance significantly.

Another thing I did was to set up On1 PhotoRAW 2022 as a known application on my Huion X-Pen Tablet. I also set it up as an application in the Graphics Settings on my Windows 10 system. My thinking is that setting this to High Performance can’t hurt. Finally I also made sure that my Nvidia GPU is working with On1 PhotoRAW 2022. Has this helped? Yes, the pen actually moves now but performance is still poor in that there is too much lag in the process making even minor adjustments tedious. IN order to prove my point here, I remembered that I also have Luminar 4.3.3 loaded on my PC. Now, Luminar over the years has in my opinion, gone from a really good, fast editor to something of a toy in it’s latest Luminar Ai incarnation BUT I loaded up the same image as I used with On1 PhotoRAW 2022 and the pen tablet performance was excellent in Luminar 4.3.3 – no appreciable lag. I don’t know what else to say really. Simply put, On1 PhotoRAW 2022 really sucks with regards brush lag when doing masking and local (brush intensive) editing. On1 designers, please please please focus on painting performance and sort out this problem asap!!!

All this being said of course, I can’t solve any USB problem as these are built in to the laptop I am using and running off a 4 year old motherboard. They are what they are. If I am going to make On1 PhotoRAW 2022 fly in the longer term, I am going to need a faster, easier to upgrade PC and that means buyng one or building one myself. Today though, I am stuck with what I have.

Sky Replacement – UPDATED 12/10/2021

Before Sky replacement arrived, the process in On1 PhotoRAW 2021 relied on creating a composite image using layers. The masking tools in that release, although good, often failed to deliver a perfect mask so the inclusion of masking Ai is very welcome. The Sky replacement tools in On1 PhotoRAW 2022 appear to be as comprehensive and somewhat similar to what I have found in Luminar 4 but the results are not quite on par with Luminar. For example, if we take an image with hard edges, such as buildings below or the lighthouse above, the masking is not perfect and some help is required. To a certain extent, this comes about in the Fade Edge slider which does provide the option to harden the edges. Even so, some mask refinement is necessary, most noticebly in lower contrast regions such as in the middle building in the before and after images shown below. This illustrates some of the challenges of applying sky replacement to what should be a super-simple image. Hard edges you would think would cause less problems not more! The header image is another example of what I was able to achieve with relative ease with some simple brushing in of shadows etc after the sky had been replaced (new light source = the challange to make the image look real) but again, the hard edges do cause some problems. My personal view is that On1 have jumped on the bandwagon just to have something which competes with other editors. Personally I don’t think we need it and as such, I don’t really want it. I would much prefer that On1 focus on performance, especially in optimising brush performance in masking and local effects, system stability and useful tools such as noise reduction and resize. These improvements and latter features are very much more important to me than sky replacement will ever be.

The image below by contrast is edited in Luminar 4.3.3 with a custom sky applied. This process was quicker but again, the low contrast building to the right of the main towers did cause problems and I had to push the Close Gaps slider all the way to the right in order to completely recover the building. Of the two programs, Luminar 4 did do the better job here – see below – although it should be remembered that Luminar 4 is a 2nd or 3rd generation product with regards sky replacement.

In summary, On1 Sky Replacement is what you’d expect, a good first attempt rather than a seasoned, streamlined tool. I feel sure that as time progresses that On1 will compete more favourably with Luminar although Skylum’s new offering, Luminar Neo, is likely to raise the bar still further.

Portrait Ai – UPDATED 12/10/2021

When I first created this post, it’s been through a few iterations now, selecting anything other than Default for a portrait style tended to crash On1 PhotoRAW 2022 when I completed the editing process ie press Done. I’ve spent some time looking into this and it seems that it relates to some photos rather than all photos. Many I have tried seem to work perfectly well with all of the styles whereas the ones I tried first, Nikon D600 RAW files of my wife, tended to crash the system. Now I have in the interim tried a suggestion by On1 Support which was to move the NDsettings file from Roaming to the desktop – this forces On1 to recreate the NDsettings folder. This didn’t solve the problem but it did have the unfortunate side-effect of deleting all of the custom presets I had created as well as remove all the default styles from the Styles folder in Portrait Ai. Clearly this is not what I had hoped for or expected. Fortunately I was able to copy back this folder from the desktop to Roaming which rectified that problem. Phew – that was a bullet dodged!! Next I reinstalled the NVIDIA drivers for my GPU – not using Windows 10 but using The Nvidia Experience application which keeps my system bang up to date. Finally I reinstalled On1 PhotoRAW 2022 in case some files had been corrupted during the initial setup. Having done this things have improved and the majority of my edits to various photos now work perfectly well. However some still don’t and todate, I haven’t solved the problem. Based on more recent usage, On1 2022 Portrait Ai has been good and it appears it appears to be a lot more stable. Of course it really should work for any photo, not just a select number so I can’t yet give it a resounding thumbs up. Besides, until it borrows a few more settings for PortraitPro Studio eg relighting for one, I guess I am lucky in that I do have access to Affinity Photo and PortraitPro Stuidio for my portrait work. That all being said, you can achieve some really good results, and by that I mean natural looks, by doing all of the work manually and not choosing a preset style. Here’s an example of a simple edit using On1 2020 Portrait Ai with manual edits and Style=Default.

Image copyright Dave Collerton. All rights reserved.

NoNoise Ai – Image Noise Reduction – UPDATED 12/10/2021

One of the key reasons why I upgraded to On1 PhotoRAW 2021 was the inclusion of NoNoise Ai. There were very little negative comments about NoNoise Ai even after On1 released a trial version and that has to be good news as we all like nothing more than to have a good moan when things don’t go well. Having now used NoNoise on many images I have to say that I am very impressed with the results I am getting. Now the first thing I have to say is that I actually don’t have a lot of high ISO images as I try to control ISO where possible but I was able to find a few taken at ISO1600. At first I was a little confused as to how to use it successfully but I soon figured out that you should use it at the very start of the editing process rather than later on. Once I had figured this out, the results were really good. On high ISO portraits, I like to take photos in subdued lighting so can get up to ISO800 on a shoot, I feel as if it’s borrowing some of the techniques / technology from Portrait Ai. This is because when applied, the skin in portraits is affected and you need to be very careful about overshapening or adding too much detail. If you push the sliders to far to the right any faces in your image start to look plasticy which is not a good look. Done carefully though, my portraits and images containing faces were partially improved by applying NoNoise Ai which was a bit of a bonus.

All this being said, noise reduction in general does tend to worry me though because of the effect it can have on image detail and quality. Here though NoNoise Ai creates excellent results on the default settings with enough flexibility to enable the user to fine tune what he or she sees in the final result. Given the price of noise reduction software, Topaz DeNoise for example is more than the On1 PhotoRAW 2022, integrating it into what is a £50 editor (with discounts when upgrading) is a no brainer. A big tick in the box then for On1 PhotoRAW 2022 here.

Conclusion – UPDATED 12/10/2021

As I mentioned, this post is simply an initial look at On1 2022 although as can be seen, I have been taking the opportunity to update this post as I become more familiar with the software. Even so it is not an in-depth review but it does go a lot deeper than many others I have seen. That being said, On1 PhotoRAW 2022 is somwhat of a mixed bag for me even though day by day I am getting to like it more and more. On the one hand there are some great new features, for example NoNoise Ai which I am using more and more. Personally though, I find gimmicks like Sky Replacement to be exactly that, gimmicks. Sure they are fun to try out and perfect e.g. getting shadows right is a joy and photos from it are nice to include in blogs like this but for me, that’s as far as they go. Besides, I am much more a reportage sort of guy so most of my images feature people and skys are few and far between. I do take the odd landscape though and if I take my experience with Luminar into account, I have only replaced around a dozen skys over the past few years, mostly as experiments. That being said, many people are going to love it and I suspect we’ll see more composites permeate into the club scene as photographers see the benefit. More worryingly for me though is that on my laptop, which is no slouch even if a little long in the tooth, brush lag in masking and local enhancements is simply not good enough. By benchmarking various components and putting the cache on the fastest drives I have improved things but when I compare On1 brush performance with Affinity Photo, which is running on the exact same PC, they are like chalk and cheese. In Affinity there is zero brush lag – performance is outstanding. On1 by comparison is sluggish and sub-standard as of this release. While I have found work-arounds, others who experience these same problems may not. I have flagged my concerns to On1 Support but they have a tendancy to blame everything else before their software so I am not hopeful of a resolution at this point in time.

All this being said, I am giving On1 PhotoRAW 2022 a positive 85% out of 100%, brought down only by the sluggish mouse and pen tablet during masking and local adjustments, difficulties with hard edges in sky replacement and not being able to perform Portrait Ai work on any photo I throw at it. More to come on On1 PhotoRAW 2022 soon so stay tuned to see if we are able to hit 100%

Cull or Keep your Images – now that’s the question!

When I first created this post I called it “Don’t be afraid to Cull Bad Images”. However, as the post evolved I felt that I needed to look at keeping versus culling in the round. This article therefore discusses my take on what stays and what goes in my photography.

Now, I’m pretty good at deleting images that say nothing of interest. To me they are obvious to spot, they either suffer from poor composition, a lack of meaningful content, duplicate others that are better or just fail for some technical reason, for example poor focus, blown out highlights or over or under exposed. However, I know that many of my photographer friends struggle with this important process with the result that they fill hard drives at a frightening rate with images that really should be binned. While you may have a dozen SSD disks to play with, I prefer to work light so I rely on just two drives for my archives. As such, drive real-estate is at a premium.

The key here then is to be able to make conscious decisions about what has any real value and what is simply clogging up my drives. This basically means is it good enough to share with others. That might be in the form of a photo book, a project, a competition or even as a give away under Creative Commons. This latter option is something I have recently started to do as I know that bloggers etc often need access to images. If the image fits none of these then the axe needs to fall and fall swiftly. Having said all of this, there is one last check that I do undertake and this to ask the question – does the image have any mitigating features? For example, is there a picture within the picture or does it have merit if converted to art. That has to be done on an image by image basis and for me at least, it’s the last throw of the dice!

Now, the first of these tests is obvious. I will know immediately if I like an image enough to consider it suitable for books, projects or competitions. If you are a club photographer then you will know that this doesn’t necessary mean that someone else will like it, just that I like it sufficiently to use it in one or more of the contexts mentioned.

Starting with The Good

So let’s start with something I do like. This example, from a fairground shoot at the weekend, combines a lot of elements that I like. For example, here we have the juxtaposition of static and dynamic items within the frame, the inclusion of people (one of my favourite subjects) and muted colours rather just B&W. That being said, I really don’t think that this image is going to win any competitions, judges with their strict guidlines just won’t get it, but I can see it in a photobook or perhaps as a future project. It’s also the type of image that could be post-processed in a mirriad of ways so again, it has merit.

Now the Bad

Now let’s take a look at an image, which apart from being shown here, has been discarded. Timing as they say is everything and this image demonstrates a complete lack of timing alongside really poor composition and, I hate to say it, poor technical skills. The content is OK, perhaps a little busy and if I had panned left to include the leading lines of the path along with the fairground items to the left of this ride, then perhaps things might have turned out better. However I didn’t and so alongside the blown out sky, which is unforgiveable, the overly busy composition and poor subject matter really didn’t help this one. RIP. By the way, on the issue of the blown out sky, you might like to take a look at my article on highlight roll-off as this is one way to combat digital burnout from bright lights, sun etc.

Of course, bad photos aren’t limited to tricky locations. You can take a bad photo anywhere – I often do! So let’s look at some more images where to be honest, nothing really works. In the first image below there’s plenty of potential and some technical skill in freezing the water. Sadly though, there’s nothing of interest beyond this but fortunately, I did shoot better on the day. The second image fares pretty much the same, nice but bland and unexceptional and again, I certainly have better in my archives. The seaweed image could perhaps be saved – I often photograph objects – but once again, on that particular day, and from other days I had much better beach dendritus shots. The last two images simply lack good composition even though the subject matter, especially of the first of this pair, has some merit. As they are they though, they are simply fails.

Let’s Finish on a High Note – Some Examples I Enjoy

In this next shot I think I have nailed what makes a good photo. Here, we have an almost perfectly symmetrical image, which the eye loves, great colours, an analogue feel plus movement in the chairs which creates an excitement and a contrast to the perfectly still framework. The other thing I like is that I can dive into this image and take out snippets, for example some the riders on their chairs. It just depends on the resolution of the camera being used and the IQ of the RAW file.

This next image is something that I really liked when I shot it, but was not so happy when I viewed it. The colours really detracted from the subject which is clearly the guy in the middle playing with his mobile phone. I couldn’t however bring myself to delete it, too good for that so I decided to try B&W as a way of removing some of the complexity created by the colours in the shot. My go-to favourite for this type of work is Nik Silver Efex and while I don’t think Nik saves it as a competition photo, it works really well for a photo book or for use on the web. Well, to my mind anyway.

In this next set of images the composition is good, the content is good but it’s not quite working for me. I feel, as I so often do, that the colour is making it difficult to see the story. I am so focused on the bright greens and yellows so as to forget that the piano player is the star of this shot. Again then, B&W, with a little brightening of the face, saves the day by forcing attention on the piano player and away from the bright background. An easy but effective fix.

Earlier I talked about how the seaweed image for me just didn’t work. Well, on the same day I captured that shot, I also captured a few others which I have kept and which form part of my archive. Here are those images for reference. Hopefully you’ll agree that these are somewhat better shots.

A Note On Post-Processing

All of the images shown above, except the B&W versions which were edited in Nik Silver Efex, were created using On1 film presets. I personally love analogue film and when shooting digital, I strive to achive this look both in the SOOC jpegs out of my trusty Fuji x-T1, or by converting the RAW images to something less digital as here. For those seeking to do the same or similar, these images were all post-processed using a Classic Chrome in-camera film simulation that I created for SOOC shots. IN some cases here however I chose to use RAW images passing these through a Classic Chrome preset.

That’s it for now, I hope that you found the meanderings of my mind of interest. Either way, drop me a comment below and let’s create a dialog on how you guys deal with the images you take.