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Showing posts from September, 2011

Correction: Why photos converted by RPP look darker

I had the pleasure of hearing tonight from Andrey Tverdokhleb, developer of RPP, the outstanding raw converter that I wrote about here yesterday. I want to correct something I said yesterday and pass on a tip Andrey gave to me.

Why RPP's output is darker

First, the correction. I commented yesterday that many of RPP's conversions end up looking noticeably darker than conversions of the same raw file done by Lightroom. I made a guess — a bad guess — about why this might be so. I needn't have guessed. Andrey draws my attention to an FAQ about RPP where this phenomenon is briefly explained. I know I had seen this page, but the info there hadn't sunk in yet when I was writing yesterday.

The gist seems to be as follows: RPP is telling me the truth, while Lightroom (like most other raw workflow programs) is conspiring with my camera in a sort of lie or misrepresentation. I hasten to say that the camera makers and the software companies are lying to us for our own good. The camer…

Raw Photo Processor (RPP): First Impressions

[NOTE added 7 February 2014: Somehow, some of the images used in this old post went missing. Don't know how. I've replaced some of the missing pictures below, but not all. I have edited the text of the post itself only where explicitly noted.]
Andrey Tverdokhleb's Raw Photo Processor (RPP) is a Mac OS X application that in some ways seems rather retro in its concept. It's a raw processor or converter, and that's all that it is. It's not a raw workflow program like Aperture or Lightroom. You can't crop a photo in RPP. It doesn't do a darned thing with jpegs. And you can't do any digital asset management with it. How does this one-trick pony survive? By doing its one trick really, really well.

I've been trying RPP out lately and I'm impressed. Here are a few observations.

How you use it

When I process a photo in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I don't really have to deal with conversion at all. I can open and view raw files in Lightroom as soon …

Web site renovation (again)

I have been busy for the last couple of days rebuilding my web site over at Zenfolio. Zenfolio has hosted my photos for years and it does a great job at that. What I didn't realize until I attended the Zenfolio Zoom workshop in Dallas recently is that Zenfolio has added a lot of new features and it's now possible to build my entire site there.

The new site at Zenfolio

Now the site as it was over at was working okay, for the most part. But I had some complaints. Wordpress is blogging site, not a photography site, and my photos never really displayed as well there as I wanted them to. Zenfolio is a photo site so I know my photos will display beautifully and I have lots of control over that, and that's the most important thing.

So I've rebuilt my main web site ( over at Zenfolio. That's where you'll see info about my portrait and wedding services (and other services), my portfolio, find contact info, and so on. And as it has …

Look sharp, be sharp: Taking sharp photos

Beginning photographers often complain that their photos aren't "sharp" and they want to know what they need to do to make their pictures sharper.

Now the first thing I want to say is, sharpness is overrated as a photographic virtue. I mean, obviously, most of us don't want to take blurry photos. But sharpness doesn't make a photo good. A great photo has an interesting subject, an artistic and pleasing (or perhaps challenging) composition, good lighting, intriguing colors and contrast, and so on. Sharpness is nice, but let's not make a fetish of it.

That said, it's not so simple as "do X and your pictures will be sharp". What we call "sharpness" in photos is an effect that can be reduced or harmed by several different factors. I'm going to limit myself to five important types of problems with sharpness:

those due to inadequacies in the lens;
those due to faulty focus;
those due to subject movement combined with a shutter speed too slo…


I started college as an art major, doing prints. I'd been printing for a year or two at that time. At the same time — and for years after I left the art department — I was working in the darkroom, processing film and making "enlargements" (i.e. prints). I loved it. I loved working with the paper, seeing the results happen before my eyes.

It's been a long time since I cut a block or printed an etching or worked in the darkroom. For decades I got my photos printed like everybody else, at the local photo shop. When I started making portraits and doing weddings, I used the printing service (Mpix Pro) supported by my web service (Zenfolio). Mpix Pro does very good work, their prices are reasonable, they have a quick turnaround, they will do manual color correction for me (that's critical) and they have a ton of options with regard to papers, finishes, formats (board, canvas, etc.). In the last three years I can only remember two unhappy customers. In one case (my very …