Why I do my own conversions

Working on a review of the Olympus E-M1 (more info about that later) and trying to understand the ca...

Working on a review of the Olympus E-M1 (more info about that later) and trying to understand the camera's built-in image processing options. Since I capture raw images about 99% of the time, I don't have a very good appreciation of the camera's own capabilities.

This quick portrait of Catherine and Arthur was shot Raw + JPEG. Here's the black and white JPEG that came straight from the camera. (I was shooting with the monochrome "creative filter" enabled.)

Catherine and Arthur. JPEG straight from the camera.

It's not bad. But compare it to the conversion I did myself from the raw file, in Adobe Lightroom 5:

In the second version, the highlights in the background on the right aren't blown out. Fine detail is better retained. Gradations of tonality are subtler. The photo is sharper in the only place where sharpness is important in this photo — around Catherine's eyes.

"Black and white" conversion (plus split toning) done in Lightroom 5.

This is why I do my own conversions. The camera can do a remarkably good job. I can do a better one.

Here by the way is a conversion made from the color Raw original in Nik's (well, Google's) SilverEfex Pro — one of the classic black and white conversion tools favored by pros:

Black and white conversion in SilverEfex Pro.

It's better than the out-of-camera JPEG. But I still like the Lightroom conversion better.  So, it turns out that the E-M1's JPEG engine is pretty good. But I'm going to continue shooting raw and working each image myself.

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  1. A gorgeous photo, especially the Lightroom5 version. Catherine seems content or serene, though turning to us, as if suddenly caught in a moment of reflection. At the top of Arthur's eye, the white band of lashes really stood out to me. If only I had more time, I'd do a charcoal sketch or watercolor from this. Very inspiring Will.


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