Too many damn choices

The moment struck me like a ton of bricks. I guess I really knew it all along, but I really hadn’t thought much about it. Sure, the camera has a bazillion settings and options, but what would I do with them all? And who needs them when photo editing software does so very many cool things? But is that really the story?

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The answer is no. Or at least that is the conclusion to which I am arriving. I hadn’t really considered the meaningful differences between the various photo-editing software that are available and that come with the purchase of a digital camera (whether the camera is a point-n-shoot or dSLR). Since acquiring my Canon 40D dSLR I have been primarily using one bit of software by which to work on the RAW image files and that software has been Capture One 4. It was free with the purchase of some higher-end Compact Flash cards from SanDisk (my trusted name in flash media) and I can say that I have very much enjoyed using it. It’s not resource hungry. It’s rather intuitive. It does a lot of things, but isn’t as robust as Photoshop Elements (or any of the even more robust suites like Lightroom or CS3). What it does and does well is let me tweak (as one of my Flickr mates likes to say) my RAW image to get from it what I want. But I didn’t fully understand its own limitations until just the other day.

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It was after my Woodland Cemetery photo shoot that I came across something I hadn’t anticipated. The shots I had taken with the in-camera monochromatic setting were showing up as colour images in Capture One 4. Huh? I opened the resource-hungry Photoshop Elements 6 and found the same odd results. More huh. Baffled I elected to do something I hadn’t done yet, not in the almost 11-months I had owned my Canon 40D: try using the supplied Canon software.

Result!

When I opened what I knew were monochromatic images (that is, shot in monochromatic) in the Canon software, monochromatic images appeared on my computer monitor. As a matter-of-fact, not only did the images appear as I thought they should I found that the software had editing tools that matched the in-camera settings (at least in regards to the various Picture Styles, filters and tones). I could, for example, now take my shot-in-monochromatic images and change the Picture Style from monochrome to Standard, Portrait, Landscape, etc. and suddenly I was looking at a colour version of my formerly monochromatic image. It was at this moment I realized the true potential of the Canon-supplied software: what it may lack in other photo-editing abilities it made up for in the ability to alter the image at a very fundamental level. I really should have realized this all along, but I hadn’t.

In part my lack of understanding comes from not having played with the Canon-supplied software. But there is also at play a misconception in my own mind as to what software could do with a RAW image file and I think that this misconception is more at the heart of my misunderstanding than anything else.

This entire incident has really left me in a mild state of anxiety. Suddenly I’m confronted with a whole host of issues directly related to how to use the various software suites in my possession as well as which suites to use based upon what outcome for which I’m looking. Suddenly just tweaking images can effectively be done in either Capture One 4 or the Canon-supplied software, but with neither having a clear advantage over the other, yet both having what I perceive to be advantages when compared to Elements, LR, CS3, etc. (at least in regards to tweaking).

Between the host of in-camera settings (which are, in no small part, meaningless seeing how I can change damn near most things with the Canon-supplied software, short of shutter speed and aperture), the Canon software, and a bevy of third-party software suites it’s too much to ponder.

Suddenly that lovely JPEG-only-shooting Canon A630 point-n-shoot is beginning to look pretty sweet…..

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13 thoughts on “Too many damn choices

  1. I love Lightroom and I haven’t managed to tap its full potential. What does your software do better (so that now I can agonize over whether I should have bought something else!)

  2. Kym: I think you’re probably safe with Lightroom. I’ve now tried a fair few RAW editing apps and haven’t yet found one that can offer anything significant that Lightroom can’t do. And if you do come across something, well, there’s probably a preset around somewhere for it… or you can even create your own!

    So best leave the agonising to forkboy… cos he’s really good at it!

    😉

  3. Kym, do yourself a favour and don’t listen to that fotdmike guy….he has this problem with losing bits of camera kit all over England and likes to buy, but not use his tripods (notice the plural part).

    He’s got issues if you know what I mean 😉

    None of the software I have does anything better. It is more a matter of what each one does and both how well it does it and how useful it is to me. In other words, the Canon software brings some things that none of the other software can do (including Lightroom), but it doesn’t do any of the more fancy image editing things found in Elements, Lightroom, etc.

    I guess it’s just annoying – in a way I wish they could combine the robust functionality of something like Lightroom with the intimate control of the Canon software.

    Oh well.

  4. Well now, taking up the gauntlet, what precisely is it that the Canon software (shudder) can do that Lightroom can’t… or, more pertinently, that one can’t configure a Lightroom preset to do? Eh?

    And whaddya mean, “issues”. Ok, so I lose stuff (then generally find it again). And spend oodles of money on stuff I end up forgetting to carry with me so hardly ever use. And can never remember really important things like checking camera settings before – and during – a shoot. And acquire multiples of exactly the same thing. And get fascinated with software for its own sake. And ramble on endlessly about totally inconsequential things. But hardly “issues”. Just means I’m yer perfectly normal typically eccentric Brit. Doesn’t it?

    😆

  5. As I’ve said before the only thing the Canon software can do (that the others don’t) is replicate the various in-camera settings. One may be able to find settings or plug-ins for software like LR that provide similar results, but they aren’t the exact same thing. But I imagine the differences are immaterial in the great scheme of things.

    And, as I discovered and discussed, not all in-camera settings translate to other non-Canon software when viewed. This kind-of defeats the purpose of using some in-camera settings if they do not translate in third-party software.

    And it’s because you are such a typically eccentric Brit that we all love you so very much 🙂

  6. Well I’d suggest the reason I want to use in-camera settings (even when shooting RAW) is that I have a vision in mind of what I’m trying to do with a given subject and that I can create, if you will, that vision more accurately right there, in real time, but using the relevant in-camera settings.

    Otherwise I have to remember what was my vision and wait until I get home to try and create it via software. Our camera come with so many settings it seems quite reasonable to take advantage of the ones I would like to use instead of always relying upon software (and working from memory). Shooting in RAW continues to make sense because once I get home I might find the vision I had at the subject didn’t translate as I had intended with whatever in-camera settings I utilized. With the RAW image I can change the settings and work towards my vision. But I think it makes a certain amount of sense to start with settings that reflect my vision; the idea of trying to get the shot right to begin with instead of trying to move it towards my vision via software.

    Oh, and thanks for the compliment Wouter!

  7. I like eccentric Brits, Mike 😉

    RAW is a difficult, but a wonderful beast too in my opinion. If your camera allows it to capture a RAW and jpeg at the same time, it might be a suggestion to use that. If the in-camera jpeg resambles your envisioned photograph you use that, otherwise you use the RAW for further adjusting.

    Remember that the image on the LCD screen is how the camera will process the jpeg.

  8. Wouter: I do shoot in both RAW & JPEG, but not for the reason you outline. Instead, I simply use the JPEGs when I get back home and upload my image files to the computer. Instead of opening photo-editing software to view either the RAW or JPEG files I simply use the picture viewer built in to my Operating System to view the JPEGs so that I can make quick decisions regarding which images I want to keep and those I wish to dispose. Afterwards I always delete the JPEG files and convert the relevant RAW file to JPEG – my own unscientific testing tells me that RAWs converted to JPEG look a bit better than JPEGs straight off my camera.

    Maggie: thanks for the compliment! I typically only use my license of Photoshop when I want to do something more than just tweak my images. While 1GB of RAM was sufficient when I built this computer almost 5-years ago, it isn’t enough to run Photoshop without the computer slowing down significantly. Besides…..I usually don’t do much post-processing to my pictures because I use those handy in-camera settings 😉

  9. Hm. I think this reinforces my affection for old-fashioned film and a developing studio. Though now that my favorite camera store has closed, goodness knows where I will be able to buy developer and fixer and film reels…

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