Increasing ISO to Reduce Grain in Your Images (Podcast 661)

Increasing ISO to Reduce Grain in Your Images (Podcast 661)

Today I’m going to provide some clear evidence of the benefits to increasing your ISO to help reduce grain. Sounds crazy, I know, but this works, and after this post I think you’ll believe me.

I have been meaning to do this for a while, as although I’ve talked about Exposing to the Right and how increasing the ISO can help to reduce noise, I do realize that this is counterintuitive. I also received an email from listener Matthew Wells, as follows:

In several podcasts, you mention how you will shoot higher ISO levels by exposing to the right to brighten the image to reduce the visible noise. Could you put together a short video for your Youtube channel to show your methods for doing this? I have tried to play with the idea a little without success so far.

Matthew Wells via email.

Thanks very much for your suggestion Matthew. I decided to do this as a straight post rather than a video so that I can provide some examples that you can open and look at directly, and I think this format will help more for now.

Why Take Control?

So, the first thing I want to do is explain why I take control, with an example you can try for yourself really easily. All you need is something white, and something black, or a very dark color. Literally, a large piece of paper or a bedsheet is fine for the white thing, and a dark coat will work for the dark thing, and this works best if the things you find are not too glossy or shiny.

In my studio, I have both white and black backgrounds on a pulley system so that I can change the background for my photographs quickly. I have a roll of black paper that we won’t use for this, and a roll of white paper, and a roll of felt cloth, that we will use. You can see what I mean in this photograph, with the black background extended part way so that you can see them both.

Black and White Backgrounds

White is Grey!

Here now, is a photograph of the back of my camera, in LiveView, and set in Aperture Priority mode with Auto-ISO turned on and no Exposure Compensation dialed in. There are a couple of things that I want you to look at. Firstly, while noting that I’m pointing the camera at a sheet of white paper, look where the data of the histogram is falling. All three channels are only one third from the left side. This means as you can see from the photo that the white background would be recorded as grey, not white.

White is Grey!

The other thing that I want you to look at is that the shutter speed has been set to 1/160 of a second and the ISO is 4000. I set the aperture to f/5.6 myself, and the camera has automatically selected the other settings.

Black is Grey Too!

Now let’s look at another photo, and the only difference between the two images is that I’ve drawn down the black felt background, as you can see in front of the camera. I didn’t touch the camera other than to half-press the shutter to display the exposure details. Look at what’s happened to the color of the background in LiveView. Nothing! The black background is also grey, and the histogram shows us that it’s very similar, if not almost identical to the grey in the photograph of the white background.

Black is Grey Too!

We can also see that the settings have changed. The shutter speed has been increased to 1/15 of a second from 1/160 and the ISO has gone from 4000 to 12800. Using the Exposure Calculator in my Photographer’s Friend app I can quickly see that the camera has changed the exposure from 17 2/3 EV to 16 EV, a difference of one and two-thirds of a stop. Just to quickly walk through this, the shutter speed change is 3 and a third of a stop, and the ISO change is one and two-thirds of a stop, so if we deduct the ISO change from the shutter speed change, we get one and two-thirds.

I could have left Auto-ISO off to make that easier to understand, but I also wanted to show how the camera would want to increase the ISO instead of taking the shutter speed much longer.

So, what does this tell us? Well, for one thing, it tells us that our cameras are still pretty stupid when it comes to metering certain scenes and setting its exposure. This is why I almost always shoot in Manual mode. You can use Exposure Compensation too, and which method you use is completely up to you, but I find using Manual easier, mostly because I’ve been doing it so long, but also because as the size and position of the various elements in your frame change, the exposure will also change, so you have to continuously adjust the Exposure Compensation, especially when you are Exposing to the Right, which we’ll discuss shortly.

This is extremely important when photographing things like the Red-Crowned Cranes that we shoot on my Japan Winter Wildlife Tours. These are a white bird against a white background when they are on the snow, but when they fly, the background is much darker, and as you’ve seen, the camera always tries to make a dark scene brighter and a bright scene darker.

So if you dial in up to plus two stops of Exposure Compensation, which is required to make the snow and white bird actually white, then recompose and start to include a darker background, the camera will increase its exposure to lighten the dark background, and the white bird essentially becomes completely over-exposed.

A Real-World Example

Here is a screenshot of Capture One Pro showing two photographs that I shot as I explained this to a participant on this year’s tour. To prove the point, I put the camera into Aperture Priority mode and pointed my camera down so that only white snow was in the frame. This is how I set my exposure in Manual Mode, because the cranes are also mostly white.

Exposure Example
Exposure Example

Keep in mind that to set my exposure in Manual Mode, all I do is increase my exposure while looking at the caret on the meter, until it’s between +f and+2 stops over zero. For brightly lit snow, it’s closer to +1 and for snow on an overcast day, it’s usually around +2 stops. Now that I’m shooting with the mirrorless EOS R camera, I have a live histogram and can actually just keep on increasing the exposure until the data on the histogram is almost touching the right shoulder, but without this feature, I used to just take a test photo, just like the one you see on the left here. As long as it’s white, but not over-exposed, I know that I’m then good to go, and because the bird is white, like the snow, and under the same light, I am then free to just shoot away until the light changes again.

In an automatic exposure mode though, such as Aperture Priority in our example, as you can see, as soon as I recompose to include an even slightly darker background, the camera tries to lighten up the scene, and my whites start to get over-exposed. So, if you want your whites to be white, not grey, you really must take control of the exposure by locking it down in Manual mode, or you have to change your Exposure Compensation every time you recompose.

I’ve added a few bits of markup to the screenshot to point out a few key things. First, notice on the left that I have +2 stops of Exposure Compensation dialed in, and I’m in Aperture Priority mode for this example. Also, note how the shutter speed changes from 1/500 of a second for the correctly exposed shot and drops to 1/200 of a second as the camera tries to compensate for the darker background. It would probably make more sense to use shutter priority for birds in flight, but as an example, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, the exposure runs off as we recompose.

Also note that the red that you see over the bird and the snow are not markup, that is the Exposure Warning in Capture One Pro. You can see that this is turned on also by the fact that the icon in the toolbar is yellow. This is grey when the Exposure Warnings are turned off.

Higher ISOs are Less Grainy with ETTR

So, let’s move on to the benefits of increasing the ISO rather than being afraid to, for fear of introducing grain. Most people have the idea that increasing the ISO causes grain in your images, and of course, that is true, if you leave the exposure up to the camera, because the camera is generally going to underexpose your images. Here is an example with two photos that I shot as a test, just of some ornaments and a little metal EOS R that I got as part of the release campaign here in Japan.

ISO Example
ISO Example

If you click on the image to open it up in the lightbox, even at the web size you’ll be able to see the visible grain in the right image, which I shot with the camera’s built-in meter at zero, exactly where the camera thought the exposure needed to be. It was indoors late afternoon, and because the ISO performance is so good on the EOS R, I had to increase it to 51200 for you to really see the grain.

For the left image though, to prove my point, I used Aperture Priority mode again, with +2 stops of Exposure Compensation dialed in, as I’ve circled in red on the left of the screenshot. You can see underlined in red, that both images were shot at 51200 ISO and the +2 stops images shutter speed was 1/125 of a second, exactly two stops slower than the right image, which was shot at 1/500 of a second.

Comparison

Here now, is a 100% crop of each of the images from the above screenshot, so that you can check the details. As you can see, despite them both being shot at ISO 51200, the grain visible in the +2 stops version, which is I should emphasize, exposed to the right, is virtually undetectable, compared to the image at the camera’s recommended metering, which is very grainy.

Again, if you click on the images to view them in the Lightbox you’ll get the best view of the detail, but the difference I’m sure you’ll agree is huge. Note too that although in comparison, the lighter image may appear too bright, it’s actually only slightly over-exposed, with the highlights just clipping slightly. If you wanted to darken it back down again, you could use the Highlights sliders or a tone curve, and you’d still get a cleaner image by exposing to the right like this, then darkening it back down to suit your needs.

Another Take On This

Another take on this, which is perhaps easier to understand from a shooting workflow perspective, is the fear element that generally prevents people from increasing the ISO. Imagine you are in a situation where the light is low, and you are already forced to shoot your image at 12800 ISO, at 1/125 of a second to avoid subject blur, and you need an aperture of f/8 for sufficient depth of field. The camera is metering at zero, with the information in the histogram way over on the center decreasing down the left side. The actual ISO will depend on your camera, but many people start to shy away from shooting higher than around 3200, some even as low as 1600. For me, as I get used to the EOS R’s ISO performance, I would probably not have gone higher than 12800 in the field, because I hadn’t yet done these tests. On my 5Ds R bodies, I tried to avoid going above 6400 ISO, based on tests.

ISO 12800 Camera Zero Metering @ 100%
ISO 12800 Camera Zero Metering @ 100%

As you can see from this image, with its histogram embedded for reference, there is a little bit of grain starting to creep in. Still incredible for a 12800 ISO image at zero metering, but you can see the grain.

+1 Stop Increase

So, what do you? Most people would shoot at 12800 or whatever your own personal soft-ceiling is, and be afraid to increase the ISO any more for fear of introducing any more grain, but wait! To get your histogram data over to the right, in this hypothetical example, our only option is to increase the ISO further. Here is another image in which I’ve increased the ISO by one stop to 25600.

ISO 25600 +1 Stop @ 100%
ISO 25600 +1 Stop @ 100%

This image is double the ISO at 25600, but the grain is actually less than the 12800 ISO image because the ISO increase has made the image brighter. You can see from the histogram, which I screen-captured from the full sized image, not the cropped version, that although it’s more to the right than the previous images, there is still a gap.

One More Stop!

For this next image, I increased the ISO yet another stop, to 51200. This is actually the lighter image of the pair that we just looked at in my first example. and as you can see from the histogram, we are now exposing to the right. There is a small gap, but that’s Capture One Pro giving us a little back. In the camera, the specular highlights were just starting to over-expose, so this is as far as I would like to take this image exposure-wise.

ISO 51200 +2 Stops @ 100%
ISO 51200 +2 Stops @ 100%

A Few Tweaks

You can see that increasing the exposure with the ISO has actually reduced the amount of grain visible in the photograph. The darker parts of the image are now starting to suffer from a little bit more grain, but if you really had to push your ISO this far, you could do a few tweaks such as adjusting the levels and curves to darken down the dark areas a little, which helps to mask the grain that does creep in there.

ISO 51200 +2 Stops Tweaked @ 100%
ISO 51200 +2 Stops Tweaked @ 100%

And I haven’t even touched the noise removal options. They have been set at the default settings all along. So, as you can see, although I know it’s counter-intuitive and probably goes against everything you’ve been taught, if increasing the ISO helps you to expose to the right, then the brighter image will almost always have less grain in it than the lower ISO image, if the lower ISO image is already very high.

I should add at this point, that for lower ISOs, where you really can’t see any grain anyway, there is something called ISO invariance, that we looked at in Episode 520, which basically means that you can shoot according to your camera’s meter at lower ISO, and then increase the brightness in post if necessary, and you still won’t see any grain, because there is nothing in the base image for you to amplify. What I’m talking about today is more for higher ISOs, which is generally the area that starts to get people nervous. It’s that fear that I’m hoping I can help you to break through with this post.

My ETTR Workflow

I’m sure that part of Matthew’s original question was also referring to how I actually adjust my exposure, so I’d like to add a little more detail on this before we close. As I mentioned earlier, I pretty much always shoot in Manual Mode, though occasionally I do shoot in Aperture Priority and turn on Auto-ISO, and use Exposure Compensation to Expose to the Right. My thought process is similar in either shooting mode.

Aperture

I start usually by selecting my Aperture, as this directly affects my depth of field, and that is often one of my most important decisions as I start to set my exposure. Once I have set my aperture to something appropriate, i.e. a small number like f/2.8 for a wide aperture and shallow depth of field, or a larger number like f/11 for a smaller aperture, and more depth of field.

Shutter Speed

I generally then set my shutter speed in Manual Mode. I will select a faster shutter speed, like 1/500 to freeze a moving subject or a faster shutter speed of 1/1600 of for fast moving subject or birds in flight. Or I might select a slower shutter for a landscape, or even use a Neutral Density filter to slow down the shutter speed even more for some of my landscape work. If I am in Aperture Priority mode I often control the shutter speed by setting a minimum speed in the camera settings, just to help the camera to avoid going too slow, but getting faster is generally not a problem in these cases.

ISO

Finally, I adjust my ISO. It’s actually my ISO most of the time that I use to actually adjust and fine tune my exposure. This is why I am really enjoying the new Control Ring on the front of the Canon RF Lenses, because I have this set to adjust my ISO, so I can now really easily adjust it while looking through the viewfinder and keeping my eye on the live histogram.

With the live histogram I literally just adjust my ISO until I see the data on the histogram just about start touching the right side. For landscapes, even with my older DSLR bodies, I used to turn on LiveView and do this on the LCD.

Highlight Warnings

It’s also important to turn on Highlight Warnings on your camera so that you can see when you do start to get over-exposed and pull it back a little. I will often use a very small amount of flashing or the “blinkies” as an indication that I’m right where I need to be exposure-wise, but once a larger area starts to blink, I pull the exposure back a little.

RGB Histogram

And it’s also important to use the RGB histogram rather than the black and white brightness histogram, because the brightness histogram is an average of all three channels, and doesn’t always show you if one color is becoming overexposed before the others, and it can cause a nasty blotchiness in your colors if you allow one color to blow-out.

Camera Meter in Manual Mode

Also, note that even when I am in Manual Mode, I still reference the camera’s meter reading. People often think you are flying blind in Manual Mode but that is not the case. When you half-press the shutter, the meter still kicks in and shows you where it thinks the light levels are on the meter, so for example when I am adjusting for the white snow, I can see the caret moving on the meter scale, and use that to see when my settings result in my exposure being two stops over.

If it’s not a white snow scene, I will just guess at where the caret should be on the meter scale, based on the balance of light and dark objects in the scene. If it’s literally 50/50, then the meter might be at zero, or perhaps just a little over to get my histogram data over to the right.

Note too that I’m always talking about the right-most data, not all of the histogram data. The rest of the data represents your mid-tones and shadows, and can, depending on your scene, extend all the way over to the left shoulder. Occasionally you might shoot a scene with very high contrast, and find that even when exposing your highlights to the right, your shadows can start to spike up the left side. That’s when you might consider merging multiple images in an HDR photo, but personally, I have not had to do that for many years, while using my ETTR techniques.

Thanks for the question Matthew, and I hope this was useful for all that stop by and take the time to read or listen to this episode.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop

Before we do finish, I’d like to mention that we’re at the time when we need to start finalizing the numbers for my 2020 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop This is an epic trip that encompassed landscape, culture and wildlife and we next year will be my sixth visit, and the tour just keeps getting better and better, so I’d love for you to join me there. Please check out the details at https://mbp.ac/namibia2020 and drop me a line if you have any questions. If you visit this post after the 2020 tour closes for bookings, check our Tour & Workshops page for a list of currently available tours.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2020

Show Notes

Check out my ISO Invariance article here: https://mbp.ac/520

See details of my 2020 Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop here: https://mbp.ac/namibia2020

Music by Martin Bailey


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DxO Optics Pro v5 & Film Pack (Podcast 118)

DxO Optics Pro v5 & Film Pack (Podcast 118)

Today, I’m going to talk about DxO Optics Pro, version 5, and the DxO FilmPack, which DxO Labs have kindly made available to me to try out, and have also kindly agreed to provide a copy of these two great programs as a prize which will be awarded to the entrant with the most accumulated votes at the end of the current Assignment which on Long Exposure. We should know the winner when voting closes on February 3rd 2008, but for now, I hope I can wet your appetite for the prize with today’s Podcast. Here’s a message from DxO labs before we start the review.

DxO Optics Pro sets the standard for automatic correction of your digital images. Based on extensive analysis of cameras and lenses, this award-winning software enables photographers to improve hundreds of images very quickly, saving time and providing spectacular results. Version 5 of DxO Optics Pro runs on Mac and Windows. Version5 which has only just been released incorporates a new generation RAW converter providing more details, and less noise artefacts, for a new level of image quality


OK, so I need to say from the start that I first started playing with DxOs Optics Pro with version 4.5 that I received from DxO labs a few months ago. I started to understand how powerful the program is, but around that time I heard that they would be releasing version 5 later, and so I decided to wait for that to do my review and to also ensure that the grand prize winner got the latest version. I have to admit I regretted that last weekend when I sat down to start preparing for my review, as it turns out that although version 4.5 worked on 64bit Windows, version 5 does not, at this point in time. I see from the DxO forum that there will be a version for 64bit Windows that works in 32bit compatibility mode, and they also mention that a native 64bit version will also be available soon though, so all is not bleak. It did mean that this review had to be delayed by a week though as I figured out how to do this on a 32bit version of Windows.

So first off, you have to download either the product, if you buy online, or the modules for your camera and lens combinations. The Download Manager helps you to select your cameras and lens to download. The version that our winner will receive is the Elite version, and this basically allows you to download any camera body and lens combination. If you own a professional body from the 5D and above for Canon, or the D2X or D2Xs from Nikon, you’ll need to buy the Elite version. Pretty much everything else is supported by Standard, but with the nature of the software, it seems to take a little while for DxO to update the modules for the latest bodies. I see that the 40D is now supported and the 1Ds Mark III is set to be supported soon. If you intend to pick up a copy of this product though, please do go to www.dxo.com and ensure that your camera and lenses that you want to correct are listed.

On the first screen in the Download Manager you select the camera bodies you have photos from that you want to correct, then on the next screen, you select all the lenses. I should note that there are things that you can still do with DxO Optics Pro even if your lens or body is not supported. What I’ll do is put a link to the Product Comparison page and if you scroll down to the bottom, there is a list of the features that are available in version 5, including those that can be used with any image, and those that only work on support body and body/lens combinations. This will also be useful as I’m not going to have time to go through all of the things that you can do with this software in today’s Podcast. Let’s move on though, and take a look at what I did do.

So after the installation you have to activate the product, but say you just wanted to try it out, you can also download it from www.dxo.com and try it out for a few weeks. I strongly suggest you do this if you are considering buying a copy. There are both Windows and Mac versions, so no-one needs to be left out. Once you have activated or select to try the product, it will launch, and to be honest, version 5 launches much slower than version 4.5 did. It has become a much more powerful piece of software, so I can handle this, but a little improvement would reduce stress at startup.

Once inside DxO Optics Pro you’ll find four tabs across the top of the window that guides you through the process of correcting your images. What I think I’ll do is create a Post on the forum and show you some screenshots to back up what I’m talking about here, so if you are at a computer take a look in the forum at martinbaileyphotography.com and look for a post on this episode in the MBP Podcasts forum. I’ll also put a link to the forum post in the show notes. If you are looking at the post now, in Screenshot #1 you’ll see that the first tab is called Select, and this as the name implies, is where you select the images that you want to work with. A nice touch in version 5 is that you can now select an Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog as well as just going straight to the location of the images on your hard drive. This allows you to list images from the Library, folders or collections, which I find particularly useful. You can for example stay in Lightroom and make a collection of images that you want to work with and save them as a Collection, then just come into DxO Optics Pro and select that Collection as your base. In addition to the Lightroom view and the file system, it’s also possible to load collections from a database of old projects. You select this with one of the three icons in the top right of the window.

Once you have your photos selected, you need to add them to a project. There are now some presets like a Darker Vision or Romantic Look, that you can use when adding to a Project, but I’m going to use the default. This adds your selected images to a filmstrip at the bottom of the window, and also auto-rotates them for the first time. I had to manually rotate the blue flower that you can see to the far left in the filmstrip, because I actually shot this with the camera hanging upside, so I wouldn’t expect that to have been rotated automatically. I should also mention that the rotation option is reached by right clicking the thumbnail in the filmstrip but in there I also see Stacking, Create Virtual Copy and some ranking and flagging options. I myself use Lightroom for the majority of my image work now, but looking at options available, you could some of these in much the same way if you didn’t want to buy multiple patches, especially as DxO fully supports directly viewing your RAW files as long as your camera is supported.

Here I guess if you knew what the preset did or had created your own you could just hit the “Process Now” button above the filmstrip, but I’m going to move to the Prepare tab now and have a look at our options. Now, when I first heard about this software the first thing I started to think about was what lenses have I shot with that I would like to correct. The first thing that came to mind was the chromatic aberration and lens distortion of Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm lens. I owned this lens for a short while when I had a 20D, and although it’s a very useful lens, it suffers from pretty bad chromatic aberration and distortion, especially when used at 10mm. So I searched out a shot that I recalled having to correct in Adobe Camera RAW a few years ago. Not a great photo, as the light was bad and the subject not that great either. After I clicked the Prepare tab I decided to select this image and see what I could do with it.

For the sake of time I’m not going to look into the more obvious options here, but the first thing I found interesting in the Prepare tab was the Light options. If take a look at the post again you’ll see in Screenshot #2 that I have selected to display the Light options, and turned on the compare view, so we can see the original and the preview of the changes. Because this image was shot in bad lighting, I selected Strong under the DxO Lighting options and we can see how it brings out a lot of detail and colour from the shadows, improving the image somewhat. Not something you couldn’t do in Lightroom or Photoshop, but still nice to be able to obtain this with one or two mouse clicks, or even totally automatically if you create some presets and leave it up to the software. You can also see Exposure Compensation, Vignetting and Tone Curve options under the Light palette but I’m not going to play around with them here, so we’ll leave them as the default automatic values. The sky is a little blown out, but I’m not going to worry about that now either.

A quick look under the Colour palette shows us that we can adjust the RAW White Balance, Vibrancy, Color Rendering, Color Modes, HSL and Multi-point Color Balance. I feel like messing around with these a little, but I don’t want to change the colour too much from the original as I’m going to do some comparisons later and show you how much the chromatic aberration and distortion is improved by the software. If I play with things too much it will nullify that part of the review to a degree.

The Geometry palette is going to help with the distortion, so let’s go in there and have a play. Having turned on the Distortion and Volume anamorphosis correction options, the distortion was brought down to much more acceptable levels. In Screenshot #3 in the forum post you can see the difference as seen in the Prepare window preview, zoomed in to 100%. The top image is the original, as shot, and the bottom image is the new image with the modifications we’ve made so far and the other automatic changes that DxO Optics Pro is doing automatically. The crops are slight misaligned because the aspect and crop of the image is different as the software cuts away parts of the edge of the image to make its corrections. You can see now though that the distortion is now much less, and the leaves and branches are now much better defined than in the original, but we still have quite a lot of chromatic aberration.

So let’s take care of that now under the Detail palette. I can see Sharpness, Grain, DxO Noise, Dust and the Chromatic Aberration option, which is what I’ve been looking for. Before we look at the Chromatic Aberration though, I just want to quickly mention that the Grain pulldown here seems to contain the films that are also available in the FilmPack that we’ll also look at briefly later.

Notice in Screenshot #4 that some of the options in the palettes are outlined in blue and some are not. This is indicates whether the options are turned on or not. If you hit the little power button next to the arrow for any of the options the option is toggled on or off. Leaving these as default usually seems fine, but I’ve turned on Chromatic Aberration for this screen shot, and also turned on Purple Fringing, that seems to help a little more. You will have a hard time seeing the difference with Chromatic Aberration turned on, and granted the final image is not perfect, but if you grab the images from the post and align them on your computer then switch quickly between them you’ll see that the Chromatic Aberration is improved greatly between Screenshots three and four and we can see it is also much better in Screenshot #4 from the original to the final image.

Let’s now take a look at the Process tab which allows you to specify how you’d like the files to be named and where to put them, as well as the format. You can output JPEG, DNG or TIFF files. If you are looking at the forum post you will be able to get the idea from Screenshot #5. Note that I have actually removed all the images from my project except the one I wanted to correct as I only wanted to actually run the changes on this one image and I couldn’t find a way to do that without removing the others.

We can see the last tab, the Review tab in Screenshot #6 where we’d be able to take a look at all of our images had I processed more than one. Note here that there are two icons, one to export to Flickr and one to Lightroom. I don’t have a Flickr account, so I didn’t try that, but when you click the Lightroom icon you are transported to Lightroom and the Import dialog is loaded. This is a nice touch to make the whole process as painless as possible.

I figured I’d also try DxO Optics Pro to straighten up an image that I shot with a wide angle lens. If you take a look at Screenshot #7, you can see that this is as easy as drawing a few lines on the image. Simply click on the vertical parallel lines in the toolbar above the image and you are able to draw two lines on the image, selecting some reference points for the software to straighten up the image. This can be done with horizontal lines too of course, and there’s also a rectangle tool for doing both at once. This also displays the Keystoning / Horizon tool under the Geometry palette, where you can also select the tools and make the changes. Once finished, if you go into the crop tool seen below the Keystoning tool, you can click on “Auto based on Keystonging/Horizon” and you get an automatic crop as large as possible. You can of course also select the area you want to crop manually.

Before we move on to the FilmPack, I just wanted to mention that there is another way to work easily with Lightroom and that is to add the DxOOpticsPro executable as an Additional External Editor in the Lightroom Preferences. Then when you right click on an image in Lightroom, and select Edit you can select DxO Optics Pro from the short cut menu. This opens a kind of cut down version of Optics Pro, where you only have a Prepare and Process tab, and work only on the image you chose to edit, obviously. Then when you do select the Process tab, you simply save the image in your Lightroom library.

So, on to the FilmPack which is great fun. This can be run standalone or integrated Lightroom and Photoshop CS2 and CS3. Having completed the review of Optics Pro, I came back to my 64bit Vista machine, to do the FilmPack review and found that it doesn’t work as a standalone product, so I am only going to look at the Photoshop plug-in here. From Lightroom you basically just edit a copy in Photoshop, then run the Filmpack plug-in from the Filter menu, which of course is how you do it if you simply opened the file in Photoshop. Again, I’m going to create a forum post to show you the results here, but I’ll make it a separate post as the first will already have seven screenshots in it. Look under the MBP Podcast forum at martinbaileyphotography.com for the FilmPack post. It will be prefixed with Episode 118, but I will link to this in the show notes as usual if you can’t find it.

The plugin is very simple to use. A dialog appears and in there you select your choice of film and if you want to change it the type of grain. In Screenshot #1 you can see the eye of the Indian gentlemen I shot a few months back in September 2007 in India. This is as shot to start with to give you a reference point. In Screenshot #2 I have selected Color Positive Film from the Color Rendition Profiles section, and selected Kodak Kodachrome 25 from the second pull-down where you actually select the Color Positive Film. I left the Color Modes as As Shot, and left the DxO FilmGrain as the same as the Current Color Profile, so it would in this second screenshot match Kodachrome 25. In Screenshot #3 I have mixed and matched a little, by selecting Ilford HPS 800 for the Film Grain.

There is also a Film Negative selection under the Rendition Profiles, but let’s skip to the Black and White films now. My favourite effect in here I’d say is the Kodak Tri-X 400 film. Screenshot #4 is Kodak Tri-X 400 with the default settings. Again leaving the Contrast and Saturation and as As Shot, from the Special pulldown under the Color Modes, I tried all the options saved screenshots #5 and #6 showing the Selenium and the Sepia options respectively.

There is another setting in the grain box that allows you to specify film sizes from 35mm, Medium Format, Large Format and a Custom size. Back to the Color Rendition Profiles, for the last option, which is Cross Processed Film. In Screenshot #7 you can see crossed Kodak Elite 100 with all the other settings as default. So that you can really get a better idea of how this effects the image as a whole, I’ll also include the full image, well, a screenshot of it Photoshop, with the crossed Kodak Elite 100 effect applied. In fact, I can’t resist just also including a final Screenshot, number #9, of the image processed one last time with the Kodak T-Max 3200 effect applied. All of the effects are great fun to work with. You can literally spend hours exploring the variations, and of course, some of these that you find you like will add another artistic option to your workflow.

Note that when using both the DxO Optics Pro and the Filmpack from Lightroom, as long as you don’t turn off the check-box when you export, your changes will be saved as another image in a Stack, so when you go back to Lightroom the images will be next to each other, and marked as 1 of 2, 2 of 2 etc. I find this really useful because it saves you wondering where to put the copies. They just stay together, which is great.

So going back to the DxO Optics Pro software, I feel I have a responsibility as someone you trust for advice on equipment and software such as this, to tell you that this new version still feels just a little bit clunky. It’s a great suite from a company the size of DxO, but if you are used to the more robust applications such as Photoshop or Lightroom, you may find this too, so as I said earlier, by all means try these products out before buying to ensure you are both happy with functionality and that they work as expected on your system. I tried on a clean install of 32bit Vista and still ran into a number of minor issues, and I do not want to hide that from you as my listeners. The day before I prepared for this review version 5.0.3 was released, and will be the default download until upgraded of course, as opposed to the straight version 5 so things will definitely be better for you and get better as time goes by. And as you can see, everything worked well enough for me to take you through the basic functionality of both of these packages. I can definitely recommend DxO Optics Pro if you want something to help to overcome some of the issues with equipment or just the laws of physics to create better quality images. And as I say, the Film Pack is lots of fun and opens up a whole new creative avenue, and well worth a try.

Before we finish I wanted to just say thanks to DxO Labs for being so kind as to make DxO Optics Pro and the Film Pack available to me for review and for the kind donation of the suite for the winner of our Assignment grand prize that will be awarded to the entrant with the most votes at the beginning of February 2008.

Of course, I also have to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I’ll be releasing on December the 23rd 2007, just two days before Christmas so for those of you that catch up before the day, have a great one. For those that catch up after the day, I hope you had a great time and Santa brought you everything you wished for. There’ll be just one more episode of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast for the year before we jump into 2008. It seems incredible to me how quickly this year has flown past, and yet so much has happened. Next week I’m going to reflect a little on 2007, and would like to thank Jonathon from the forum for the suggestion. There’s also a great thread in the forum right now that I’m yet to jump into about looking back and ahead to the coming year, so come along and join in the conversation if you haven’t already.

And that’s about it for today. So with that, all that remains to be said is thanks for listening, and you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.


Show Notes

Today, I talk about DxO Optics Pro V5 and the DxO FilmPack from DxO Labs. These two great programs will be awarded as the Grand Prize that will go to the entrant with the most accumulated votes for the year at the end of the current Assignment.

Find DxO Labs’ products here: http://www.dxo.com/

Here is the product comparison page I mention, where you can also check out the features that require your gear to be supported, and those that don’t: http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/dxo_optics_pro/product_comparison

Here’s a link to the Product Comparison page and if you scroll down to the bottom, there is a list of the features that are available in version 5, including those that can be used with any image, and those that only work on support body and body/lens combinations: http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/dxo_optics_pro/product_comparison

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


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Michael Rammell

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